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Academic Affairs - Spring Virtual Retreat 2021

The Retreat was held on February 24 and 25, 2021

Why a Retreat?

Higher education was facing many challenges prior to COVID-19. These challenges include, but are not limited to, maintaining enrollment as student demographics shift nationwide; erosion of public confidence in the value of a college degree; growing social movements regarding social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion; access and affordability; and declining state support for public universities. The COVID-19 pandemic not only exacerbated these challenges but created new ones. For example, 86% of new international students were unable to enter the United States to begin or continue their education in FY21. Expenses related to COVID-19 such as new and enhanced technology, expanded cleaning, and the implementation of a COVID-19 testing program significantly increased expenses as revenue losses mounted and Illinois State, like nearly all universities, pivoted to teach in online modalities.

How best to navigate the challenges and opportunities above both in the short- and long-term is the goal of the proposed Academic Affairs retreat. Specifically, we will review these multilayered forces as they affect Academic Affairs and Illinois State University by identifying priorities and developing strategies for Illinois State to not just remain competitive, but to thrive in the post pandemic landscape.

In planning the retreat, the Provost's office recognizes that a considerable amount of work has already been done with respect to many of the challenges noted above. The retreat will leverage and build upon these initiatives.


In September 2020, the Provost's office created 10 working groups around 10 themes. Two themes: diversity, equity and inclusion and the post-COVID landscape cut across all working groups. A senior administrator from the Provost's office will lead each working group. To ensure full transparency and broad campus participation, key stakeholder groups including the Deans' Council, Academic Senate, Chairs and Directors' Council, student government leadership nominated members for the working groups. Several groups began meeting in October and will continue to do so until the retreat.

In sum, the retreat planning process is designed to be transparent, inclusive/consultative, and forward-looking. We will review lessons learned from not only the pandemic but from our current and past practices and build upon our strengths and opportunities to create a stronger, more competitive ISU.

Working Group Charges

Each working group will critically assess key issues related to their assigned theme(s). They will review the status of ongoing initiatives and plans, identify gaps, as well as policy and procedural impediments. Groups are especially charged with identifying best practices, considering future opportunities and establishing strategic priorities. Each group is required to pay special attention to issues of diversity, equity and inclusion as well as the post-COVID landscape. Working groups are also encouraged to collaborate across groups to identify areas of synergy and collaboration.

Work Groups

White Papers

The work groups' white papers are available for your review.

Access White Papers

We Want Your Feedback

We are especially interested in the following illustrative feedback:

  • What themes or topics are missing that you would like to see addressed?
  • What ideas/suggestions do you have with respect to each of the themes identified?
  • What policy and procedural impediments have you experienced or can think of with respect to each theme?
  • What best practices or opportunities do you see?
  • In what areas can Academic Affairs streamline operations, increase financial and operational efficiencies and enhance the prestige, visibility, and national competitiveness of ISU?
  • How should the retreat be structured/organized to ensure that the goals are accomplished?

Please email all suggestions and comments to the working group leads or to Provost.

Next Steps

In February, we hosted a successful retreat for Chairs, Directors, Deans and their staff, members of the Academic Senate and working group members. Approximately 165 unique individuals attended the retreat over the two-day period and over 100 recommendations were generated. Over the last couple of months, Provost staff have worked diligently to integrate feedback gathered through this website and retreat attendees to develop a prioritized list of initiatives for the Division of Academic Affairs to implement starting in the 2021-2022 academic year.

In May 2021, the Academic Affairs community was asked to participate in a survey seeking input on the top priorities identified by each workgroup. After incorporating this round of feedback, Provost staff will present the complete plan to the Academic Affairs community in fall 2021.