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University launches Impact 2030 planning process

The buzz phrase “unsurpassed societal impact” has fully permeated the University of Utah’s campus.

First uttered by President Taylor Randall at his inauguration two years ago, the words have become the aspirational measure by which every member of the university community defines progress, achievement and impact—in education, research and service.

In 2025, with the launch of a new, 5-year strategic plan, the aspirational will become even more concrete. Randall outlined the process and the structure for developing the plan at a meeting Jan. 24 with the President’s Leadership Council.

Randall’s vision is audacious: to develop a new higher education model for delivering societal impact. Despite historic headwinds—declining public confidence in higher education, rapidly changing student demographics, and the evolving needs of a changing Utah—the president said, the vision remains the same.

“We’re going to talk a lot about what it means to be a new national, higher education model,” Randall said. “I want us to think about the criticisms being levied against higher education and where we can break some of the orthodoxy of higher education to make us better. That will be our challenge.”

Call it, Impact 2030.

The Guiding Statement:

The University of Utah drives unsurpassed societal impact by preparing students from diverse backgrounds to be leaders and global citizens who strengthen our society and democracy; generating and sharing new knowledge, discoveries, and innovations that supercharge our economy and improve lives locally, nationally, and globally; and engaging local, national, and global communities to promote education, health, and quality of life.

The U’s strategy will have to address how the state is evolving, Randall said. For example, Utah is now considered a mid-sized state for the first time in its history, and its population is growing at a rapid rate with a more culturally diverse and aging population. He called out the state’s elite economy and changing workforce needs. And he challenged the university community to collectively address some of the state’s most pressing issues, such as air quality, mental health, water scarcity and affordable housing.

The Impact 2030 goals include: growing the student body to 40,000, achieving an 80% 6-year graduation rate (currently 68%), placing 90% of graduates in jobs, and garnering $1 billion in research funding. Echoing the goals he outlined in 2021, Randall urged campus stakeholders to continue striving to make the U a Top 10 public university, while also positively impacting the lives of all 3.5 million Utahns.

To accomplish all of this, the president said, the university must embrace entrepreneurship, foster tenacity and persistence, cultivate an ethic of care for ourselves and our community, lead out in addressing challenges, amplify the university’s unique physical space and location, advance interdisciplinary discovery and innovation, and collaborate across our differences and academic siloes.

The whole planning initiative is projected to take a year. Structurally, the process will include traditional town hall sessions, surveys, focus groups, SWOT analysis and stakeholder workshops. And, for the first time, health system planning will be integrated with planning for the rest of campus. In previous years, U of U Health prepared a separate strategic plan.

Simultaneously, comprehensive and centralized physical space planning, advancement planning, improved operational excellence, and an entrepreneurial and commercial mindset toward research innovations will identify savings and new sources of revenue to fund the projected growth, Randall said.

In one such effort, campus finance leaders working with consultants from McKinsey & Company will conduct a “deep dive” into procurement processes to refine and improve purchasing practices. In all, operational excellence efforts could generate as much as $100 million in “operating impact” annually.

After this week’s planning launch, a “Diagnostic” phase—including an operational excellence study, SWOT survey and analysis, town halls and workshops—will proceed from March to May. In June, an insights report will guide an “Ideation” phase, with workshops and preliminary plans circulating among stakeholders. The final, “Choices and Resourcing” phase will refine priorities, identify resource needs and finalize the plan.

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