Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Changing the Landscape at the University of Southern Indiana through a Locally Developed, Customized Environmental Scanning Process

Academic journal article Planning for Higher Education

Changing the Landscape at the University of Southern Indiana through a Locally Developed, Customized Environmental Scanning Process

Article excerpt

This exercise proved to be successful in presenting a new lens through which USI can look to position itself for both the short and long term.


THIS ARTICLE IS THE FIRST IN A SERIES describing the locally developed, customized environmental scanning process that was followed at the University of Southern Indiana (USI) in Evansville, Indiana. This article provides an overview of the university and the situation that led it to welcome an environmental scanning process as an element of its overall strategy. We provide an exposition of the literature on environmental scanning as it pertains to academia and discuss how and why USI's model diverges from those found in the literature and in practice. The university's environmental scanning process is unique in that it analyzes the institution's distinctive competitive strengths with respect to trends in the external environment in the categories of business, demographics, higher education, science and technology, and governance. The analysis and outcomes will help inform the next iteration of USI's strategic plan, which looks beyond 2015.

The second article will be a deeper exploration of environmental trends co-authored by two graduate students who contributed to the analysis. The third article will be an in-depth analysis of a series of qualitative interviews with internal and external stakeholders in the Evansville area coauthored by two of our interviewees (one internal stakeholder and one external stakeholder).

The final article will use the GE-McKinsey nine-point matrix as a framework for analyzing the results of the environmental scan performed by each academic and administrative unit at the university, including USI's four colleges (Business; Liberal Arts; Nursing and Health Professions; and Science, Engineering, and Education) and other administrative units such as Student Affairs, Outreach and Engagement, Athletics, and the USI Foundation.


USI was founded in 1965 as a branch campus of Indiana State University and referred to as Indiana State University-Evansville (ISUE.) In 1985, legislation signed into law by Governor Robert Orr, an Evansville native, established the institution as an independent public statewide university, and the abbreviation changed from ISUE to USI. With strong support from a significant portion of the regional business community and other leaders, USI was created to provide education to an underserved part of the state and serve as an engine for economic development. Both in 1965 and 1985, USI was considered to be a disruptive force in its region, and it set a course and mission based on the needs of its community. There are echoes of the land-grant philosophy in USI's identity that extend into its vibrant outreach and engagement activities today.

The university is located on 1,400 acres on the western edge of the Evansville city limits in Southwestern Indiana and has four colleges: the College of Liberal Arts; the Romain College of Business; the College of Nursing and Health Professions; and the Pott College of Science, Engineering, and Education. Approximately 9,500 students are enrolled in 80 different undergraduate majors, 12 master's programs, and one doctoral program. From its inception, USI has functioned as a regionally responsive university with consistent growth as measured by its campus footprint and student enrollment.

In 2009, USI embarked on the process of developing a strategic plan, the first formal strategic plan in its 44-year history. The creation of a formalized strategic plan was the first charge by the Board of Trustees to the then-new president Dr. Linda Bennett.

The strategic planning process involved feedback from discussion and focus groups consisting primarily of faculty and staff. While some external realities had an impact on the plan, it was primarily a response to internal constituents and their agendas. …

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