Saint Louis University

The 2010-2011 academic year marked the start of a new, University-wide strategic planning cycle at SLU.  The goal was to develop and implement a recursive planning process via which faculty, staff and students  continually establish and refine institutional priorities that, in turn, drive programmatic and financial decision-making throughout the University.   Strategic Planning initiatives will complement and, whenever possible, be integrated with efforts conducted in preparation for University re-accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.  

The first step in the process was to develop an institutional statement to frame the work of faculty, staff and students throughout the planning process.  The "Strategic Planning Framing Document" was authored by a "Think Tank" of SLU faculty throughout the Fall 2010 term, and published to the University community in December 2010.  This document reaffirms the University's mission, acknowledges our strengths, highlights key global challenges that contextualize the mission and goals in the future, and, finally identifies some key opportunities.

The Framing Document was approved by the Think Tank and the University's Executive Staff.  It was also presented to the President's Coordinating Council (which includes faculty, staff, and student representatives), the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, and the Council of Academic Deans and Directors.   You may access the document via the following link:

2010-2011 Strategic Plan Framing Document

With this guiding framework in place, in spring 2011 the Vice President for Academic affairs commenced discussion on the St. Louis campus regarding several key planning-related topics:  the characteristics of Jesuit education, faculty evaluation (i.e., teaching effectiveness, research/scholarly productivity/impact, and service contributions/impact), and academic administrator evaluation.  Similar conversations have been ongoing in Madrid, where the faculty and administration turn to St. Louis counterparts for direction and adapt criteria to both the academic culture and employment conditions in Spain.  Committees composed of faculty, staff/administrators, and students studied these topics and sought out best practices throughout the year.  The resulting committee reports were distributed University-wide in November 2011 and presented in an open forum on the St. Louis campus. Feedback received at the forum and via email provided guidance to the committees in revising their reports and recommendations.

Concurrently, the academic deans and vice presidents developed Process Enneagrams to both begin strategic planning for their units and to form the basis for institution-wide discussion and planning.   The Process Enneagram is a tool that can be used to review an organization's current state, consider its desired state, and identify what needs to be done to move the organization from its current to desired state.  It reflects an organization as a living system, with numerous, dynamic connections, the interplay of which is crucial to the organization's well being. 

In 2011, to further clarify the President's vision of making Saint Louis University the finest Catholic University in the nation, the University's Executive Staff Committee adopted the University's Strategic Intent to be recognized among the Top 50 universities in the U.S.  In June 2011, the Executive Staff Committee and all academic deans participated in a planning retreat which resulted in the development of draft versions of: (1) a revised set of Strategic Directions (echoing the 2001 Strategic Plan), (2) Strategic Planning Operating Principles, and (3) Performance Standards.  Finally, a Strategic Planning Subcommittee of the Executive Staff Committee developed a list of Critical Success Factors that could be linked with the Strategic Directions. 

The first complete draft of the FY 2013-2017 University-Level Strategic Plan was endorsed by the Executive Staff Committee in October 2011.  Thereafter, the Plan was reviewed by various stakeholder groups, edited, and approved by the President's Coordinating Council on November 15, 2011.  Next, the President made some editorial changes and approved the Plan on December 6, 2011.  The updated Plan was approved by the University's Board of Trustees on December 10, 2011.

The first draft of unit-level strategic plans/initiatives and performance goals, consistent with the University-level Strategic Plan, will be developed by April 1, 2012. The University-level Strategic Plan and the Unit-level strategic plans will be reviewed collectively for coherence and consistency, appropriate changes will be made, and the plans will be presented to the respective committees of the Board at the May 2012 meeting.  Thereafter, all the Unit-level plans/updates will be reviewed annually by the respective committees of the Board and the University-level Strategic Plan will be reviewed by the full Board of Trustees at its annual May meeting until further notice.  The iterative planning process is shown below.














Benchmarking, identified as Operating Principle #1 in the University Strategic Plan, is a significant facet of the new planning process and has begun in the academic and administrative units in both St. Louis and Madrid. A benchmarking process framework, developed by the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs and approved by the Executive Staff Committee, was implemented in spring 2011. Units are to determine performance indicators to benchmark and then identify other institutions (competitor, peer, national aspirational, and global aspirational) against which they can benchmark themselves with those indicators in their pursuit of excellence. Units have the latitude to determine their respective indicators as well as benchmark institutions. Hence, while the process is a standard one, it acknowledges disciplinary differences. Faculty and staff are encouraged and expected to communicate their observations, questions, and suggestions through their department administrators, governance bodies, and the committees formed to address specific aspects of the process.

The Top 50 goal and benchmarking require the establishment of performance metrics, the assessment of progress, and the alignment of reward systems with performance. It is anticipated that budget priorities will emerge from the process, providing clear direction for resource allocation through the University's budget process. Regular and continuous assessment of priorities is built into the process. July 1, 2018-the year of the University's 200th anniversary-is targeted as the date by which this goal will be achieved. The component steps and initial timeline of the process were summarized in presentations made to the faculty by the Vice President of Academic Affairs, again in open fora, and subsequently distributed via e-mail.