Steering Committee Works to Draft Strategic Plan
Issue   |   Thu, 08/28/2014 - 17:41

The strategic planning steering committee continued to make strides this summer, meeting in July for a retreat to review feedback, further define goals and prepare for the 2014-2015 academic year.

Launched in October 2013 under the direction of Provost Peter Uvin, the strategic planning committees are tasked with defining overarching goals for the college’s future.

Four core strategic planning committees have been drafting goals for different aspects of the college’s future: The Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning; The Enhancement of Student Intellectual Life; Diversity and Community and The Internationalization of Liberal Arts Education. The steering committee consists of the chairs of each of the four subcommittees, as well as President Biddy Martin and a number of senior staff members.

Last year, the four core committees met regularly, with 32 members of the faculty, 21 staff, 19 students and nine trustees participating in meetings. During the spring, the heads of each committee solicited feedback from the community and presented their findings to the faculty at Tuesday night faculty meetings. In May the committees completed four draft reports, which were then published online on the strategic planning website.

Uvin explained that over the summer, parents and alumni offered “hundreds upon hundreds of comments” online in response to the four draft reports. “They pushed us hard sometimes,” Uvin said. “I liked that.”

In July, the steering committee met for a retreat and reviewed the feedback.

“Many of the alumni and some of the parents also pushed hard that we hadn’t taken costs seriously enough, the issue of controlling costs, which is a big issue, as we all know — for the college, for our students and their families, for society at large and politicians,” Uvin said. “So we got pressure on that.”

Another common piece of alumni feedback concerned the Committee’s language about Amherst.

“They pushed hard, a bunch of them, on what make us distinctive and unique,” Uvin said. “They were saying that many of the things we were saying are things everybody else is saying. And in a way I must agree that they are not incorrect about that.”

Along with reviewing feedback at the retreat, the committee also worked to synthesize ideas from the draft reports.

“Many of the reports were chock full of really interesting ideas. But what often had to be done was formulate why these ideas are important, so beef it up in terms of a level of abstraction almost,” Uvin said. “Get to the first principles, that was the goal.”

The committee will hold another retreat early in September, then draft a preliminary strategic plan to share with the community.

“The steering committee will share the next iteration of the strategic plan with campus by the middle of fall semester,” said Chief Communications Officer Pete Mackey, a member of the steering committee. “From there, the steering committee will again carefully review feedback and move toward a final draft of the document. The goal is to present the final proposed plan to the Board of Trustees at their January meeting.”

Sophie Murguia ‘17 contributed reporting.