In an environment focused on knowledge, it is easy to overlook a more subjective question: How do we want TU students to feel?
After all, a positive outlook can make an all-important difference in a fast-paced college environment full of new challenges and opportunities, where an interesting class can open a new career path and complete strangers can become lifelong friends or business partners.
A renewed focus on this question grew out of a university-wide strategic review that began in early 2017. Following analysis by the Board of Trustees and a Vision Statement drafted by the Faculty Senate, a university-wide strategic planning committee met throughout the spring and summer to define key next steps for the university. TU President Gerry Clancy and Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Janet Levit led the group.
“Our members diligently engaged all TU’s stakeholder communities in multiple sessions from March through August,” Levit said. “These conversations involved students, faculty, administrators, staff, the Board of Trustees, alumni and community leaders. We’re grateful for everyone’s help and are proud that this process helped galvanize the campus around shared priorities.”
The resulting five-point strategic plan for 2017-23 focuses on improving graduation rates, modest enrollment growth, encouraging innovation, increasing diversity and supporting Tulsa’s economic development. As a related measure, the committee also adopted the TU Commitment as a statement of rededication to the student experience.
“These two documents support each other,” said Clancy. “Student success – and by extension, alumni success – remain at the center of everything we do. With the Strategic Plan and TU Commitment, we have set a clear framework for building the next version of TU.”
Student recruiting materials and the TU website have begun incorporating the message of the TU Commitment. In addition, the university’s newly reestablished Staff Advisory Council is designing a program to recognize faculty, staff, students and others who embody the commitment’s ideals.
A new student success task force also is examining the challenges often faced by students – especially as freshmen. Early steps to address these challenges include a free and reduced summer tuition plan to help students build course hours, plans to expand tutoring services through the Center for Student Academic Support and extending the Impact TU freshman leadership program to the sophomore year.
Recent major scholarship gifts from two longtime TU partners and trustees also will help members of the fall 2018 freshman class overcome any financial reservations. The Andrew D. and Helen G. MacKay Scholarship for Innovation supports students in science, engineering, technology and math programs, and the Mike and Pat Case Tulsa Talent Initiative focuses on scholars from the Tulsa area.
Let The University of Tulsa be part of your story.
Some of your story has already been written, and so much more is yet to unfold. You are joining an accepting and inclusive community of engaged learners who actively sculpt their own learning and development. Our faculty and staff mentor and empower you and your peers for personal and collaborative growth by cultivating an insatiable intellectual curiosity and inquisitiveness. This chapter of self-discovery sparks individual development, opportunities to bring value to others, and foresight to discover a future not yet revealed. We are excited about your accomplishments and boundless potential. Let us help you write the rest of your story.
How do we want TU students to feel?
- Accepted: Physically, emotionally and spiritually safe, valued for who you are and your potential now andforever
- Engaged: An active participant in your own learning to develop unique gifts and talents, not talked down to, you have a voice and a desire to be heard
- Empowered: So that your unique gifts and talents can be further developed for your personal growth, collaborative potential and the opportunity to bring value to others
- Self-discovery: Cultivate your intellectual curiosity and inquisitiveness
The question “What do we want our students to feel?” has broad roots. TU professor and strategic planning committee member Tracy Suter, the David and Leslie Lawson Chair of Entrepreneurship, brought the question to the committee after being inspired by three varied sources: the Japanese concept of “ikigai,” or “reason for being;” a story from radio legend and TU alumnus Paul Harvey about the simple word of encouragement that launched Bob Dylan’s music career; and the keynote video from the 2013 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. That video describes the Apple developer’s job not in technical or financial terms, but in terms of delivering emotional experiences to customers: delight, surprise, love and connection.
“Those three trains of thought came together in an inspirational way,” Suter said. “The ikigai framework helps us identify a calling that is personally fulfilling, socially valuable and professionally rich, which is exactly what we want for TU students. The Paul Harvey story illustrates how even the most basic encouragement can make a big difference – a role that we can fulfill all day, every day. And the Apple video reminds us that many of our most important and enduring relationships begin with emotional connections.”
Suter approached the strategic planning committee and proposed that the emotional cornerstones of the TU student experience are acceptance, engagement, empowerment and self-discovery. The statement gained quick traction and was soon adopted as the TU Commitment. (See the other stories in this issue for more on each of these cornerstones.)
Alongside the TU Commitment, the university has begun emphasizing the idea of life as an ongoing story – one that can be forever enriched by the addition of a TU chapter and lifelong participation in the TU family. A growing collection of personal video vignettes is online at utulsa.edu/mystory.
The TU Commitment is poised to shape TU’s institutional culture in the months ahead as a guide for new programs and initiatives. Its aims also have influenced the goals of TU’s next major fundraising effort. A Greater Commitment Campaign, which the Board of Trustees approved at its February 2018 meeting, includes fundraising for scholarships, student support services, leadership development opportunities and career tracking and placement.
Whatever else TU develops around the TU Commitment, one key aim will be to knit together generations of students and alumni.
“The larger idea is that our commitment to each other begins during our time on campus, but it continues throughout our lives,” Clancy said. “As a worldwide TU family, we can create ongoing opportunities for each other. As we explore new ways to make The University of Tulsa synonymous with lifelong purpose and success, I invite all our alumni and friends to bring us your ideas and needs and join the conversation. The good that can come out of it is practically limitless.”
The TU Commitment is a key component of TU’s five-year strategic plan, which will be supported by these core values:
- An Accessible and Affordable TU
- An Inclusive and Diverse TU
- A Culture of Innovation across TU
- A Culture of Justice across TU
- TU as an Economic Engine for Tulsa; Connecting Tulsa to the Global Economy