Transformation 2028: The College's Strategic Plan

Transformation 2028: The College's Strategic Plan Transformation 2028: The College's Strategic Plan
transformation 2028



Grounded in its Lasallian, Catholic, and liberal arts heritage, Saint Mary’s College is a student-centered learning community committed to transformative, equitable, and inclusive teaching, the passionate pursuit of knowledge, and expansive access to a practical education that empowers students to make lasting change in the world.

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Saint Mary’s College will become a leading innovative, national Catholic university that inspires minds, touches hearts, and transforms lives.

From our earliest days, Saint Mary’s College of California has been committed to making exemplary education accessible to all. When Joseph Alemany, San Francisco’s first archbishop, first conceived of our college in the 1850s, he envisioned an affordable school for the children of working people—the miners, mechanics, and farmers of the rugged West. This was the mission inscribed into the cornerstone of our first campus, laid on August 3, 1863: “for the instruction of the youth of California, not in literature merely, but what is greater, in true Christian knowledge."

For 160 years, Saint Mary’s has fought to hold true to that powerful vision. Stewarded by the Brothers, we have rooted ourselves in our Lasallian Catholic heritage. We have emphasized service, pursued justice—social, economic, and racial—and developed respectful partnerships with underserved communities. As a vibrant liberal arts institution, we have engaged tens of thousands of students in an intellectually rigorous, transformative whole-person experience. Each generation of faculty and staff has encouraged a culture of collective inquiry and innovative thinking that spills out of our Moraga classrooms and into the wider world.

Amidst decades of cultural transition, our college has remained nimble, willing to evolve when required. We have strived to meet our ever-diversifying age with open arms, fostering a campus culture of inclusivity and equity. At times, that vital effort has necessitated critical self-reflection, as we interrogated our own biases and acknowledged systemic power imbalances. But Gaels never shy away from doing the hard work.

As the Bay and the world beyond have transformed, so have we. Saint Mary’s has provided our students with the practical tools to thrive in an increasingly interconnected economy. Our very first graduates became leading bankers, politicians, and businessmen in our fledgling state; today, our graduates continue to ride the cutting edge, making ground-breaking scientific discoveries, creating preeminent tech companies, and building bridges across cultures and communities. In line with our long tradition of service, too, we have committed ourselves to environmentally sustainable practices. By appropriately valuing our impact on ecosystems, we contribute to a more just future, for ourselves and all future generations.

Above all, though, our college has remained dedicated to the vision of a student-centered learning community. As we look toward our centennial year in Moraga, we aim to be just that: an inclusive, authentic community grounded in respect for the divine and the dignity of all individuals. Saint Mary’s College sets its eyes on “what is greater,” as our founders etched into stone more than a century ago.

To look forward, we must first acknowledge the sea change taking place in higher education and its indisputable impact on Saint Mary’s and private liberal arts institutions like it. Throughout the nation, at private and public universities, traditional college enrollment is under stress and anticipated to decline. Economic disparities have widened in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing financial upheaval. Public perceptions of a college degree’s value,
tangibly and intrinsically, are in flux.

Today, the students who choose to pursue a college education often do so with a career-oriented focus; more and more, these students are from populations long underrepresented in higher education. Many students, along with families, accreditors, and legislators, are
challenging the ballooning cost of college and entrenched power structures, championing equity and transparency, and prioritizing mental health. That also means students are less willing to take on debt, and what they want and need from an institution is different.

These factors are important to recognize because students’ likes and dislikes are more likely to play into where they choose to study. Even a decade back, parents were stronger influencers than with the current generation of students. Institutions need to retool their community to support student needs and priorities; many institutions are already doing so in a big way. Those that do not risk dwindling enrollment.

Saint Mary’s has certainly felt these shifting forces. Our recent shortfalls in enrollment and steps taken to reduce costs have reflected the changing market and cultural ecosystem. But we also
find ourselves with an increasingly diverse pool of applicants eager to be a force for good and have a lasting impact.

Transformation 2028 - Update

March 10, 2023

From: Jennifer M. Pigza, Ph.D.

Dear Colleagues and Fellow Gaels,

In an effort to model transparency and inclusion, we are writing with an update about the strategic planning process and ongoing opportunities for your involvement. We want to reiterate the incredible opportunity that this presents us as a community. Hundreds of faculty, staff, Christian Brothers, and students, and thousands of alumni contributed to the emergence of Transformation 2028WE did that, all of us. And now, the Board of Trustees has entrusted us to follow through with what we proposed. All of us, WE will do that, too. Here are some updates:

SMARTIE Teams -- We've received several questions about the teams who are working on SMARTIE Goals and Action Plans for the 11 strategic priorities. As you might recall, in the early development of the strategic plan, there was an open call for volunteers to serve on several teams. These teams composed white papers about emergent themes; these themes eventually became the 11 strategic priorities. We now move into a more tactical phase of strategic planning, and the teams we identified are reflective of roles and offices that have direct responsibilities or insights related to the strategic priorities. You can see those teams in this document. If you have a specific idea for one of the teams, please reach out to its convener or to Jennifer, Dana, or Corey.

We're All SMARTIEs -- Our founder, Saint John Baptist De La Salle, used to pray, "Domine, opus tuum" (Lord, the work is yours). Today, as a community of Lasallian educators, we also affirm that "The work is ours." So too for Transformation 2028; the work is ours. How can each of us support the 11 strategic priorities? What is my unit's role in retention, in being a learning organization, in sustainability, etc? While some of us have formal responsibilities related to the strategic plan, WE ALL have the opportunity, and invitation, to contribute. We offer a shout-out to Sid Farias and the Facilities team for initiating a department reflection on the strategic plan. Here's the idea: Print out the strategic plan, and post the pages on the walls of your office. Have folks write on the pages, add post-its, etc., to indicate how you and your unit can contribute to the forward movement of the strategic plan. 

Offer Your Feedback -- April 12, 3pm-4:30pm, location TBD: Open campus forum to provide feedback to the emerging SMARTIE Goals and Action Plans. We will also provide an asynchronous way for folks to offer feedback.

What do we mean by Equity? -- From its beginning in 2019, the strategic planning process has been guided by the frameworks of liberatory design and leading for equity. Our colleagues at the National Equity Project provided training and support to the initial strategic planning team. We are currently finalizing details for them to return to campus in mid-April for a professional development opportunity for senior staff, SMARTIE teams, and other interested folks. The strategic plan is not only a road map for what we will do, it also informs who we are becoming and how we get there. Deepening our capacities for leading for equity is key to our future. Stay tuned for more details.

Timeline through June 30:

  • Currently: Teams are working to develop SMARTIE Goals and Action Plans for the 11 strategic priorities
  • March 29: Mid-point gathering of team conveners for peer consultation.
  • April 12, 3pm-4:30pm, location TBD: Open campus forum to provide feedback to the emerging SMARTIE Goals and Action Plans. We will also provide an asynchronous way for folks to offer feedback.
  • Mid-April, TBD: Leading for Equity professional development 
  • May 1: Teams complete their work.
  • May 1-9: All 11 plans are combined into one cohesive document.
  • May 10: The document is submitted to the Board of Trustees.
  • May 19: Board of Trustees Meeting
  • June: SMARTIE Goals and Action Plans are refined and connections to performance indicators are finalized.

Please let us know of your questions, ideas, concerns, etc., and thank you,

Dana, Jennifer & Corey

Jennifer M. Pigza, Ph.D. (she/her/hers)

Associate Provost & Executive Director of CILSA

Chair, College Committee on Inclusive Excellence (CCIE)

Director, Lasallian Institute for DEIB, July 9-14, 2023

Adjunct Assistant Professor 

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The Transformation 2028 strategic plan builds on our legacy, recognizes the landscape facing us and rests upon four foundations.

the number one in a square box

Ensure the College’s financial stability and sustaining our mission and propelling it into the future.

the number two

Deepen our commitment to our Lasallian Catholic and Liberal Arts heritage.

number three

Advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging across our campus community.

number four

Exhibit leadership in social justice education, research, and advocacy.

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Through extensive conversation and community input, we have arrived at six core opportunities to guide us into our 2028 centennial celebration. These opportunities will allow us to remain rooted in the essential vision and values of Saint Mary’s College while emboldening us to flourish.

the number one in a square box

Reimagine, redesign and reinvent Saint Mary’s identity as a liberal arts institution.

First, we will reimagine, redesign and reinvent Saint Mary’s identity as a liberal arts institution. We are a Lasallian, Catholic, liberal arts comprehensive university with a national reputation and global reach. As we press forward, we will leverage our legacy to offer a broad array of exceptional in-demand programs—undergraduate, graduate, professional, and continuing education—that prepare our graduates to make a meaningful difference in their lives, careers, and the wider world

the number two

Empower diverse learners to succeed at Saint Mary’s and beyond.

Second, as we consider our responsibility to our students, we will empower diverse learners to succeed at Saint Mary’s and beyond. We will throw open doors for more students, especially those from underrepresented communities. In the coming years, we will create more opportunities for individuals of diverse backgrounds to access higher education, to thrive as part of a transformative academic experience, and remain connected long after graduation day.

number three

Embrace a creative and innovative spirit.

Third, to accomplish our goals, we must embrace a creative and innovative spirit. Saint Mary’s instills inventive thinking and deft problem-solving within our students. The same should be true of our institution. We will become ever more adaptable and nimble in response to the challenges and opportunities in our systems, processes, and organizational strategies.

number four

Cultivate a dynamic, collaborative work culture and environment.

Fourth, we will continue to cultivate a dynamic, collaborative work culture and environment. When John Baptist de La Salle first invited his teachers to live in his home in 1681, he modeled the associative dynamism of community, a culture that continues to sustain Lasallian institutions today. We may not all live in the same home, but Saint Mary’s will carry on the legacy of life lived together. We will build a dynamic, collaborative, and high-functioning work environment and continue to attract and retain exceptional, diverse faculty and staff. This work will help us sustain an inclusive and generous campus community.

number five

Position our campus as a connected local and global hub.

Fifth, our future success depends, in large part, on our ability to position our campus as a connected local and global hub. Saint Mary’s assets are numerous: an advantageous location in the San Francisco Bay Area, our distinctive built and natural environment, a rich heritage and unique character, and our cohesive community. Moving forward, we will synthesize all of these features to become an epicenter, deepening our connections with students, families, alumni, friends, and the surrounding community.

number six

Advance our leadership in environmental justice and sustainability

And sixth, moving forward, it is imperative that we advance our leadership in environmental justice and sustainability. Drawing on the global Lasallian commitment to sustainability and Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si,” Saint Mary’s will lean into our core values of equity, justice, and inclusion. During the next six years and beyond, we will better equip our students to tackle the most pressing environmental problems. Simultaneously, we will transform the built campus environment into a living laboratory for equitable and sustainable solutions.

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In addition to our guiding themes, we have determined eleven strategic priorities to pursue during the next five years. With these strategic priorities, we are defining our transformation. We will set our sights on 2028, seeking initiatives that widen our impact and opportunities that propel us into an abundant future.

the number one in a square box


Saint Mary’s will attract an expanded undergraduate, graduate, and lifelong learning student population. We will broaden our appeal to a national audience by building a cohesive and compelling brand identity and leveraging Saint Mary’s national reputation and excellence in intercollegiate athletics and club sports to enhance student recruitment and improve retention and student development outcomes. We will implement intentional recruitment, admissions, and enrollment strategies to attract a student population reflective of the region’s diversity. We will expand access for non-traditional undergraduate students by extending bachelor completion programs and lifelong learning opportunities.

the number two


Saint Mary’s will reimagine its academic portfolio and develop innovative, in-demand academic programs including undergraduate and graduate degree programs, freestanding and stackable certificates, and professional education programs that attract and serve distinctive and growing populations of students. We will enhance our offerings in health
sciences, including nursing, computer and data sciences and analytics, and expand the depth and breadth of our interdisciplinary programs that speak to the big challenges and aspirations of the world. We will adopt pedagogical and co-curricular innovations based on discovery and inquiry at the graduate and undergraduate levels. We will create flexible learning environments and invest in emerging educational technologies to enhance student access and learning.

number three


Saint Mary’s will improve student persistence, retention, and graduation rates by providing enhanced academic support, advising, and mentoring and ensuring clear pathways for graduation. We will create and implement a signature “Saint Mary’s experience” for students that facilitates students’ emotional, social, and identity development and creates opportunities for students to experience intellectual and personal growth. We will expand opportunities for students to access experiential and practical learning components in their academic programs and deepen external partnerships throughout the Bay Area to reinforce these educational opportunities. We will ensure that graduates are career ready by embedding career preparation and planning in the curriculum and engaging the National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE) core competencies. Accordingly, we will design and implement curricula that prepare students to “demonstrate the awareness, attitude, knowledge, and skills required to equitably engage and include people from different local and global cultures (and) engage in anti-racist practices that actively challenge the systems, structures, and policies of racism” (National Association of Colleges & Employers).

number four


Saint Mary’s will embrace its heritage as an institution committed to placing the advantages of a quality education “within reach of all” by increasing the availability of financial support to increase access to the College and its myriad programs. We will enhance affordability by developing transparent and accessible transfer pipelines with California community colleges and by increasing the flexibility of academic programs to improve the time to degree. We will increase access to high impact practices, particularly for first generation and low income students. Saint Mary’s will advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging across our campus community.

number five


Inspired by human and Christian values, and guided by its Lasallian educational mission, Saint Mary's will continue to foster an environment that champions the dignity and goodness of every person. The College will build and sustain an inclusive and equitable campus climate where all students, staff, and faculty experience belonging and are actively engaged in anti-racist reflection, policy, and practice. We will empower employees to make decisions about and take responsibility for how they do their jobs. We will strive to provide total compensation at or above market rates and will invest in professional development opportunities for faculty and staff and create opportunities for growth and advancement. We will institutionalize a family-centered work culture that values colleagues as caregivers and promotes flexibility and a sustainable work/life balance.

number six


Saint Mary’s will develop a culture that values innovation by developing and sustaining systems and processes that empower and reward creativity and risk-taking and fostering adaptability and nimbleness to anticipate and respond to opportunities and challenges. We will improve organizational effectiveness by disrupting institutional silos, integrating across academic and non-academic units, fostering effective communication and increased collaboration, and adopting transparent policies, processes and practices. We will employ continuous improvement strategies throughout the institution that promote accountability and high performance. We will invest in technologies that increase efficiency and use data to inform decision making.


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number seven


Saint Mary’s will enrich the student experience and deepen student engagement within the Bay Area by developing partnerships with community organizations and building connections with Bay Area public, private, and non-profit sector organizations to increase internship and community engagement opportunities. We will reimagine Saint Mary’s place in the Bay Area by developing meaningful and mutually beneficial partnerships that increase Saint Mary’s presence and visibility in the community. We will engage alumni and external stakeholders and create and deliver value in ways that are meaningful to these constituents in keeping with Saint Mary’s mission.

number eight


Saint Mary’s will expand international student recruitment for undergraduate and graduate programs. We will structure global partnerships, perspectives, and impacts across the College and prepare students for international facets of their lives and careers through experiences on and off campus, including January Term travel, study abroad, and global internship programs. We will deepen partnerships with global Lasallian institutions to implement robust exchange programs that present opportunities to attract international students and enable Saint Mary’s students to become better global and local citizens.

number nine


Saint Mary’s will develop accessible, flexible, and creative spaces, including spaces that can function as innovative classrooms, meeting spaces, performance centers, and recreational spaces. We will utilize welcoming campus spaces to increase connectedness and inclusivity of our campus community and enhance the sense of belonging of members of our campus community and improve the student experience. We will nurture opportunities to increase the accessibility of campus to the broader community and draw visitors to campus to enhance the vibrancy of campus and create opportunities to attract new revenues.

number ten


Saint Mary’s will exhibit leadership in environmental sustainability and environmental justice by fulfilling Saint Mary’s Climate Action Plan and adopting energy, transportation, policy, and education solutions that reduce our carbon footprint. We will launch a distinctive, comprehensive, place-based Institute for Environmental Justice & Sustainability to serve as a regional hub for advancing equitable and sustainable solutions for the campus and beyond. We will increase sustainability-related course and degree offerings such that all Saint Mary’s students graduate with an understanding, skills, and motivation to make responsible decisions that considers their relationship to natural systems, communities, and future generations.

number eleven


Saint Mary’s will optimize existing and develop new strategic revenue streams while enhancing a culture of philanthropy to sustain our mission and advance our vision. We will implement improved financial and budgetary management policies, procedures, and practices, and we will invest in systems and processes that enhance the teaching and learning environment, and increase operational excellence and effectiveness. We will transition to a new budget model built upon a three-year forecast that aligns revenues and expenses, allocates contingency funds, builds an operating reserve, and ensures transparency and accountability.

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Knowing that any strategic plan is only as good as its action steps, President Plumb will be working closely with Provost Cook and a number of other campus stakeholders on a Transformation 2028 implementation plan. Included will be key performance indicators, metrics, campus working groups, and deadlines.

In February 2023, the Provost’s Council began engaging in discussion and planning exercises to structure school- and division-level plans that are aligned with Transformation 2028. The result of this planning will be a series of cascading strategies that create support strategies across schools and units for the College’s overarching strategy.

More information will be shared as implementation planning takes shape, with additional information expected to populate the website in the coming weeks and months. A completed implementation plan is expected by the end of April or early May 2023.