For a college, a strategic plan is an exercise in the practical imagination. After painstaking thought and open debate, the campus community not only records its hopes but announces its intentions. It puts on paper what it aims to provide for generations to come.
On Feb. 13, 2009, the Elmhurst College Strategic Plan 2009-2014 was endorsed by 84% of the faculty present and voting. On March 14, 2009, acting on the recommendation of President S. Alan Ray, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve the plan.
The strategic plan is the product of an intense, robust, eight-month process that began in July 2008. Its goal was to create a constitution or charter for the College’s development over the next five years and beyond.
The process was radically open by design. In a letter to the campus community on July 1, 2008, his first day in office, President Ray invited “all of the College’s stakeholders”—including students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, alumnae, trustees, and members of the larger community—to “provide ideas and respond to work in progress.”
The Advisory Council on Strategic Planning, an established committee of the College, guided the process and produced this draft for the review and approval of the Academic Council and Board of Trustees. The Advisory Council’s 19 members include faculty, students, trustees, and administrators. It began meeting on the strategic plan with a week-long series of sessions in August, and continued meeting weekly, and sometimes more frequently, throughout the fall and winter.
Beginning in Nov. 2008, teams of Advisory Council members met with groups of institutional stakeholders, including students, faculty, administrators, and staff; alumni and alumnae; community leaders and area employers; College trustees; donors and friends. Because the College is affiliated with the United Church of Christ (UCC), the Council reached out to consult selected UCC congregations throughout the Midwest. Council members convened 45 separate meetings, where constituents reflected, debated, and celebrated the future of the College. The bountiful volume of ideas and observations from these meetings—as well as abundant feedback provided to the Council via the Internet—informed the Council’s discussion of the College’s mission, vision, core values, and specific plans for the future.
The Council did its work against a backdrop of national challenge and institutional opportunity. At the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, American colleges and universities are beset by the general economic crisis and anticipate widespread retrenchment. At the same time, Elmhurst College, while not immune from larger trends and difficulties, is in the midst of the most dynamic period in its history.
In the 1990s, the College began a sustained period of investment in institutional quality. It added faculty, expanded enrollment, raised admission standards, and enhanced and enlarged the physical plant. Its academic reputation grew significantly. Today, Elmhurst is attracting students who are much better prepared academically than their counterparts were ten years ago. Our students are more likely to enroll full time, to live on campus, and to engage avidly in curricular and co-curricular activities.
The institutional leadership is committed to advancing the progress of recent years. The Board of Trustees has encouraged the faculty, staff, and administration to build an institution of genuine distinction among the small colleges in the Chicago area and beyond. To meet this goal, the College must grow convincingly in quality, impact, and prestige. In short, it must achieve a higher level of service to students and society.
The Elmhurst College Strategic Plan 2009-2014 presents a clear, compelling path to a future of greater institutional distinction. The plan begins with statements of institutional mission, vision, and core values, followed by an articulation of key strategic issues. Finally, it outlines five goals, backed by a series of strategies and actions.
The Advisory Council on Strategic Planning presents this plan to the larger community of Elmhurst College, with confidence in the vitality of its mission and the promise of its future.