“We must be courageous, but also reasonable. The world admires us for walking a tightrope without falling off. It asks us to keep our balance.” — Lech Walesa
Meredith Forever is the evolving strategic plan taking us from our current realities to an even more dynamic future for Meredith College.
We are creating the plan as a rolling, three-year plan, meaning that each year another set of action items, accountability, and resources will be built into the plan. At the heart of the plan, however, are our ongoing commitments to six pillars: educational excellence, financial strength, optimal enrollment, Information Technology (IT)/ infrastructure, enhanced visibility, and support for a better quality of life for Meredith faculty, staff, and students.
The strategic planning process for Meredith Forever has been an extraordinarily thoughtful, collaborative effort. Beginning with a review of prior years’ plans, the Executive Leadership Team (ELT) and the President laid out the priorities for developing this plan: a highly inclusive and transparent process, numerous opportunities for feedback from the entire Meredith Community (i.e., faculty, staff, students, trustees, alumnae, community partners), realistic goals and accountability, and an overall sensitivity to the abilities, time, and other factors comprising the competing tensions of daily work versus the extra energy and commitments needed to complete the goals of the plan. There is much to be done, and we acknowledge our ongoing dependence on the goodwill of so many to achieve so much.
From the beginning, we have enjoyed the positive energy and expressions of support from all our constituents for this beloved institution. A Visioning Conference, held in January 2012, brought together approximately 170 faculty, staff, students, alumnae, trustees, donors, and community partners in a day-long series of processes designed to elicit feedback about what Meredith is and what Meredith should be. Based on that feedback, we hired a marketing/branding consulting firm to extend and formalize the research by asking key questions about our current institutional identity and possible directions for the future.
Next, we charged six “GO” Teams (“goals” and “objectives”) to work on the priorities for each of the six pillars. In doing so, members (faculty and staff) talked with colleagues, collected and reviewed data to ascertain what they did and did not know, and drafted
• goal statements,
• action steps,
• desired outcomes,
• criteria for success,
• means of evaluation,
• primary accountability,
• resources needed, and
• cross-walks or points of intersection between campus units or between two or more elements of the strategic plan.
What follows is the collection of templates that address each of the six goals and, collectively, comprise the first three years of our plan. This collection represents the work of the “GO” teams over the course of several months, solidified with input from the steering committee, the trustees, and the full campus community.
Particularly noteworthy about this plan is the inherent value of operating from real data as opposed to assumptions, wishes, and even traditions. As such, we agree to be held accountable for each element of the plan. In assigning “primary accountability” for each action step, we are acknowledging that in spite of initiatives that are everybody’s responsibility (e. g., creating a welcoming environment, recruiting and retaining students, and marketing the college in visible and positive ways), the truth is that if nobody is specifically accountable, then nobody is actually accountable. We further acknowledge that there are many valued committees who have or could take on some of the work here; that said, the ultimate accountability—consequences—for decisions, action, and results rarely falls to a committee. Input, information, and direction, however, are key contributions to the work of the College and, in particular, to implementing a strategic plan. Assignments of primary accountability, therefore, may single out a position or office, but little or none of the work gets done without the collaborative input and spirit of all involved. Ultimately, we are a community, one that values shared governance, shared responsibility, shared respect, and shared rewards.
This part of the plan is Phase I, the data collection phase, that leads to Phase II, the vision and direction phase, due by the end of June 2012. In many ways, this first phase is the “quiet phase” of the strategic plan, designed to ensure that we are taking care of fundamentals before embarking on a bold vision without ample data, resources, time, and accountability—without, in other words, a critical reality check. The risk, of course, is that our constituents may not see an overall bold vision that would get them enthusiastic about this work. We understand.
From another perspective, however, we believe that the progressive milestones that this plan projects—leading to the first crest on the horizon three years from now—is actually quite substantial and, in that sense, quite exciting. In three years, we will
• have more and better information and data about the realities of the College: what people think of us, what we are known for, how our practices and policies can improve, how we can enhance our impact on students’ lives, how we can enhance the educational quality of our offerings, and how we can better serve our students, our region, and our nation. In short, we will be able to operate from positions of evidence and hold ourselves accountable for measurable improvements.
• have larger enrollment in both undergraduate and graduate student populations
• initiate the quiet phase of a fund-raising campaign
• distinguish a Meredith education by Classrooms-to-Careers pathways for every major, building on our strengths in critical thinking and experiential learning in ways that provide evidence of learning and doing and are attractive to students, parents, and employers
• distinguish the developmental nature of a Meredith education with the Meredith Plan, a four-part plan requiring students to work with advisers, faculty, and other mentors to develop a curricular, co-curricular, financial, and career plan for achieving their goals at and beyond Meredith
• demonstrate a stronger financial position, based on better management, sensible cost reductions, and enhanced revenue generation that will further solidify the College’s future
• enhance the “technology culture” of the College in our work and education models
• preserve the beauty, safety, and functionality of campus infrastructure and resources
• enhance the commitments and demonstrations of respect, appreciation, and value among all campus constituents
• enhance the College’s visibility and reputation throughout the region and nation
The goals are fundamental to the well-being of the College, and they are primary in building on the strengths the College already possesses: educational excellence and relevance, a reputation for quality, a collaborative and supportive environment, a beautiful campus and culture that support learning, and the power to endure. We also note, however, that each goal directly impacts the other goals. Without financial stability, for instance, we cannot address infrastructure and IT needs; without enrollment, we cannot ensure our financial stability; and without quality academic programs, we cannot attract the enrollments we desire. Such a reality means that we must carefully move forward on several priorities at once, making them all critical to our success and, we acknowledge, taxing our resources. Again, we thank all of those who are so committed to making this plan work for the best long-term interests of the College.
Indeed, we thank all the attendees of our Visioning Conference, internal and external, who helped shape the earliest ideas about this plan. We thank the “GO” teams, whose spirited discussions and ideas helped shape the actual draft of the plan. We thank the faculty, staff, students, alumnae, and trustees who have provided rich feedback to help us clarify and refine our intentions here. And we thank all those who love this College, as we do, for believing that Meredith must continue to play a critical role in the development and empowerment of women and men. It is our graduates, after all, who will be called on to resolve the most pressing issues of our times by engaging in challenging careers, creating safe and resourceful homes and communities, and engaging in a world that needs their energy, passion, reason, and creativity.
Welcome to Meredith Forever.
Jo Allen, President
Class of 1980
Denise Rotondo, Vice President of Academic Affairs
Co-chair of the Strategic Plan
Craig Barfield, Vice President of Business & Finance
Co-chair of the Strategic Plan