During his first month at Ole Miss in late January 2016, Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter launched a 100-day listening tour called the Flagship Forum, during which he met with over 200 groups of faculty, staff, students, and alumni. These interactions took place upon the campuses of the University, across the state of Mississippi, and nationwide. Input from the Flagship Forum sessions reflected a widespread positive regard for the University of Mississippi, its standing, and its direction. A central tenet of Chancellor Vitter’s leadership philosophy was reinforced during the Forum sessions: The University of Mississippi, like all great institutions, is distinguished by a continual will and drive to become ever greater.
The Flagship Forum afforded the university community with opportunities to delve into some key questions essential to the University’s future:
- What does it mean to go from great to greater?
- How do we at the University of Mississippi change to reach that next level of excellence? And just as importantly,
- As we make changes on our road from great to greater, what aspects of the University’s identity are so important and defining that they must never change?
While any large, successful, comprehensive university engages in many activities that it must perform well, we recognize at this point in time that there are some key areas that call for special focus and attention in order to move us to the next level of excellence. Four such focal themes emerged during the Flagship Forum, and they developed into the four foundational “pillars” guiding our strategic planning effort. The first two pillars — Academic Excellence and Healthy and Vibrant Communities — focus upon the key aspects of our mission, our very reason for being, as Mississippi’s flagship university. The final two pillars — People, Places, and Resources and Athletics Excellence — are key enablers that help us accomplish our mission and will continue to propel us forward.
On August 29, 2016, the University held its first-ever university-wide Town Hall meeting, where several hundred faculty, staff, students, and alumni gathered to hear Chancellor Vitter highlight the state of the University, followed by an interactive session for participants to provide suggestions, comments, and ideas related to the four themes noted above. Over 550 suggestions were compiled and summarized to identify opportunities and challenges. The emerging ideas spanned a broad range of topics — from academic programs to campus climate to infrastructure to community engagement — and much more. The Town Hall is now envisioned as an annual event essential to the University’s progress, producing ideas that will continue to inform the University’s culture and decision-making.
Applying input from the Flagship Forum and Town Hall meeting, the Strategic Planning Council — consisting of faculty, staff, students, and administrators — began to analyze the University’s strengths and envision ways to propel it from great to greater. The Council reviewed UM Oxford’s previous strategic plan, UM 2020, gathered additional data (including an extensive survey of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other community stakeholders), and identified initiatives and goals for each of the four pillars to move the University toward its vision of international preeminence.
The transformative initiatives identified in FLAGSHIP FORWARD are university-wide — engaging all campuses and all constituents — while the goals are specific to the Oxford and regional campuses. Metrics allow us to measure progress and evaluate objective outcomes essential to attaining our goals. Together, these initiatives, goals, and metrics are key to sustaining our current momentum and achieving our imagined future of international preeminence as a leader in inspiring minds, discovering knowledge, and transforming lives.