Strategic Plan Update, February 2012

During fall semester 2011, after poring over hundreds of ideas and suggestions offered by the Grinnell College community, the strategic planning working groups developed the following material for consideration by the strategic plan steering committee. The committee will draw from this list to develop strategic themes and further develop a subset of ideas that will be pursued in the strategic plan.

Alumni Engagement: Engage alumni with one another, with faculty, and with students through:

  • Intellectual exploration via alumni travel, classes, on-campus gatherings, gatherings in alumni hubs, and virtual gatherings.
  • Mentoring in College admission; a career/postgraduate advising program; a virtual space that connects alumni to other alumni, students, and faculty by field of study, career, location, and interests.
  • Service, with service travel, a database of service opportunities open to alumni, students, and faculty.
  • Social events celebrating alumni achievements; creating virtual space that can be easily used by alumni to connect to each other, faculty, staff, and students; encouraging alumni to retire to the town of Grinnell and re-engage with the College as mentors, students, and advisers.

Distinctiveness: Emphasize the College’s uniqueness by: 

  • Articulating Grinnell’s distinctive combination of an individually-advised curriculum, need-blind admission/meeting demonstrated need, and commitment to social justice in the College’s internal and external communications. (Additional distinctive elements include a high student responsibility for their undergraduate experience and substantial individual freedom for both students and faculty; a rich, supportive, and collaborative learning environment; a commitment to applying knowledge to the common good; diversity and global understanding; uncommon resources; and a rural Iowa location.)
  • Encouraging and supporting faculty to raise the College’s profile through endowed chairs; awards for faculty teaching, service, research, and conference invitations; differential pay based on achievement; encouragement to seek national recognition and posts; and competitive pay.

Enrollment: Improve the quantity and quality of admission applicants by:

  • Reevaluating and reforming the applicant scoring system.
  • Using merit aid strategically.
  • Yielding students at a uniform percentage regardless of need.
  • Pricing a Grinnell education strategically.
  • Communicating authentically about the College’s values and mission.

Postgraduate Success: Help students and alumni achieve postgraduation success by:

  • Centralizing information about campus employment so students can better choose campus employment related to their career interests.
  • Better coordinating extracurricular experiences with career interests.
  • Helping students plan for the future through retreats, portfolio and planning exercises, and problem-solving activities.
  • Developing relationships with those alumni, parents, and employers who can help students with postgraduate options.
  • Creating an integrated collection of resources for postgraduate success that spans internships, campus employment, service, fellowship, study abroad, externships, and career counseling.

Teaching and Learning: Continue to refine and develop the College’s world-class academic offerings by:

  • Increasing curricular flexibility and diversity to support diverse times, forms, and places of learning that are responsive to content.
  • Championing a free exchange of ideas as a central and more visible part of a Grinnell education.
  • Deliberately broadening the liberal arts education via an honors program and stronger advising. 
  • Fostering extra-disciplinary faculty work that frees faculty from departmental limitations and appointing extra-disciplinary “liberal arts professors.”
  • Developing continuous faculty training in teaching via “teaching development” courses, a center for teaching and learning, more support for teaching and assessing communication, digital literacy, information literacy and quantitative reasoning skills, and by defining excellence and assessing outcomes.
  • Using time more effectively.  Many ideas have been suggested here, including the following:  accelerating faculty-leave schedules, hiring more support people, limiting the size and number of faculty committees and streamlining committee work, reducing teaching loads to 2:2, reducing early-career faculty teaching loads, changing the academic year schedule to spread courses over more semesters. 
  • Creating “integrative learning environments” with more collaboration between classroom, cocurricular, library, ARCs, and residence halls, and by combining practical and theoretical learning in the tutorial.
  • Better preparing students with preparatory programs that run from junior high to second-year students, including summer, online, and residential programs.
  • Cultivating leadership in students. 
  • Addressing workload concerns of faculty and students and matching faculty incentives and rewards such as leaves, course releases, and pay to the desired balance of teaching, research, and service. 

The strategic planning steering committee is now drafting strategies that encompass much of the above material. In February, working groups will review and contribute to the articulation of these strategies, which will in turn guide the steering committee’s further development of the plan. The next strategic plan update will share these strategies with the College community.  

Please visit Strategic Planning for more updates and information or to submit comments. If you have any questions or comments regarding the strategic planning process, email sp[at]grinnell[dot]edu.

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