The strategic planning process has been a prime focus for my first year at Chatham. It has given us a much better appreciation of the University's many great assets, along with the challenges we face in a very turbulent higher education environment. The year-long process will culminate this fall with the release of a new Strategic Plan that will chart Chatham's course for years to come.
The first step in the process was my listening tour – gaining input from all of Chatham's key stakeholders – that was synthesized in a SWOT Analysis of the University's Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. We then formally kicked off the strategic planning process at the Board of Trustees meeting last October. Five Board Task Forces embarked on a 6-months-long deep study of areas of critical importance to Chatham's future: Access & Affordability, Eden Hall and Sustainability, Growth & Capacity, International, and Online Education.
To oversee the process and integrate the work of the Task Forces, we established a Strategic Planning Steering Committee (SPSC) – which consisted of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty from across the university, alumni, staff, administrators, and the Trustee chairs of the five Task Forces. The SPSC was charged with drafting a new Strategic Plan to present for the Board's approval in fall 2017.
For the past ten months, these two groups have worked synergistically, with the work of one informing and advancing the work of the other:
- The SPSC met jointly with the Board for its Winter meeting, reviewing the work of the five Task Forces and helping to identify issues and areas deserving further study;
- Over the past winter and spring, the SPSC created revised drafts of a new Mission, Vision and Values statements for Chatham, which the Board then reviewed, revised and approved at its Retreat in June;
- At that same Retreat, the Board used a Prioritization Tool (created by a member of the SPSC and tested by the other SPSC members) to help the Board rank the initiatives suggested by the Task Forces in their final reports;
- The results of the Board's prioritization exercise guided the SPSC's work this summer drafting a new Strategic Plan;
- The SPSC completed and submitted a draft Strategic Plan to the Board last month. The Board members then provided suggested revisions to the plan which have been incorporated into the latest version of the draft Plan.
As you'll see when you read it, the Plan covers a lot of ground – as it should. It's important to keep in mind, however, that this is a long-term Plan, and that not everything in it will, or even could, be accomplished in the coming academic year (2017-18). The Plan will be implemented in two phases – phase 1 (focused primarily on the next three years) will lay the foundation for future growth, while phase 2, beginning in Year 4, will focus on more transformational growth.
A key to turning the plan into a reality, is to have as much input and buy-in as possible from the different parts of the Chatham community. We invite each of you to share your thoughts and perspectives on ways to further the goals and initiatives in the new Plan. We'd also welcome your suggestions on other ways, not covered in the draft Plan, to advance the Mission and Vision for the University. We're open to any and all suggestions that help make Chatham an even better place to learn, live and work. For the next two weeks, we invite you to share your thoughts and ideas through StrategicPlan@chatham.edu. Of course, you can continue to share ideas with us throughout the life of the Plan, but those comments we receive over the next few weeks, before we enter the implementation stages, will be especially helpful.
The publication of the approved Plan will represent the start, not the completion, of a new continuous improvement process for Chatham. The leadership team is developing a set of key priorities derived from the Plan, each with clear targets, that will be used with the Board to guide our decision-making and measure our progress for the 2017-18 academic year. Based on how we perform against these targets and continuous monitoring of changes in the external environment, we will make adjustments to the Plan in terms of emphases and strategies, and create a new set of priorities for the following year.
Chatham is at a crossroads. Thanks to the bold investments in the Eastside and Eden Hall campuses, the creation of the Falk School for Sustainability, the continued excellence and strong demand for our health science graduate programs, and the rapid growth in undergraduate enrollment in the three years since going co-ed, the University is poised to move to the next level both academically and financially. With the tremendous talents and dedication of the entire Chatham community and our commitment to working together with each other and our external partners, I feel confident that great times lie ahead.
David Finegold, DPhil