Strategic planning is an ongoing process of evaluation, reflection, and improvement that helps the College set priorities, manage resources, define performance expectations, and ensure integrated actions.

Cross-Cutting Themes

  • Innovation and Ambition
  • Fiscal Management and Responsibility
  • Globalization
  • Visibility and Communication
  • Evidence-based Decisions
  • Adaptive Processes
  • Diversity
  • Environmental Sustainability

Distinctiveness of Grinnell College

How can we identify and build on the distinctive qualities of Grinnell College—those that make Grinnell not merely different, but different and excellent?

The 2005 strategic plan used the term “distinctive” in connection with strengthening the public profile of the College: “Articulate more clearly and prominently our distinctive academic qualities and devotion to the common good to establish a stronger national profile for the College.”

Recent Board discussions have focused what distinguishes Grinnell in the higher education landscape; that is, not what makes Grinnell merely different, but different and excellent. The following suggestions have been made:

  • A call for a vision that will include new and big ideas.

  • A challenge to be the best at accomplishments related to our mission.

  • A plan for using the College’s strategic assets to move the College forward and achieve its goals.

Teaching and Learning

How can we create a powerful and adaptive learning environment?

The topic subsumes many issues that composed three of the six strategies of the old strategic plan. These were:

Increase the emphasis on inquiry-based learning and broaden our liberal arts curriculum.

Foster student, faculty, and staff sense of ambition, adventure, and well-being.

Advance Grinnell College as a more diverse, robust intellectual community.

The first of these three strategies proposed the launching of the Expanding Knowledge Initiative and endorsed the Mentored Advanced Projects program. The second addressed technology, facilities, and support (as well as student career preparation). The third advocated diversity. In the July memo, Professor Lopatto reported a list of items the Trustees considered successes, and these included the success of the Expanding Knowledge Initiative and increasing diversity of our faculty, staff, and student bodies.

Today, several paths suggest themselves and will require some preliminary decisions about which paths to pursue. Do we look past the existing programs to invent a new one to generate excitement and opportunity? Do we inspect the impact of our programs on faculty organization (e.g., departmental structure) and vice p.m. versa? Do we match our interest in the recruitment of diverse faculty, students, and staff with a clear strategy for development, mentoring, and retention? Do we address the issue of faculty, staff, and student workloads and how to prepare ourselves to remain current in the face of the explosion of information and disruptive technologies?


How will Grinnell intentionally attract and select a student body that complements and enhances its mission?

This topic has been spotlighted recently by President Kington’s presentations on Grinnell’s future. In those presentations, the President has uncovered the tensions inherent in need blind admission, meeting full demonstrated financial-aid need, tuition revenue, and reliance on endowment revenue. Discussion and planning on this topic may include the questions listed below, but these examples do not exhaust the questions that might be discussed under this topic.

What is the optimal size of the student body?

What is the ideal and multidimensional composition of the student body?

How do our admission policies and practices affect who applies, enrolls, attends, and graduates from Grinnell?

How do our financial aid policies and practices affect who applies, enrolls, attends, and graduates from Grinnell?

How are our core values borne out in our policies?

What external forces and trends are on the horizon that will have an impact on Grinnell’s ability to recruit and retain the best qualified applicants?

Post-graduation Success

Within Grinnell’s residential, liberal-arts framework, how will Grinnell provide guidance to its students and alumni to foster personal, educational, civic, and career success after graduation?

According to documented sources, Grinnell does very well in facilitating student paths to academic doctoral degrees. We would like to provide the same facilitation to other career paths. Questions related to enhanced career success might include:

How can Grinnell be intentional about helping graduates transition to the next path in their lives?

While students are here, what can the College do to help them explore diverse postgraduate options?

What role should/can internships and externships play in helping students chart out their post graduate plans?

For the students who intend to go to graduate or professional schools, how best can Grinnell prepare them and assist them in the application process?

For the students who intend to pursue careers in non-profit or for-profit organizations, what resources can Grinnell provide to help them be successful?

Given various forecasts that current students may have more than 5 jobs or careers in their lives, given that some students will create their own career, given that some careers the students may have do not exist yet, how does a liberal arts education answer the need for an adaptive approach to life?

Alumni Engagement

How will Grinnell intentionally engage the talent, passion for learning, and generosity of its alumni—starting in the first year of college and continuing throughout a lifetime?

Grinnell’s alumni have a history of serving as a resource to students, faculty, and other alumni. This resource could be more energized and networked to the benefit of all. The discussion of alumni engagement might include questions such as:

How best can Grinnell develop and make available the network of alumni?

How can Grinnell benefit from the expertise of its alumni?

How will Grinnell develop in its alumni a culture of giving to the College?

How can we connect our students with the passion, success, and talents of alumni?

How can we encourage students to appreciate the help of alumni and feed forward their appreciation to the next generation?