Willamette University Strategic Plan
Goal: To become the Northwest’s leading institution for rigorous, personalized liberal arts and graduate professional education, attractive to students and faculty from across the nation and around the world.
A. Strategic Objectives:
College of Liberal Arts
Today’s prospective undergraduate faces a bewildering array of institution types and programmatic options. Whereas at one time a small fraction of young people pursued higher education, primarily in residential liberal arts colleges, today most students have some post-secondary experience and nearly a third finish bachelor’s degrees, mostly at institutions very different from Willamette. It is not enough, therefore, that the CLA consider only its strategic positioning within the rarified company of regional and national “peer” institutions. It is also essential that the CLA recognize that it is competing for students with both public and private research universities, and facing a future where students may have an option of assembling low-cost degrees from (perhaps disaggregated) on-line sources. Against lower cost competitors, the CLA must articulate how its focus on quality will sustain its core promise of providing the highest value, as it prepares its students for lives of leadership in an ever-changing global economic environment.
Deliver the highest-quality student experiences:
Identify and strengthen those high-impact educational and co-curricular experiences that are essential or particularly valuable for our students’ intellectual and personal growth and preparation for post-graduate success; better coordinate curricular and co-curricular student experiences; and allocate or re-allocate resources thoughtfully to ensure student access and participation in those experiences deemed most important. We will improve the overall student experience by:
- Delivering a coherent curriculum that reflects our high standards for learning outcomes in both general education and major programs, characterized by high-quality teaching by faculty with a long-term commitment to Willamette;
- Supporting an intellectual culture that includes more opportunities for student-faculty and student-student scholarly engagement across all academic disciplines in studios, laboratories, and the field, as well as in more informal settings;
- Strengthening advising, recognizing the importance of faculty leadership and coordination in academic advising, and the shared responsibility of both faculty and staff in continual career advising and vocational discernment. Those students who are not already employed or accepted to graduate or professional school upon graduation will depart from Willamette with a personalized and considered career plan that informs and supports their post-Willamette pursuits;
- Recognizing the importance of the residential experience to Willamette’s educational model, as well as the intellectual and cultural value of having upper-class students living on campus, ensure access to on-campus housing to all interested undergraduates, with a long-term goal of requiring all non-seniors to reside on campus. When expanding housing capacity, provide a range of options aligned with student interests (including comprehensive living-learning communities such as Kaneko, ‘interest’ houses, Greek housing, apartments, etc.); and
- Giving high priority to changes in our curricular, co-curricular, and residential programs that improve retention and timely graduation, without sacrificing rigor or lessening the value of a Willamette degree.
Metrics will be chosen to track curricular experience (tenured and tenure-track faculty fraction, faculty scholarly quality, and fraction of students engaged in individualized scholarly experiences), co-curricular experience (on-campus residential fraction, total student participation in internships and a specified subset of co-curricular activities), and summative measures (retention and four-year graduation rates, survey of overall satisfaction at graduation). The Board will monitor progress towards defining and achieving program learning objectives through its engagement with and oversight of accreditation activities.
Expand access for bright, talented students who will contribute to a diverse Willamette community:
- Actively pursue ways to reduce student debt at graduation;
- Align our current financial aid model with our broader strategic goals, reassessing the balance of merit-based and need-based awards and the success of current allocation models in advancing goals for ethnic and racial, socioeconomic, and geographic diversity;
- Develop a distinctive and succinct strategic marketing plan for admissions that promotes the lasting value of a liberal arts education, highlights the growing differences in the quality of the student experience between public and private institutions in Washington, Oregon, California and elsewhere, and accurately informs students and their families of the hidden costs of attending institutions with lower graduation rates and longer times to degree;
- Assess the current “pipeline” of prospective students, including programs for local high school students, such as the Willamette Academy and the Chemawa Indian School partnership, and recruitment of international students (e.g., Pacific Rim), and transfers, and modify recruitment tactics and practices to align with strategic goals, developing new strategies as needed; and
- Raise the awareness among prospective students and their parents about the university’s intra-school partnerships for students, especially the joint degree programs with AGSM and Law.
Metrics will be chosen to measure incoming student profile (median SAT, matriculation rate), diversity (first-generation fraction, multicultural fraction, gender balance), and financial accessibility (median student debt at graduation).
Demonstrate the life-long value of a Willamette undergraduate degree:
- Support and promote student, faculty and alumni achievement;
- Improve tracking of graduates’ post-Willamette pursuits so as to be better able to articulate what graduates do;
- Develop a distinctive identity for the College of Liberal Arts that comports with the broader institutional brand and advance it via a comprehensive marketing plan;
- Strengthen the substance and variety of alumni program offerings and build partnerships between Campus Life and Advancement/Alumni Relations that engage alumni with current students and foster a sense of institutional connection, value and ‘lifetime membership’ among students from their earliest moments at Willamette that continues throughout their student experience and beyond;
- Connect faculty with alumni from their department in ways that are mutually beneficial; and
- Add value to the undergraduate educational experience through ongoing vocational and career discernment services and activities, such as the advent of career plans or roadmap's for every graduate, group advising for pre-health profession students or other specific professions, meaningful career networking and mentoring with alumni.
Metrics will be chosen to measure on-campus preparation (career advising survey), immediate post-graduation success (employment and graduate school fraction, notable national award count), and long-term satisfaction and engagement (annual fund fraction, reunion attendance count).
Cultivate an authentic engagement with place:
As the first university in the West, founded to educate leaders, Willamette has been known since its earliest days for both the quality of its graduates and their influence on the region. Today, the beauty and livability of the Northwest, together with its values of sustainability, its tradition of creativity and innovation in the arts, public policy and commerce, and the region’s diversity have attracted young people from across the country and globe. The Northwest’s connections to the growing economies of the Pacific Rim suggest possibilities for future growth and vitality.
The CLA seeks to be the independent college best aligned with and engaged with the ethos, values, and future of the Northwest by:
- Greatly expanding the number and variety of partnerships with a broad range of state and local government agencies, business and non-profit organizations, and local tribes so as to increase the number and variety of long-standing, high-quality student internship and community-based learning opportunities across all fields and disciplines;
- Through the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, arts and lecture events, and, where appropriate, the curriculum, increasing the campus focus on the region’s art, music, and literature, as well as its complex and at times contested history;
- Expanding our expertise and visibility as contributors to understanding the Northwest’s distinct challenges and opportunities related to issues such as immigration, economic development, and social welfare. For example, collaborate with the professional schools to expand faculty and student work on regional history, government, politics, society, arts and literature, sustainability and the environment, and make Willamette more visible to external scholars, policymakers, and the public;
- Deepening our understanding of sustainability as a unifying principle across the curriculum, using the Zena Forest and Farm, other regional facilities to which Willamette has access, and connections with the graduate schools to build distinctive interdisciplinary approaches to critical regional issues relating to the four E’s of sustainability (education, environment, economics and equity);
- Enrolling an undergraduate student population that reflects the demographic diversity of the regions from which the majority of our students are drawn;
- Building on existing relationships with TIU and in China to develop stronger research and curricular programs focused on the Pacific Rim, expanding study-abroad options in Asia and attracting more degree-seeking students from this region; and
- Where possible, leveraging our limited discretionary resources (e.g., space, funding) to support programs that comport with our mission and motto, enhance the quality of life in Salem and the mid-Willamette Valley and involve substantial participation by Willamette students, staff, and faculty (e.g., Willamette Academy).
Metrics will be chosen to measure student engagement with the region (volunteer hours, internship count), regional engagement with campus (event visitor counts), faculty scholarly and curricular engagement with regional partners and issues, and sustainability.