Development of the University of Iowa Strategic Plan for 2022-2027 took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, which critically affected university operations but also afforded an opportunity for the university to discover how nimble, resourceful, and resilient it can be in the face of unprecedented challenges.  The pandemic compelled the university to engage in new teaching and work modalities and highlighted the importance of attention to health and well-being.  These experiences informed a series of strategies to better support the success and wellness of the university's people as individuals and as a community. 

The plan was informed by the university’s commitment to moving from a focus on diversity alone to a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.  Diversity (which the university defines broadly to refer to all aspects of human difference) is essential, but is not by itself sufficient to the pursuit of excellence.  Development of the plan also followed a period of continuing national conversation that contributed to heightened awareness of the need for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion at Iowa.   This plan’s implementation begins at a time when the university community is broadly supportive of meaningful change toward a more respectful and inclusive culture in which individuals feel a sense of belonging.   

Ongoing and emerging research, scholarship, and creative activities, including research contributing to the development of effective COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, also framed the content of the plan. In FY2021 the UI secured its highest-ever level of external funding, further contributing to the institution’s unique strengths and societal impact. To remain competitive over the next five years, it will be important for the UI to leverage its strength in interdisciplinary collaboration and to strategically pursue traditional and non-traditional  funding opportunities in new and emerging areas.

Planning Themes: Challenges and Opportunities    

From summer 2021 through early spring 2022, members of the UI community participated in more than 60 listening sessions, key informant meetings, and focus groups—as well as submitting feedback online—to provide input into the developing strategic plan. Additional meetings were held with key external stakeholders to review the mission, vision, and overarching goals. Several prominent themes regarding the planning context, both pandemic-related and not, emerged from those feedback sessions. They included: 

  • The impact of the pandemic on student academic and career preparation and learning, and on widening equity gaps that existed before the pandemic  
  • The need to provide enhanced support for teaching 
  • The need to identify emerging research areas for strategic growth and promote interdisciplinary collaboration in order to remain competitive in research funding and position UI researchers to have a positive impact on the world 
  • The need for improved communication, coordination, and accountability in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts 
  • The importance of attention to well-being and mental health for all members of the community 
  • The need to evaluate flexible work opportunities for some staff 
  • The need to enhance career development opportunities for faculty and staff 
  • The need to explore proactive, campuswide approaches to recruitment and retention of faculty 
  • The need to seek new sources of revenue and ensure both new and existing resources are aligned with strategic priorities 
  • The need to strengthen and coordinate communication to more effectively tell the story of the university’s excellence and impact and to understand better the needs of stakeholders 

Planning Themes: Areas of Distinction 

Participants in the feedback sessions also commented on what they perceive as Iowa’s areas of distinction—strengths the university should protect, invest in, and leverage as it plans for the future. Points of pride that emerged from those discussions include: 

  • Exceptional breadth of academic programs, rooted in a strong liberal arts foundation that prepares students to succeed in an ever-changing, diverse world 
  • The ability to offer students experiential learning opportunities and unprecedented connections to world-renowned scholars and practitioners 
  • A culture of collaborative and interdisciplinary research approaches to addressing societal challenges at a global level 
  • Excellent and comprehensive health sciences programs, translational research, and holistic patient care 
  • World-class writing programs, a vibrant literary culture, and an emphasis on quality writing across disciplines  
  • Impact on every Iowan through contributions to education, research, health care, economic and workforce development, cultural and artistic experiences, Big Ten athletics, and the presence of alumni and active partnerships in every county in Iowa  
  • Talented, engaged, inclusive, and collaborative students, faculty, and staff who contribute to a vibrant environment for learning, innovation, and discovery 
  • uniquely integrated town and campus milieu, with vibrant partnerships between the university and Iowa City

Download the Strategic Plan for 2022-2027 (PDF)