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Forging Ahead UAB's Strategic Plan
Funding the Plan: Resources

The Process

UAB’s Strategic Planning Council was launched in January 2022, and charged by President Ray Watts to refresh UAB’s 2018-2023 strategic plan, Forging the Future, to guide the institution’s continued growth and unprecedented success and positive impact for 2024-2028.

President Watts — who often says UAB’s most valuable resource is its students, faculty and staff, and celebrates their ability to influence people’s lives for the better — stressed the importance of the plan’s positive impact on the people who make up the UAB community, as well as those in Birmingham, across Alabama and around the world.

The Strategic Planning Council began with research including a review of Forging the Future and an environmental scan of higher education and healthcare. Committees made up of subject matter experts who brought different perspectives from across the institution were convened to develop each section of the plan, from the mission, vision and values, to each foundation and pillar. More than 55 people representative of the UAB community helped craft the draft plan.

Strategic Planning Process J 2017

Accessible version

Feedback and Revisions

At an Oct. 2023 town hall at which the Strategic Planning Council presented the draft plan, President Watts asked the campus community to provide feedback to Forging Ahead during a highly publicized comment period. Students, faculty, staff and alumni submitted feedback at the town hall and via an online form.

As expected at an institution with more than 21,000 students and 28,000 employees, feedback revealed both themes and contradictions among UAB community members’ opinions. While not every comment submitted could be incorporated into the plan, every comment was reviewed and considered by the Strategic Planning Council co-chairs and the committee chairs who led the development of each section of the plan.

Many revisions were made to the draft plan based on feedback from the UAB community, including:

  • Several text and formatting edits were made to increase clarity and add emphasis.
  • An introduction section and editorial notes were added to highlight key context, and address questions and misconceptions that were expressed in feedback.
    • For example, some feedback in the Research, Innovation and Economic Development section (e.g., re: facilities, faculty, support structures, potential cuts in NIH funding, etc.) – particularly the feedback calling for more specific strategies, activities and metrics – are being addressed in UAB’s Research Strategic Initiative – Growth With Purpose, so an editorial note was added to the document to connect readers to that initiative.
  • Language was added to the plan to highlight the importance of and focus on serving and improving the lives of the UAB community (i.e., students, faculty and staff) in addition to local, national and global communities.
  • The Forging Ahead graphic depicting the vision, mission, values, pillars and foundations was updated to a more modern, UAB-centric design.
  • The word “health” was added to the mission and the Education pillar to further emphasize that focus.
  • The “Stewardship” foundation was changed to “Financial Sustainability” to better reflect the section, and “grow philanthropic giving” was replaced with “increase giving” to reflect that philanthropy is not the only form of giving.
  • The “Sustainability” foundation was changed to “Environmental Stewardship” to better reflect the section and avoid “Sustainability” appearing in multiple foundations.
  • The word “interprofessional” was added alongside “interdisciplinary” in the Environmental Stewardship foundation and in the Research, Innovation and Economic Development pillar to more clearly communicate the intent.
  • The Education pillar goal was edited to emphasize preparing students.
  • In the Education pillar, the word “healthy” was added to reinforce UAB’s health focus, “critical thinking” was added, and “co-curricular” was added in recognition that education happens both in and outside of the classroom.
  • References to UAB’s Grand Challenge Live HealthSmart Alabama were moved from the Research, Innovation and Economic Development pillar to the Community Engagement Pillar, which was considered by many to be a more appropriate section for the initiative.
  • Where updated data had become available since the initial drafting of the plan, numbers were revised (e.g., NSF HERD data and Blazer Pulse participation).
  • “Preventive care” was added in the Patient Care pillar to reinforce our commitment to access and care across the spectrum.
  • We added a specific percentage (i.e., 90%) to clarify the patient satisfaction metric.

Some suggested revisions submitted were too specific for incorporation in the institutional UAB strategic plan, which is intended to provide a big-picture, strategic direction for the enterprise. Feedback from the UAB community that was considered too specific to include in the institutional plan has been forwarded to the appropriate unit for consideration as more specific, localized plans are developed. For example:

  • Parking suggestions were sent to Facilities for consideration in the Transportation Services strategic plan.
  • Environmental stewardship and sustainability suggestions not incorporated were sent to the Sustainability Office in Facilities for consideration in the Sustainability Strategic Plan.
  • Suggestions re: co-curricular opportunities for students were sent to Student Affairs.
  • Employee engagement survey, benefits, compensation, hybrid work and other Human Resources-related suggestions were sent to HR.
  • Internationalization/globalization of campus suggestions not incorporated were sent to the Office of the Provost/Vice Provost for International Education/Chief International Officer and Into UAB.
  • Student enrollment/remote/hybrid/online learning and remote student experience suggestions were sent to Enrollment Management and Student Affairs.
  • Diversity-related suggestions were sent to the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
  • Patient access, cancer care and other patient care suggestions were sent to the appropriate entity/entities that deliver health care (e.g., Health System, Student Health and Wellness, O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Optometry, etc.).

Some requests were made that specific entities or initiatives be mentioned in the plan. It is important to note that Forging Ahead is intended to be a big-picture, overarching, institutional strategic plan. That an entity or initiative is not directly named in the plan, does not mean it is not critically important at UAB. If each important entity or initiative at UAB was mentioned, the plan would be too long.

Each school/college/unit will now create localized strategic plans to advance each area of the enterprise, guided by the big-picture direction provided by Forging Ahead.

Next Steps

Many schools, colleges and units have already begun their strategic planning process. As those efforts continue, and as others begin – informed by Forging Ahead – each entity is reminded to maintain a focus on the institution’s refreshed vision, mission and values. Ultimately, we exist to improve the lives of people – at UAB, across Birmingham and Alabama, and around the world.

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