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Words from Waller

March 17, 2022

Dear Bearcats,

In my last Words from Waller, I outlined the path ahead for our strategic planning work. Today, I'd like to acknowledge the many people from across the university who took part this winter in our series of strategic planning conversations about Willamette. By bringing together diverse perspectives around each tabletop or within each Zoom room, these conversations were a great way to explore Willamette as it is experienced today and the hopes and aspirations we have for Willamette in the future.

These conversations generated 30 pages of single-spaced notes, documenting wide-ranging discussions regarding mission, values, strategy, and operations. The largest questions were asked (Who do we teach? Who do we want to teach?), as well as the most practical (How can we help students write better cover letters for online applications?).

The notes from these conversations offer a snapshot of the broad community's concerns at this moment in time and are already proving useful to deans, administrative managers, and others as we think about day-to-day decisions about programs and support services. They are also, of course, a valuable resource as we move into the next stage of long-term strategic planning.

Among the themes that stand out most clearly to me from those conversations are some that touch on institutional purpose, particularly the "knowledge into action" phrase from our mission statement, and others that express institutional values. Not surprisingly, our motto and its theme of service come up over and over – both directly as a marketing distinction, a rallying cry, and a value – and as a priority for expansion (building an outward focus, exploring the ethics of service). Equity and inclusion are core values in our programs, our student experiences, and our aspirations for our graduates in the world.

As the conversations explored areas of potential distinction, many themes were familiar, though sometimes expressed in new ways. Willamette’s interdisciplinary has long been a strength, along with our various joint degree programs. Growth in the latter, especially with the addition of PNCA, was an identified priority. The importance of place came up in many ways, as did politics and policy work and, maybe especially, sustainability and the environment. Data and technology came up in several instances, both as a theme for interdisciplinary work and as a force changing the university through the introduction of more online and hybrid work during the pandemic.

I hope everyone who participated in the strategic planning conversations found them to be an interesting and rewarding way to build connections and collaborations across the university; they were a valuable way to broaden the strategic planning discussion, and a good foundation for the next round of work. I want to thank everyone who took part in these conversations, and to express special gratitude for the hard work of the facilitators and the members of the group that sifted through all of the comments and discussion notes from the strategic planning discussions, identifying repeated themes. Led by our Director of Institutional Academic Planning, Christine Shanaberger, and supported by the Office of the Provost, this group included:

  • Ineda Pearl Adesanya (University Chaplain and Director of Spiritual and Religious Life);
  • Bill Forster (Associate Professor, AGSM);
  • David Friedman (Professor and Assoc. Dean, College of Law);
  • Colby Lewis (Student, College of Law);
  • Isaac Parker CAS ’02, MAT ’05 (Head Football Coach);
  • Jason Redcedar (Director of Web Applications);
  • Sally Schoolmaster (Assoc. Professor, PNCA);
  • Bill Smaldone (Professor, CAS); and
  • Emilio Solano CAS ‘09 (Exec. Director of Willamette Academy).

A draft outline of the strategic vision and framework has been shared with the University Council, and I have charged the university’s leadership team with putting substance around the draft framework over the next two months with the goal of bringing a plan to the Board of Trustees for their approval in May. 

The challenges of being an institution of higher education have never been greater, but thanks to the collaborative input from the community, our strategic plan will serve as our guide as we venture forward with vision and purpose. 

Enjoy your spring break, Bearcats!


Willamette University

Office of the President

Salem Campus

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