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Statement of Strategic Intent

UIS will be recognized as one of the top five small public liberal arts universities in the United States.

We will achieve this by creating a world-class liberal arts oriented undergraduate educational experience reflecting many of the characteristics and best practices of small private liberal arts colleges while building on our many strengths. Among those strengths are professional academic programs, graduate education, and public affairs activities.

About our Statement of Strategic Intent

In the field of management and organizational development, strategic intent is defined as a compelling statement about where an organization is going that succinctly conveys a sense of what that organization wants to achieve in the long term. Strategic intent answers the question: “What exactly are we trying to accomplish?”

  • Strategic intent can provide a sense of direction,
    a particular point of view about the long-term market or competitive
    position the organization hopes to develop and occupy.
  • Strategic intent can provide a sense of discovery in
    that it holds out to the organization’s members the promise
    of learning about other organizations that operate
    in the same market, adopting their best practices and avoiding pitfalls.
  • Strategic intent can provide a sense of destiny,
    a worthwhile goal around which energies can be focused across the
    organization.

Based on this approach to the meaning of strategic intent, UIS puts forward the following statement of its strategic intent for the next decade:

“UIS will be recognized as one of the top five small
public liberal arts universities in the United States.”

What it means to be a small public liberal arts university

Understanding this statement – what it means and what it does not mean – involves the clarification of the idea of the small public liberal arts university.

Most fundamentally, in using the term “liberal arts” we endorse the values associated with that term – such as freedom of inquiry and acceptance and tolerance of differences of opinion and points of view. A liberal arts education environment has always been conducive to the success at UIS of liberal arts and professional programs, graduate education, public affairs activities, and traditional and non-traditional students.

Equally important, the small public liberal arts college or university designates an emerging sector of higher education consisting of public institutions of moderate size (fewer than 10,000 students, often in the range of 5,000) that have many of the characteristics of small private universities, but are distinguished by their uniquely public heritage, values, and governance.

The best among the small public liberal arts colleges and universities differ from the larger public research and doctorate-granting universities in size, scope, and mission. They look and feel like private liberal arts colleges; more important, they offer an intimacy in the intellectual experience that is difficult to replicate in large institutions.

Small public liberal arts colleges and universities typically emphasize civic engagement and service. They work to revitalize their curricula to better respond to growing societal needs, and they orient themselves to their communities, regions, and states.

There is no reason to think that a leading small public liberal arts university would not offer online degree programs. More fundamental than the mode of instruction is the approach to online instruction and characteristics of the students served. Key variables would be admissions selectivity, consistency with on-campus offerings, and learning outcomes. UIS’ approach to and experience with online undergraduate degree completion programs is an extension of our commitment to serving non-traditional students and is consistent with what would be expected at leading small public liberal arts universities.

In aspiring to be one of the top five small public liberal arts universities, UIS refers to the nature of the institutions in the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC). COPLAC is an organization of leading small public liberal arts colleges and universities. COPLAC membership is limited to one institution per state. Presently, 21 institutions are COPLAC members, with no institution in Illinois represented. Of the 21 COPLAC institutions, six are classified as comprehensive universities.

Although COPLAC members emphasize liberal learning and superior liberal arts education, they also offer professional programs. All but one of these institutions offer professionally-oriented majors in fields such as education, business, legal studies, criminal justice, and computer science. Many offer graduate programs.

Not all small public liberal arts institutions are members of COPLAC. For example, U.S. News and World Report recognizes and ranks this category of institution and does not limit the listings to COPLAC members. The state of New Jersey has two notable small public liberal arts institutions – one is a COPLAC member; the second is rated as one of the top five small public liberal arts institutions by U.S. News and World Report, but is not a COPLAC member. Nonetheless, COPLAC does serve as a strong voice for the values of all small public liberal arts institutions and as an incubator for practices relevant to all institutions of this type.

Given these considerations, the idea that UIS could be recognized as one of the top small public liberal arts institutions in the country is a worthy goal that holds the promise of giving UIS a sense of direction, a sense of discovery, and a sense of destiny for the next decade.

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