Last spring I shared with you that we, as a community, would embark on a new Strategic Plan to guide the University over the next 10 years. This planning effort, which began in April 2008, will continue well into 2009. To help facilitate the process, I convened a Strategic Planning Steering Committee consisting of representatives from across the University.
Over the summer we began engaging community members in the process through discussions and focus groups with over 150 faculty members, the Board of Trustees, University staff, numerous students, alumni, and other constituencies. We also conducted market research with 2,000 prospective students to understand their perception of our University and what they felt distinguishes us. All of these conversations, as well as the research, have helped inform our perspective, pointing out opportunities, strengths and weaknesses, and what we should focus on moving forward.
As they should, these discussions have brought forth many questions about the emerging vision, plan, and future direction of Villanova. I would like to use this opportunity to clarify many of the questions (and often myths) that have come to members of the steering committee and my attention and share with you more of the realities.
In order to continue to guide this process, I would like to present to the faculty the work that has been accomplished so far and discuss the manner in which we move forward. Therefore, I would like to invite you to attend one of two Faculty Forums on the Strategic Plan: Wednesday, October 22 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., or Thursday, October 23, 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Both forums will be held in the Connelly Center Cinema. I hope that you will be able to attend one of the sessions and join in this important discussion about our future.
Myth: Villanova is going to be become a national university and lose our regional and local reputation and feel.
Reality: We wish to build an ever stronger recognition of Villanova University and to enhance its reputation nationally. A strong national reputation will help attract students and faculty of ever greater geographic, racial, and socioeconomic diversity as well as enroll high caliber admitted students who are currently choosing to attend other schools.
Rankings are only one component of recognition and reputation – they are not the only, nor the most important. They are, however, very visible. We have enjoyed long success as the leading university on the US News and World Report (USNWR) Regional North Master list, which is a great achievement. It is likely that Villanova will move onto the USNWR national list by 2016. It is important to know that we do not designate ourselves onto this list nor is it a perfect science in terms of timing or selection—the deciding criteria, which will likely move Villanova to the national list, is 20 PhD graduates, which we anticipate by 2016.
Many of our plans to strengthen our University will also play an important role in Villanova’s initial placement in the national rankings. We recommend taking advantage of this opportunity to strategically move forward, using the rankings to our benefit by controlling the process rather than allowing the process to control us.
Regardless of where we are ranked, however, Villanova will continue to be Villanova, and we will continue our Catholic Augustinian focus and dedication to the common good and our community.
Myth: Villanova is going to become a research institution and neglect its undergraduate educational mission.
Reality: Villanova will remain predominately focused on a top quality undergraduate experience. Limited growth in our present doctoral programs, including perhaps adding one or two others, along with emphasis on high quality scholarly research, will only improve our intellectual climate, opportunities for all our students, and opportunities for our faculty.
Myth: Villanova is becoming focused mainly on our Professional Schools at the expense of Arts & Sciences.
Reality: This is not true. The College of Liberal Arts and Science and our liberal arts foundation is a critical component of our heritage and success. This will continue as we move forward. We take great pride in all of our colleges and will continue to help each improve their performance and grow in prominence. We expect each college to be its very best.
Myth: Villanova is going to have a very different feel in terms of the size of the student body and type of students.
Reality: Our recommended plan does not call for any changes in the size of the student body, and we remain committed to our goals of attracting a diverse student body across all dimensions. We have a highly talented student body, and we will continue working to attract increasingly high-caliber students.
Myth: Villanova will be forced to compromise our Augustinian and Catholic Mission and Values to accomplish this strategic plan.
Reality: This is not true. Our Augustinian and Catholic values and traditions are the foundation of our University. The fundamental premise of the strategic planning process was that those values must not only remain intact, but also be strengthened.
Myth: This strategic plan and its initiatives may be too expensive and will likely require unrealistic increases in our endowment or tuition hikes.
Reality: We are developing an aggressive strategic plan, and as such, we will need to make significant investments in facilities, faculty, financial aid, and staff. To do this, we will need to prioritize our efforts, find efficiencies, and to work to strengthen our University both financially and strategically.
Myth: Athletics is going to be significantly impacted as a result of this strategic plan.
Reality: The Athletics department initiated a strategic planning process of its own several months ago, and there has been a great deal of coordination between that process and the University strategic plan. The University plan calls for maintaining the strengths of the athletic program, but it does not explicitly evaluate or set a course for athletics. The strategic plan will identify a number of critical imperatives for our University and these will be weighed against other University priorities, which will include athletics.
Myth: This strategic plan is going to be developed independent of the campus master plan.
Reality: This is not true. We continue to coordinate the campus master plan and the strategic plan. The strategic planning process will help inform the final prioritization in the campus master plan.
Myth: We hired a consulting firm with no experience in higher education to run our strategic plan and decide our future.
Reality: We undertook a thorough Request for Proposal/Due Diligence process to select a consultant to assist us in developing our strategic plan. We selected McKinsey & Company, a leading global consulting firm that provides consulting support across a range of strategic topics and industries, from among four national finalists. In terms of higher education, McKinsey has conducted 60+ projects in this area over the past several years. These projects have focused on strategy as well as organization, marketing, growth, and operations. I personally spoke to the presidents of Georgetown University and University of Chicago, who gave glowing recommendations. Although McKinsey did help inform and facilitate our planning process, Villanova is responsible for the vision and direction of the plan.