Ways of Creating Sustainable Education Programs for Students-Part III

Once you and your team have identified the shared vision and worked out the details in a stakeholder strategy session, the next step is to outline the action for achieving those strategies and to set up an implementation timeline.  Sometimes, in the rush to get a program implemented, planners will skip over this essential step.  However, this is the step where vision meets intentionality.  It is also the space where fear, uncertainty and the management of change can be successfully addressed.  Since we are talking about creating educational programs for students, let us look more closely at the value of this step from a student organization perspective.

As the new SGA advisor, I inherited a governance board where the leaders hosted events out of tradition and habit, but without vision or intentionality.  The other advisor and I met with the Executive Board (E-board) for a series of strategy sessions on the purpose of SGA and the institutional mission of student engagement and the development of student leaders.  From those discussions, we were able to outline a SGA student engagement strategy for the campus.  This strategy included the redesign and implementation of a stronger governance structure that increased student voice, ongoing leadership training for and by the students, and a realignment of SGA resource to better support student engagement on campus and conference participation off campus.

Although I participated in this process many times with colleagues, it was not until I worked with students on this massive project that I began to truly understand the value of outlining goals and creating an implementation timeline.  This was the first time these students had ever participated in a major strategic planning initiative and they expressed their unease in managing the student reaction to change.

In order to quell their concerns and put the ownership back on them, I coached students into understanding that outlining the action steps with a comfortably paced implementation timeline would help them feel less overwhelmed and the student body less resistant to the change.

In the first stages of communicating this vision to the student body and the initial pushback, this timeline became invaluable to the SGA leaders because they were able to effectively communicate the new strategic plan to the students they served.  The result of this process was a dramatic increase in student attendance at weekly SGA meetings (from spring semester attendance of nine students to fall attendance of 30-50 students per meeting) and an increased confidence by students that their concerns and suggestions for campus-wide improvements were going to be heard.

In the next article, I will discuss how to implement a comprehensive assessment process that is aligned with the programmatic goals and that can be used for evidence-based programmatic improvements.