Cabinet Corner: “Strategic planning is off to a great start!”

John Parrish, Special Assistant to the President and Professor of Political Science

Cabinet Corner is a periodic feature of LMU This Week where the university’s executive leaders share their perspectives with the community. The President’s Cabinet will provide updates on initiatives, policies, events, challenges, and areas of interest.

John Parrish, special assistant to the president and professor of political science, writes:

I’m pleased to report that the new strategic planning process is off to a great start. As a reminder, our current Strategic Plan expires in 2020. In his Convocation in October, President Snyder announced a new planning process to unfold over the course of the coming year, and soon thereafter appointed a steering committee – which I chair – that is responsible for overseeing a yearlong process of institutional self-examination. The steering committee includes representatives from the faculty, staff, deans and administrative leaders, undergraduate and graduate students, and the Trustees.

Our timeline is brisk but also consistent with the one-year time frame for LMU’s previous strategic planning process in 2011-12. We have already conducted a comprehensive survey of our major constituencies – faculty, staff, students, and leadership boards. With more than 200 faculty responses, more than 300 staff responses, and approaching 400 student responses, our participation numbers this time were nearly double what they were eight years ago, so we feel very positive about the level of interest and engagement we have seen thus far.

The steering committee is sharing these results with the full LMU community today by means of a Strategic Plan website accompanied by the survey results.

The website also provides a description of the process timeline, the steering committee’s roster, minutes, and other documents, in addition to some FAQs about strategic planning and LMU’s process. We will regularly communicate our progress through LMU This Week and other channels, and will always provide a link to the website when we do. Please feel free to contact StrategicPlanning@lmu.edu with any questions.

Several common themes emerged from the survey: a commitment to further expand our academic strengths and enhance our excellence in teaching and research; a concern for our students’ well-being and whole-person growth in the context of increasingly complex social changes; an awareness of continuing rises in the cost of an LMU education and the potential effect on access, affordability, and student success; and a desire to deepen and extend our foundational commitments to our Catholic, Jesuit/Marymount identity and mission, and our efforts to promote a culture of diversity, inclusion, and transformative encounter.

Many of these themes reflect challenges facing the whole of higher education, while some are specific to our circumstances as a university that is faith-based, medium-sized, tuition-dependent, urban, and so on. The Steering Committee’s task now is to translate the ideas expressed in the survey to more deeply comprehend the particular strategic situation LMU faces and to identify which issues, goals, and actions must be addressed immediately to maximize our ability to pursue our mission and compete effectively in our larger environment.

A few words about our next steps. We are beginning an environmental scan review to assess LMU’s greatest strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges. To assist in this task, we are commissioning eight campus teams, composed of faculty, staff, and student volunteers, to help us think about the contours of several potential strategic issues facing the university and brainstorm potential goals and actions related to those issues. Those groups will be formed over the coming week and will be asked to report back to the Steering Committee before spring break.

In early April the committee plans to circulate a preliminary report to the community, including a draft of our proposed mission, core values, and vision statements, and also identifying a set of potential strategic issues that the plan might focus on. We will engage the community through a series of outreach efforts, including especially a Discernment Day event in mid-April in which we hope to use Ignatian communal discernment techniques to elicit responses to the draft vision statement and to help us zero in on the highest priority strategic issues. This feedback will assist the steering committee in producing a draft plan that will prioritize the most important strategic issues for LMU to focus on and formulate goals and actions that will help us address them. We intend to share a draft of the plan with the full community by early September.

Strategic planning gives us the chance as a university community to engage in thorough reflection and bold decision: a sabbatical moment to pause in the repetition of our routine and instead reflect thoughtfully on our ends and means, to discern how to pursue the magis for our students and our impact on the world in a more visionary and harmonized way, and to act with deliberation on the results of that discernment. The Steering Committee and I warmly invite your participation in that reflection and have high hopes for the potential improvements our shared deliberations can produce for LMU and for those we serve.

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