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Ole Miss Chancellor, Provost unveil new strategic plan at 2017 Town Hall meeting

Responding to ideas and hopes expressed more than a year ago at the University of Mississippi’s first-ever universitywide Town Hall, UM officials unveiled a new strategic plan for the institution’s future success Wednesday (Oct. 11) at the second Town Hall.

Similar to the inaugural event, hundreds of students, faculty, staff and alumni attended the two-hour gathering in the Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom of The Inn at Ole Miss. Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter opened with a “State of the University” address.

“We can see higher peaks, but to reach those peaks, we must continue having the important conversations about, ‘How do we go from great to greater?’ and ‘How will we get there?'” Vitter said. “The four pillars that emerged from the Flagship Forum last year are academic excellence; healthy and vibrant communities; people, places and resources; and athletics excellence.

“Our road map to the future focuses upon these four pillars.”

Audience members posed questions to UM and UMMC administrators during a question-and-answer session following Vitter’s address.

Also during the assembly, Provost Noel Wilkin unveiled the “Flagship Forward” strategic plan, born from the 550 ideas shared at the first Town Hall in August 2016. Wilkin outlined details about the transformative initiatives and goals around the four pillars.

Attendees were among the first in the university community to receive a copy of the new strategicplan.

“Each pillar has its own transformative initiative and specific goals,” Wilkin said. “For example, the academic excellence initiative is to accelerate and inspire solutions to society’s grand challenges. Our goals are to enhance the quality of academic programs, support faculty excellence, enhance student success and increase research and creative achievement.”

During the interactive segment of the Town Hall, participants were asked to brainstorm future “headlines” they hope will be achieved within the next five years and beyond. By the end of the event, more than 150 “headlines” focused around the pillars and goals were shared.

Anne Klinger, an staff member in the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education who attended last year’s Town Hall, said she felt the new strategic plan definitely reflected ideas expressed last year.

“I think that the committee looked at all the great ideas submitted and narrowed them down to these achievable ideals,” she said. “I am inspired by many of them and I can’t wait to see where we are at by the next Town Hall.”

Students in attendance expressed similar hopefulness.

“The thing I most look forward to is achieving a goal within the people, places and resources pillar,” said Abigail Percy, a junior journalism major from Carthage. “I’d most definitely like to see more appreciation for theater and film.”

Logan Williamson, another junior journalism student from Byrum, said the academic excellence pillar is important to him.

“My hope is that as Ole Miss continues to grow, the campus culture will continue to evolve in order for everyone to rise,” he said.

The session was moderated by David Magee, longtime Oxford resident, Ole Miss alumnus and publisher of The Oxford Eagle.

“This is a moment when we all get to actively participate in the future of this great university,” Magee said. “We all love Ole Miss and everything that it has accomplished, but we are poised to achieve more than we’ve ever dared to imagine.”

Vitter urged participants to recognize their responsibilities as Ole Miss Rebels and members of the state’s flagship university as they face the world’s many challenges.

“Being an Ole Miss Rebel means we stand up for one another, it means we do not shy away from difficult discussions, it means every voice matters and it means we move forward together in a shared vision for our future,” Vitter said.