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Report of Site Visit to the University of Hawai'i [Slides]

July 7.11, 2003
Dennis P. Jones
National Center for Higher Education Management Systems
P.O. Box 9752
Boulder, Colorado 80301-9752
(303) 497-0301


In accordance with the terms of a contract between the University of Hawai'i System (UHS) and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS), I conducted a site visit to the University of Hawai'i during the period July 7-11, 2003. During this period I:

  1. Met with:
    The President
    The Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs
    The Vice President for Academic Affairs and several of his staff
    The Vice President for Policy and Planning
    The Vice President for Finance and several of his staff
    The Chief of Staff to the President
    Several Chancellors
  2. Made presentations and served as a resource person at a workshop for senior UHS officials on July 9.
  3. Attended the Board meeting on July 11.
  4. Participated in a planning session led by the Vice President for Academic Affairs on July 11.

As a result of these discussions and experiences, I have made several observations about planning-both fiscal and programmatic-at UHS. This brief report presents these observations and some related recommendations.


Among the key findings and observations derived from the discussions and events held during my visit are the following:

  1. Key planning and policy activities are proceeding in an uneven and disconnected way. Primary elements are being developed as separate initiatives. For example:

  2. Planning activities at the system level, as they relate to an integrated financial plan, span the domains of several different administrative units (Academic Affairs including Planning and Policy, Finance and Administration, and Student Affairs). Although the newly approved reorganization of the University provides a structure that links some of these offices, operational relationships that will ensure that individual tasks get done in a complementary, synergistic manner are not yet fully developed. No one entity (save the Office of the President) is responsible for bridging the work of the academic and administrative sides of the house. In order to fashion a financial plan that reflects the priority needs of the System and its constituent parts and establishes a strategy for acquiring the necessary resources (embracing state appropriations, tuition and fees and the related matter of financial aid, and funds from private sources), it will be necessary to assign responsibility to an individual or group that can pull together the necessary pieces.

  3. The issues of system-campus relationships are still being worked out; the lines of demarcation between campus and system are not yet clear to all.

    The key issue in this regard is that of institutional mission definition. In the absence of central leadership in this arena, campus leaders may well begin shaping their institutions in ways that are laudable from their narrower perspectives but suboptimal when viewed from the larger statewide perspective. As a related issue, I would note that the mission discussions I heard were focused almost solely on programmatic distinctions (research, undergraduate and graduate education and, within the instruction component, on fields of study. Missing was a key ingredient in mission discussions-the clients to be served by each institution (students with certain levels of academic preparation, residents of certain parts of the state, employers including schools, etc.).

  4. There is a strong need to find "the message" and build consensus around it among audiences external to the University. What I heard during my visit put UHS at the center of these discussions; it is likely more beneficial to build consensus around the needs of the state and use that as a platform for articulating the needs of the educational enterprise.

  5. There are extraordinarily capable people working at UHS. However, their isolation from each other and the absence of a more detailed (and agreed- upon) analysis of unmet needs of the state keep these individuals from being effective working partners. In the absence of either a clearly understood set of problems or a single home within the UHS management hierarchy, the full synergistic benefits of their many talents will likely remain underutilized.


On Friday I met with a group, chaired by the Vice President for Academic Affairs, to discuss a plan for taking the next steps in planning and policy formulation. The following recommendations reflect-but are not confined to- the topics discussed at that meeting.

  1. That an analysis of unmet state needs be undertaken as a device for:

    I have shared electronically with Colleen Sathre and Mike Rota a version of such analyses performed for a Governor's Commission in Missouri.

    In order to ensure that such analyses can be placed "ahead of the curve" of other policy development, it is suggested that they be completed in order to share at a variety of events being planned in early to mid-September.

  2. That a financial plan be developed that encompasses:

    1. A tuition strategy.
    2. A student financial aid policy.
    3. Clear connections to the priorities identified in the strategic plan.

    An example for a system not unlike UHS in its structure -- that of North Dakota -- was shared with the group that met on Friday. It should be noted that this is an example of a plan, not the plan that with a little tinkering can be used by UHS. Some elements are worthy of consideration (e.g., the differential state/student shares applied to different kinds of institutions in the system); in other areas UHS needs to devise an approach that fits its unique needs and circumstances.

  3. Starting with the analysis of unmet service needs in the state, suggestions should be made for ways that institutional assets might best be aligned to serve these needs. A key part of this exercise is clarification of institutional mission, remembering that definitions of mission should include clients to be served as well as functions (instruction, research, and service) and academic programs. Particular attention should be paid to developing a mission for West Oahu that is responsive to the identified unmet needs.

  4. That responsibility for planning, both programmatic and fiscal, be assigned to the Vice President for Academic Affairs. Connections between strategic and fiscal planning are not being made in the current, splintered organizational arrangement. A single, small group of individuals with the necessary talents should be charged with all aspects of the plan listed above in 1, 2, and 3.

  5. In the area of governance, the conversations about system/campus roles must continue. I can only repeat the points made in my presentation on Wednesday afternoon as the best general advice I can give on these matters. In short, the System must:

    The campuses should remain in charge of how things are accomplished, recognizing that responses to the same issues can legitimately vary from campus to campus.

There are also unresolved issues between the System and the state-the treatment of fringe benefits being but one example. A list of these issues, tied back to the UHS response to needs, should be developed as a prelude to developing a legislative package-for example, Community College responsiveness to workforce needs that are hampered by state regulations and the collective bargaining agreement. The most important of these issues should be catalogued and discussed with leaders, both inside and outside the University, in the context of trying to be responsive to the priority items in the strategic plan.

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