While he lives in the here and now – just like the rest of us — University president Dr. Michael Mittelman is always looking ahead. And, he has a sense that his passion for advanced planning might sometimes wear on the people closest to him.

“Right now, I’m thinking what’s going to be going on here five or 10 years from now,” said Dr. Mittelman. “I’m always thinking ahead and driving everybody nuts.”

Mittelman1A.jpgFor example, when he became president of Salus in July 2013, he immediately began work on a master facility plan to plot out the University’s future infrastructure.

“I guess it’s my Navy background that places planning and execution at the forefront,” he said. ”We developed a plan and have been systematically executing on it. We’ve completed the new Learning Resource Center, the Clinical Skills Lab and the administrative lower level and have modernized classrooms. Next up is our café and dining services.”

Dr. Mittelman takes the same approach as he considers the future state of Salus: What do we want to do, what’s the best way to get there and does it make sense?

Using a Business Model Canvas — a strategic management and lean startup template for developing new business models — the University is asking several different questions about its educational offerings to find out how they can be improved and expanded upon. “We’re surveying the market to analyze student demands and the competition,” he said.

Using the Business Canvas Model, we identified our newest education offering—a Post-baccalaureate program and certificate in Health Sciences—and are considering our next new programs—a master’s degree in Orthotics and Prosthetics and an Occupational Therapist Assistant associate’s degree.

Dr. Mittelman emphasized that one area the University is looking at more closely is the return on investment for students enrolled in our programs.

Mittelman2A.jpg“For example, we are drawing on our experiences with the three-year, Accelerated Scholars program in Optometry to develop a three-year model for Audiology. The exceptional board pass rates and employment outcomes of our scholars program in optometry have proven that we can deliver a top notch education in a shorter period of time,” he said. “If we can similarly save our audiology students a year of tuition and then get them into the workforce a year earlier, we’ve done them a great service. It doesn’t help our bottom line to lose a year of tuition, but it’s certainly preferable to losing the audiology program in its entirety because of its current weak ROI.”

Reducing costs by offering some coursework online allows us to control tuition costs, which in turn, helps the ROI. Dr. Mittelman has asked our provost, Dr. Barry Eckert, to work with the faculty to develop a hybrid course model for each program that incorporates online learning. “Not all of our courses can be offered online because of our clinical education focus. But there are certain courses, like evidenced-based practice, that lend themselves to online instruction,” he said.

“An added benefit of introducing online courses is to train our students to be comfortable with technology,” he said. “Healthcare is moving toward a more patient-driven, patient-centric model. Patients don’t want to go to the practitioner’s office; they want the office to come to them. That’s where the health economy is driving things. Online courses accomplish that familiarity. Introducing telemedicine into all of our programs is another.”

What it boils down to for Dr. Mittelman is that the University must continue to look forward and to do so strategically.

“We are considering a staggered approach to our education models,” he said. “Instead of only having the option of earning a terminal degree, why can’t students receive stackable certificates along the way and decide for themselves based upon their own life circumstances how far they want to go? The answer, of course, is that we’ve never done that before, but maybe we should.”