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.

 

Project timeline

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?

As knowledge has become increasingly interdisciplinary, we have worked with our faculty size and our historic departmental structures to add interdisciplinary majors and minors.  What could it look like to make a deeper commitment to: interdisciplinary work, or conversely, to the major disciplines? For each pathway, what opportunities and risks could an emphasis on either interdisciplinarity or the major disciplines create for student outcomes, as measured by BMC’s attraction, retention, and satisfaction of students and future alumnae/i and their preparedness for the post-undergrad world, including careers and graduate study? What opportunities and risks could this create for faculty attraction, retention, and morale? What kinds of structures would be needed to support each kind of emphasis for maximal success?  What would we need to give up in order to afford, invest in, and support each path? What criteria would we use to decide where to make additional investments  and where might we want to reduce our investments?  What (if any) are the implications of this choice for our graduate programs (in terms of maintaining their strength)?  How does our strong academic cooperation with Haverford impact the choices of pathway we have/make?

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 affordances have we created by building the capability to offer programs and educational experiences virtually and how/do we want to capitalize on them (while remaining a residential undergraduate college)? 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? 

Working groups

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 three: Janet Shapiro and Brooke Jones
Question four: Anita Kurimay and Bob Miller

Questions

Questions about the process or questions can be directed to Ruth Lindeborg, who is managing the project.