External Department Review
You can tell spring is just around the corner when the daffodils are up, the tree buds are swelling, and we’re getting ready for Bug Bowl. Another reminder this year is an external review we have been preparing for since the fall of 2007. Every five years or so, the College calls for an external evaluation of each academic department. They work with the Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service, the USDA agency responsible for the land grant partnership, to create a team of external experts from around the country to carryout comprehensive evaluations. Our team has been selected and is scheduled to visit in early April.
To prepare for the review, we have taken stock or our activities and accomplishments since our last review in 2002, and drafted a new strategic plan that outlines our vision for the future. All of this has been compiled into a self-study document that has been circulated to the review team, our administration, and to members of the department. Elements of this document will be posted on our new website scheduled for release in April.
The self-study document represents an evaluation of our progress and accomplishments given the goals and expected outcomes in our previous strategic plan, an account of the changes in personnel, programs and priorities since the last review, and a new draft strategic plan that highlights the critical issues, gaps and opportunities in each of our primary missions as a department in a Land Grant university. Our approach was to generate and present the data needed for the metrics in the previous strategic plan as the basis for evaluating our progress and the expected outcomes.
We reviewed our progress and accomplishments, and drafted the priorities for our new strategic plan as groups representing our three Land Grant missions in learning, discovery and engagement. Group findings and recommendations were shared in discussions with the entire faculty and distributed for comment to everyone in the department. This document is very inclusive, and data rich with only the necessary text and narratives.
The document is organized into eight sections that include a Table of Contents, CSREES Review Team, Purdue and Agriculture, Department Overview, Learning, Engagement, Discovery, and Strategic Planning. The final section on Strategic Planning includes our new draft strategic plan (2008-2013), future faculty position needs, an outline of how we prepared for the review, and the previous strategic plan (2002-2007). Putting together a review document like this takes a tremendous effort, cooperation and coordination. Consequently, this document reflects the input of the entire department at some level.
These reviews are a valuable way to reflect on our progress and plans for our future. Although they require a tremendous effort, the reward is often evident even before the review team gets to town. There is a direct correlation between how much benefit a department receives from a review, and how much effort they commit to the planning, preparation and self-study. When this is done well, the review team often simply reflects the attributes a department has already “discovered”. We think we have prepared well, and are ready for the formal part of this exercise.