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Public Service and Outreach Planning Commission


March 22, 1999

Rebecca D. Kneedler, Planning Commission Chair

This is an interim update about accomplishments and workplans for the University of Virginia Planning Commission on Public Service and Outreach. The Commission has 20 members that include faculty, staff, and students representing the primary dimensions of health and medicine, business and economic development, government, and education. In addition, a group of ad hoc members have been included to work on various aspects of the commission’s charge. For the most current membership listing of both groups, please see our web site at:


This update is organized around the six elements of the Framework for Information Based Planning as requested. These written notes are brief; I will be happy to elaborate on any of them at our meeting next week or by email.

Definition of Scope. After reading the three documents available on our web site (Cronin and Sjogren Report, 1991 Faculty Senate Report, and Kneedler Remarks from December 1998), the members of the Commission discussed the scope of our planning including terminology, definitions, values and magnitude. At this stage, we have agreement on using the terminology, "public service" (rejecting the term, "engagement" and qualifying the term, "outreach"). We have reasonable consensus for a working definition to be the following phrased in two ways: (1) The application of University of Virginia-based expertise to issues of concern to the greater community, and (2) Harnessing and directing the intellectual resources of the University of Virginia to promote and enhance the economic, intellectual, social, and physical well being of the Commonwealth of Virginia and beyond.

We will be recognizing and showcasing the significant voluntary public service that our University students and staff contribute. This will not be a primary focus of this commission; however, it will be noted that the University of Virginia is second to none in the percentage of participation in this arena of voluntary service by our students and staff.

Identification of Aspiration Group. We devoted much of our March 10 meeting to a discussion of benchmarks and aspiration groups. The commission members are already at a remarkably sophisticated level of understanding of these issues led by the work of Joe Cronin, Jane Sjogren, and Ben Boggs, and based on their substantial background in this area. After much discussion (both real and electronic), we appear to be moving toward the identification of eight or so benchmarks. We are not looking for who is the best in the generic area of "public service," but rather who is the best in specific policies and structures relating to metrics such as distance education or state government relations. We anticipate the identification of approximately 4 from our peer group listings including private and public (such as the SCHEV salary peers and AAU peers), 2 land grant universities, and 2 from non-university institutions. Identification of Preliminary Aspiration Group completed May 1, 1999.

Metrics of Aspiration Group. We are already examining the characteristics of a group of Universities that have emerged from various criteria (Duke, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Berkeley, Harvard, Penn State, Vanderbilt, UNC-Chapel Hill). Again, the commission recognizes that these may not be institutions that excel in the broad umbrella of public service as much as they excel in a particular aspect of public service, such as access or communication. Metrics of the Aspiration Group completed September 1, 1999.

Metrics of the University of Virginia. We are simultaneously collecting the information needed in this element at the same time we are examining elements 2 and 3. Part of this is driven by our commission’s immediate push to know more about the University of Virginia’s current status in public service and part of this is the timely hiring of a coordinator for public service programs in Gene Block’s office, Laura Hawthorne. Laura, in close consultation with this commission, is creating an electronic database of service programs using a variety of techniques including inventories and publications already available throughout the university community. As a result of the restructuring of Gene Block’s office and the expansion of his responsibilities to include public service, a University clearinghouse for the dissemination of this information can now be created. Metrics of the University of Virginia completed September 1, 1999.

Gap and Opportunity Analysis. The commission members in their expertise groups of education, health and medicine, business and economic development, and government will study the analyses of the aspiration groups and UVA. In addition, they will create focus groups and make site visits in their areas, drawing on additional university people who are active in the specific area. An example of this is a visit to Richmond to meet with legislators and state officials to hear their views on the current role UVA can and should be playing in serving the needs of the Commonwealth. Gap analysis completed February, 2000.

Strategies for Improvement. Recommendations for concrete steps that can be taken will emerge throughout this process as we work with the following University of Virginia groups – Development, Technology, Alumni, Staff, Faculty, and Students. Three stages of recommendations are projected: (1) Preliminary, June, 1999; (2) Interim, January, 2000; and (3) Final, June, 2000.

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