Exploring new and innovative areas of collaboration with the City of Williamsburg is a big driver in William & Mary’s ongoing strategic planning process. That was the message during the Feb. 12 strategic planning forum at the Sadler Center’s Chesapeake Ballroom.
William & Mary President Katherine A. Rowe and Provost Peggy Agouris were joined by Williamsburg Mayor Paul Freiling ’83, City Manager Andrew Trivette and City Council Member Barbara Ramsey ’75 for a discussion about how to make the partnership between the university and city more effective.
They spoke on a variety of topics critical to both before an audience of faculty, staff, students and community members and then answered questions at the end.
“We have gone through the process of looking around us and performing an environmental scan to see how we can advance the institution in ways within the context of our location and our significance for our region and for the country,” said Agouris, co-chair of the Strategic Planning Committee. “It is very obvious from what we’ve seen so far that we need to partner in order to be effective.”
The strategic planning process is currently in its second phase: environmental analysis.
Three subcommittees focusing on the areas of Teaching & Learning, Research & Innovation and Flourishing & Engagement collected information during the fall from W&M and external sources to put into reports.
City officials reviewed the white papers submitted by those subcommittees and discussed their impressions during the forum.
“As good as each of us are in doing what we do, we know that we can do it better if we do it together,” Freiling said. “We also know that university success benefits the city and the city’s success benefits the university, and collectively our success together is really important, because if either of us becomes weakened, it can negatively impact the other.”
Freiling, Trivette and Ramsey all spoke of ways Williamsburg can better accommodate students, from making off-campus housing more accessible and affordable to making roads around campus safer for students to cross.
They also discussed ways to create more fun for young people in a city known primarily for its history.
“The City of Williamsburg wants to be known for something other than William & Mary and Colonial Williamsburg, so balancing the residents’ perspectives that are not associated with either of those organizations with the reality that we are the same is challenging,” Trivette said. “I think a collective conversation about that would be very productive.”
Creating more incentives for students to get off campus is only part of the issue, Ramsey said.
“We often talk about how do we get students off campus and into the community, but someone brought up to me that there’s sort of a disconnect sometimes in getting residents of the community to feel like the campus and William & Mary are theirs also,” Ramsey said. “And how do we get them more engaged and feel more at home to come into the walls and explore all that William & Mary has to offer?”
The topics discussed in the forum, as well as points made during the question and answer session, will be taken into consideration as the university nears the next stage in the process: strategy development.
The next strategic planning forum is scheduled for March 4 at the Sadler Center’s Chesapeake Ballroom.
“What we are asking you to do before then is to walk those white papers around and engage the community in thinking about them,” Rowe said. “I know some of you are doing that really well, and I’m grateful. I know others plan to, and I’m grateful. Make sure folks are reading and responding, because this is truly going to be the basis for the strategy that comes next.”