A Strategic Plan Westminster College
“The world keeps changing. It’s one of the paradoxes of success that the things and the ways which got you where you are are seldom those that keep you there. If you think they are, and that you know the way to the future because it’s a continuation of where you’ve come from, you may well end up somewhere you would rather not be.” —Charles Handy
We have confidence The college has a talented and dedicated faculty, strong students, and a welldeserved reputation for quality. We have bold plans to continue to increase the quality of the educational experience we provide and excellent prospects for continuing to increase our visibility and prominence. Thus, over the next half decade, Westminster will become nationally recognized as an exemplary community of learners, distinguished by our distinctive educational programs, our record of preparing graduates for success in a rapidly changing world, and our commitment to continuous improvement, effectiveness, and value.
INTRODUCTION In 2002, under the leadership of President Michael Bassis, Westminster sought to develop a new vision for its future through a year-long, collaborative, strategic planning process. Every member of the faculty, staff, and student body, as well as alumni and other stakeholders, was invited to participate. The 10-year strategic plan that materialized from this intensive dialogue is a vivid illustration of the wisdom that can emerge when dedicated people choose to work together toward a common goal.
Since the formal approval of the plan in January 2004, significant portions of the plan have been successfully implemented. Nonetheless, since circumstances change rapidly, the college determined in 2008, nearing the mid-point of the plan, that it was an appropriate time to take a step back, assess what has been accomplished, reassess the basic assumptions about institutional opportunities and constraints, and develop recommendations to guide the final five years of the plan. President Bassis appointed a select group of faculty, staff, and a student representative to a strategic plan review committee to take on this task.
Critically, the Strategic Plan Review Committee affirmed the vision, goals, and strategies and concluded that the fundamental tenets of the original plan are realistic and achievable, and will, over the remaining years of the plan, provide the strategic direction consistent with our institutional aspirations. At the same time, the committee recommended a series of new initiatives and areas of focus for the remaining years of the plan.
This document contains highlights of both the original plan and the modifications that we expect will guide our efforts at least through 2014. As circumstances continue to change, however, we will continue to make appropriate adjustments.
Our Past For most of its 137-year history, Westminster College has enjoyed an exceedingly positive reputation. It is known as a small, independent college with a talented and dedicated faculty, strong students, an attractive campus, and an academic environment that is both challenging and supportive. Also, the college has long been known as a caring community where the faculty and staff have an unusually strong dedication to students and their learning. Students from every generation report that they have been touched deeply and irrevocably by the Westminster experience. In fact, if the historic mission of the college were to be summarized into three words, those words might be â€œwe change lives.â€?
Our Present Westminster can take great pride in the positive growth it has experienced over the last 20 years. With such a record of success behind them, many institutions have been tempted to rest on their accomplishments, to look backward instead of forward. Instead, Westminster made the bold decision to look over the horizon and to create a new vision for its future. The challenge was to develop a compelling yet realistic educational vision grounded in the core values and strengths of the college and responsive to the opportunities and challenges of a rapidly changing world.
Our Future The pages that follow provide an overview of the 10-year strategic plan developed by the Westminster community in 2004 and updated in 2008. The plan has generated great enthusiasm, energy, and goodwill among the many people who are eager to see Westminster College rise to new levels of visibility, prominence, and educational excellence. A complete copy of the original plan and the more recent update are available from the college or on the Web at www.westminstercollege.edu.
Understanding The changing Landscape To develop its new strategic plan, Westminster spent a full year looking at the rapidly changing environment of American higher education. Groups of faculty, staff, and students worked together to understand the implications of factors such as demographic trends, the changing demands of the workplace, the impact of technology, new economic pressures facing higher education, and the renewed emphasis on ethics and civic responsibility. At the same time, these groups looked internally to rediscover and reaffirm the collegeâ€™s enduring values, interests, and strengths. They researched best practices among institutions working to implement innovative ideas. They consulted with national experts to gain further insights into how to adapt to the changing landscape. As part of the four-year review process, the committee conducted a similar assessment of the current and projected landscape of higher education and used this analysis to inform their recommendations.
Asking The Big Questions Throughout the planning process, the campus stayed focused on the fundamental questions: Who are we? What do we want to be in the future? How are we going to get there? These questions quickly led to a host of others: What kinds of students do we want to serve? What will their future hold? What will they need to know? How can we best support their learning?
◼ What we learned through the planning process and subsequent four-year review ◼ What strategies we developed to achieve success ◼ Highlights of our progress through 2008
What we know The college has many important strengths and is well-positioned for continued success. STRATEGIES WE DEVELOPED n Build on our strengths by continuing to focus on the following: o Offering challenging undergraduate and graduate programs in both the liberal arts and professional studies o Building a challenging and supportive, learning-centered environment o Encouraging impassioned teaching and active learning o Pursuing excellence while promoting inclusiveness and respect for differences
Selected Accomplishments n Added 15 new undergraduate programs and eight new graduate programs. n Initiated Common Ground, a college-wide program where a theme, selected annually, is explored in multiple ways, both inside and outside the classroom. n Invited to join the New American Colleges and Universities, a national consortium of select institutions that serve as models for integrating the liberal arts, professional education, and civic engagement. n Received numerous commendations and recognitions for excellence: o Named as a “top tier” institution in U.S.News & World Report for the last 15 years. o Listed among the top 15% of colleges and universities nationwide in the Princeton Review annual guide to The 371 Best Colleges. Westminster is also ranked 12th in the nation for “best quality of life.” o Included for the last three years in the President’s Honor Roll for Community Service, with distinction, for exemplary service to disadvantaged youth. o Selected in a 2009 national competition as “One of the Best Colleges to Work For.”
What we know Nationwide, employers remark that too many college graduates haven’t learned those skills and attributes necessary for success in our rapidly changing world. STRATEGIES WE DEVELOPED n Focus on learning goals critical to the success of our graduates and insist that they meet these goals prior to graduation. These goals include the following: o Critical, analytical, and integrative thinking o Writing and other communication skills o Creative and reflective capacities o Leadership, collaboration, and teamwork o Global consciousness, social responsibility, and ethical awareness n Make the achievement of college-wide learning goals a requirement for an undergraduate degree and use that requirement as a significant point of differentiation and distinction for the college. n Change the paradigm of the college from teaching to learning by shifting the role of faculty from “the sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side.”
Selected accomplishments n Revised our liberal education core curriculum around our college-wide learning goals. n Developed program-specific learning goals for each academic and co-curricular program. n Began the process of assessing student success in achieving college-wide learning goals in each academic and co-curricular program. n Used evidence from these learning assessments to make improvements in each one of our programs. n Successfully launched the Learning Coalition to engage faculty and staff in an ongoing exploration of the meaning and methods of moving from teaching to learning.
What we know Students learn best and are encouraged to succeed when they are actively engaged in learning inside and outside the classroom. STRATEGIES WE DEVELOPED n Use program structures, designs, and pedagogies that foster active and engaged learning, including the following: o Service-learning
o Problem-based learning
o Undergraduate research
o Learning communities
o Technology-assisted learning
o Collaborative learning
o Cross-disciplinary learning
o Project-based learning
n Increase student retention and engagement by expanding and consolidating engagement and success initiatives for all students.
Selected accomplishments n Established seven new academic centers and institutes, each focused on an issue of societal importance and concern, to augment and support student learning across the college. n Created a comprehensive First-Year Program, including freshmen learning communities, faculty mentoring programs, and enhanced first-year student orientation. n Introduced Westminster Scholars, an innovative curriculum for high achieving students that uses problem-based learning. n Expanded opportunities for engaged learning by establishing five new intercollegiate athletic teams. Grade point averages across all of our menâ€™s and womenâ€™s athletic teams consistently surpass that of the general student population. n Surpassed scores of our benchmark institutions on the National Survey of Student Engagement, a widely accepted measure of the quality of the learning environment.
What we know Across the country there is widespread concern about college costs and great interest in finding ways of keeping tuition affordable without compromising quality. STRATEGIES WE DEVELOPED n Streamline administrative operations and implement learning designs and pedagogies that promote high levels of learning but are less costly to deliver. These include the following: o Accelerated learning o Online learning o Experiential learning o Competency-based learning o Low-residency programs
Selected accomplishments n The ratio of administrative expenses to instructional expenses has been lowered significantly. n Undergraduate tuition continues to be below the national average. n Created a unique low residency, competency and project-based learning design intended to increase student learning at significantly reduced costs. We have used the design successfully in an undergraduate degree completion program in business and soon it will be used in a new MBA program.
What we know Students learn best when they are in an environment that is rich with diverse ideas, perspectives, cultures, and people. STRATEGIES WE DEVELOPED n Encourage and support efforts to address the collegeâ€™s commitment to diversity by the following: o Establishing a center for diversity and internationalization o Establishing new campus support structures for international and underrepresented students o Increasing the proportion of international students and students from diverse backgrounds o Increasing opportunities inside and outside the classroom to learn about diversity and global learning o Increasing the diversity of our faculty and staff o Expanding our relationships with entities within Salt Lake and across the globe to increase opportunities for students to learn about differences
Selected accomplishments n Created the Diversity and International Center and the Center for China-America Business Studies. n Established productive partner relationships with universities in China, India, and Thailand, and expanded our May Term international trips and study abroad opportunities. n Received federal funding for Utahâ€™s first McNair Program, designed to create a pipeline to graduate school for talented, underrepresented, and first-generation college students. n Established a diversity lecture series and added a diversity requirement as part of our new liberal education core curriculum. n Increased diversity of the faculty from 5% to 12% and diversity of the entering students from 14% to 21%.
What we know The college could take great advantage of its location, minutes from a vibrant and accessible urban center and the unique ecology of the Wasatch Mountains. STRATEGIES WE DEVELOPED n Expand opportunities for student learning by more fully utilizing the rich resources of the local region by the following: o Establishing a center for the environment to promote environmental awareness and responsibility o Using the Salt Lake metropolitan area as a laboratory for learning o Establishing a concierge program to facilitate student access to local volunteer, cultural enrichment, and recreational opportunities o Developing a variety of mountain sports and recreation programs
Selected accomplishments n Established the Environmental Center, and became a charter signatory of the Presidents Climate Commitment Challenge. n Established the Center for Civic Engagement, the Institute for New Enterprise, and the Great Salt Lake Institute, each designed to engage students in communitybased learning. Each year, Westminster students perform more than 30,000 hours of community service. n Created the Campus Concierge, a student-run service to help students take advantage of all that the city of Salt Lake and Utah have to offer. n Established intercollegiate skiing and snowboarding teams for both men and women, and developed a popular outdoor recreation program. n Introduced Winter at Westminster, a high-profile, semester-long program that combines a full academic schedule with a world-class skiing experience.
What we know To continue to prosper, the college must increase its external visibility, involvement, and support. STRATEGIES WE DEVELOPED n Maintain aggressive fundraising efforts focused on a limited set of priorities n Expand alumni engagement with the college, emphasizing the initiatives identified in the Alumni Boardâ€™s strategic plan n Continue to seek mutually advantageous partnerships with external groups n Continue to increase the visibility of the college n Develop a national advisory committee to stimulate interest in and support for the college
Selected accomplishments n Raised $42 million over the last five years and initiated the Presidentâ€™s Innovation Network to enable friends of the college to invest in educational innovation at Westminster. n Increased alumni engagement with the college through implementation of the new Alumni Strategic Plan. n Strengthened community relations and established substantial partnerships with 20+ outside organizations, each designed to expand opportunities for student learning. As a result of our partnership with the US Ski and Snowboard Association, 37 athletes aspiring to be members of the US Winter Olympic Team were enrolled at Westminster in 2008-09. n National visibility of the college has expanded significantly as print media and online exposure has tripled, student inquiries have doubled, and this year, for the first time, we received more undergraduate applications from out-of-state students than from Utah students.
What we know To continue to prosper, the college must continue to learn, to improve, and to adapt to changing circumstances. STRATEGIES WE DEVELOPED n Promote continuous improvement, effectiveness, and value by the following: o Continuing to invest in programs, facilities, and people that are critical to our long-term success o Adopting an enrollment plan with specific goals o Strengthening institutional research and assessment systems to guide efforts at institutional improvement o Planning for growth by completing a new campus development and facility plan that integrates the campus with the local community o Promoting program efficiency and effectiveness by implementing a regular process of program review and integrating a curriculum audit into program management and planning o Developing systems for assessing the collegeâ€™s success in achieving its goals and using these results for purposes of institutional improvement
Selected accomplishments n Constructed a health, wellness, and athletic center, an athletic field/underground parking facility, a music conservatory, and an alumni house; added residential housing, and significantly upgraded numerous facilities. The new state-of-the-art Meldrum Science Center will open in 2010. n Significantly upgraded and expanded the technological infrastructure of the college. n Established 21 new faculty positions and 43 new staff positions, a 12% increase for each group, and exceeded our five-year goals for increasing faculty compensation. n Created a 10-year enrollment plan and achieved record enrollments at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. n Initiated a new campus master planning process to expand the campus using an urban campus model. n Significantly increased our institutional research capacity, and implemented a curriculum audit process, as well as a process for institutional assessment and feedback.
LOOKING FORWARD As we look forward to the next five years of the Strategic Plan, we are excited by the progress we have made, delighted by the recognition we have received, and enthusiastic about the future of the college. Most importantly, we are proud of the success we are having in preparing our students to live purposeful and fulfilling lives after college. Our accomplishments are due in large part to the dedication and hard work of our highly talented faculty and staff. Their extraordinary efforts enabled us to achieve more in the first five years of the Strategic Plan than some thought possible over the full 10-year life of the plan. But there is more to do. We continue to be challenged by the boldness of our ambition. We seek nothing less than to shift our educational paradigm from one focused on teaching—where professors lecture, students take notes, tests are given, and grades are assigned—to one that focuses on what students actually learn, and even more radically, on what they can do with what they learn. We must manage this transformation while preserving the longstanding character and strengths of the college and, at the same time, adapting to the rapidly changing landscape of American higher education. We are energized by the thought that what we do over the next five years will determine the future of Westminster College for decades to come.
“It is not the strongest of species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.” —Charles Darwin
Westminster College 1840 South 1300 East Salt Lake City, Utah 84105 www.westminstercollege.edu