As per the Monmouth University website, a strategic plan was set forth in October 2014, coinciding with the 81st Founder’s Day celebration. Guided by “personal learning experience, program relevance, and global and cultural awareness,” the strategic plan remains largely a mystery, as far as The Outlook is concerned.
What has been clear thus far, is the campus’s commitment to strong leadership through the process, as the Monmouth Board of Trustees recently elected four new members who will bring their talents to the strategic plan.
The Outlook editorial staff, however, believes that while the specific goals of the strategic plan have not been clearly laid out, the University does maintain a commitment to improving the “campus community,” as seen by recent changes.
Vice President for Student Life and Leadership Engagement Mary Ann Nagy said the goals of the strategic plan are: a rigorous academic agenda, external classroom experiences and life after Monmouth.
Some editors are not sure how much students are involved in the strategic planning directives.
One staffer said, “I do not feel that students are involved when it comes to deciding on the changes that will be made to campus. We are rarely, if ever, polled regarding changes and are kept out of the loop for the most part.”
Nagy said that they get their information on student life in a variety of ways but the way she said is most effective is through Student Government Association (SGA) and the student Senators that the student body elects.
“They may take student suggestions and look into them, but I can’t remember an instance where I was ever even asked about things I’d like to be changed. If students did actually have a say in changes I feel that the dining service would have been changed years ago and we’d have a lot more different options to eat at,” remarked one editorial board member regarding student inclusion.
Student Government Association (SGA) President Ali Tuyahov said, “SGA has spoken to members of the strategic plan committee and now the implementation committee for the plan. For the plan committee, we worked with Jim Pillar from Residential Life to set up student focus groups to get their input on different aspects of the plan. We recently had the Provost at our meeting to discuss the now implementation of the plan.”
Another staffer expressed that while he/she supported the University’s commitment to improving its quality and diversity, he/she was still perplexed about what the actual plan entails. “I realize things like this are slightly muddled by administrative limitations, so the strategic plan’s organizers might not be able to fully express what is under consideration for change. But, it would be nice to know what improvements fall under the realm of the ‘strategic plan,” said the staffer.
The Outlook staff overwhelmingly supports the University’s recent announcement of the changes to food services, particularly regarding the addition of an on-campus Dunkin’ Donuts location and the sale of Starbucks brand coffee.
Nagy said she hopes better food will make the Rebecca Stafford Student Center (RSSC) a place for students to hang out during slow times and weekends. “With Dunkin’ being open seven days a week, I want to see students get something to eat, hang out and enjoy themselves. Food is a rallying point for people,” said Nagy.
Tuyahov said regarding the role of SGA, “We had two SGA students working with VP Nagy to review the food services and provide feedback from the student perspective. Both students on that committee felt Gourmet Food Services offered the most student-focused program and supported the decision from the University.”
One editorial board member said, “Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely pumped to see that the University is FINALLY upgrading to Dunkin’, but it took entirely too long. I feel like our school is lagging behind other schools in a sense that we don’t have any ‘good’ places to eat, hang out, grab a nice coffee, or anything. Why don’t we have a Chipotle?”
Among the finished changes to the school, The Outlook thinks most, if not all of them are beneficial to the University and its student body. “My favorite change during my time at Monmouth has been the addition of the convenience store in the basement of New Hall. It is much nicer to have the store on the residential side of campus rather than having to walk across campus to get something that you need,” said one editor.
The Outlook does believe that Monmouth has a strong sense of community, regardless of how much students are included in the strategic plan. One staffer described the Monmouth community as, “Students on and off-campus, as well as the University’s faculty members. I’m not sure how broadly they mean this, but I feel like ‘community’ implies that it means local businesses and housing developments that students use as well.”
Another editor echoed the above sentiments, “I feel the Monmouth community includes students, faculty, and surrounding communities. I grew up in West Long Branch and Oceanport, I went to high school in West Long Branch and we used the MAC as our home swim meet pool and the track for cross country. I know from experience how much the surrounding communities are affected by the changes on campus.”
Nagy has a message for past, present and future students regarding any changes and the Strategic Plan:“For past students, you laid the foundation and you will be proud of the campus you are alumni of. For present students, you are going to want to be here even longer. And future students, MU was and will always be a fabulous place and does use student-centric ideas in everything we do.”
Tuyahov said that the more student input the better. “All students are both allowed and encouraged to attend any SGA meetings and can sit on any committee to help to be a part in getting the student voice heard,” she said.