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Transition plan a ‘starting point’ for Hogan

by Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu - December 10, 2007

A presidential transition plan outlining 16 broad issues the University must address has been completed and presented to the Board of Trustees, President Michael J. Hogan, and senior University leaders.

The plan, prepared by Katzenbach Partners, a consulting firm specializing in organizational transitions and change, is intended to facilitate a smooth transition from former President Philip E. Austin to Hogan.

The consultants worked closely with both Hogan and Austin, and conducted 60 interviews with a range of representative members of the University community, including faculty, staff, student life, alumni, legislators, major donors, and local leaders.

The issues identified range from the academic mission, the research enterprise, and students, to the Health Center, the regional campuses, diversity, athletics, long-term funding, and the partnership with the Town of Mansfield.

It is available on the President’s official web site at http://president.uconn.edu/ and on a new ‘blog’ web site to which documents are posted, called ‘PresRelease.’ The blog URL is: http://blogs.uconn.edu/president/

“The plan establishes a process and tone for this administration, by receiving information from all important stakeholders,” says Hogan.

“It presents a coherent perspective that puts everyone on the same page, and establishes the channels of communication between the new administration and its stakeholders.”

Although hiring consultants to assist with a leadership transition is more common in corporate settings, it is becoming more widespread in higher education, too.

“The role of a university president has become much more complicated in the past 15 to 20 years,” says Jack O’Kelley III, a principal with Katzenbach Partners.

“The average tenure of a university president is a little under seven years, and many end in fewer than five, so it’s imperative to get off to a good start.”

Unlike at a corporation, however, “at a university, and a public institution in particular, there are many more stakeholders who have a voice,” O’Kelley says, “and the process and the output are public information.”

He says one of his observations based on the interviews is that the University of Connecticut has extremely strong support.

“The University has unusually strong support from the majority of its stakeholders,” says O’Kelley.

“There’s a real love of the institution.”

While the issues identified in the plan aren’t new to members of the University community, it is the first time they have been articulated in one document.

Taken together, says Hogan, they convey the complexity of the tasks that face the University as a public higher education research institution.

The plan is intended to be a living document.

“It’s important not to see this as a completed plan,” Hogan says. “It’s a starting point to help us get off the ground quickly. It gets us out of the blocks but not around the track.”

The plan will be updated regularly on the web. Input is encouraged via the blog URL: http://blogs.uconn.edu/president/

“I want people to feel free to contact my office with their insights and concerns,” Hogan says. “People on the ground often have great ideas.”

He emphasizes that the plan is for the entire University community.

“It’s for all of us,” he says.

“This transition isn’t about one person, it’s about the entire institution and the state. The plan is a tool to get us all moving in the same direction, with a common understanding and shared optimism about what’s ahead for both the University and the state of Connecticut.”

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