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Words from Waller

March 9, 2022

Dear Bearcats,

As many of you know, the Board of Trustees has initiated a year-long project to update Willamette University's strategic plan for the first time since January 2013. During the first phase of the project, in the fall, three public roundtable discussions set the stage for planning by exploring the changing needs of our students and our region. During the second phase, in the winter, a series of in-person and online "world cafe"-style discussions brought over a hundred students, staff, faculty, and trustees together in conversation about vision, values, priorities, and opportunities. A small group has been working hard to collate the thirty pages of raw notes generated in these discussions into key themes, which will help inform our thinking as we go forward.

At last month's meeting, the Board expressed its gratitude for all the work already accomplished, and approved a general approach to the final stage of the work, to be completed in time for their meeting in May. There are three distinct pieces designed to address three different kinds of questions as we shape our work over the next five to ten years:

Strategic vision: What is the shape of the university we are building in time for its bicentennial in 2042? Who are the students we seek to serve? What are the distinctive roles of our two campuses, in Portland and Salem? How do we articulate our place within the broader higher education landscape? What are the most important challenges we are preparing our graduates to address?

Strategic framework: What are the distinctive beliefs or values that are core to our institutional mission and our approach to education, and that set us apart from other colleges and universities? Which attributes of our location, structure, and mix of programs give us sustainable advantages when designing innovative, high-quality academic programs that respond both to changing student demands and the needs of our region and the world? What is the most important thing we need to do first?

Strategic plan: On a timescale of one, three, and ten years, how will we prioritize the work ahead of us? What can we do immediately, with the resources already in hand, to improve the quality of our academic and student support programs? Where should new investments be made first as we emerge from pandemic-constrained budgets over the next two to three years? How should we organize our planning around longer-term work, such as the renewal of our physical plant in Salem and the expansion of our footprint in Portland? Where should we focus our attention in knitting our existing programs together to do new and innovative things at the boundaries between disciplines?

Informed by the first two phases of planning, the next phase of work is underway in existing university-level governance groups, such as the Deans Council, to bring a discussion draft to the University Council in early April, and then for broader discussion and feedback within the various schools and other units in late April.

It is expected that the plan will be evolutionary, building on and sharpening our 2013 plan. As I've discussed before, Willamette has been moving creatively and boldly in recent years as we've developed new cross-cutting programs, expanded undergraduate education across multiple schools, and added a strong art and design school and an enlarged presence in Portland. The emerging vision of Willamette is an exciting one, and the university we are building will be increasingly important not just for our students, but for the region and the world.

The strongest plan will result from a process where many voices and viewpoints are engaged. I want to thank everyone who has already participated for their hard work, and thanks in advance for your continuing contributions during this busy time of the year.

Non nobis solum,

Willamette University

Office of the President

Salem Campus

Waller Hall, 5th Floor
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.