Seeking to reaffirm the core values that have made a Union education distinct for more than two centuries, the College has reshaped its strategic plan to help educate the next generation of students in a rapidly changing world.
Officially unveiled this week, the ambitious plan provides a blueprint that strengthens and enhances Union's position as a highly selective national liberal arts college that "produces graduates who make important contributions to humanity."
"Our students, both those here on campus now and in the future, rely on the College to provide them with the opportunities and resources they need to become effective contributors to our society and to lead interesting and meaningful lives," said Acting President Therese McCarty. "The strategic plan focuses our collective thought and energy on what we need to do to accomplish this goal.
Building on key strengths outlined in the 2007 strategic plan, the latest version can be summed up in three words: think, connect, act. This includes the "ability to think broadly and strategically in all areas; the way in which students make connections, both in and out of the classroom; and a culture that encourages and provides opportunities to take action, academically and socially, as well as locally, regionally and globally."
The process of creating this new strategic plan began in fall 2011 with a series of meetings between senior staff and other key campus groups. Faculty, students and staff were asked for input, and after a draft was completed, seven community meetings were held in January and February this year. The Board of Trustees affirmed the new plan at its May meeting.
Anchored by three foundations:academic quality, the learning environment and sustainable stewardship of resources, the plan is also guided by three differentiators. These are: an academic village that reflects the diversity of the world; integrative thought and action for the 21st century; and a distinctive past connected to an innovative and creative future.
Together, these elements provide a roadmap to "ensure that Union remains the college of choice for highly qualified students, faculty and staff."
Among the priorities outlined in the plan:
• Attract, support and retain a high-quality, diverse faculty committed to outstanding teaching and scholarship, and Union's mission as a residential college.
• Continue the development of a collaborative, coherent, and integrated approach to mentoring and advising that recognizes a broad range of aspirations.
• Using an integrated approach among the new Wicker Wellness Center, Human Resources and the Department of Athletics, develop a program for promoting wellness of the "whole" person as a way to establish a healthy mind, body and spirit balance.
• Advance efforts to recruit for a diverse community, building a learning environment that fosters democratic values, social responsibility, ethical understanding and consciousness, which will ultimately attract a broader range of student applicants
• Nurture a culture and community that encourages socially responsible innovation
• Recognize, encourage and support the ways in which students learn outside the traditional classroom
The plan takes into account the challenges and trends that will shape the way the College operates in the future, including demographics, globalization, sustainability and emerging learning technologies.
The plan also comes at a time when the value of a college education is being debated at the national level. Last month, President Obama announced a series of proposals to reform higher education, including a new rating system for colleges that would combine access, affordability and educational outcomes in assessing a school’s performance.
"I would like to thank the dozens of people on campus who contributed to discussion and writing for this new plan, as well as John E. Kelly III, vice-chair of the Board of Trustees, who served as my co-chair of the strategic planning process," McCarty said.