Strategic Planning Imperatives and Visions
Saint Louis University
Strategic Planning Steering Committee
On August 13, 2014, President Pestello convened a group of University leaders in retreat to launch a new and comprehensive strategic planning effort. The group-now constituted as the Strategic Planning Assembly-heard the President's commitment to an open and participative process to accomplish three broad objectives by May, 2015:
• Charting SLU's future direction in a complicated higher education environment,
• Identifying priorities for a SLU Bicentennial comprehensive capital campaign, and
• Bringing the University together in the process of developing and supporting the plan.
A Strategic Planning Steering Committee (SPSC) was appointed to provide oversight to the planning effort and a Strategic Planning Coordinator appointed. A set of Principles developed by the August 13 meeting was formalized and announced to the SLU community. The Principles provide that planning be mission-driven, participative, transparent, inclusive, aspirational, dynamic, and responsive.
It was against this background that the SPSC undertook an extensive information-gathering effort. In the seven-week period beginning September 29, the SPSC held 22 listening sessions for University component organizations as well as four Town Hall meetings. Nearly a thousand individuals participated in these sessions and hundreds of ideas were provided for consideration in the planning process.
Based on the output of these meetings and additional information received through the SLU strategic planning website, the SPSC identified a number of themes under which the ideas generated could be classified. These themes fall in two broad categories-Imperatives and Visions.
The Imperatives lie at the core of SLU's identity, represent distillations of the voluminous input received, and are considered mission-critical components of every element that might be developed in the planning process. The Visions are also distillations of the multitude of ideas expressed, and represent the framework within which specific strategies and goals will be developed in the next phase of the planning process.
The Imperatives and Visions will be used by eight Topical Work Groups (TWGs) to focus their efforts in developing specific plan elements during the coming weeks. The TWGs will be made up of individuals with a specific expertise and/or interest in one or more of the Visions, and will use open processes guided by the Principles in identifying specific strategies to advance the SLU Mission and the Visions for SLU's Future. The SPSC is currently working to identify the particular process by which TWG group members will be identified.
The Imperatives Undergirding SLU's Visions for the Future
Four overarching Imperatives emerged clearly during virtually all of the twenty-six listening sessions that the Strategic Planning Steering Committee held during the first phase of this year's strategic planning initiative as well as in the information received from those using the input form on the strategic planning website. Indeed, these Imperatives were identified as mission-critical components of the planning as this initiative moves forward, for the Imperatives lie at the core of what SLU stands for and aspires to build upon as it prepares to enter its third century as a seat of learning. For this reason, the specific strategies, goals, and objectives that Topical Working Groups (TWGs) will develop in order to move SLU toward achieving the eight Vision elements enumerated in the second section of this document must explicitly incorporate the four crosscutting Imperatives below as the groups work to flesh out SLU's Visions for the Future.
I. A Commitment to Reinforcing Mission & Identity
SLU's Mission and its identity as a Catholic, Jesuit institution have been central to its teaching, research, and service activities throughout its nearly two centuries of existence. Fulfillment of the Mission underlies the University's achievements and constitutes the core of its identity, both in the community and among peer institutions. The importance of the University's adherence to and advancement of its Mission is a consistent theme among faculty, staff, and students, and the SLU Mission is a source of distinctiveness and excellence across all University functions. Each strategy developed for achieving a Vision for SLU's Future will identify ways that the strategy will support, and be supported by, SLU's Mission and identity.
II. A Commitment to Enhancing Diversity & Inclusion
By its nature, the quest for social justice that lies at the heart of SLU's Mission has a particular focus on populations with the greatest needs and fewest resources-the unserved and underserved. These populations exhibit great disparities in socioeconomic status, health status and access, societal influence, and educational attainment, among many other factors. Both to better address these disparities, and because diverse perspectives are necessary to in-depth pursuit of truth in teaching and research, it is essential that University programs, in both their internal and external activities, attend to the diversity within society. SLU must be an exemplar among academic organizations in its attention to differences among people and communities, whether based on race, ethnicity, culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or socioeconomic status, and to accommodating these differences in every aspect of its operations. An imperative therefore exists to increase the diversity in the University's faculty, staff, and student body and, in that way, to enhance both SLU's educational programs and its goal of creating men and women for and with others. Achieving a diverse SLU community must also be accompanied by policies and programs that assure all members of the community are included in the variety of activities that constitute the SLU experience. Every strategy developed to support SLU's Visions for the Future must explicitly demonstrate how diversity and inclusion will actively be advanced by the pursuit and achievement of the strategy.
III. A Commitment to Deepening Interdisciplinary Collaboration
SLU is a complex institution that encompasses virtually every field of knowledge within its academic units-a fact which should open up rich interdisciplinary possibilities. However, while a number of formal and informal collaborations currently exist within and among SLU's Schools and Colleges, and across university lines, and although these collaborations make significant contributions to the discovery and transmission of knowledge, many more opportunities for interdisciplinary achievement are possible. Because the amelioration of major social and scientific issues increasingly demands the efforts of people working across disciplines, new partnerships and connections of all sorts need to occur in order to benefit both society and the University. Expanded collaboration can also be powerful as a path to expanded resources and an enhanced reputation for the institution. This potential must be explored as strategies are developed that advance the SLU mission and support achievement of its Visions for the Future.
IV. A Commitment to Advancing Institutional Distinctiveness & Excellence
Although SLU's commitment to Ignatian principles of education and the Jesuit values of its founders comprise the core of its distinctiveness, there are other ways in which the institution achieves recognition from the public and among its peers-for example, those of the University's programs that are nationally recognized for their academic excellence and those that are unique among America's Jesuit universities, high levels of student academic and athletic success, accomplishments of prominent alumni, and University leadership in the community. Achieving recognition for leadership in these and other areas is a critical element in strengthening the University's reputation, which in turn is crucial in attracting top faculty and students, as well as financial resources. TWGs must plan with the goal of identifying and enhancing SLU's sources of distinctiveness and excellence in each Vision area, supporting their growth, and better communicating institutional achievements both within the University and to SLU's local, regional, national, and international publics.
Eight Visions for SLU's Future
Against the background, and within the context, of the four above-stated institutional planning Imperatives, the Strategic Planning Steering Committee proposes eight Visions for SLU's Future. These are based on themes that were sounded repeatedly during the listening sessions held during the first phase of this year's strategic planning process and by those using the input form on the strategic planning website.
I. SLU as a Source of Academic Excellence Rooted in Values-Based Learning
SLU's commitment to Ignatian educational concepts has shaped its curriculum and the student experience throughout its history and is widely identified as the major source of distinctiveness of a SLU education. Rooted in the principles of religious humanism, including "finding God in all things," a SLU education is rigorous and transformative; it is designed to develop well-rounded persons of character and conscience who become "men and women for and with others." Listening sessions and input received through the strategic planning website identified additional opportunities to enhance such values-based learning at all levels through the use of new technologies, more impactful foundational elements in the curriculum, more pervasive use of Ignatian pedagogy and other effective instructional methods, the creation of specialized learning spaces that support these methods, and more robust out-of-class experiences. The deployment of these and other pathways to enhance student learning can allow the University to build upon the unique character of a SLU education and lead to greater instructional coherence and integration. The sessions also generated many comments, pro and con, about the efficacy of online instruction as a primary mode of instruction; this is another issue which those working on this topic might usefully explore.
II. SLU as a Center of Research & Disseminator of New Knowledge
SLU is a major research institution, with faculty and students deeply involved in the pursuit of truth, seeking answers to fundamental questions across all disciplines. Such activities have a major impact on establishing the wider reputation of the institution and attracting both financial and human resources. Enhancing SLU's research profile and productivity is a priority for assuring its future, and this requires thoughtful analysis of current areas of strength, along with determination of the best means to build on these areas, with particular emphasis on providing incentives that promote synergies among such areas through collaboration and interdisciplinary approaches. Assuring continued growth in the research enterprise requires rethinking of, and investment in, the infrastructure and support system for the enterprise.
III. SLU as a Health Promoter & Provider
SLU is unique among Jesuit universities in the breadth of its commitment to health professions education and health-related research. The School of Medicine, the College for Public Health and Social Justice, the Doisy College of Health Sciences, the School of Nursing, the Center for Advanced Dental Education, and departments such as Psychology and Communication Sciences & Disorders provide a full range of opportunities to prepare students for careers in health promotion and the delivery of health care. Through SLUCare, the University's medical-faculty practice, SLU provides high-quality, state-of-the-art medical care to a population of patients that is not only local, but also national and international. The opportunities for inter-professional education and interdisciplinary research are unparalleled, and represent some of the greatest potential for SLU's future contributions to disease prevention and health care more generally. All of these activities are carried out in the context of the institution's Jesuit heritage, incorporating a focus on the social determinants of health as well as the tools of healing.
IV. SLU as a Leader in Student Access & Success
Providing students a transformative education in the Ignatian model is the first priority of the University. In an era in which affordability is broadly identified as a barrier to higher education, particularly for families and students of limited economic means, SLU must be on the forefront among institutions seeking innovative and effective methods to address the high cost of a college education. This may require new partnerships-for example, those with community colleges-as well as expanding the resource base available to better support scholarships for undergraduates, assistantships and fellowships for graduate students, tuition scholarships for professional students, and employment opportunities for needy students at all levels. A commitment to improving access must also be supported by equal commitments to students' physical and mental health, and by ensuring that student experiences support success not only in the classroom, but also in the broader community of students and in the larger St. Louis community-and beyond. One way to help make SLU the college of choice for young people motivated to be active in the pursuit of social justice is to enhance the reach of the University's service-learning programs, but many other possibilities exist for enhancing student success, including bolstering the services jointly provided by Academic Affairs and Student Development in support of student growth and employment upon graduation.
V. SLU as a Discerning Steward of Resources
The conventional definition of resources includes three elements-people, facilities, and funds. In supporting achievement of its Mission and vision, SLU must attend to all three. A university's most important resource is the people who comprise its community. Caring for these people-students, faculty, and staff-provides multiple benefits for the institution in productivity, loyalty, and program effectiveness. Such care is multidimensional and includes, among many aspects: compensation, training, advancement, and participation, as well as physical health, mental health, and safety dimensions. SLU aspires to be identified as an exceptional place to work and learn, and this requires careful attention to human needs. The second resource element is facilities-not only the buildings in which SLU's teaching, research, and service activities take place, but the entire campus physical environment. For SLU to fully achieve its mission, that environment must be an exemplar of sustainability. The buildings must be appropriate to their intended use, technologically up-to-date, and well-maintained. The grounds and infrastructure must be designed and managed in ways that are sensitive to the University's and society's future needs. Stewardship of the third resource, funds, directly impacts the first two elements, and often presents the greatest challenge to the institution, particularly in today's constrained fiscal environment. All aspects of the University's operations are affected by decisions concerning the allocation of available funds, and the more transparent that process, as well as the more closely it is aligned to the larger mission of the University, the greater the understanding-and hence the fruitful implementation-of these decisions.
VI. SLU as an Entrepreneur for Social Justice and Responsibility
Social justice is defined by the Jesuits as "confronting the structures of the world that perpetuate poverty and injustice," and its promotion is considered an "absolute requirement" for Jesuits and institutions such as SLU that follow the Ignatian way. Following the Catholic social teaching of "the common good," which was also an element of Renaissance education that the Jesuits adopted in the early years of their existence, SLU has a long history of active involvement in activities that promote social justice. By creatively applying the breadth of expertise available within the University, the University can do more to ensure that SLU students become civically engaged participants in society who work conscientiously for the common good, as the University strives to do the same. The approach envisioned for addressing this subject is an entrepreneurship model. In the business world, entrepreneurs are innovators and risk-takers, generating and applying innovation in products and services. As SLU moves toward its third century of concern for others, it must utilize its many existing assets to craft approaches that involve faculty, students, and staff in new ways to approach the age-old problems of poverty, injustice, and inequity.
VII. SLU as an Advocate for St. Louis
Saint Louis University is an urban university by choice, not by chance. In the 1950s, then-President Paul Reinert, S.J., was offered the chance to relocate the institution to a suburban location but made a mission-based decision to remain in the City of St. Louis, where SLU has grown and thrived. As the institution approaches its third century, it is apparent that it is not enough to be in the city, but that being of the city is both an opportunity and an obligation for the University. The city is particularly challenged today by divisions rooted in race and socioeconomic status. SLU has many useful connections to the community, but these need to be more effectively and productively coordinated, and more closely attuned and responsive to the community's felt needs. For both SLU and St. Louis, a new effort based on continuous and open communication with community members concerning their needs is essential, as is the identification of new ways of working with the community to meet these needs in ways that are mutually supportive.
VIII. SLU as a Global Citizen
Advances in transportation and communication, along with the growth of international economic interdependence, has sharpened the global focus in higher education as it has in most spheres of activity. The current attention being paid to global reach among higher education institutions is not new for SLU. As the first American university to establish a fully functioning campus in Europe, SLU embraced the concept early, and has continued to grow its Madrid presence over nearly half a century. At the same time, a variety of other global engagements have developed as individual Schools and Colleges, departments, and faculty members have expanded their activities across the world. In building a global SLU network, there are many more opportunities to be considered, developed, and pursued. Through SLU's relationship to the Jesuits, the University can expand its international instructional, research, and service activities, both in conjunction with other Jesuit academic institutions overseas and through the network of Jesuit initiatives serving the needs of the poor and marginalized, wherever they live. Pursuing an expanded global presence will involve developing new relationships and strengthening ones that already exist. It can, and should, involve virtually every component of the University in a carefully coordinated effort to practice global citizenship.