By Mackenzie Herring
In an institutional effort to reform Lewis & Clark College, the Executive Council and the Board of Trustees have been working on a Strategic Plan that would determine the agenda of the college over the next several years. On April 13, the Office of the President hosted a lunch and feedback session that aimed to gauge the opinions and priorities of the community.
Derived from six main institutional objectives, 16 priorities were put forth for the community to respond to with either positive, negative or neutral feedback. The responses would then be factored into the decision making process for when the Executive Council and Board of Trustees decide which of the 16 priorities to concentrate on.
Executive Director of Public Affairs and Communications Joe Becker described the breadth of what the strategic plan aims to accomplish.
“The strategic plan has a number of priorities that we have identified,” Becker said. “A comprehensive campaign is part of that. It’s sort of this idea of the revenue, the inputs, obviously of physical infrastructure, curriculum, all those things. The universe of what we’re talking about is everything.”
Becker emphasized the importance of getting comments and criticism from various members of the community.
“With any good strategic plan, we need to know what everyone thinks, students, faculty, staff, all community members about a variety of topics,” Becker said. “Such that we can refine our thinking, gather the appropriate data. Ultimately once we move into an implementation phase, the implication of a strategic plan is the work of the entire community.”
Upon hearing from the community, Becker intends to refine the plan over the summer and finalize it in the fall; he hopes that the implementation process will begin soon after. After receiving feedback, Becker expects to have a solid understanding of what the community wishes to prioritize
“My thinking and my goal for a strategic planning process is that at the end of the planning process, when we adopt the plan and think about implementation that we have something that is clear and actionable that we can measure our success in our results, and that everyone in the community will know which direction we are headed in and why,” Becker said.
As a participant in the feedback session, Director of Watzek Library Mark Dahl was impressed with the manner in which the session was conducted, in that it seemed like an adequate push forward and allowed for many voices to be heard.
“I think it’s a good balance of building on previous work and taking some new initiatives and revisiting and rethinking things,” Dahl said. “A lot of the time with these strategic planning processes you can get really bogged down in long heavyweight processes that just drag on forever. This is a nice way of being inclusive but keeping a lot of momentum going.”
Other members of faculty and staff that participated thought the session showed great promise for the productivity demonstrated by the leadership in the current administration. Associate Director of Institutional Research Renee Orlick said that President Wim Wiewel was a large part of why there is a new push for reform.
“I’m excited because the President has said ‘we’ve had enough talking let’s actually do something,’” Orlick said. “I want to see us implement this and I think that we have the leadership to do that now, that’s what I’m excited for. These are all great ideas that have been floating around, from my understanding, for years and this is going to give us the impetus to push it forward and roll it out and actually do something with the ideas which is so exciting.”
Associate Director of the Career Center Adonica De Vault said that her position motivates her to be involved in helping decide what the plan will focus on.
“My primary role is supporting students and advocating for students and I want to be here to represent their voice at least from my perspective as a career counselor,” De Vault said. “I want internships and job opportunities and I want us to be known as the place to go to prepare for grad school, law school or whatever.”
Despite all of the student body being invited to the session, there was very little turnout. Over email, Vice President of the Associated Students of Lewis & Clark Zack Johnson ’19 voiced his disappointment in this fact. Johnson also found issue with the broad nature of the proposed plan and the fact that it did not offer any logistic explanation to back its practicability.
“For me, the most disappointing part of the whole event was not the vagueness of the ‘Strategic Plan Priorities’, which mentioned absolutely nothing about the feasibility or financial cost of any of the proposed plans,” Johnson said. “Nor was it the room full of administration who sat around, eating the catered lunch and chatting, offering only minute criticisms of the poorly-articulated ‘priorities’ that were mostly disconnected from the student body. Rather, it was the absolute lack of student participation at the event.”
Johnson said that while students may ask for improvements to be made, they do not participate when there is opportunity to do so.
“Many throughout the student body demand change across many aspects of our campus, and yet when offered the chance to spearhead such change, the student body remains both silent and invisible,” Johnson said.
As part of a message to faculty and staff, President Wim Wiewel said that the community showed great interest in the future of the college and that he will make sure their feedback is taken into account.
“Your commitment to and care for those who live, learn and work here is paramount,” Wiewel said. “I am now also more aware of areas where you believe we can and must do better … In taking responsibility for implementation, I pledge that the entire Executive Council will hold itself accountable for the priorities the planning process will identify.”
In this message, Wiewel also mentioned how the fundraising efforts for this plan proved to be successful.
“Equally important, foundational work is already underway,” Wiewel said. “We’re fundraising with renewed intensity: the comprehensive campaign to raise $155 million has netted nearly $20 million since June 1, more than any other similar period in our history.”
Over email, President Wiewel said that in creating a plan with the community, there would be an understood vision for the plan and a more cohesive next step forward.
“The purpose is that everyone understands where we’re headed and why,” Wiewel said. “It’s a five-year plan with some elements that we’ll be able to accomplish more quickly and some, like a comprehensive fundraising campaign, that will take longer to complete.”
Wiewel said that he has been looking forward to working on this plan before he he became president.
“The strategic plan is something I’ve been thinking about since before I even officially started at Lewis & Clark,” Wiewel said. “It aims to solidify who we are and to chart a course for how we can be even stronger. How can we best prepare students for meaningful careers, civic engagement and lifelong discovery?”