Strategic Planning Steering Committee
Overview of Process and Themes for 2011 Strategic Planning Process
I. Overview of the Strategic Planning Process
In January the Strategic Planning Steering Committee will begin the process of listening and gathering information from those inside and outside the Furman community. The process will include general open forums in which any member of the Furman community may participate; open forums targeting certain broad categories of the community, such as students, faculty, staff, alumni, and surrounding community members; opportunities for on-line submissions; a general survey instrument; and multiple hearings or forums in which members of the Steering Committee will meet with specific identified groups.
Attached to this notice is a working list of many groups that the Steering Committee has identified to proactively engage for such sessions. The list, however, is not exclusive, and any group on or off campus that wishes to be added to the list should simply let the Committee know. If you are a member of a group that does not appear on this list and think it should appear, or if you know of a group that does not appear on this list and you think it should appear, do not be concerned—newcomers are most welcome.
II. Themes That Will Guide the Early Stages of the Process
The Committee will be seeking the views of those inside and outside the Furman community on the following four broad themes. The Committee welcomes suggestions for additional themes to be included in these discussions.
(1) Challenges and Opportunities. What “works” well at Furman, and what does not work as well? What are Furman’s strengths? What are Furman’s weaknesses? What are things we are currently doing well, and should continue to seek to do well? Are there things we don’t do well, but should? Are there gaps between what Furman should aspire to be, and what it currently is? Are there differences between what Furman is perceived by outsiders as being, and what it currently is? How ought Furman integrate the priorities and decisions identified in previous strategic planning processes with the current strategic planning process? How, in short, ought this Strategic Planning process mediate between Furman’s past and its future?
(2) Identity Issues. In our early conversations with members of the Furman community, Committee members have picked up on many themes that involve “tensions” or “trade-offs” that implicate Furman’s core values and identity. Some of these tensions have existed for years, and have gone through various ebbs and flows. The Strategic Planning process presents an opportunity to invite discussion on some of these issues. The process may not resolve them all, but it may allow Furman to make progress toward their resolution in some, if not all, areas. Without meaning to provide an exhaustive list of such “identity tensions,” the Committee shares with the Furman community the following themes that have surfaced in some of the Committee’s early discussions with members of the Furman community:
- Civilized and Respectful Discourse in a Robust Intellectual Environment in which Passions Often Run High. Furman is at once a place that emphasizes passionate engagement and intellectual debate, and qualities of civility and respect. These values are at times in tension. How do we reconcile those tensions?
- The Academic mission. Furman has a strong commitment to “engaged learning,” and has recently revised its academic calendar and curriculum. Students and faculty have identified a tension between the conceptualization of education as “checking off boxes” to meet requirements for general education and particular majors or programs of study, and the broader pedagogical goals of engaged learning. Some students have described the “grind” of working through requirements and checking off boxes. Is Furman fulfilling the promise of engaged learning? How, if at all, does Furman need to improve on fulfilling that promise?
- Furman’s Liberal Arts Identity. Furman has academic departments and academic programs that fit squarely within the “classic” conception of the liberal arts and sciences, and departments and programs that do not, but nonetheless are often widely perceived as strengths of Furman that add to the overall quality of the University, and enhance its identity as a liberal arts institution. Are these programs in tension with Furman’s academic identity, or are there principles and values that reconcile and explain the particular mix of educational programs that exist, or should in the future exist?
- Educating the Whole Person. The development of the “whole person.” How do we integrate students’ intellectual and academic development with the larger development of a student’s character and spirit? Does Furman invest enough resources in academic counseling, emotional and psychological counseling, and general mentoring and guiding of students? Are we doing enough to help students identify their own passions, vocations, and careers? Are we preparing students in a sufficiently holistic way for their future?
- Furman’s Religious Heritage and the Role of Spiritual Life. It is the sense of the Committee that it will be healthy for Furman to again engage in collective conversation over Furman’s religious heritage and the current place of spirituality and religion on the campus. Furman has a religious heritage, and a commitment to spiritual development remains a part of its foundation documents and principles. What role do religion and spirituality appropriately play on the campus today? How should that role be reconciled with Furman’s commitment to religious liberty, pluralism, and academic freedom? Are there irreconcilable tensions between spirituality and academic freedom, or is it possible for Furman to chart an identity that provides healthy breathing space for both?
- The Role of Athletics in Furman’s Value System. A strong athletic program has long been part of Furman’s identity. What are the positive and negative values associated with a strong commitment to athletics? How should Furman integrate and align the experience of student athletes with the broader academic and character goals of the Furman experience?
- Diversity. Many members of the Furman community describe Furman as “needing greater diversity.” What does diversity mean? How are the goals of greater diversity linked to such issues as civilized discourse and respect? What priority should be placed on diversity, and how ought policies and resource allocation decisions reflect those priorities?
- Sustainability. Sustainability emerged in recent years as a distinguishing characteristic of the University. What role does it appropriately play at the University, and to what extent can Furman claim leadership in sustainability initiatives? How does sustainability speak to the educational mission of the University and to Furman’s role as a local and global citizen?
- The Roles of Faculty Members. How does Furman currently value the various roles that faculty members serve, as teachers, mentors, researchers, and participants in local, national, and international academic and service activities? Does Furman currently strike the right balance among these roles? Are faculty adequately supported in achieving their greatest potential?
- Workplace issues. What are the critical values that ought to guide Furman’s policies as an employer, and the environment Furman seeks to encourage as a working community?
- Recruitment of Students. To the extent that our efforts to recruit and enroll future students constitute one of our most important “external relationships,” in the sense that these new students are, in a literal sense, the future of Furman, how do we translate our answers to questions regarding Furman’s identity and strategic allocation of resources and programs into our enrollment policies? What messages ought we project as to the types of students we seek to attract to Furman? How do we translate our aspirations for our student body into admission and financial aid processes that advance those aspirations?
(3) External Relationship Issues. Furman is sometimes described as a “bubble.” Yet Furman exists in society and in many communities, beginning with the greater Greenville area, and extending to South Carolina, the nation, and the world. Furman also exists across generations. This raises a number of “external relationship” issues regarding the current state of Furman’s relationships to the local community, and to the wide range of communities that comprise society nationally and internationally, as well as Furman’s own alumni and parents:
- The Local Community. Should Furman be engaged more directly and energetically in the local community? Should Furman have a greater physical presence in downtown Greenville?
- The South Carolina Community. Should Furman do more to support the growth and prosperity of South Carolina generally? In what ways may Furman most meaningfully contribute to that growth and prosperity?
- The Global Community. Is Furman doing all it needs to do to participate in the global community? Should we have a higher presence of international students? Should we invest more in providing greater international experiences for Furman students?
- Remaining Connected to Alumni. How does Furman remain connected to its graduates? What does Furman do well, and not do as well, in encouraging relationships with alumni?
- Furman Families. The families of Furman students, current and past, are often deeply invested in the University, “adopting” the University with a special sense of attachment, affection, and participation in its life. How does Furman relate to the families of Furman students? How should it?
(4) Resource and Programmatic Allocation Issues. The Committee recognizes that Furman cannot be all things to all people, and that decisions about ideas and resources for new programs or resource allocations for existing programs must be carefully considered. How should Furman prioritize ideas, proposals and resources? Questions may include:
- Departmental Resource Allocation. When Furman makes allocation decisions among existing departments and programs, what guiding principles should channel discretion in making such decisions?
- Determining appropriate emphasis. How does Furman determine what programs ought to be strengthened? How does Furman decide when a program has outlived its usefulness?
- Deciding What to Build, or Tear Down, Remodel or Expand. How should decisions be made on expansion or renovation of physical facilities?
- Launching New Programs. When new programs, new partnerships, and new opportunities are presented to Furman, by what kinds of criteria ought they be judged? How ought Furman decide what new ventures are with exploring, and what are not?
The Steering Committee does not intend for the list of themes above to be exhaustive, and fully expects that other issues and themes will surface during the discussions and deliberations that will take place during the process.
The Steering Committee doubts that it will be possible for all of the questions raised above, or other that may be added to the list, to be fully explored, let alone definitely resolved, during the course of the Strategic Planning process.
The Strategic Planning Steering Committee does not view this process as the forum for making specific decisions on resource and programmatic allocation. Rather, it envisions this process as a vehicle for broad and open dialogue on the principles that ought to guide various University decision-makers, including administrators, faculty, and trustees, in their ongoing stewardship of Furman, exercising their judgment through the normal and ongoing governance structures of the University.
The Committee is optimistic that an open and thoughtful process will naturally identify the questions that are most significant to Furman’s future, and that certain themes and points of emphasis will naturally rise to prominence as the process unfolds.
Through an interactive dialogue among Committee members and all parts of the Furman community, the Committee is confident that critical guiding principles will emerge in most areas, and that those principles will constitute the core of the Strategic Plan that results from the process.
The Committee will encourage civilized and respectful dialogue throughout the process, so that the process itself serves as an example of Furman at its best.