Moving the university’s transformational plan into action


Moving the university’s transformational plan into action


EAB Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellow, currently serving as Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at Mississippi State University, who completed a capstone project on transformational planning.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EAB.

Provide support for institutional strategic planning processes

Why do so many institutional strategic planning processes start with great intentions only to fail in achieving their desired results?

Strategic planning was introduced to private industry in the 1920’s and since that time, it has been utilized by virtually every type of organization, including academic institutions. And while the evolution of strategic planning has continued, so too has the lack of strategic execution. Two primary reasons why strategic plans fail are an organization’s lack of commitment and vision or failure to identify and measure appropriate metrics of success.

Since Mark Keenum was named president in 2009, Mississippi State University has been fortunate to maintain consistent leadership during the last decade. When David Shaw became Provost in 2019, he already had 35 years of experience at Mississippi State, including 10 years as Vice President of Research and Economic Development. Collectively, senior administration has over 100 years of experience at Mississippi State. With such a strong institutional knowledge, the administration was in an ideal position to value the University’s mission yet have the authority to dedicate resources to new opportunities. Furthermore, senior leadership supported introducing new and unique strategies that were previously untested at Mississippi State.

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Because of my interest in strategy and its relevancy to my position at Mississippi State, I chose to explore how Mississippi State can move beyond traditional strategic exercises and implement a transformational plan that would prepare Mississippi State for the future.

Through several strategic planning retreats since 2019, Mississippi State’s leadership established a primary aspirational goal of becoming a Top 50 public research university. Aware that achieving this goal would require significant changes and wide-spread adoption, the University’s vice presidents have vowed to commit existing resources from their division to support the effort. Additionally, administration has identified seven complimentary goals ranging from optimizing organizational effectiveness, transforming the campus community, and embracing the role of economic catalyst in Mississippi and beyond. Each goal is supported by objectives and corresponding metrics. To operationalize the plan, Mississippi State has deployed additional support, including:

  • Hiring a Director of Strategic Planning and Implementation in the Office of the Provost with the responsibility of guiding the transformational change plan into action. This position is supported by a steering committee designed to measure the effectiveness of units in completing the identified objectives.
  • Creation of a Blue Ocean Council, comprised of visionary administrators, faculty, and staff to identify untapped opportunities where Mississippi State can continue to develop new markets and further the University’s mission as a land-grant institution.

Mississippi State will continue to face challenges similar to other academic institutions. However, by resolving that meaningful change is imperative, committing sufficient resources, and preparing the institution to adapt to an ever-changing landscape, Mississippi State will remain in a favorable position to attain our aspirational goal.

See the fellows' blogs from the capstone projects

Amy Capolupo and others participated in the Spring 2021 EAB’s Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship

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