Strategic Plan outlines vision for university’s next ten years

Molly-Judith Wilson

In spring of 2011, Lawrence University finalized its 10-year Strategic Plan, which will be active until approximately 2020. The Strategic Plan is, according to Professor of Biology and Raymond H. Herzog Professor of Science Beth De Stasio, “a stopping point to say, ‘this is where are we, this is where are we going, and now this is where we want to go, for now.'”

The plan’s six main objectives include enhancing the transformative nature of the liberal arts education, preparing students for life after Lawrence, creating a stronger campus community, promoting sustainability, improving facilities and technology and strengthening Lawrence’s financial position.

Brian Pertl, dean of the Conservatory, explained that a strategic plan is essential to a functioning university. “It’s really important for a university to have a strategic plan, and to know where you’re going and how you’re going to get here. A great strategic plan is a working document, something that you’re looking at every day and trying to fulfill.”

If the goals of the above mentioned plan seem broad, this is not an accident. The problem with many strategic plans, Pertl noted, is that “typically it’s something you work on for a long time, a few years usually, and then it gets put up on a shelf and no one looks at it. None of us wanted this to happen.”

Rather than “boxing people in” to specific courses or plans of action, the 2010-2020 plan has been left purposely broad and open-ended. Pertl commented, “We wanted to make sure that we had this flexibility and leeway, so we could say ‘strengthen the con-college connection,’ without saying, ‘and these are the four ways to do that.’ That to me was really important.”

The Strategic Plan was not created in back offices by administrators, either. Input was provided from every aspect of the campus, including faculty, staff, students, alumni and trustees. The committees in charge of the plan sought out feedback and got it, “lots and lots of it,” as Pertl said.

After the input was received, it was organized, tweaked and put into a plan, which was then presented back to staff, students and trustees for assessment. Once it had been looked over, the process began again until, eventually, the plan was finalized and written up as official.

However, Pertl said, “the hard part is ahead.” Now that the plan has been finalized and the committee that created it has been disbanded, the challenge will be implementing it and accomplishing its ambitious, often vague, goals.

But despite the generalized wording in the six major goals, the committee did not leave the plan completely hazy. In fact, a separate second document was created to outline, according to De Stasio, specific “ways that we can make the larger goals more tangible,” which have been drawn from student, faculty and other sources of input.

This unofficial document will help those working on the six larger goals, because it can give suggestions on how to accomplish something like making the campus more sustainable, while refraining from boxing anyone in to a particular scheme. It would be impossible to expect every specific goal to be accomplished, which is why they provide, rather, suggestions and advice, drawn from an eclectic group.

Senior Eric Murray, one of two students deeply involved in the creation of the plan, hopes that now that the plan has been implemented it will not disappear forever. He commented, “It would be great if we could have our progress streamlined and mentioned in some way, so that they could then share information with students and people could be reminded that, yes, we sought your input, and this is what we’re doing about it. That way it would be more personal, and the message would be that we care about our students.”

Murray’s suggestions follow the spirit of the plan itself. As De Stasio explained, “[The plan] is a nice way to make sure that we stay on track and that we’re living out values and goals,” goals which include student participation in the functioning of the university.

Students who want to be personally involved with the plan are encouraged by both Murray and De Stasio to join such organizations as LUCC or Green Roots.

Pertl noted that the best part about the Strategic Plan is that new and innovative approaches to the goals from students are encouraged.

“It’s really a living document, and that’s really cool,” said Pertl. “That’s a beautiful thing.”