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The future starts here: What will it take for UMHB to become “the university of choice for Christian higher education in the Southwest?”

The future starts here: What will it take for UMHB to become “the university of choice for Christian higher education in the Southwest?”

By Paula Price Tanner
In the spring of 2010, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor community announced a new vision for the university’s future: “UMHB will be the university of choice for Christian higher education in the Southwest.” Reaching consensus on that shared vision was just the first step, though, in a lengthy planning process.
The second phase of planning brought faculty, staff, and students together to analyze what facilities were needed to support a growing learning community at UMHB. Working with campus planning consultants, they devised a new Campus Master Plan which identified what new buildings would be required, where they should be located, and in what order they should be added to the campus (see Growing in New Directions: Campus Master Plan).

With this plan completed, the final phase in the long-range planning process was to map out the steps the university should take to move from its current level of effectiveness toward the goals articulated for its future. Faculty and staff worked with administrators to outline steps each area of the university will take to move Mary Hardin-Baylor to the forefront of Christian higher education, and in May 2011 the Board of Trustees approved the new Strategic Plan for 2011-2018.

Building upon the success of UMHB’s Strategic Plan 2005-2010 the plan for 2011-2018 calls for continuous improvement in all aspects of university life, from academic offerings and campus life to the hiring of top-notch faculty and staff members. The facilities called for in the Campus Master Plan form a component of the Strategic Plan, as do strategies for securing the funds needed to build those projects. The UMHB Strategic Plan for 2011-2018 can be downloaded in its entirety from the university website at http://about.umhb.edu/strategic-plan; what follows is an overview of ways planners hope to make UMHB “better, faster, stronger, smarter” in the years to come.

A Focus on Mission

Imperative 1: We will deepen our commitment to our Christian mission and Baptist heritage.

By 2018: The university will regularly host lectures and chapel programs on Christian topics and on the history and distinctives of the Baptist denomination. There will be more children of Baptist missionaries and pastors enrolled at UMHB, and additional scholarship money will be available for students preparing for careers in Christian ministry. Students will participate in leadership and service activities as a component of their chapel requirements, and all academic disciplines will offer opportunities for their majors to develop their skills in leadership, service, and faith-informed discernment.

Imperative 2: We will cultivate a campus culture of global engagement.

By 2018: The presence of many international students will enrich campus life at UMHB. A new Office of Global Engagement and Study Abroad will help many students incorporate study abroad experiences into their degree programs. The university will offer multiple study-abroad opportunities of varying lengths, from full-semester trips to short courses taught in the May term or during a summer session. Exchange programs and partnerships with other universities will open additional opportunities for UMHB students to earn course credits by taking classes at other universities around the globe.

Imperative 3: We will hire, develop, and retain highly qualified people who are passionate about contributing to the UMHB experience.

By 2018: A new “Hire for Success” program will enhance the university’s reputation as a place where the brightest and best people want to work. A new Employee Enrichment Program will focus on engaging faculty and staff in the history, mission, and vision of the university and in enhancing career fulfillment at UMHB through a variety of methods.

A Focus on Students

Imperative 4: We will be recognized for our student-focused culture.

By 2018: Students will find all interactions with the university to be easy and accessible, whether they need to enroll in a class, pay a bill, or look for a job after graduation. Technology will be used to give students access to grades and account information and to notify them should an emergency or inclement weather disrupt campus activities. A unified student support center will offer students tutoring, counseling, and health care just a few steps from where they live, and the on-site career services center will help students secure internships as well as interviews for part-time or full-time employment.

Imperative 5: We will foster and grow a robust residential campus community.

By 2018: With 65 to 70 percent of its full-time undergraduate students residing on campus, UMHB will be a place where students feel they are part of an exciting Christian learning community. A new student union building will offer numerous places for students to eat, hang out with friends, and participate in a wide range of organizations and activities. A “first-year experience” zone will be created by locating student support services near the dormitories on the central quad of the campus, so that freshmen who are adjusting to the demands of college life can always find help just a few steps away. Students will increasingly spend weekends on campus to participate in athletic competitions, service opportunities, and special events geared toward their interests.

A Focus on Learning

Imperative 6: We will offer exceptional academic programs that distinguish UMHB as a leading university.

By 2018: A strong core curriculum and degree programs modeled on national accreditation standards will ensure that UMHB students are well prepared for the challenges of a rapidly changing world. The university will be an acknowledged leader in key programs and will enjoy academic partnerships with other colleges and universities. A growing Honors Program will offer challenging degree options for unusually gifted and talented students, and the faculty and staff will use a continuous review cycle to make certain that the curriculums for all majors are comprehensive and up-to-date.

Imperative 7: We will offer a high-quality educational experience while remaining one of the most competitively priced private universities in the Southwest.

By 2018: Recognizing that the university’s budget will inevitably increase over time, UMHB will spread the impact of rising costs through a program of controlled enrollment growth. The university will keep tuition prices competitive without sacrificing the quality of its educational programs through conservative financial practices and strategic recruiting. All areas of the university will be involved in programs to help students succeed in their studies and stay at UMHB until they complete their degrees, which will also keep student enrollments at healthy levels.

Imperative 8: We will strengthen our commitment to excellent teaching.

By 2018: At the heart of the UMHB experience are committed, credentialed professors who put great effort into sharing their knowledge and challenging their students both in and out of the classroom. The importance of great teaching will be emphasized through faculty evaluations which stress classroom teaching skills and professional development programs which promote best practices in pedagogy. Annual awards will recognize the work of outstanding teachers, and a new Center for Undergraduate Research will encourage professors to incorporate hands-on research projects in their curriculums, so students can experience the thrill of discovery for themselves.

A Focus on Resources

Imperative 9: We will provide attractive facilities that advance student learning and campus life.

By 2018: King Street and Moore Street will be closed to form pedestrian walkways throughout the center of the campus; students will experience a sense of community as they cross paths with friends and classmates walking from residence halls to classes, dining venues, and recreational areas each day. A new nursing education center will provide classrooms and laboratories for a nursing program serving more than 500 majors, opening up existing classrooms in other buildings for use by other departments. The new student union building will be buzzing with activity at all hours of the day and night as students gather there to hang out, study, and participate in student government and other club activities. The student union will offer expanded dining options both for students on meal plans and for employees and university guests. Visitors from surrounding communities will come to campus regularly to view exhibits in the gallery of the new visual arts center, to see operas and musical productions in the new performance hall, and to cheer the Cru football team to victory in the new stadium.

Imperative 10: We will secure the financial resources needed to accomplish our vision.

By 2018: The conservative fiscal policies employed by the university will enable it to achieve the initiatives of the 2011-2018 Strategic Plan while practicing good stewardship in all areas of institutional spending. Careful budgeting and debt management will allow the university to meet the needs of a growing student body while keeping the cost of attendance competitive with costs at other private institutions. A comprehensive fundraising campaign will engage alumni and friends in the ongoing activities of the university and provide significant funding for scholarships, endowments, and the construction of new facilities.