Nancy Cox became the dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment in January 2014.  One of Dean Cox’s first major initiatives was to embark on the development of a new strategic plan for the college.  With funding assistance and a recommendation from the UK Provost, early in 2014 the Dean authorized the search for a strategic planning consultant to lead the strategic planning project.  Based upon the recommendation of an internal search committee, in July 2014 Mitchen, Inc. was selected as the strategic planning consultant for the CAFE strategic planning process. 

Students in forest

Mitch Owen, Ph.D., is founder, CEO, and owner of Mitchen Leadership and Organizational Development, Inc.  Dr. Owen formerly served as a member of the executive leadership team at North Carolina State University where he provided leadership for personal and organizational development.  His client list includes several other land-grant research institutions.

In August 2014, Dean Nancy Cox issued a call for college volunteers to create a dynamic vision of CAFE for the next several years.  Faculty and staff were asked to nominate colleagues, graduate students, undergraduate students, or themselves to be members of a Strategic Planning (SP) Leadership Team.  Nominees from across the broad spectrum of the college were submitted and ultimately 34 Strategic Planning Team members were appointed by Dean Cox.

The SP Team was composed of faculty, staff, and students from UK’s main campus, as well as from the Research and Education Center in Princeton, two state-mandated program units, and several Cooperative Extension Service offices across the state.  Between November 2014 and June 2015, the Team attended four retreats in Lexington conducted by Dr. Owen.  At the first retreat, the Team divided into six Study Groups focused on gathering information from various entities affecting and affected by the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.  These Study Groups included Students; Student Influencers; Employers/Recruiters; Higher Education; Industry/Clientele/State Associations; and Government Agencies/Elected Leaders/Campus Leaders/UK Administration.   The Team also spent time developing the foundation for mission and vision statements.

Kids prepping food

Study Groups were led by a point person or co-point persons.  Both the Industry/ Clientele/State Associations group and the Government Agencies/Elected Leaders/Campus Leaders/UK Administration group conferred with Dean Nancy Cox about the groups to be contacted.  At the first November retreat, the Study Groups also made lists of stakeholders, which were vetted by members of the SP Team.

Between January 2015 and April 2015, fifteen “listening sessions” for faculty, staff, students, and stakeholders were conducted at Cooperative Extension Service offices throughout the Commonwealth, Hazard Community and Technical College, the State Extension Council Annual Meeting, and several locations on UK’s main campus and at the Research and Education Center at Princeton. These listening sessions were facilitated by Mitch Owen with assistance from the SP Team members.  Strategic Planning Team members also conducted face-to-face interviews with campus decision-makers, government officials, community stakeholders, and students.  More than 1,831 Kentuckians participated in state-wide listening sessions, face-to-face interviews, or on-line surveys.

Listening session participants reflected on questions like “What is CAFE doing well?” and “What is CAFE not doing so well?”  “What is the vision for a perfect CAFE?” and “What are trends affecting CAFE’s future?”

Following the listening sessions and gathering of relevant data, the SP Team determined the recurring trends identified by participants in the listening sessions.  Based on the data collected at the listening sessions, through surveys, focus groups, and interviews, at the second March 2015 retreat, the Team began to craft macro and micro goals to guide the future success of the college.  Six preliminary macro goals, along with micro goals and strategies for the implementation these goals, were developed and presented to Dean Nancy Cox and the CAFE leadership team in April 2015.  These preliminary goals were then shared with the academic department chairs and unit directors.

From May-August 2015, the Strategic Plan Writing Team met to refine the plan. The results were shared with the dean and associate deans late in August 2015, followed by planning for the strategic plan roll out during RoundUp September 30-October 3.

Action Teams were formed for each Strategic Plan Goal, and these teams collect information from throughout the college community to report on progress toward these goals.  The first annual progress report was completed in October 2016, and the second report is anticipated in October 2017.