David C. Hodge
September 6, 2012
The longer I am at Miami, the more resistant I am to change. Let me repeat that. The longer I am at Miami the more resistant I am to change. Surprised? Let me explain. Since 1809, Miami has been distinctive, and at the core of that distinctiveness is an unrelenting dedication to creating the most extraordinary learning and discovery environment that produces graduates of uncommon quality. The longer I am here, the more I understand and appreciate that our dedication to this distinctive ideal, this mission, must not change.
However, the reality is that thoughtful and timely adjustments must be made if we are to steadfastly adhere to our core values. So, for those of us who don't want to change (i.e., who want to stay faithful to our mission), we must not only understand how important it is to adjust, but also how important it is to contribute to that adjustment.
Five years ago, in the fall of 2007, we launched a process to determine a series of strategic goals that would guide us in our efforts to become an even more nationally prominent university. These goals were grounded in our enduring mission. Significantly, we approached that task with a vision of the future in which we understood the dynamics of higher education to be governed by a relatively stable set of parameters. To be sure, we understood and anticipated that the higher education environment would be more competitive and that we needed to elevate our "game" significantly to be a more prominent university. But we did so thinking that the “rules of the game” would more or less stay the same. How wrong we were.
We had barely completed the task of setting these goals in the spring of 2008 when the signs of a possible significant economic downturn began to accelerate. By the fall of 2008, the economy was in full free-fall with enormous implications for virtually every sector of the economy and most certainly higher education. While we never lost our focus on the long-term, by necessity we at Miami, like our sister universities, turned our attention to the more immediate economic threats. Our reserves were rapidly exhausted, our state funding was cut, and we were under-enrolled for the incoming class in the fall of 2009. We had to cut our core budget by about $30 million, roughly 10 percent, in a few months, and our energies were mobilized to accomplish that daunting feat. It was difficult and painful, but because of the incredibly hard work of everyone on our campuses, we achieved our immediate goals.
Even as we were addressing these immediate needs, we were laying the foundation for long-term adjustments vital to our future success. In March of 2010, I appointed the Strategic Priorities Task Force, which was charged to make recommendations to create a sustainable budget that would lead to Miami becoming a more nationally prominent university. Although members of the Task Force came from all over our campuses, they quickly put aside any partisan views to concentrate on identifying those strategic actions that would be most critical to our shared future. The Task Force was armed with our Five Year Strategic Goals as a compass, and a newly created five-year projected budget that for the first time in our history could realistically portray what we could reasonably expect to occur over the next five years. The budget model also made visible the impact of critical assumptions and behaviors. The tough bottom line was that if we were to continue doing everything we were doing in the way that we were doing it, there would be as much as an additional $40 million shortfall five years out and continuing to grow each year in the future. This was our first indication that what we were, and will be, facing is not a temporary blip, rather it was a portend of the new normal that is governed by a new set of "rules of the game."
The Task Force worked extremely hard through the summer to produce what has been viewed inside and outside Miami as an extraordinary blueprint for priority actions. The framing of the report included an initial assessment of how the context for higher education is likely to change, and it connected our most critical goals with the actions needed to accomplish them. The final report was submitted in mid-October of 2010, and on behalf of university leadership, I presented a review of all of the recommendations and action plans, including measureable outcomes and timelines, to the Board of Trustees at the December meeting. These strategic priorities and action plans have guided our efforts since that time and will continue to do so for the near term.
Our task now is to create and/or affirm a new set of goals that will inspire a common commitment to moving Miami forward. I would like to use my remarks today to set the stage for this extremely important process. I will begin by giving a brief assessment of our progress on the Strategic Goals that were adopted in 2008. While we have focused a lot of attention on meeting the financial challenges of the deep recession, we have never stopped our pursuit of excellence, and there is much success to report. I will then outline the elements necessary for a highly effective 2020 Plan before asking Provost Gempesaw to offer some thoughts on the changing context that we face in the years ahead. Unlike our expectations in 2008, we now expect that the fundamentals affecting all of higher education will be different. How can we correctly anticipate what those changes will be and how they will affect us? Finally, I will turn to the process itself, outlining the timeline and, most importantly, how every one of us connected to Miami can contribute to creating this shared roadmap.