White paper aims to ‘rev the engine’

A couple of days ago I released a document that is intended to frame the discussion and suggest some boundaries for the work of the Vision Taskforce, which began its work in February. It is my understanding that this so-called “white paper” is something that hasn’t been issued on our campuses lately, so I thought it might be good to provide a bit of explanation.

To my way of thinking a “white paper” is a statement of philosophy or a discussion-starter about a new direction. It is offered to help the thinking of an individual, a group, a committee, or a panel that has been tasked with considering alternatives and bringing about change. In our case, the paper is a statement outlining some clear ideas and thoughts of mine for the taskforce to consider as we set the course for what is clearly a new and innovative institution of higher education here in Middle Georgia. The taskforce will produce its own document later in the spring, but I thought it would be good to express my views and get them on the table.

Having been through the process of elevating an institution from a college to a university, I know a little about the visioning that is required. A new ship that is merely pushed into the harbor without power will float in one direction for a bit, but then it will drift. We do not want our new institution to drift, so I have started the engines and set the rudder on a course that I believe best suits us at this time. The ‘white paper’ is my attempt to rev the engine!

The taskforce is now working in three sub-groups which are spending a short time studying what we might look like as a university and the steps and challenges we must address in making that transition. It’s quite possible that the sub-groups will discover reasons that would supplement many of the ideas in the white paper. In the end, we all want to have a clear path forward, one that has been agreed upon and will be supported not only by the taskforce members but by the greater college communities and public stakeholders as well.

Undoubtedly, our vision will mean that we shall modify some of our operations, adjust our organizational structure and re-set some of our priorities. It’s possible we will need to find additional resources — as well as new revenue streams — to accomplish the goals of increasing enrollment, increasing student retention and graduation, increasing the delivery of educational programs to our region. As I mentioned when I first assumed office, these first few months of my administration are being devoted to the kind of self-analysis that permits an assessment of our strengths and weaknesses. In this regard, the taskforce is but one effort in a process of continuous reflection and assessment.

So, this white paper and the taskforce are setting the rudder for the push that is to come. But we know that we will not – we cannot — be successful in achieving the many goals we might set without the support of staff, faculty, students and members of the community at large. I realize that this support must be earned. All our constituents must see that we have set achievable goals, that we have the courage to work toward them, and they must see that they have the necessary resources to achieve them. It is my pledge to everyone on every campus that our vision will be true to who we are, and who we can and should become in serving current and future generations of students. The vision will be designed to move us – together — in the right direction, for the right reasons, for the right cause.

Middle Georgia State can see a new horizon because, as the father of modern mathematics, Sir Isaac Newton, put it in my favorite quote: We can see things far off because we are “standing on the shoulders of giants.”  Many giants have shaped our history, and now because of their work we are called to set out a new vision of how to work as a university dedicated to the common good.


Christopher Blake, Ph.D.
Middle Georgia State College