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Kristen Murtaugh to expand strategic planning role

Kristen Murtaugh thoughtfully surveys her office. As the newly appointed vice president for strategic planning at Florida Atlantic University, she had a lot to pack before she moved to the Boca Raton campus in January.

President Frank Brogan asked Murtaugh in September to take her role as chair of the University Strategic Planning Council and make it her full-time priority. In her new position, Murtaugh will be responsible for the oversight and continued development of the institution’s strategic plan, and she’ll focus on how to integrate it through all university levels.

“[President Frank Brogan] is interested in having everyone see that their area has a role in the university’s long-term plan,” she said. “I know FAU well, and I know the people well.”

The current strategic plan was approved in January 2006, she said, and “the university has based all its serious decision-making on that plan.” It already needs some tweaking, she added. “A lot has changed since then.”

“We’ve had budget cuts to deal with, and they have been done asking ourselves ‘What are the priorities, what did we say was important to us in our plan and what do we need to protect?’

"We’ve done everything we can to keep the enrollment up. The retention of students and higher graduation rates are some of the biggest priorities that FAU has. So when we’ve been cutting things, we’ve been looking at things that were not really focused on the primary missions of the university, instruction and research.

“At the same time, we have this windfall of money from Clearwire – money that is now going to be put into areas that we’ve said were important,” she said, referring to the university’s $173 million, 30-year deal with Clearwire Corp. The school recently agreed to lease its excess broadband bandwidth capacity to the Kirkland, Wash.-based wireless broadband service provider.

“Goal No. 5 is technology,” Murtaugh said. With the Clearwire funds, “now we can get equipment for all campuses,” as well as increase distance learning technology and provide training for faculty members, she said.

Murtaugh hopes that using the funds to enhance students’ learning experience will help increase retention rates across the university.

“We may shuffle or combine some of the goals and add others to make the plan more inclusive,” she added.

Murtaugh plans to spend the rest of 2008 transitioning Gerri McPherson, vice president of the Treasure Coast campus, who will be taking on oversight of the Jupiter campus.

Before coming to FAU, Murtaugh was executive director of the New York State School and Business Alliance under Governor Mario Cuomo, a partnership between industry and education aimed at helping at-risk high school students gain experience through mentoring, internships and job shadowing.

She moved from New York when her husband, Daniel, was transferred to Florida with his company, W.R. Grace, in 1992. He now works at FAU, too, as an associate professor of English on the Boca Raton campus.

A graduate of the University of Toronto, she received her doctorate in Italian from Harvard University.

Change is nothing new for Murtaugh, who has been vice president of the MacArthur campus in Jupiter since May 2002. When she started at FAU as the associate dean for credit and extension programs, she spent some of her time in an office being leased on the Fort Pierce campus of Indian River Community College.

“We were working out of a room a little bigger than a broom closet,” she recalled.

Her office still isn’t big enough to hold the collection of cards, pictures and other items she has collected over the years. A slew of thick binders line her bookshelves. Stretched across the top of her desk cabinet is an accordion-like set of butterfly prints she found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She’s not sure if she’ll be able to display it in her new office.

“I’m very sad to leave Jupiter,” Murtaugh said. “I feel good about what I’ve accomplished, but I’ll miss the people.”




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