* I’ve seen a whole lot of stories about putting Paul Vallas in charge of Chicago State University. Some have focused on the fact that a white man would be running a predominantly African-American university. Some have focused on the various enemies he has. Some have talked about how Gov. Rauner wants to install him, which they claim can’t be good, except that Vallas ran with Pat Quinn against Rauner in 2014.
What I wanted to know was, what does Vallas intend to do at CSU? I talked with him about it a bit last night. It was clear that he had some ideas, so I reached out to one of his people and asked that person to get me some bullet points. Here they are, slightly edited…
1. Paul has already built a Strategic Planning Team. I can’t release names without permission, but this team is absolutely dedicated and has already met several times, working pro bono to prepare to conduct a comprehensive and wholly transparent review of CSU’s finances, organization, operations and education programs for the purposes of developing a long-term Strategic Plan for CSU. The review will include document review, interviews and listening sessions with administrators, faculty, students and stakeholder communities.
2. He will develop a separate budget with dedicated revenue sources to address the university’s long-term debt obligations and legacy costs. This will insulate and protect the university’s core operating budget to ensure financial stability and sustainability of the transformation.
3. CSU will serve as a “hub” of many CSU-curated, but not always CSU-generated, education, occupational training, and community support services. Like other prominent universities, CSU will also build capacity to launch programs that will not only expand education and job training opportunities, but that will also generate profits. These profits will be reinvested into the university including programs and buildings with potential reductions in tuition costs and increased scholarships, and used to help retire long-term obligations. (Also less dependence on state dollars – crucial in times like these).
4. Paul has already identified other local universities with plenty of programs but shortage of space. CSU has plenty of space, not enough programs. He will explore “swap partnership” space for their students, new programs and classes for CSU students – no cost to CSU, more & better programs for students – all to drive increased enrollment / more dollars to CSU – in spite of budget impasse.
5. He’s already talked to a prominent Silicon Valley tech firm interested in coming in to provide new tech platform at a cut rate. It is interested in helping out and is a fascinating project and a chance to “do good.” Its involvement would include tech internships and training for CSU students. Perhaps tech “lab” type course as the project is implemented. Increased use of digital learning tools at CSU will not replace the “physical” university which has ample space, but will be newly employed to:
• expand course offerings, experiences, and learning resources;
• Support blended learning and provide on-line courses and degree and certification programs – to drive increased enrollment.
• Support student learning 24 hours a day/7 days a week;
• Facilitate individualized learning programs;
• Develop online and 21st century learning skills;
• Increase student engagement, motivation, and completion/degree attainment;
• Accelerate learning; and
• Link both instructors to their students and to quality content, resources, and systems to help them improve their own instruction and personalized learning.
6. Will seek partnerships with international universities from African and Caribbean nations, for potential exchange, study abroad programs.
Vallas also talked last night about starting up a program to train a new generation of firefighters and police officers.