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Improvement Focus Areas

SLU-led teams will address selected focus areas. For many focus areas, the Provost and CFO will jointly appoint two senior sponsors (one staff, one faculty), an initiative manager and team members (size will vary depending on initiative needs). Timelines and goals will vary. Leadership of focus areas that involve matters of academic programming or faculty workload will be led by the Provost.

Each initiative will follow the same three-step process:

  1. Teams will review the current state and develop solution options. Options are compared using many criteria including financial trade-offs, implementation risks, impact on the community, interdependencies and alignment with SLU’s mission. Community stakeholders provide input via focus groups, surveys, etc.
  2. Teams will develop an implementation plan for the approved solution. Stakeholder input will be invited to maximize success and minimize unintended negative consequences during implementation.
  3. The University will implement, track progress and ensure SLU has the infrastructure in place to sustain the improvements.

Launched Initiatives

Travel Process
Diagnostic Findings
  • Multiple pre-travel approvals with long time-lag to complete
  • Extensive documentation required for reimbursement
Initiative Goals
  • Reduce approval layers, simplify process steps, increase trust and accountability for travelers
  • Enhance the way the University communicates and shares information with travelers and Concur users
Initiative Launch Date

Mid-August 2016

Initiative Status

Implementation phase

Initiative Team (implementation phase)
  • Jeff Gfeller, Ph.D., professor and chair, Department of Psychology (sponsor)
  • Ellen Borowiak, senior contract management specialist, Business and Finance (manager)
  • Theresa Leisure, director, Central Processing Center (manager)
Initiative Team (design phase)
  • David Grabe, assistant vice president and controller (sponsor)
  • Jeff Gfeller, Ph.D., professor and chair, Department of Psychology (sponsor)
  • Fred Winkler, assistant controller, Business and Finance (manager)
  • Donna Brown, executive assistant, Office of the Provost
  • Andrew Doeschot, associate director of business and finance, Department of Athletics
  • Robin Krueger, coordinator, Department of Athletics
  • Beth Simon, associate director, Medical Center Finance Office
Approved Recommendations
  • Increase threshold required for receipts submission to $50
  • No longer require receipts for travel-related purchases under $50 (e.g., taxi, meals, etc.)
  • Eliminate “transportation calculator” worksheet when justifying mileage reimbursement
  • Permit conference travelers to book hotels at or below the conference rate, regardless of the availability of the conference hotel
  • Provide travelers the option of claiming 75% of the allowable government per diem, in lieu of submitting meal receipts
  • Approved recommendations were implemented effective Feb. 1, 2017
  • A uniform policy applicable to all University travelers will be developed to ensure no restrictions or additional complexities at the unit level
  • Options to simplify processes related to faculty and student travel, and group registrations for conferences will be explored
Organization Design
Diagnostic Findings
  • Nearly all administrative functions have fewer direct reports (spans) than benchmarks; the number of organization levels from bottom to top (layers) are in line with benchmarks
  • Many support roles are performed in both central functions and distributed units
Initiative Goals
  • Improve decision-making and employee sense of empowerment by adjusting organizational layers and average numbers of direct reports
  • Adjust functional service levels across the university to balance distribution of support (while maintaining quality)
  • Review centralized vs. distributed location of functional support activity (“role of the center”)
Initiative Launch Date

October 2016

Initiative Team
Implemented Changes
  • University leaders followed a strategic and data-driven process to review their organizations and develop plans for new organizational structures
  • Approximately 250 staff and administrative positions were eliminated (130 were vacant positions, and impacted employees were offered an enhanced severance package) 
  • Centralization occurred in certain areas, including information technology, business operations and enrollment
  • Tracking of adherence to optimal structure plans and their expected cost savings
Budget Model (Phase 1)
Diagnostic Findings
  • Lack of understanding about how budgets are set
  • Lack of clarity and communication around how funding decisions are made
  • Definition of “budget model” varies across campus/groups
Initiative Goal
  • Increase shared understanding of current resource allocation process
Initiative Launch Date

November 2016

Initiative Team
  • Mardell Wilson, Ed.D., dean, Doisy College of Health Sciences (sponsor)
  • Kent Porterfield, Ed.D., vice president, Student Development (sponsor)
  • Brianne Burcke, director, Financial Planning and Budget (manager)
  • Kellisa Fiala, financial coordinator, College for Public Health and Social Justice
  • James Fisher, Ph.D., professor, Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business and chair of Faculty Senate Budget Advisory Committee
  • Charles ("Hal") Parker, Ph.D. professor and chair, Department of History
  • Kevin Riordan, director, Surgery Administration
  • Kerry Ryan, J.D., associate professor, School of Law
  • Cyn Wise, grants manager, Office of Research Development and Services 
  • Completed. Approximately 350 people attended one of three community forums in April 2017.
Supporting Materials
Sponsored Programs
Diagnostic Findings
  • Sponsored research has declined significantly during the past few years
  • Significant number of internal requirements to manage the research process
  • Perceived inconsistency in service levels, timing and areas of focus
Initiative Goals
  • Design a university-wide approach to sponsored program support that provides effective and consistently high levels of customer-focused service
  • Develop systems and environment that encourage and support pursuit of external funding by faculty
Initiative Launch Date

January 2017

Initiative Team
  • Enrico DiCera, M.D., professor and chair, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (sponsor)
  • Riyadh Hindi, Ph.D., associate dean for graduate education and research, professor of civil engineering, Parks College (sponsor)
  • Matthew Christian, associate vice president, Office of Vice President for Research (manager)
  • Blythe A. Burkhardt, J.D., associate general counsel
  • Thomas Burris, Ph.D., professor and chair, Department of Pharmacology and Physiology
  • Lorri Glover, Ph.D., Bannon Endowed Chair of History and co-chair, Faculty Senate Advisory Committee on Research and Scholarship
  • Daniel Hoft, M.D., Ph.D., Adorjan Endowed Chair in Infectious Diseases, Allergy and Immunology and director, Division of Infectious Diseases, Allergy and Immunology, Departments of Internal Medicine and Molecular Microbiology
  • Scott Martin, Ph.D., professor and chair, Department of Chemistry
  • Stephen Schmidt, director, Department of Internal Medicine
  • Alexis Bruce-Staudt, M.S.W., director of research services, College for Public Health and Social Justice
Approved Recommendations
  • Bring together key staff with both central and departmental functions into three Grant Operation (GO) Centers that will be launched in phases
  • Replace the data systems that govern research (eRS, eIRB and others) with a more efficient and user-friendly system
  • Streamline the submission process, requiring fewer steps and fewer approvals

Note: There are no position eliminations associated with the creation of the GO Centers, and the design has assured no incremental cost to the University.


  • The first GO Center, serving Arts and Sciences, Nursing, Doisy, Public Health and Social Justice, Education, Parks, Libraries and other academic units, launched in December 2017.
Academic Reinvention
Diagnostic Findings
  • Curricula overlap between colleges and course proliferation has resulted large number of undergraduate sections having fewer than 10 enrolled students
  • SLU generally has significant credit hour requirements for core/general education, and lack of consistency across colleges makes switching majors difficult
  • 20% of full-time faculty (without admin roles) are teaching below 100 credit hours/year
  • In ~25% of departments, department-specific expenses exceed revenues
  • SLU offers more undergraduate majors and graduate degree programs than some peers and aspirants
Initiative Goals
  • Identify opportunities to elevate quality of instruction, student experience, and faculty research
  • Achieve savings, while maintaining or improving academic excellence
Initiative Launch Date

November 2016

Initiative Team

The Academic Reinvention Initiative Team is led by Provost Nancy Brickhouse and includes deans from academic units of the university: College of Arts & Sciences, Chaifetz School of Business, Doisy College of Health Sciences, School of Law, School of Medicine, School of Nursing, Parks College of Engineering, College for Philosophy and Letters, School for Professional Studies, College for Public Health and Social Justice, and University Libraries.


Given principles of shared governance, a modified version of the usual three-step process is employed for Academic Reinvention.  Deans will prepare school-specific proposals in consultation with faculty.  Proposals approved by Provost move on to implementation over a 1-3 year period. The process will also adhere to the Faculty Manual which covers key issues such as academic reorganization, program dis-establishment, notification periods for contract non-renewals. Proposed actions are developed over time (November 2016 to April 2017) with many planned discussions among Provost and Deans to: (1) assess implementation risks and (2) evaluate interdependencies and (3) build/enhance collaborations.

Faculty Consultation

While the approach to faculty engagement and consultation will vary by academic unit, Deans have committed to working with faculty input with the following goals:

  • Broad understanding that options under consideration are not the same as actions
  • Opportunities for faculty to voice constructive ideas, concerns and criticism
  • Leverage faculty insight and bold thinking
  • Abide by principles of shared governance and Faculty Manual
  • Refine Dean and Provost view of risks associated with selecting to implement an option
  • Focus on need for distinctive, high quality academic programs everywhere at SLU
  • Provide transparency and advance notice about likely changes
  • Sharing timeline for when change is likely to occur
  • Provide guidance for future investment of resources
  • Appreciation that status quo is not acceptable
  • Inclusion balanced with reality that not all faculty concerns can be addressed
Implemented Changes
  • Academic units committed to actions that will realize $13.3 million in value (the combination of cost reductions and new revenue) by FY 2020
  • Certain degrees, minors and concentrations with low enrollments were disestablished through a process consistent with the Faculty Manual and designed with input from the Faculty Senate
  • Organizational re-alignments of academic programs or departments are being implemented in some areas
  • Curricula were streamlined and faculty costs were reduced in programs with significant capacity
  • Proposals were solicited from the faculty and deans for new, sustainable revenue resulting from new programs or the expansion of existing programs
  • Tracking of revenue offset commitments in academic reinvention plans
Student Advising
Diagnostic Findings
  • Navigating all of the resources available to students can be difficult
  • Students often have multiple advisers across departments and programs
  • Most advisers have limited visibility across a student’s full set of needs
Initiative Goals
  • Improve the undergraduate advising systems, structures and services that support students from program/major selection to job placement
  • Build off past and current efforts of the Student Government Association to assess and improve advising
Initiative Launch Date

April 2017

Initiative Team
  • Mark Higgins, Ph.D., Edward Jones Dean, Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business  (sponsor)
  • Lisa Israel, assistant dean of students and director, Student Success Center (sponsor)
  • Debra Lohe, Ph.D., director, Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning (manager)
  • Margaret Bultas, Ph.D., R.N., assistant professor, School of Nursing
  • Jay Haugen, University Registrar
  • Grant Mayfield, student, vice president for academic affairs, Student Government Association (2016-2017)
  • Lisa Michigan, M.A., academic advisor, Parks College
  • Kim Reitter, Ed.D., director, Career Services
  • Denise Sleet, Ph.D., assistant dean, College of Arts and Sciences

The team sought input from advisors, students and other stakeholders through a variety of methods, including interviews, focus groups, community forums and surveys. 

Approved Recommendations
  • Reorganize so that all academic advisors report centrally to the Office of the Provost, while maintaining their location within the respective units
  • Create a position of assistant provost for academic advising to oversee academic advisors
  • Launch new, mobile-friendly technology that will make it easier for students to plan classes, switch majors, add minors and transfer credits
  • Explore role of career aervices in academic advising, including how career coaching, mentoring, and placement can complement advising over a undergraduate student’s time at SLU.
  • Denise Sleet, Ph.D., an assistant dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, has been appointed interim assistant provost of academic advising. Sleet will assemble the team that will refine and implement plans for a new advising model. 
Budget Model (Phase 2)
Diagnostic Findings
  • Concern about misalignment of incentives
  • Layers of approval required for groups to reallocate funds
  • Process for spending allocated budgets frequently onerous and lengthy
Initiative Goal
  • Adjust resource allocation model to strategically align with SLU’s areas of excellence and to incentivize growth, collaboration and innovation
Initiative Launch Date

May 2017

Initiative Team
  • Mardell Wilson, Ed.D., dean, Doisy College of Health Sciences (sponsor)
  • Kent Porterfield, Ed.D., vice president, Student Development (sponsor)
  • Brianne Burcke, director, Financial Planning and Budget (manager)
  • Matthew Christian, associate vice president and chief of staff, Office of Vice President for Research
  • James Fisher, Ph.D. - professor of marketing, Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business and chair, Faculty Senate Budget Advisory Committee
  • Stacey Barfield Harrington, J.D., assistant provost, Office of the Provost
  • Donna LaVoie, Ph.D., associate dean, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Kerry Ryan, J.D., associate professor, School of Law
  • Gary Whitworth, associate dean for finance, School of Medicine
Approved Recommendations
  • Allow unit-level leadership (dean or vice president) to move funds between personnel and general expense categories within a fiscal year
  • Allow colleges and schools to carryover unspent funds from one fiscal year to the next (activated when the University achieves a 1% operating surplus)
  • Make revenue sharing available in three core areas for growth: continuing education, summer and new/expanded graduate programs
Undergraduate Enrollment Yield
Diagnostic Findings
  • Accepted applicant yield (number of students admitted that matriculate) and retention metrics represent largest drivers of enrollment
  • Overall enrollment has dropped by 743 FTE students since high point in 2012
  • Undergrad enrollment yield varies by program
  • Net tuition has been flat, as sticker price increases were offset by declining enrollment and increases in institutional aid
Initiative Goals
  • Invest in additional strategic efforts to increase undergraduate applicant yield by one percentage point as soon as fall 2019

  • Develop solutions that hold constant SLU’s overall level of scholarship support and admissions standards, while considering the capacity of available academic programs

Initiative Launch Date

May 2017

Initiative Team
  • Scott Martin, Ph.D., professor and department chair, Department of Chemistry (sponsor)
  • Jean Gilman Cox, associate vice president, enrollment, and dean, admission (sponsor)
  • Libby Gallogly, Operational Excellence Operational Excellence Program Coordination Team and Department of Human Resources (manager)
  • Daniel Carter, student, president, Student Government Association
  • Donna Halloran, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor, Pediatrics
  • John James, Ed.D., associate professor, School of Education
  • Michael Kolnik, dean of admissions, School of Law
  • Will Perkins, program director, Pre-College and Access Programs, Division of Enrollment and Retention Management
  • Jonathan Sawday, Ph.D., professor, English
  • Katharine Smialek, recruitment specialist, Doisy College of Health Sciences

  • Entering monitoring phase to focus on recruitment for fall 2018
Additional Information
  • Similar to national trends, declines have been most pronounced in particular graduate and professional programs

  • Recent enrollment trends are impacted by gains in graduation rates for SLU undergraduates, declining Midwestern demographics, and softening demand for some professional and graduate degree programs

  • Although SLU's overall yield rate equals or exceeds that of many Catholic and Jesuit Universities, SLU’s new undergraduate admit-to-enrollment yield varies greatly by program

  • Lower post-baccalaureate program revenues and increases in targeted institutional aid to improve student body diversity and reduce student indebtedness have contributed to flat University-wide net tuition revenues

  • Admissions office operations, including communications and faculty engagement, are factors that influence a student’s decision to choose SLU and have contributed to four of the five largest and most talented freshman classes during the past five years

Residence Hall Occupancy
Diagnostic Findings

  • Occupancy levels in SLU’s residence halls have declined, and many exemptions are given

  • Higher-demand on-campus apartments are effectively priced below residence halls due to low meal plan penetration

Initiative Goals
  • Invest in additional strategic efforts to increase undergraduate applicant yield by one percentage point as soon as fall 2019

  • Optimize on-campus residency requirements

Initiative Launch Date

October 2017

Initiative Team
  • Focus groups with undergraduate students at all levels, including upperclassmen who live off campus, will be conducted
  • A survey of study-abroad students was conducted in the fall; survey results were reviewed by the Operational Excellence team and shared with the co-sponsors of the program.
Student Fees
Diagnostic Findings

  • Published student fees are below peers and have remained roughly flat

Initiative Goals

  • Streamline and unify student fee structure and billing process

  • Optimize student fees to reflect market conditions and student experience

Initiative Launch Date

October 2017

Initiative Team
Approved Recommendations
  • To simplify the structure, the number of fees is being consolidated from seven down to two — a University Fee and a Student Activity Fee, which will continue to be administered by the Student Government Association.
  • To enhance transparency: A report will be sent to students at the end of each year summarizing how funds collected through the University Fee were spent on services that support students. 
  • To be more responsive to student needs, a group of leaders that will include student representation will meet annually to recommend funding priorities .
  • The new fee structure will be reflected on student bills for the fall.
  • SLU is working through the transition to a new structure.
  • Program-specific and school-based fees were not in scope. These fees are currently being reviewed by the Provost’s office.
Industry Partnerships
Diagnostic Findings 
  • Sponsored research has declined significantly over last few years 

  • Private giving has declined in recent years; some fundraising metrics are below benchmarks 

Initiative Goals 
  • Increase contributions and support from corporations through sponsored programs and partnerships

Initiative Launch Date

March 2018

Initiative Team
  • Sheila Manion, vice president, Development (Sponsor)
  • Kennth Olliff., Vice President for Research (sponsor)
  • Mark Higgins, Ph.D., Edward Jones Dean, Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business  (sponsor)
  • Katherine Cain, Executive Director, Center for Workforce Development (project manager)

The Industry Partnerships Initiative Team will seek broad input and expertise from key stakeholders across the institution through a variety of methods, such as interviews, focus groups, and surveys. 

Initiative Timeline

Having finished the largest cost savings initiatives in FY17, we are focused on revenue growth and process improvement in FY18.

Initiative Timeline graphic

Implemented and Being Monitored for Progress
  • Organizational redesign
  • Academic reinvention
  • Utilities
  • Facilities
  • Travel
  • Budget model
Launched and in Various Stages of Implementation
  • Student advising
  • Sponsored programs
  • Undergraduate yield
  • Summer enrollment
  • Industry partnerships
  • Student fees
  • Residence hall occupancy
  • Graduate pricing (expected to launch by end of FY18)
  • Alumni giving
  • Commuter meal plans
  • Undergraduate differential pricing
  • Online offerings
  • Athletic ticket prices
  • Retention
  • Procurement
  • Graduate admissions
  • Hiring
  • Facilities processes