Initial Letter to the Community

January 28, 2014: Letter to Saint Mary's Community

Dear Saint Mary’s Community,

Six months have passed since I joined the community as president, and I continue to be extremely excited about the future of Saint Mary’s College. It is a future that we will build together drawing on our Mission, traditions and past successes.  To that end, I want to give you an update on the progress toward and process for our next strategic plan. We will officially commence work as a community at the end of this month.

Central to our success will be your participation; there will be many opportunities built into the process and I encourage you to contribute your ideas and your feedback. A section of our website,, will provide ongoing information, reports and event schedules.

The final plan will focus on the few most important institution-wide opportunities that strengthen the College. The plan will not be a “wish list” but a set of integrated strategic directions. We have hired The Napa Group to facilitate the project; they are consultants specializing in higher education strategy, leadership and organizational design and with extensive experience with institutions of all sizes, alumni associations and advancement organizations. You can read more about them here:

The planning process will be both transparent and inclusive. We will begin with a data-gathering effort that includes individual meetings, focus groups and surveys with a variety of internal constituents and external stakeholders of the College. The analysis of the information we gather will inform our strategic plan goals. Further details of the project plan will be forthcoming within the next few weeks, and there will be regular communication to the community throughout the process.

A steering committee, composed primarily of members of the Institutional Effectiveness committee, will work with me to provide overarching leadership throughout the process. We will also create cross-functional subcommittees to create initiatives and actions for the planning goals. Drafts of the strategic plan will be completed and presented to the campus community.  By mid-October we expect to present a final draft plan to the Board of Trustees and the Saint Mary’s community. From there, we will build a five-year implementation plan.

We have much to be proud of about our past success and great opportunity ahead of us. I very much look forward to engaging all of you in the important strategic discussions about our future.

James A. Donahue