Westall named associate provost for academic planning
Published: Friday, November 16, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 16, 2012 08:11
LouAnn Westall, an experienced consultant and academic planner, last month assumed the role of associate provost of academic planning, a new position that focuses on creating and implementing a long-term strategic plan for the university.
The university-wide strategic planning initiative, titled Tufts: The Next 10 Years, was launched by Provost and Senior Vice President David Harris on Oct. 1.
“The Provost believed that this position is essential to moving the process of strategic planning forward because garnering broad community involvement requires someone to own that responsibility,” Westall said.
In a letter to the Tufts community, Harris described the idea behind the strategic plan.
“A strategic planning process is an opportunity for all of us, as a community, to rediscover Tufts University and its role in the world and then to develop a blueprint to achieve our shared goals in teaching and learning, research and scholarship and service to society,” Harris wrote.
Many universities do not have an associate provost of academic planning, Westall said.
“At many universities and organizations, strategic planning is a concentrated effort, but often implementations of recommendations [do] not occur,” she said. “People will write a plan, the plan will get distributed, but no one is really held responsible for the implementation of that plan.”
Westall believes that her experience developing initiatives for Harvard Medical School in the school’s planning office, in addition to time spent at universities in a donor relations role, will assist her in the new position.
“I think that what I bring to the table is years of experience working in higher education and as a consultant,” Westall said. “I have a lot of experience working with faculty and working with students in a university environment, but also in a consulting environment, giving me a broad perspective on how many universities do things.”
Westall said she came to Tufts to return to being a member of what she considers a more permanent community. For the past several years, she has served as vice president and chief operating officer at Strategy Implemented, Inc. as well as the director at Huron Consulting Group.
“While consulting provides you with this vast broad experience, I missed being part of an institution,” she said. “It is gratifying to be part of a community. People love the institution, and they support it in a way that is vibrant and palpable.”
Westall expressed excitement about the position, explaining that it will give her the opportunity to see her planned policies come to fruition.
“I was excited by the idea that you could get involved in the process of strategic planning and it wouldn’t end when the planning was done, but the role kept carrying forward and you could actually implement what was on the plan,” she said.
Working groups composed of students, faculty and staff will identify challenges, opportunities and resources to help shape the strategic plan, Westall said. The working groups will discuss the student experience, digital and online initiatives, modes of research, lifelong learning and alumni engagement, entrepreneurship and innovation, public service and globalization.
Senior Ben Perlstein, an intern in the Office of the President, serves as a staff representative in the Globalization Working Group, a committee that he said Westall has interacted with extensively.
“She and I have personally talked about different strategies for making this feel like a community experience, especially for undergraduates,” Perlstein said. “This isn’t a top-down strategic plan. The more voices that participate, the closer we will get to the right choices for Tufts.”
Perlstein said he is especially impressed by the administration’s transparency in its efforts with the strategic plan.
“The extent to which the administration is consulting the community and soliciting advice and [comments] reflects a really exciting time for Tufts as an institution, because this will be something that we build together and I think that everyone at the top believes that,” he said.
Perlstein emphasized the leadership role that Westall has taken in the strategic planning process.
“She is rising to the occasion and inspiring everyone around her to step up to the plate,” he said. “It is really great that we have someone like LouAnn who isn’t taking anything for granted about what the university is.
She is coming in with her eyes wide open and is taking full account of everything. I think it will have tremendous results.”