The Power of Union: A Vision and a Plan

Students in the Bronner House kitchen

The Union College strategic plan is inspired by a bold, enduring vision: Developing every student to lead with wisdom, empathy and courage, in ways large and small, now and across multiple tomorrows.

This vision guides our next chapter, but it is embedded in the mission that has been our beacon since 1795, which we now articulate as follows: Union College provides a rigorous, holistic and immersive residential liberal education that emphasizes integration, innovation, inclusion and reflection for every student.

Our plan is focused on two goals—identifying how we will achieve our vision, and ensuring we have the resources to thrive:

  1. Union will strengthen its vibrant community of learners, scholars and teachers, so that we can more fully blend the liberal arts and engineering, transcend disciplinary boundaries, bridge classroom and immersive experiences, and engage and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives.
  2. Union will ensure that it has the resources required to thrive in a changing higher education landscape.
GOAL ONE Union will strengthen its vibrant community of learners, scholars and teachers, so that we can more fully blend the liberal arts and engineering, transcend disciplinary boundaries, bridge classroom and immersive experiences, and engage and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives.

Objective 1:

Reimagine the curriculum and renew pedagogy to anticipate and respond to contemporary and emerging academic needs and opportunities.

Activity 1: Emphasize and integrate cross-disciplinary opportunities, pursue the power of immersive and experiential approaches to achieve critical learning outcomes, and empower all students to become more active participants in their educations.

Activity 2: Ensure Union’s faculty, academic programs, teaching and experiential learning opportunities prepare students to respond to current and future challenges.

  • Significantly broaden and deepen faculty expertise and programming at Union, particularly in engineering and computer science, so that all students are prepared to respond to current and future challenges. We must address current and growing student demand and enable all students to take full advantage of the integration of engineering and the liberal arts.
  • Through integrated, collegewide, curricular and co-curricular initiatives that address a series of big questions and grand challenges, students will gain a deeper appreciation for what they learn in courses and develop the skills required to lead. Potential areas of focus include the global climate crisis, economic disruptions and artificial intelligence.
  • Increase support for interdisciplinary, innovative and inclusive approaches to teaching, advising and mentorship, including emerging instructional technologies and evidence-based instructional design methods.

Objective 2:

Provide an intentional, invigorating and supportive student experience outside the classroom that is integrated with academic learning, develops critical competencies, and prepares all students for healthy, fulfilling and joyful lives of purpose.

Activity 1: Ensure that high impact, collaborative and immersive learning experiences are essential cornerstones of the Union experience for all students.

  • Create opportunities for the use of experiential and immersive learning to empower students to apply ideas and understandings gained in the classroom in new and authentic contexts.
  • Create a broad portfolio of out-of-classroom activities and experiences to prepare and inspire students to become thoughtful and effective local and global citizens.
  • Partner with alumni and others to guarantee every student opportunities to develop core competencies and explore future paths through mentoring, internships and career networking.

Activity 2: Reimagine the residential experience to fully realize the transformative potential of a living and learning community.

  • Design and implement a residential curriculum that is grounded in the first-year experience, and builds continually on the skills and competencies students develop.
  • Advance a renewed vision for Minerva houses, athletics and Greek life. They, and all other activities and programs at Union, must be able to demonstrate how they develop every student to lead with wisdom, empathy and courage, in ways large and small, now and across multiple tomorrows.
  • Our primary focus is on people and programs, but we must also ensure that we have a residential master plan consistent with the reimagined residential experience.

Activity 3: Enhance student personal and academic support services (Class Deans, Accommodative Services, Wellness Center) to respond effectively to the unique and emerging needs of a changing student body.

  • Expand the supports that will help our students develop and strengthen the resilience, adaptability and flexibility that will enable them to reach their full potential.

Objective 3:

Inspire, advance, and support independent and collaborative research and scholarship, creative expression and discovery.

Activity 1: Support faculty in elevating a distinctive academic culture that values engagement with ideas, generates knowledge that advances understanding and has broad impact on society.

  • Support the scholar-teacher model through foundational Union resources and infrastructure as well as support for external funding for scholarly research.
  • Expand opportunities for undergraduate research by promoting faculty-student engagement in scholarly and creative pursuits in all disciplines.

Activity 2: Establish new programs, activities, and spaces that promote and sustain opportunities for innovation, experimentation and creative expression among students, staff and faculty. Examples include the MakerSpace, engineering teams and a range of performing arts pursuits. Success will require financial and space resources, as well as a new approach to faculty and staff expectations that values the mentorship and guidance they provide.

Objective 4:

Cultivate respect and understanding for all members of the Union College and broader communities, and welcome, include and support a measurably more diverse college community.

Activity 1: Develop among all members of the Union community a sense of belonging, empathy, responsibility, respect and pride, both on and off campus.

  • Connections are deep and enduring within athletic, Greek and other Union communities. Through sustained, focused efforts and a commitment to learning from uncomfortable situations, we will leverage Union’s values, culture and small size to elevate school-level relationships to this higher level.

Activity 2: Raise expectations for, and strengthen cultural competency and the ability to engage with, difference among all members of the Union community.

  • We will support and encourage the development of creative programming around constructive engagement activities, for small and large groups, each trimester.

Activity 3: Ensure that students of all economic backgrounds can access and take full advantage of the opportunities Union provides.

  • Build on the success of the Making U Possible fundraising initiative.
  • Redirect a portion of merit aid money to students whose family circumstances make it extremely difficult to afford the parental contribution required by standard formulas. This will create more equity among Union students while continuing to attract students with the strongest academic records.

Activity 4: Develop an explicit, integrated, strategic and collegewide approach to attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining a more diverse population of students, faculty and staff.

  • Conduct a thorough assessment of the success of previous efforts at Union, and build on lessons learned at Union and other schools.

Activity 5: Integrate Union into the fabric of the Schenectady community, and deepen relations with Schenectady as a neighbor, partner and friend.

  • Create an immersive experience for all first-year Union students in Schenectady as part of orientation and to continue throughout their time at Union.
  • Dedicate a staff position with responsibility for identifying, facilitating and nurturing relationships between local communities and Union faculty, staff and students.

Objective 5:

Enhance a learning environment that supports development of the self through a habit of introspection for deep understanding and lifelong commitment to intellectual and personal growth.

Activity 1: Empower students to develop ownership and accountability, understanding of oneself within the larger human ecosystem and independence in pursuing educational interests.

  • Infuse opportunities for reflection inside and outside the classroom.
  • Realize the potential of the new class deans and strengthen academic advising to enable self-reflection, integrated learning and student ownership/accountability.

Activity 2: Cultivate personal development, growth and reflection through the application of academic experiences in internships, volunteerism and other immersive experiences.

Activity 3: Support collective as well as individual engagement and reflection, enabling students, faculty and staff to gather together to share and grow as a community.

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GOAL TWO Union will ensure that it has the resources required to thrive in a changing higher education landscape.

Objective 1:

Create a sustainable, diversified and achievable financial model that supports the highest priorities and goals of Union College.

Activity 1: Create robust and comprehensive financial and capital planning and budgeting processes that are responsive to emerging trends and fiscal constraints.

Activity 2: Build a culture of financial rigor, transparency and holistic, data-driven analysis that guides financial decision-making and the strategic use of resources.

Activity 3: Systematically identify and develop new revenue sources.

Objective 2:

Create a robust communications and marketing strategy that reaches new markets, advances Union’s academic reputation and articulates our distinctiveness.

Activity 1: Establish the new role of vice president for communications and marketing with the mandate to find new and more effective ways to tell the stories of our faculty, students, staff and alumni to those who know us and to those who do not, across geographies, generations and communication styles.

Objective 3:

Increase support at all levels and strengthen the culture of philanthropy at Union.

Activity 1: Launch an ambitious comprehensive capital campaign to advance Union’s strategic priorities.

Activity 2: Systemically engage Union students, alumni and parents to maximize Union pride, cultivate lifelong relations with one another and Union, and help Union achieve its institutional goals.

Activity 3: Grow Union’s endowment, Annual Fund and Parent Engagement Program.

Objective 4:

Develop and implement a long-term enrollment plan that expands Union’s pool of applicants geographically, maximizes net revenue and enhances the diversity of our student body.

Activity 1: Offer an Early Action application option to increase the number and diversity of students who select Union.

Activity 2: Target geographies where Union is underrepresented relative to peer schools. This includes hiring a West Coast recruiter and partnering with College Relations to coordinate alumni and recruiting events.

Objective 5:

Ensure that Union recruits, retains and develops the faculty and staff required to meet its mission.

Activity 1: Re-envision marketing and recruitment strategies to attract talented faculty and staff.

Activity 2. Design and implement multifaceted, tailored professional development activities to ensure the outstanding staff and faculty who are attracted to Union continue to be exceptional contributors on campus, locally and nationally.

  • Support faculty development and innovation in pedagogy and scholarly inquiry with the creation of a new Center for Faculty Excellence in teaching and learning.
  • Establish a Leadership Institute for staff development.

Activity 3: Ensure that faculty and staff are recognized and rewarded for efforts that are consistent with institutional goals.

Objective 6:

Create a collegewide infrastructure to support the development of Union’s innovative student learning and living experience.

Activity 1: Develop an information technology infrastructure that is responsive, reliable, accessible and secure.

Activity 2: Embrace a technological foundation to facilitate the exploration of emerging/evolving technologies to advance teaching, learning and research.

Activity 3: Update and maintain facilities at the highest level while pursuing sustainability, energy efficiency, green standards and carbon neutrality.

Activity 4: Update the campus and energy master plan to inform and guide facilities goals and objectives.

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Vision.
Developing every student to lead with wisdom, empathy and courage, in ways large and small, now and across multiple tomorrows.

“Every student”: It is not enough that many students uncover all that Union has to offer. We must be intentional in ensuring that every student is aware of all that Union offers and has the means, perspective and encouragement to achieve to the best of their potential.

“To lead”: Union College students will effect positive change in the world.

“Wisdom”: Part of our motto, wisdom is an extension of data, information and knowledge.

“Empathy”: Leading requires understanding and respecting others’ experiences and perspectives.

“Courage”: Doing what one believes to be right and important, not just popular or easy; being comfortable being uncomfortable.

“In ways large and small”: Leading sometimes requires grand, formal action, but it is often done quietly and informally, perhaps even with little acknowledgment.

“Now and across multiple tomorrows”: Leading is something students do now in academic, co-curricular and social settings, and that they must be prepared to pursue as they face unforeseen challenges and opportunities throughout their lives.

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Integration.
The central animating principle behind a Union education is a deep commitment to a liberal education.

At its core, this is a commitment to integration: to expose students to the ideas and perspectives of the artist, the computer scientist, the engineer, the humanist, the mathematician, the scientist and the social scientist. As members of our collaborative community of learners, Union students will recognize both the truths that come through these perspectives and the truths that can be found at their intersections.

Today’s most pressing problems rarely sit comfortably within disciplinary boundaries. We will both empower students with disciplinary rigor and enable them to bridge disciplines in order to solve complex problems. Guided by the experience of faculty and staff, all Union students will learn to apply knowledge that transcends boundaries, and to demonstrate interconnectivity across fields of study, cultures, societies, and geographies.

As in the past, Union will remain committed to continuous assessment and evaluation of its academic programming. This ensures we will properly engage with the world that has been, and prepare students for the world that will be.

With this strategic plan, all students will tangibly benefit from our unique academic offerings.

A Union education is much more than a narrow set of courses focused on a specific discipline. An integrated and inclusive education cultivates the whole person, the head and the heart, through a range of learning experiences represented by multiple ways of knowing, thereby encouraging student growth, wellness and openness to change over time. We want students from all backgrounds to fully explore their interests and passions in the classroom, in labs, on athletic fields, and in local and global communities. We also must provide support to ensure that all of our students achieve success.

Union is a community of learners. At different times all members of the community take on the role of teacher-faculty, staff, alumni and students. Building more effective partnerships between constituencies will enhance and multiply these shared learning opportunities.

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Innovation.
Research and artistic production are critical to the professional development and fulfillment of faculty members, the academic success of students and the academic reputation of the College.

Faculty research creates new knowledge, insights and perspectives; enables classroom instruction to incorporate the latest insights; provides opportunities for students to engage in hands-on, faculty- supervised research; and increases the visibility and prestige of the College. From the engineering pioneers of the early 1900s, who helped first integrate students into faculty research projects, to the humanists and social scientists whose work is influencing and impacting our understanding of the world today, Union has long been a hub for groundbreaking research. This is a legacy that we must nourish and advance.

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Inclusion.
As a college that was founded on the “union” of differing religious beliefs, Union is committed to being an integrated and inclusive community that fosters lifelong relationships grounded in shared experiences.

We want students to be comfortable being uncomfortable and to encourage one another to reach beyond what they thought possible from themselves. We will provide academic and social opportunities that encourage constructive engagement among campus members and beyond campus that serve to educate and allow for the exchange of ideas, concepts, and theories.

With this strategic plan, the Union community will share in the responsibility of identifying, attracting, developing and retaining a more diverse student body, faculty and staff. The College will support faculty commitment to innovative and inclusive teaching, scholarship and mentorship. Union will develop a more cohesive and strategic approach for community engagement.

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Reflection.
Reflection is necessary for enlightening moments of integration, which requires, in part, the individual to understand their experiences in light of those of the diverse community at Union and beyond.

This understanding comes from a sense of self that is shaped by broad exposure to ideas and experiences through a liberal education; awareness of the limits of one’s own perspectives and knowledge; recognition of the complexity of issues faced by humanity; value of methodologies and approaches of multiple perspectives in tackling complex problems; and the forethought to seek out others’ expertise and work as a team to tackle challenges. Union is committed to fostering opportunities for reflection upon curricular, co-curricular, and experiential learning beyond the classroom. Such opportunities require time and space, moments of quiet contemplation and boisterous interaction.

Union will encourage student agency to empower and develop ownership and accountability, self-assessment to understand oneself within the larger human ecosystem, and independence in pursuing educational interests and considering the questions, “Have I asked enough of myself?” and “Have I done enough to support my peers and community?”

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The power of Union

The future of Union requires that we build on our rich history and accomplishments, while boldly innovating to achieve enduring goals in the face of evolving challenges and opportunities.

The future of Union is the Power of Union.

The Power of Union exists between ideas, approaches, individuals and groups that are often thought to be at odds with one another but that combine to propel this school and its people forward.
They include:
Liberal Arts and Engineering
Theory and Practice
Classroom and Experiential Excellence and Access
Commonalities and Differences
Students and Alumni
Town and Gown
Local and Global
Tradition and Innovation
Comfortable and Uncomfortable
Union Communities and Union

The Power of Union will develop every student to lead with wisdom, empathy and courage, in ways
large and small, now and across multiple tomorrows.

The Power of Union is U!

This graphics shows the following words and phrases describing Union College: Liberal Arts and Engineering, Theory and Practice, Classroom and Experiential, Excellence and Access, Commonalities and Differences, Students and Alumni, Town and Gown, Local and Global, Tradition and Innovation, Comfortable and Uncomfortable
Icon of the Nott Memorial