Connecticut College has been working with Keeling & Associates (K&A) to develop a new strategic plan. The planning process has involved multiple methods for gathering the observations, ideas, and suggestions of the College community, including the following:
- Over 100 individual and small-group meetings and interviews with close to 450 faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents, and friends of the College, conducted on and off campus;
- A confidential online survey of faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents, and trustees, with nearly 2,300 participants;
- Four "idea wall" exercises, with 1,181 posted comments;
- Two open forums on campus, attended by 88 faculty, staff, and students.
K&A prepared comprehensive reports to summarize and analyze the findings from each of these activities and submitted them to the Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) in December and January. To help prepare the SPC for discussions of the emerging planning themes with the campus community, K&A also developed visual executive summaries, or “data maps” of the key themes from each data source.
Overview of the Planning Themes
As a result of an in-depth discussion of the themes that emerged from the data, the SPC identified three core planning themes as well as two supporting themes.
Improve the Entire Student Experience
- Includes all aspects of the student experience—academic, co-curricular, and social, inside and outside of the classroom.
- Encompasses many concepts that emerged in the data, including but not limited to full participation, local/global engagement, preparation for life and career, residential life, and sustainability/social justice. Therefore, this planning theme absorbs other themes that emerged from the data.
- Goal is to prepare students for life, civic engagement, and career in an integrated way—not merely ensuring comfort or providing entertainment.
- Should be seen as a ways and means toward addressing systemic problems that perpetuate inequity, on and off campus.
Strengthen Academic Programs and Intellectual Engagement
- Combines two interrelated themes from the data pertaining to preserving and supporting academic programs and continuing to increase academic rigor.
- Encompasses implementation of Connections, the renewed curriculum — but Connections is understood as a method to achieve important student learning goals, not an end in itself.
- Strongly linked to the identity and distinction of the College, helping the College to realize other goals.
- Includes opportunities to expand curricular options into master’s degrees or other programs that might generate revenue or satisfy students’ desire for studies not currently reflected in the College’s academic offerings (e.g., entrepreneurship, engineering, etc.).
Increase Diversity, Inclusion, and Full Participation
- Includes aspects of the preceding planning themes—the student experience and the academic profile of the College—but also emerges as its own distinct theme, to the extent that it affects all members of the campus community and campus climate.
- Essential to fulfilling its mission of putting the liberal arts into action: a means to endow students with a set of competencies that will prepare them for the challenges of life and work in a complex society.
- Embraces the full range of skills that students need to thrive: the ability to understand the perspectives of others across a broad spectrum of human differences and cultures, the capacity to listen empathically and engage sincerely with people who express those perspectives, and the ability to participate honestly and authentically in difficult but essential conversations about difference.
- Contains the strong conviction that everyone should be heard.
- Offers an opportunity for the College to be a leader among its NESCAC peers (and perhaps in a larger arena); developing a distinctive, systematic approach to diversity and inclusion that achieves important outcomes for students and the campus community could distinguish the College in a new and important way.
Achieving strategic initiatives that fall under the preceding three headings may require additional resources (human resources, financial resources, etc.) and/or new or enhanced facilities or infrastructure. Two supporting themes thus underpin the others.
Increase Resources and Improve and Enhance Facilities and Campus
- Understood not as ends in themselves but as necessary means for achieving broad goals related to the student experience, academic rigor, and diversity and inclusion.
- Includes not just the raising of new resources but also the consideration of ways in which the College might do things differently in order to pursue its goals in an environment of constrained resources, for example by:
- Encouraging true collaboration and resource sharing across departments.
- Prioritizing activities so time and resources can be deployed more effectively.
- Considering initiatives that are not resource-dependent or different approaches to using existing resources.
- Ensuring that sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and equity permeate the “consciousness” of all discussions about allocating resources.
- Incorporates a related desire of making the College's distinctive mission and programs more visible in the campus landscape (e.g., while the College's centers for interdisciplinary scholarship are understood as an area of distinction, they are not physically present among its buildings).
During the month of February, the SPC will engage members of the campus community in a college-wide review and discussion of findings and themes from the data-gathering phase of the strategic planning process. The SPC will seek input from fellow faculty, staff, and students to (1) help prioritize the core planning themes, (2) identify things that are missing or should be clarified, (3) identify outcomes the College might aspire to achieve that will serve or align with the planning themes, and (4) develop potential goal statements that may support the achievement of those outcomes. These conversations will continue through early March; on March 23-24, the SPC and members of senior management will convene in a strategic planning retreat to reach consensus about the main points of overarching priorities, goals, and objectives of the new strategic plan.