BATON ROUGE – Groundbreaking work for a system-wide strategic plan was initiated at a recent two-day orientation of the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System. The plan, which will be built on the UL System’s longstanding history of enhancing workforce and community needs, will be developed over the next several months.
“The UL System has achieved much success but we all recognize that there is still much to be done,” said Board Chair Elsie Burkhalter. “More than ever, our Board is convinced that our eight universities are a major economic development driver for this state. We are part of the solution to making Louisiana stronger and will do just that in refining the role for our System.”
As part of that strategic direction, initial discussions last week identified several areas which the Board wants to explore further:
- Analysis of academic programs to match undergraduate and graduate productivity with future workforce needs;
- Development of stable funding, and
- Building of collaborations across higher education systems.
As the largest higher education system in the state, the UL System consistently graduates the majority of Louisiana’s four-year degree holders. The System’s eight universities, in aggregate, provide the majority of Louisiana’s teachers, nurses, engineers and engineering technologists, business people, pharmacists and computer scientists.
“We have many strengths as a System that we should showcase and leverage to do even more,” said UL System President Randy Moffett. “And, we have some of the most well-respected educators, businessmen and community leaders on our Board with a rich history and understanding of the complex enterprise that is higher education in Louisiana. In light of economic challenges, we realize that change is inevitable and we need to be driving change versus reacting to it. I have the utmost confidence that we can chart a course for the UL System that will strengthen its unique position as the backbone of regional stewardship and economic development.”
While recent publicity has centered on the growing need for two-year degrees, the Board reviewed national data that reinforces the need for simultaneous growth in four-year degree production. Underscoring this is a strong correlation between educational attainment and personal income. Louisiana’s low educational attainment keeps its personal income levels below the rest of the country.
On hand to assist the Board during its orientation was Dr. Gary Reichard, recently retired Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer for the California State University System, a 23-campus system with 450,000 students.
“There are direct parallels between the UL System and the California State System. You are a collection of regional universities that truly serve as the backbone of the state’s economy. Your strong emphasis on teaching and applied research, solid business and community partnerships, and essential relationships with your Pre-K-12 districts are all evidence of the unique work and contributions that are important to moving Louisiana forward,” said Reichard.
In continuing its strategic planning work, the UL System Board has committed to meet in September to resume discussions. “We have much work to do,” said Moffett. “Our distinctive and significant contributions to Louisiana require that we carry on with analysis, planning, and actions. Higher education has always assumed a leadership role, and we have a unique opportunity to do so.”
EIGHT UNIVERSITIES STRONG: The University of Louisiana System is the state’s largest higher education system with over 80,000 students enrolled at Grambling State University, Louisiana Tech University, McNeese State University, Nicholls State University, Northwestern State University, Southeastern Louisiana University, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and the University of Louisiana at Monroe.