College Strategic Plan Project
As announced by President Cassidy on September 28, 2022, Bryn Mawr College has launched a new strategic planning project to help our community envision our goals and aspirations for the future.
The process centers around four areas of inquiry designed to include community engagement and to create bold ideas that will move our campus forward in the coming years. We will dive deeply into what makes our campus unique, strong, and vibrant, as well as think critically about potential new areas of growth and opportunity.
Summer 2022: Planning process and draft of questions created by the senior staff from June Board of Trustees retreat discussion and working sessions led by leaders of peer institutions that have recently completed strategic planning.
Fall 2022: Steering committee and working groups launched, and initial brainstorming by working groups collected for market testing with prospective students in collaboration with higher education strategic planning firm Art & Science.
Spring 2023: Art & Science engages with prospective and admitted students on collected concepts and ideas while working groups engage the campus community for additional feedback and ideas. Working groups develop key ideas and priorities for further consideration and submit action proposals to the steering committee.
Fall 2023: Steering committee integrates the working group proposals into a draft strategic direction, informed by the Art & Science research. The steering committee shares the draft strategic direction with the community for further refinement.
Spring/fall 2024: Final strategic direction released.
Areas of inquiry
These areas of inquiry will provide the framing for four working groups (composed of trustees, faculty, staff, students, and administrators) that will launch our strategic planning process. The point of starting with questions rather than firm categories of ideas is to broaden our thinking and identify overarching goals, critical priorities and crucial aspects of our future identity. These commitments will provide the guidance and direction we will need to form a particular strategic plan or direction. They will also help us connect our plans to the larger higher education context. The questions are meant as general frames. It is expected that within the general parameters of each question, the working groups will have freedom to shape their direction and work.
Read more about the areas of inquiry
Detweiler (2021) has recently shown that a vibrant intellectual residential academic community is related to long-term positive life outcomes. Bryn Mawr has aspired to be such a community, and experiences both strengths and limitations in realizing this aspiration. What would be required to realize our full potential as a vibrant and engaging academic community for undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty and staff? Are there existing programs, structures and systems that hinder the College from achieving such a goal? How radical would new programs, approaches and systems need to be to differentiate us in the marketplace and would a more radical approach be attractive to prospective students, faculty and staff? Would an even deeper investment in the creation of academic community strengthen the student experience, as measured by higher retention rates, graduation rates, alumnae/i satisfaction? What structural changes and investments would we need to make to create a sustainable model? How might we think about this strength in the ways that we organize advising and student life (e.g. living-learning communities) and co-curricular programming? How might this impact faculty/ student/ staff experiences of belonging and inclusion?
What is the optimal size of the undergraduate student body? What are the strategic advantages of undergraduate student population growth for the campus experience of students, faculty and staff as compared to our current size? What criteria should we use to evaluate the optimal size? How do externalities (impending demographic cliff, interest of international students, transfer student growth potential) impact our choices and their outcomes? What are the revenue and cost implications and constraints on these choices — how will they impact/shape our available resources and how we use them? What are the impacts on our residential capacity and our commitment to being a fully residential campus? What are the implications of changing the size of the undergraduate college for pursuing “no loan” or “need blind” financial aid policies? What role do transfer students play in shaping our optimal enrollment and how do we offer a pathway program that enables them and other first-generation students to thrive?
What is the academic mission of Bryn Mawr College and how do we define interdisciplinary and disciplinarity? What do we value about both curricular paradigms? How do we invest in our departments so that faculty can train students in their disciplinary areas of expertise and, should they so desire, also contribute to the courses and programs that connect our curricular endeavors and inspire interdisciplinary inquiry across our campus? How do we support interdisciplinary programs without diluting/depleting departments and departmental resources? How do we clarify the pathways through departments and programs, majors and minors, so that students understand the distinctions between and among such academic opportunities and decide on the sorts of courses and contexts that will enrich their undergraduate experience and position them for different post-graduate trajectories? How do our requirements help or hinder the fulfilment of our academic mission? What are the implications of our queries for our students, faculty, and our relationships with external academic partners?
What are Bryn Mawr’s strengths, capabilities and resources? Which of them can be better leveraged to create reliable (and potentially alternative) revenue streams within our existing time and space constraints without detracting or distracting from our core mission/ programs? What changes, opportunities and challenges are coming societally (e.g., demographically, technologically, environmentally, new knowledge/skills needs etc.)? How can we best prepare such that BMC will thrive in the next decade and beyond? Are there promising possibilities beyond the traditional academic year and beyond BMC’s traditional undergraduate population? Are there places we may want to streamline or allow ourselves to stop doing something so that we can free up resources to invest in our core mission/programs and current priorities?
Each area of inquiry will be led by a working group comprised of faculty, staff, students, administrators, and trustees, who along with community input will work toward a goal of submitting action proposals near the end of spring semester 2023. Groups will be co-led by one faculty and one staff member and members should expect to attend weekly meetings lasting 1-2 hours, plus occasional work in between meetings, during fall and spring semesters.
All members of the Bryn Mawr community were invited to participate and all those who applied were assigned to their group of interest. As groups gather, we will add their co-chairs below.
Question one: Leslie Cheng and Tim Harte
Question two: Cheryl Horsey, Ruth Lindeborg, and Kaylea Berard
Question three: Janet Shapiro and Brooke Jones
Question four: Anita Kurimay and Bob Miller
The four working groups hosted a community town hall on January 25, 2023, and below are the presentations from each group.
Questions about the process or questions can be directed to Ruth Lindeborg, who is managing the project. Answers to questions posed to Working Group two by audiences members of our January 2023 town hall can be found below.
February 2023 Response from Group Two
We would like to underscore that Working Group 2 has expanded our definition of optimal enrollment to include optimal student experience, enrollment composition, and retention.
Following the Campus-wide Town Hall, we received requests to consider the following during our discussions. We have also included some updates below.
• On the importance of speaking with offices that support counseling students via programs, such as Career and Civic Engagement/ addressing demands of funding, career connections, Praxis, and experiential learning: the working group identified early on in our discussions that Career and Civic Engagement would be an office we would invite to one of our weekly meetings to listen to their perspectives on these issues. We look forward to that discussion later this semester.
• On the pressures that student support staff, such as counseling, advising, career counseling, etc. already experience at our current size: these pressure points are being considered in our discussions and we have spoken with many Student Life offices as a result (as reflected in our revised key questions we presented at the Town Hall). We have also further modified one of the central questions in the charge we received to emphasize our focus on concerns: Where are the barriers/pressure points (on students, faculty, staff, facilities, programs, etc.) at our current size (1,409 UG in FY23) to achieving our aspirations for the student academic experience?
• On the demands on study abroad: we will seek information from Tracy Weber, Director of Global Education.
• On the inclusion of housekeeping in the conversation: the directors of Facilities and of Residence Life have each been asked about housekeeping in our meetings with them. In addition, we will solicit feedback from Denise Romano, Director of Housekeeping.
• On ways to encourage a more balanced utilization of Bryn Mawr and Haverford resources, including curricular offerings: we have had some discussion of Bi-Co resources at our meetings, and a Haverford College staff member is a member of our working group. We are meeting with student focus groups and will include questions to gain a better understanding of how Bryn Mawr students may be able to benefit more from Haverford resources than at present.
• On the McBride Scholars program: the College looks to enroll a competitive and diverse class (traditional age, nontraditional age/ transfers, etc.). The McBride Scholars contribute to the richness of the student body.
We are grateful for the feedback we have received thus far, and we welcome more comments and questions.