The Chancellor's View

ECU Tomorrow: A Vision for Leadership and Service

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Strategic planning is frequently viewed to be a hopeless task. The plans are resource intensive, take forever to complete, and present so many ideas that they seem to be all things to all people. No wonder most of them sit on the shelf and make little difference, regardless of whether they are done for the corporate, academic, or civic sectors.

Yet, ECU has recently completed the first phase of its plan, called “ECU Tomorrow: A Vision for Leadership and Service.” Will this plan be any different?

I believe it already is. ECU Tomorrow was created with input from all segments of the university. It has strong support from our Board, the senior leadership team, and me. More importantly, this plan has two elements essential for success: it has focus and it identifies a distinctive role and commitment for East Carolina University.

Focus is the most difficult task for the public university. We have 1,700 faculty, 10 academic colleges, scores of degree programs, and, counting the growth at North Recreation Fields, virtually four campuses. Thousands of great ideas come forth from our faculty and staff. So, how in the world do we focus our resources on those few things that make the most difference for our state and our students?

Our new plan provides focus using the “80-20 rule.” About 80 percent of our resources will be devoted to five strategic directions, while 20 percent will be available for great opportunities, new initiatives, and emerging needs of North Carolina. All of us who contributed to the plan are excited about the 80 percent, because these five strategic directions represent great strengths of ECU, opportunity for growth and, most importantly, they all have positive impacts for our citizens. In my view, each is authentic, representing genuine commitments of over 5,000 employees who make ECU special:

  • Education for a New Century – ECU will prepare our students to compete and succeed in the global, technology-driven economy.
  • The Leadership University – ECU will distinguish itself by the ability to train and prepare leaders for tomorrow for the east, for North Carolina and for our nation.
  • Economic Prosperity – ECU will create a strong and sustainable future for eastern North Carolina through education, innovation, investment and outreach.
  • Health Care and Medical Innovation – ECU will save lives, cure diseases, and transform the quality of health care for the region and the state.
  • The Arts, Culture and the Quality of Life – ECU will provide world class entertainment, culture and performing arts to enhance the quality of our lives.

Future articles in this space will explain each of these five commitments and its impact on North Carolina.

A true strategic plan must also answer the question, “What is different about ECU?” This is no small task, considering that in the United States, we are one of over 600 comprehensive universities operating in a national market for faculty with the traditional missions of research, teaching, and service.

Our plan recognizes ECU’s role in the national system of universities, but goes beyond that. While we do hundreds of things well, we have three areas of unusual distinction, quality and commitment.

  • SERVICE: Our legacy is 100 years of service to our state. For most comprehensive doctoral universities, research is the primary mission because it builds a national reputation, while teaching is second and service is a poor third. Just the opposite is true at ECU. Service is our motto and everything we do is intended to make a difference for our constituents. As our university historian often says, ECU was “… never infected by the ivory tower syndrome.” So, ECU provides $ 150 million per year in uncompensated health care, we have over 8,000 student volunteers in service learning experiences, and we help dozens of eastern communities through the Regional Development Center.
  • STUDENT SUCCESS: The soul of East Carolina is our commitment to the transformation of each student, to the whole student, and to helping each student find his/her life’s passion. Courses at ECU are taught by the regular faculty and while we pride ourselves on excellent classroom instruction, we know that is only the beginning of a great education. The Education Trust identified ECU as a national leader in ensuring the success of minority students, and thousands of ECU grads say that ECU was the single biggest difference in their lives.
  • THE UNDESERVED: We believe we are the university for North Carolina. Our biggest impact occurs for those who are traditionally undeserved. We lead the state in retaining newly trained doctors to practice in North Carolina; our health science graduates practice in all 100 counties of the state; and our new dental school will address the crisis in the undeserved counties outside of urban areas. We are a national leader in research on health disparities… why some illnesses affect some groups of people more than others. We have a new program in the College of Education focused on college-eligible students with learning disabilities; we think it will be the best in the nation.

ECU is tremendously proud of our heritage and our contributions since 1907. Our second century will be even better, will help more students, cure diseases, and help build a new economy.