By Katie Peters – Co Editor-In-Chief
Since October, President Michael Alexander, the Senior Management Team, and the Board of Trustees have been working with faculty, professors, students, and other community members to adjust the university’s five-year strategic plan. The Speed of Change Steering Committee was formed in the fall of 2020 to reexamine the current plan, Vision 2022, and make adjustments for a pandemic-enduring University.
Vision 2022 was Lasell’s five year plan, starting in October 2017, in hopes to “immerse students in experiential and collaborative learning that fosters lifelong intellectual exploration and social responsibility,” according to their mission statement. The plan included things such as converting a house on campus to an intercultural and commuter student space. This came to fruition in the fall of 2018 when the Dean’s Cottage was transformed into the Intercultural and Commuter Center (IC3).
Other goals of the plan, such as expanding the international service Shoulder to Shoulder program, were put to a halt because of the pandemic. According to the October 2020 Lasell University Strategic Plan Progress Report, “the pandemic has put the whole program on hold.”
President Alexander, in an email updating the community this past October, said that the move from Vision 2022 was “because so much of it has already been achieved, and because external conditions have changed, it will no longer serve as a useful guide going forward.”
On March 17, the Speed of Change Steering Committee Summary Report was emailed to the community by President Alexander, along with an invitation to a Zoom discussion on that topic. Notes from this discussion were drafted into a report to be presented at a strategic planning meeting.
The Speed of Change Steering Committee Summary Report outlined two phases of the planning process. Phase one, which focuses on immediate changes, aims to enhance the student experience while lowering the University’s cost structure. Phase two focuses on longer term fundamental and comprehensive goals. According to the report, “Steering Committee members included Professor Marisa Hastie, Vice President Kate O’Connor, Vice President Chrystal Porter, and Provost Eric Turner,” among others.
Part of the report outlined how 87 volunteers, split into 12 groups, of faculty and staff participated in a “think-tank” like activity. These groups were tasked with identifying three to five things to “enhance the student experience, and provide opportunities to increase enrollments in a highly competitive, declining market for traditional age undergraduates,” as well as three to five items to lower the University’s cost structure. In addition, the groups were to identify a single theme that separates Lasell from its competition.
The groups, along with the Academic Leadership Group, arrived at five priorities to increase enrollment and the student experience and lower Lasell’s cost structure. These priorities are to “infuse industry-recognized credentials into all majors, add more athletic teams, create a mandatory fiscal responsibility, budgeting and procedural series for all employees, plan the academic/course schedule one year at a time, cross list more courses and reduce under-enrolled courses, and increase the use of consortia courses.”
The theme that most groups agreed was a distinguishing factor of Lasell was career readiness. Other goals, such as emphasizing three and five year degree paths and integration of technology in the classroom are said to be important to career readiness.
On April 12, ahead of the community-wide strategic planning discussion, President Alexander released the committee’s “Long-list of Goals” to the community through email. This document outlined 78 different “proposed goals for how a post-pandemic Lasell could operate in order to meet the needs of future students.” The community was invited to attend a meeting the following day to advocate for goals they felt strongly about. Discussions surrounding this plan are ongoing between Senior Management, faculty, professors, students, and community members.