College leaders discuss strategic plan implementation

The College’s Strategic Plan is working thanks to involvement by the entire campus community, President Stephen C. Ainlay said Tuesday to open a campus-wide discussion on implementation of the 2013 plan.
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College leaders discuss strategic plan implementation

The College’s Strategic Plan is working thanks to involvement by the entire campus community, President Stephen C. Ainlay said Tuesday, Oct. 14 to open a campus-wide discussion on implementation of the 2013 plan.

“I feel really good about the fact that the campus community has been so actively involved and taken the Strategic Plan and breathed life into it,” he said. He thanked those who submitted proposals to the Planning and Priorities Committee. Another call for proposals will be coming in the spring, he added.

 “Measured in almost any way, we’ve made remarkable progress over the last nine years, and a lot of that is due to the fact that we’ve set strategic goals and tried move the College ahead in a number of key areas,” he said.

Ainlay cited records in the Annual Fund, Early Decision applications and levels in diversity and international students as evidence of the plan’s success.

He introduced senior administrators who discussed some of the Strategic Plan priorities in their areas.

Therese McCarty, vice president for Academic Affairs, cited the assessment effort, led by Prof. Steve Schmidt, and a list of 26 priority projects under the revised plan.  She introduced a spread sheet that tracks progress of the priority projects, and invited the campus community to add sub-projects that reflect those priorities.

Among current priority projects is the renovation of the Visual Arts building (to start next year), renovation of the Science and Engineering complex (targeted to begin in 2017) and Notice, Choose, Tell,  an advising project with a web app designed to prompt students about their interests and choices.  McCarty added that the project will facilitate student self-reflection and communication with advisors.

Steve Leavitt, dean of students, said he is focused on building a “profound learning experience outside the classroom.” Last year’s campaign of wellness in body, mind and spirit was aimed at that priority, he said. Leavitt noted that the Wicker Wellness Center has been a valuable addition, with visits to the counseling center up 20 percent over last year. He also discussed the construction of a new 80-student apartment building on Roger Hull Place and the acquisition of more homes on Seward Place that will be converted to student housing.

Terri Cerveny, vice president for College Relations, said the Strategic Plan is a useful roadmap for funding priorities including the renovation of the Visual Arts, Humanities (as Karp Hall) and Science and Engineering. “You can bet that we will be talking to our alumni,  friends and business partners in helping up to renovate those spaces,” she said. Other priorities include academic programs, faculty support and student support. All of those fall under the major priority of building the endowment, now at over $400 million, to $500 million during this Strategic Plan. Unrestricted annual giving, an extremely important part of the budget, is also a priority, she said. The Annual Fund met its goal of $4.5 million last year. The goal is $4.75 million for this year, and over $5 million by the end of the plan. In Communications, she said, “It’s our job to make sure we’re getting messages out about the work of the Strategic Plan in all of its forms, so we look forward to telling those stories about the direction of the College.”

Gretchel Hathaway, chief diversity officer, spoke about three initiatives in her area. The campus last week announced its involvement It’s On Us, a campaign aimed at raising awareness of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Also, building on a workshop last year, and work by Viki Brooks,  director of religious and spiritual life, and Jason Benitez, director of multicultural affairs, the campus is pursuing a program in social justice. The goal, she said, is to build a climate that fosters opportunities for dialog. Hathaway cited Lorraine Cox, associate professor of Visual Arts and director of faculty development, for her work in faculty mentoring.

Matt Malatesta, vice president for admissions and financial aid, discussed improved communication and cultivating diversity as priorities in his area. A new admissions campaign, with help from an outside firm, has created new messaging about the Union story. The on-line viewbook is at Also, a West Coast recruiter has been hired with funding from the Strategic Plan to establish a presence there. “We’re hoping that a higher touch in that area will produce more students from those zip codes,” Malatesta said.

Diane Blake, vice president for administration and finance, reported that she and her colleagues are concerned with the sustainable stewardship of resources. She cited planning for a co-generation plant that, pending city approval, would be operational in 2016. With grants from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and other agencies, the plant could come at low cost to the College. The co-gen plant would reduce the College’s carbon footprint by about 40 percent, provide substantial savings to the budget and serve as a teaching tool for students, she said. Blake also discussed the sustainability of human resources. With a full staff in the Human Resources office, there is a new focus on training and development.

The first Strategic Plan was developed in the 2006-07 year. It was revised last year.