Where Are We Going?

Seattle University moves forward to define its key priorities, aspirations for the coming years

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Story by: Mike Thee
Published: 2012-09-26

In recent years a great many faculty and staff have been hard at work, formulating a number of plans to help guide Seattle University in a variety of areas. Over the next few months these efforts will be carried forward to create a cohesive strategic plan that sets a direction for the institution for the next three to five years.

The resulting plan, President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., wrote in an e-mail to faculty and staff last week, "should build upon and integrate the planning work we have already done, should help us fulfill our mission and strategic priorities, and should advance our aspirations of excellence."

Leading the process is the Strategic Planning Council. Chaired by Bob Dullea, vice president for planning and vice provost, and Jackie Helfgott, chair of the Department of Criminal Justice, the council is comprised of some 30 faculty, staff and students representing a broad cross-section of the university.

The group has been asked to complete its recommendations in time for the Board of Trustees to vote on the plan at their February meeting. It is an expedited process, in part, so the plan can provide context for the university's capital campaign, which is set to launch next summer. And yet, condensed as the timetable may be, the council's objective is very attainable, Dullea says, precisely because of the extensive planning efforts the university has engaged in recently.

Indeed, one of the main directives among the 11 points in the charge given to the council is to build upon and integrate the planning work that already exists. This includes the university's five strategic priorities and their corresponding action plans: academic excellence; engaging the world; Catholic, Jesuit character; the newly named Great Student Experience, which now incorporates formation for leadership and other aspects aimed at invigorating student life at Seattle University; and investing in the excellence of our faculty and staff. Attention will also be given to the university's ongoing efforts and planning in the areas of diversity, sustainability and technology, as well as other existing plans such as the Academic Strategic Action Plan and the Undergraduate Strategic Enrollment Plan.

"We are going to be looking at the things that we do well, what makes us unique…and those are the things that will rise to the top in terms of making those strategic decisions," says Helfgott.

So where does this leave those specific initiatives that may not be incorporated into the strategic plan-do they just disappear from the radar? Not by any means, says Dullea. "The tremendous amount of work that's contained within the plans we already have is important divisionally, and while (a specific initiative) might not end up in the institutional plan, it will continue to help drive the work of those areas of the university."

One of the more notable dimensions of the planning process is the extent to which the council is considering trends in the broader landscape of higher education and how SU should be engaging these changes. "I think it's safe to say that the university is taking a more careful and intentional look than ever before at the changes in our environment," Helfgott says.

Dullea elaborates by drawing a diagram of overlapping circles. One circle represents the university's identity and ambitions while the other represents the context in which SU operates. "Right there is where we want to be," he says, pointing to the place where the two circles intersect. "What we are trying to do is find ways to carry forward our mission and strategic priorities within the changing environment of higher education."

At various stages in the process, the campus community will be updated on the effort and invited to share input, particularly when the preliminary strategic plan is drafted in November.


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