Visioning Future Excellence at Illinois speaks to our campus culture of inclusiveness and collegiality as we attempt to capture what challenges the world will face in the next twenty to fifty years and what role our preeminent institution will play in addressing those challenges. Twenty groups totaling over 700 people gathered for focus group sessions over the Spring 2012 semester. Represented in these groups were faculty, academic professionals, civil service staff, graduate students, undergraduate students, alumni, community members and corporate leaders. The groups were asked to address two questions:
- What are society’s most pressing issues?
- What distinctive and signature role Illinois can play in addressing those issues in the next 20 to 50 years?
Every session was divided into small groups of 8-10 people, including a facilitator. For the first question, participants individually wrote down their own ideas for five minutes. Each idea was written on a separate small sized post-it note. At the end of the individual time, they worked in their groups to categorize the ideas into as many as six categories by placing the post-it notes on a poster board. The groups were then asked to narrow their six categories to three issues that the University of Illinois could address. After each group identified their three issues, the facilitator provided time for individual reflection on the second question; as was done on the first question, each person wrote ideas down on post-it notes. Then, the group worked together again to compile and categorize the information.
All information gathered from the meetings were transcribed into an excel spreadsheet. For each session, word clouds were created. The clouds indicate frequency, so that words mentioned more often are larger than ones mentioned less often. Similar topics were given a standard title, so as to better show the topics on the word cloud. For example, if one group listed Health and human wellness and another group listed Evolving healthcare needs, both were called “Health and wellness.”
Analyzing all the post-it notes from the first question took place over the summer of 2012. More than 3000 post-it note comments were collected from Question One. Each individual idea was given a standard title to allow for categorization of all the items and was connected to one or two of the major categories. For instance, if someone listed Healthcare costs, this would be a Health and Wellness major issue and an Economic Development one. In the end, six major categories, or themes, emerged from the focus group sessions, including: Education, Economic Development, Energy and Environment, Health and Wellness, Information and Technology, and Social Equality and Cultural Understanding. Each of these major categories included several subcategories that are more detailed. Word clouds were generated for this collection of major categories as well as for each of the major categories and its subcategories.