April 2014 Letter to the Community

April 9, 2014: Letter to Saint Mary's Community

Subject: Strategic Planning Update

Dear Saint Mary’s community,

First, I want to thank you for your thoughtful participation in the listening sessions conducted on campus in February. Through these sessions we were able to gain a wide variety of perspectives on the key opportunities, risks and differentiating factors of the College that we must take into account as we continue the critical work of strategic planning. We also continued our work with the Board of Trustees at its retreat in March. Members of the Board are fully engaged in and have strong support for the strategic planning process.

In the listening sessions, participants focused comments on their expectations for the strategic planning process, key strengths and opportunities that should be leveraged in the new plan, areas of potential risk, the College’s differentiating features and our institutional vision and mission. A summary of what we heard and detailed notes on each of the listening sessions are available on the strategic planning website.

In March, the Steering Committee reviewed the data gathered in the listening sessions and existing foundational materials, such as the Academic Blueprint, and analysis of the market forces affecting Saint Mary’s, to create the strategic directives that form the framework of the strategic plan. They are:

  1. Raise the Academic Profile and Distinction – “Discovery in Dialogue”
    1. Define SMC’s desired market position as an academic institution of choice among competitor institutions
    2. Promote collaboration through various measures, including co-locating faculty
    3. Support innovation for flexibility and relevance (including blended approaches, technology for teaching and learning and pathways from undergraduate to Master’s degrees)
    4. Become a leader in global competency and engagement; expand international partnerships
    5. Build on core curriculum initiatives in community engagement, experiential learning, diversity, industry partnerships and establish specific desired outcomes
  1. Support the Student Lifecycle – “Access to Success”
    1. Determine and implement SMC’s residency strategy as part of planning process and prior to the completion of the master plan.
    2. Model a 24/7 campus and assess costs/benefits
    3. Improve retention and graduation rates per undergraduate 4- and 6-year and graduate/professional time to degree objectives
    4. Develop career/post-graduate support, e.g., expand experiential opportunities and alumni engagement
  1. From De La Salle to Lasallian – “Expanding Responsibility for Lasallian Higher Education”
    1. Articulate our understanding of our Catholic, Lasallian and Liberal Arts foundation of the College
    2. Lead conversations about Catholic identity in the age of Pope Francis
    3. Determine the public face of Catholicism for SMC for multiple constituencies
    4. Expand partnership in and responsibility for our Lasallian heritage
    5. Generate Lasallian research (i.e., new forms of poverty, immigration, pedagogy of the under-served, sustainability, etc.)
  1. Prioritize Facilities and Footprint – “Defining our ‘Place’”
    1. Determine “footprint” beyond 1928 St. Mary’s Road
    2. Complete master planning process consistent with academic and student lifecycle goals
    3. Determine locations for core administrative functions (with attention to efficiency analysis)
  1. Get the Message Out – “Claiming our Competitiveness”
    1. Determine core messages for institutional identity; explore transition to “university”
    2. Promote identity of integrative learning, inclusive community, leadership for social justice and careers in public service
    3. Develop and launch branding campaign
    4. Establish key performance indicators and targets for recognition and reputation
  1. Raise Revenue, Reduce Costs – “Foundations in Affordability”
    1. Strengthen fundraising to support key initiatives with expansion of campaign goals to meet these objectives
    2. Translate mission focus (“concern for the poor”) into Enrollment Management objectives (including evaluating its importance to our selectivity to sustainability and determining measurable goals)
    3. Determine SMC’s affordability strategies based on mission, market and desired positioning
    4. Conduct Workforce Planning/Efficiency Analysis and implement recommendations to optimize Strategic Plan outcomes

I have appointed Initiative Task Forces to carry out the important work of recommending the priority initiatives of these key areas. Members of the Initiative Task Forces were selected based on input from the Steering Committee and my own desire to continue fostering a process that is inclusive and transparent. Many highly qualified individuals were nominated to serve and, unfortunately, I was unable to appoint everyone to a group. However, I sincerely hope there will continue to be broad participation from the community in the strategic planning process through surveys, feedback through the website and engagement with the Steering Committee. Initiative Task Forces are composed of faculty, staff, students, Brothers, Regents, and alumni.  Visit the Strategic Planning website for a complete list of members.

The Initiative Task Forces launched this week and will meet until approximately mid-May and report their recommendations to the Steering Committee at its June meeting. Additionally, an electronic survey of faculty, staff, students and others will be launched at the end of April. The Steering Committee will review the recommended action plans submitted by the Initiative Task Forces along with the results of the survey as it develops a draft plan that will be shared with the community for feedback beginning with the Board of Trustees at their October meeting. We continue to work tirelessly toward our goal of a final strategic plan by the end of the calendar year.

I continue to be impressed with the way our community is coming together in support of this important initiative. Together, we are creating a roadmap for our future. I want to thank you for all the wonderful participation so far and underscore that your continued participation and engagement is critical to our success.

James A. Donahue