Strategic Planning Update: April 12, 2010

When we began our strategic planning process this time last year, you told us what you thought the strengths are that we should build the College’s future upon, what the problems were that we needed to address, where opportunities existed – both externally and internally – that we could use to our advantage, and where, again both externally and internally, we needed to be wary of threats that would impede our progress.

You then told us, in many meetings, e-mails, and blog posts what you thought about the drafts of the proposed Wooster mission, core values, and vision statements, and revisions were made based on your feedback.  The Board approved these statements last fall and they are now guiding much of what we, collectively, do and our thinking about programs and priorities.

We also asked you to help describe what “achieving our vision” would mean for the College.  From those conversations and considering our current institutional context, four overarching strategic objectives emerged, which the Board endorsed at its last meeting:

  1. To make continuous improvements in fulfilling our mission, offering a liberal arts education that is distinctive and demonstrably superior;
  2. To secure and enhance the availability of the human, financial, and physical resources needed to achieve our vision;
  3. To enroll a residential student body of at least 1800 students with a steadily improving mix of academic profile, diversity, and discount rate; and
  4. To cultivate a campus-wide and sustainable culture of planning as an effective, collective endeavor.

To achieve these objectives, we need to identify, select, and prioritize strategic initiatives, things we will do differently to move the College from where it is towards our collective vision of where we want us to be.  We are engaging the College community through our current governance structure.   Four planning task groups have been charged to identify, through brainstorming, strategic initiatives and related tactics.  They have also been asked to engage their colleagues and other constituencies in their work.

Two of our four planning task groups relate to our core mission, the other two relate to competitive positioning and enrollment and resources:

Their work and the initiatives they are identifying tie directly to what we have heard from students, faculty, staff, trustees, and alumni throughout our planning process. For example:

What we heard (a sampling) Proposed strategic initiative(s) identified
From students, staff, alumni & trustees: We will enhance our reputation nationally and internationally Academic Programs: global education, developmental advising, linking theory & practice
Competitive Positioning:
all strategies
From students, faculty, alumni, trustees: Wooster alumni will be making a difference Community of Learners: civic engagement, lifelong intellectual engagement, responsibility
From staff: Every faculty and staff member understands and internalizes our mission and core values Community of Learners: qualities of members
Competitive Positioning:
clear, defined, consistent messages
From students, alumni, trustees: We will increase diversity; we will have a good international community Enrollment: achieve culturally & ethnically diverse faculty, staff, and student body
From students, staff, trustees: We will be a great place to live and learn that aids students in growing and developing academically Academic Programs: developmental advising, communications skills, linking theory & practice
Community of Learners
: civility, connectedness, lifelong intellectual engagement
From faculty: We will have a greater emphasis on liberal learning and its outcomes Academic Programs: global education, communication skills, linking theory & practice
From Faculty: We will have a curriculum that reflects more regions of the globe; more students traveling abroad to non-English speaking countries; more “Wooster-in” programs Academic Programs:  global education
From faculty, trustees: We will have the resources to support our core mission Enrollment: improve discount rate and net tuition revenue
Resources -Development
: increase annual giving ($s, participation), endowment giving, build donor pool
grow financial resources per student , improve campus facility stewardship (reduce carbon footprint)
From faculty, staff: We will attract and retain strong faculty and effective staff Competitive Positioning: all strategies
Resources: make compensation more competitive
From trustees, staff: We will improve alumni engagement (and giving) Resources – Development: increase #s of alumni who give annually, build engaged supportive body of alumni…
From faculty, staff, trustees: We will improve our enrollment targets (new students, retention and graduation rates), increase net tuition revenue, better meet need of students with financial need Enrollment: improve market position, improve discount rate and net tuition revenue
stabilize and reduce the student tuition discount rate
From students, staff: We will be distinctive from other institutions Academic Programs: global education, developmental advising, linking theory & practice

We now ask your help in shaping and prioritizing the strategic initiatives we should focus our energies upon, because, as indicated,  the strategic initiatives we choose to undertake will impact all of us.

We have scheduled a number of “feedback” sessions over the next two weeks.   Members of each of the planning task groups will be in attendance, to hear feedback on their recommendations and work to date.  As a beginning, we have five questions to assist in framing the conversations:

In the context of each task group’s report:

  1. Are the strategic initiatives presented consistent with our mission, core values, and vision?
  2. Do the strategic initiatives contribute to accomplishing one or more of our strategic objectives? If so, which ones?
  3. Do the strategic initiatives give us a competitive advantage?
  4. What’s missing?  What other ideas might we consider?
  5. Taken collectively, are these the initiatives that will address our most pressing challenges to move us to where we want to be?  Are these the most important places to be putting our energies at the present time?

Feedback & Information Sessions Schedule:

April 12: “Big Five” faculty committees retreat
April 13: Staff Committee
April 21: Open session (students, faculty, staff) 10-11 a.m.  Scovel 105
April 21: Students (SGA sponsored) 7:30 p.m.  [location TBD]
April 22:  Faculty, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m., Lean Lecture Hall
April 24:  Alumni Board Meeting
April 27: Open session (students, faculty, staff) 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon, Lean Lecture Hall
April 27:  Administrative Strategy Group Spring Meeting

The planning task groups will use the feedback from these sessions to refine their proposed strategic initiatives to serve as the basis for the Board of Trustees’ spring meeting retreat on strategic planning.  Our summer assignment is to take the campus work and results of the Board retreat and compile our strategic plan framework, priority strategic initiatives, and strategic financial plan.  We will post this in August, for campus review during early September, anticipating presentation to the Board for approval at its Fall 2010 meeting.

The first drafts of the strategic initiatives from each planning group are posted on the “On Purpose: Strategic Planning @ Wooster” blog (network login may be required to access some of the documents).  Updates and revisions will be posted as planning groups provide them.

Please plan to join us at a session, or send comments or suggestions to any of the individuals or members of committees listed above or to us.

Ellen Falduto & John Sell

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