Formichella New Director of Strategic Initiatives

Jordyn Daggs-Olson, Assistant News Editor

Last fall, President Merchant unveiled Buena Vista University’s new strategic plan, a five-year plan of goal achievement set out by members of faculty, staff, and administration. As of Feb. 1, 2019, English professor Dr. Annamaria Formichella is the new Director of Strategic Initiatives. In this role, Formichella will oversee the progress made in each of the thirty-two goals set out in the strategic plan.  

The initiatives within the four-category strategic plan vary in both focus and implementation size. There are initiatives focusing on academics, co-curriculars, athletics, and life in college. A few initiatives have already begun, such as the BVU marching band programthe new institute for agriculture and food resource management, and the BVU cheer and dance teams. Others are broader and will take longer to develop, such as incorporating the lake into campus activities more and as well as improving the campus visit experience.  

Formichella outlined the role of initiative owners as well as her new responsibilities as Director of Strategic Initiatives.  

“Each initiative has an owner which is somebody who is supposed to be the champion of that initiative, and some other team members that will help them,” explains Formichella. “My job will be to check in with the initiative owners, and say how are we doing? How’s our timeline? You know, maybe help them formulate a plan of specific steps. If they need additional resources, maybe I can help with that, help them get them. If we need a funding, there might be gift funds, there might be ways to get donations for these initiatives.” 

Dr. Brian Lenzmeier, provost and vice president of academic affairs, describes what the strategic plan does for Buena Vista University as an institution for the next five years.  

“[The strategic plan helps answer the question] ‘how do we focus our efforts in order to create a great future for BVU and to help students really get a great education?’ Lenzmeier says  

Formichella defines what she believes is the importance of having a strategic plan put in place for Buena Vista University 

I think the importance is looking at, big picture, what’s our vision? What do we want to be and making sure that different things happening on campus tie back to that. I think if you don’t have a strategic plan, you can have a whole lot of stuff going on, but it won’t feel intentional and unified,” Formichella elaborates. “[The strategic plan] kind of pools all the resources and it prioritizes what’s most important because it links to the overall goal.”  

There is a significant need to have someone in charge of overseeing the strategic plan and the initiatives within it. Without it, no one will step up and take ownership to begin making progress in what needs to be done.  

Lenzmeier expounds upon the necessity to have one person in a supervisor role over BVU’s strategic plan.  

“Having a person whose got an eye on all thirty-two things, that’s their whole job, makes it easier to make sure that those things are getting done,” Lenzmeier explains. “So, Dr. Formichella-Elsden will be working with me, individuals like the band director, to make sure we are really making good on what we are trying to do. 

Other institutions normally hire someone new to look over strategic plan initiatives, making BVU unique in that a faculty member is taking charge. Lenzmeier believes that this is a great step by BVU to have a long-time faculty member leading the way.   

“Dr. Merchant identified Dr. Formichella-Elsden as having the talent set that he wanted in that position and approached her for that. So, we are a little bit unique in having a person who’s a faculty member doing it, but I think it’s also good because she really knows the institution well . . . I think she’s a good fit for what we need to do,” said Lenzmeier.    

Formichella is most looking forward to getting to know and working with faculty across campus, something she has not done apart from communication and arts faculty. She is also excited to make an impact from outside the classroom.   

“I’ve always liked the idea of trying to make a difference at a different level,” Formichella explains. When you’re a professor, you make a huge difference with students, one-on, one, that kind of individual attention is really important. But it’s really exciting to think about being up a little higher in the flow chart and be thinking about the big picture of the whole university and bringing things together. I’m excited to experience that and see if I’m any good at it.  

During this spring semester, Formichella is only teaching two classes that have been prepped for semesters in advance, and therefore would have been difficult to change on short notice. The director of strategic initiatives position is a two-year commitment, so she will not be teaching for the next three semesters. There is no current plan to fill Formichella’s position as her colleagues in the English department are covering the classes. If the need were to arise, a visiting professor may be hired, but for now the existing faculty is able to offer and teach all classes.  

“My colleagues have been great, they’ve been super helpful. I can’t thank them enough for taking on overloads and stretching and doing courses they wouldn’t typically because I really do hope and want, after two years, to go back to teaching, Formichella said.   

It is exciting to see what’s in store for the future, and many hope that BVU will continue to make changes and strive to stand out among the rest. At a time where many of this nation’s private colleges are struggling, BVU is taking the necessary steps to maintain its purpose of giving students the best college experience possible. The excitement that looms in the air is especially true for Formichella as she takes on this new role as director of strategic initiatives and begins doing her carry out the new strategic plan for the university.  

 “I’m excited because maybe I can be helpful. [With] 20 years of experience, maybe I can make a difference and help these things happen, because these are all really good ideas. They do need someone to look over and be monitoring the progress and not just let the plan, the cliché is, collect dust on a shelf,” Formichella said.