Listening Sessions, February 2014

February 17, 2014: Letter to Saint Mary's Community

Subject: Strategic plan listening sessions, Feb. 25-26

Dear Saint Mary’s community,

The College’s strategic planning process officially kicked off with the first meeting of the Steering Committee on February 10. Much of our discussion focused on the vision, mission and characteristics of the College. The committee also reaffirmed its commitment to an inclusive and transparent process. To that end, summary notes from the first and all subsequent meetings can be found on the Strategic Planning website,

I very much value the issues and concerns that have been raised by faculty and others. There are many ways outlined in this message to engage with the strategic planning process. I encourage your continued participation. The first opportunities will be a series of “listening sessions” for faculty, staff and students. Facilitated by The Napa Group, participants provide their perspective on the key opportunities and challenges facing Saint Mary’s. These perspectives will be used by the Steering Committee, along with existing foundational documents and data, such as the Academic Blueprint, and analysis of the market forces affecting Saint Mary’s, as it drafts the priority strategic directions for the College. 

Open listening sessions will be held on the afternoons of February 25 and 26 in the faculty/staff dining room. Each day a session for non-tenured faculty will occur at 1 p.m., tenured faculty at 2 p.m. and staff at 3 p.m. The consultants will also be meeting with constituent groups such as the Academic Senate, the Christian Brothers communities and the Associated Students during their visit on those days.

The community will have the opportunity to participate and provide input in additional ways. Among them are:

  • The Strategic Plan website “Comment” box provides a venue for individuals to submit questions and comments to be shared with the Steering Committee without attribution to the sender. These comments will inform committee deliberations and may be the basis of regular “Community Forum” updates and FAQs on issues of particular interest to be posted on the website.
  • Individual feedback provided to Steering Committee members representing constituent groups (e.g., Academic Senate, Staff Council, Christian Brothers’ Communities, staff council) will be brought back to the Steering Committee discussions.
  • Task Forces will be invited by the Steering Committee to recommend initiatives supporting the priority strategic directions developed by the committee. These task forces will be made up of faculty, staff, students, alumni or external community members (depending on the subject); they will meet from approximately late March until mid-May and report their recommendations to the Steering Committee prior to its June meeting.
  • Electronic surveys with such groups as faculty, staff, students and advisory groups are planned for the April-May timeframe. Along with the Task Force recommendations, these findings will be influential as the Steering Committee begins to draft the strategic plan.
  • Town halls and other forums will be held after classes convene in fall 2014 to review and comment on the draft strategic plan, which will be finalized by December 2014.

I am pleased with the levels of engagement among community members in this critical initiative thus far, and I encourage each of you to get involved in any of the opportunities available to you. I look forward to working with you throughout the process.

James A. Donahue