Robust Participation Boosts Strategic Plan Community Discernment Process

LMU STRATEGIC PLANNING | The constructing of LMU’s Strategic Plan 2021-26 is well underway, with unprecedented levels of participation by the LMU community in providing feedback on the Steering Committee’s Preliminary Report, released Sept. 10.

“It is really meaningful to us that such a wide variety of community members took time to engage with us in thinking about LMU’s biggest challenges and opportunities,” said John M. Parrish, chair of the steering committee. Parrish, who is also professor of political science and chief of staff and special assistant to the president, said that building the engagement around community discernment “helped give us the kind of feedback that goes a little deeper, to really understand what the hopes and apprehensions of our colleagues are and which of the choices we might make have the greatest potential to inspire and motivate.”

Eighteen community discernment focus group sessions, designed and organized by Mission and Ministry in collaboration with the Steering Committee, allowed an estimated 150 members of the LMU community to provide input on the preliminary report in hourlong sessions. In parallel, approximately 26 additional meetings were held with existing campus leadership groups including the President’s Cabinet, Deans Council, Faculty Senate, Staff Senate, ASLMU and GSLMU leadership teams, and others.

This week the Steering Committee shared back with the community a brief document summarizing prominent themes that emerged from the leadership groups and community discernment focus groups. The committee reflected on what it had heard the community say it hopes might be different in LMU’s future; what community members fear might happen in LMU’s future; what premises or insights are shared across the responses; and what tensions stood out among the replies. The feedback and discernment document is available here.

Mission and Ministry worked with the steering committee to structure the focus groups around principles commonly used in Ignatian communal discernment processes. “The Ignatian approach to discernment offers us many practices for choosing among multiple goods,” said steering committee member Kat Brown, president of the Staff Senate and director of Mission and Identity Programs, who facilitated the  community focus groups. “Drawing on these principles, we met in small groups for conversations in which community members were invited to reflect on what we think, but also what we feel: what inspires us, what troubles us, what resonates with our hopes for LMU’s future. This kind of reflection is deeply important in a discernment process and will be invaluable as we choose among many possibilities in order to best pursue the magis, the more universal good.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the original timeline, the next step in the Steering Committee’s work is to draft a strategic plan based in part on the information gleaned from the focus groups, then circulate a draft of the plan to the LMU community for feedback by January 2021.