Nov. 17, 2016

Dear colleagues,

As we have discussed over the past few months, we are about to begin the process of developing a new University Strategic Plan. SHINE, the short-term strategic plan under which we have been operating since my arrival at Drew, has been incredibly useful over the past two years as we worked to increase enrollment and retention, revamp our communications efforts and generally enhance institutional effectiveness. However, the time has come for us to build a new strategic plan that will undergird decision-making and resource allocation over the next several years.

I envision that the final draft of this new strategic plan will go to the Board of Trustees for approval at the February 2018 meeting, and that we will operate under this strategic plan through fiscal year 2022. Between now and February 2018 when the new strategic plan is approved, the Annual Planning and Budgeting Council will work with me and the Cabinet to develop strategies and tactics to further the goals of SHINE.

At present, we are not in a position to develop a strategic plan in the absence of extensive data about the likely impact of possible new University initiatives, programs and directions—and their associated messaging—on potential students, their parents, others who are involved in students’ decision making about which school to attend and alumni and friends who we would like to become or remain engaged with the University. As a result, our strategic planning effort will occur in two phases. Phase I will be a period of intensive study and data collection in each of the three schools; the resulting data and recommendations will inform our strategic planning in Phase II.

Phase I

The Theological School is working with Stamats, a market research firm, to identify strengths and weaknesses of existing programs and to identify potential new programs that would be attractive to prospective students. Javier Viera, dean of the Theological School, is chairing these efforts, which support the school’s Curriculum Transformation initiative. This work has been underway for some time and will be complete by January 2017.

The Caspersen School of Graduate Studies, under the leadership of John Witherington, executive director for Graduate Admissions, is assessing current program offerings and opportunities for development of new programs in light of workforce trends and needs. The goal is to identify programs that build on current strengths and are relevant and attractive to prospective students. This work is also already underway and is expected to be complete early in the spring 2017 semester.

The College of Liberal Arts will be working with Art & Science Group (A&S) in a data collection effort that will be chaired by Associate Dean Jessica Lakin. Many institutions have worked with A&S to enhance their identities in their respective markets and to inform strategic planning to distinguish themselves among competitors, with tangible positive results in terms of applications, matriculations and giving. I am confident that this will be true of the work we do with them as well.

CLA’s work with A&S will begin with a period of intensive study of the undergraduate experience, including the ways the campus community views the College’s curricular and co-curricular experiences, how those experiences might change and how all aspects of those experiences are framed and marketed. The A&S team will be visiting campus in early December to have these community conversations. A small working group will then work collaboratively with A&S to develop and refine the ideas that will be tested in the marketplace with potential applicants, admitted students and possible donors. Data will be collected during the spring and summer, and conclusions and recommendations will be presented to the community in late spring and early fall.

It is my expectation that we will not go into this exercise with preconceived notions about what ideas will or won’t be compelling to our market. The end goal will be to determine what substance and messages about the undergraduate experience are best, resonant, credible and appealing for both internal and external audiences.

Phase II

Our strategic planning process, supported by data from the above efforts, will occur during Phase II. This work will be done by a Strategic Planning Group (SPG) consisting of faculty, students and staff from across the University, as well as several trustees. Jessica Lakin will also be chairing this committee. It is expected that the SPG will begin its work in February 2017, and this work will continue through the final presentation to the Board of Trustees in February 2018.

As you can see, the entirety of this planning process will be unlike any other planning process in which Drew has been engaged previously. The questions we need to ask ourselves are, by definition, empirical in nature, and any strategic decisions that we make or planning that we do need to be informed by relevant data. At this crucial moment in the history of Drew, we simply can’t afford to direct resources toward any messaging or substantive initiatives without knowing that those decisions will positively affect important outcome variables. I’m grateful to Jessica for spearheading this process, and for the contributions from and support of the many, many members of our community who will be involved along the way.

Thank you for everything you do to make Drew shine.