As William & Mary begins its strategic planning process, administrators are looking to the campus community to play an active role in shaping the future of the university.
“I am really, truly filled with excitement, in part because of the discovery process that we have ahead of us and, in part, because this room is so full and I see an incredible brain trust in doing that discovery together,” said W&M President Katherine A. Rowe.
“I want to invite you into this process, which will be similar to last year in the sense that we will be sharing information in these rooms and we will also be doing active work together.”
Rowe spoke to a standing-room-only crowd of faculty, staff and students who gathered in the Sadler Center’s Tidewater rooms Sept. 4 for the first of several campus forums scheduled for this fall.
There are two goals for the strategic plan, which will identify the most significant opportunities for the university over the next five to 10 years. The first is “to advance W&M’s distinctive excellence in a rapidly changing environment, raising its profile nationally and globally,” according to the strategic planning website. The second is to “position W&M for long-term financial sustainability in a way that aligns its operational and financial models with its distinctive academic mission.”
There are also two goals for the first year of planning: to advance a whole-institution mindset throughout W&M and to embolden the community to embrace the university’s history of innovation, said Rowe.
“We are truly in the process of discovery,” she said. “What I expect to happen over the next six months is to generate three to four pretty big challenges that we want to address as an institution and be known as being exceptionally good at addressing.”
A strategic planning steering committee has been appointed and charged with designing the process, which will be cyclical, according to W&M Provost Peggy Agouris.
“We’re not going to develop a strategic plan that we read once, store somewhere and forget about it,” said Agouris, who is co-chairing the committee with Chief of Staff Jeremy Martin. “This is going to be an inclusive process that sets the stage for the future of William & Mary.”
The work started in August and is currently in its first phase, which focuses on refining the university’s vision, mission and values statements. The second phase, environmental analysis, began this month and will run concurrently with the first. Phase three, strategy development, is expected to begin in January 2020.
During the campus forum, Martin turned to the audience to help kick off phase two, which involves identifying areas of discovery, trends in higher education and information-sharing with the W&M community. He asked individuals to think about “weaknesses and threats” and “strengths and opportunities” under the categories of “teaching and learning,” “research and innovation,” “flourishing and engagement” or a category of their choosing. Martin then asked for individuals to share those thoughts with the other people sitting at their tables and synthesize them so that one spokesperson for each group could share with the larger crowd.
Rowe encouraged the group to think outside of their own areas and needs.
“We are going to ask you to look externally, to scan outwards, to think about what information we need to address the challenges you see today,” she said.
The entire planning process will be anchored by the institution’s vision, mission and values, said Agouris.
“We are changing not for change’s sake but for what we value most, and what we value most is described by our vision, mission and values,” she said.
Vision is about who we aspire to be, said Martin. Mission is what we do in pursuit of that vision, and values are about who we strive to be as we fulfill the mission. Although distinct parts of a whole, all three are interdependent, said Martin, and so two drafting groups were established: one focusing on the university’ values statement, which is a new document, and the other working to refine the university’s mission statement.
Chief Diversity Officer Chon Glover and Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler co-chair the values drafting group, which met several times over the summer.
“This is something we want to be longstanding,” said Glover. “We also want to make sure that the values we choose resonate with every member of this community.”
As such, the two shared an initial draft of the statement with multiple groups on campus during July and August, including the president’s executive leadership team, the Board of Visitors, the strategic planning steering committee and the faculty and student assemblies. During that process, it became clear that a second group was needed to work on the mission statement, which was last revised in 1995.
“Our goal is to bring to you at the October forum a mission statement and statement of values that sound like William & Mary, that represent William & Mary, that resonate with each of you in this room and then welcome your feedback so that we can continue to refine it so it gets to the place where it needs to be for all time coming,” said Ambler.
People who were unable to attend the forum still have the chance to be a part of the process. Additional forums will be held Oct. 1 at 3:30 p.m. in the Sadler Center’s Tidewater A room and Nov. 5 at 3:30 p.m. in the Sadler Center’s Chesapeake rooms. A listening session with Rowe is scheduled for Nov. 7 at 3:30 p.m. in Tidewater A.
“Our intent is to create opportunities for everybody who wants to be heard and everybody who has a contribution to make to have the opportunity to do so,” said Agouris.