As Hobart and William Smith Colleges approach the celebration of 200 years of innovation and excellence with the bicentennial of Hobart College in 2022, we do so at a pivotal moment in the history of American higher education. Increasingly, how colleges and universities imagine their futures is influenced by the demographic shifts of college-bound students, and the growing pressure for student-responsive institutions to provide universal access at a time when a top-quality liberal arts education is more expensive than ever.
The history of Hobart and William Smith, however, is one marked by perseverance and tenacity in the face of similar challenges. Through world wars, conflicts, pandemics, depressions and recessions, industry upheavals and technology transformations, Hobart and William Smith have survived, prospered and continued to fulfill their promise and purpose. We intend to continue to thrive as we begin our third century
Survival without evolution, however, is uninspiring. The Colleges therefore must continue to adapt to new currents in society and in higher education even as they hold true to their fundamental purpose of providing a life-changing education to students and preparing them to become life-long learners who continue the practices of critical examination and searching for truths. Hobart and William Smith also must continue to stand for willingness to engage in dialogue, treating all with dignity and respect, and working toward a better world, principles that can be traced back to the Colleges’ Episcopalian roots even as they address secular concerns. These are principles worth preserving and upholding, particularly in a complex world where the continuation of ideals such as these face many current and developing threats.
The Colleges’ history features just this sort of necessary innovation and reflection. Strongly influenced by the birth of the American suffragist movement just a few miles from campus, Hobart and William Smith were among the first institutions in the nation to educate women broadly rather than vocationally. Our curriculum, which has evolved over the decades to educate students to be leading thinkers across a wide range of disciplines and interdisciplinary areas, has remained bold and inclusive; we were the first in the nation to have an LGBT undergraduate program and among the first to offer majors and minors in Black Studies, Men’s Studies and Women’s Studies. More recently, the Colleges have created new models of delivering a liberal arts education by pushing geographic boundaries through our nationally recognized global studies program, critically addressing concepts of inclusion, gender and difference through our coordinate tradition, and requiring our students to consider their responsibilities to community and the public good through our emphasis on engaged citizenship. These and other accomplishments are the result of deliberate, thoughtful strategic planning. We continue that tradition with this newest phase in development of our strategic planning direction and process.
Our goal now is to face the future with clarity and a renewed and reinvigorated commitment to excellence. We will accelerate our progress by continuing to attract and retain students, faculty and staff of high character, tenacity and intellectual agility by building an exceptional academic, reputational and financial foundation. We will increasingly meet the academic, social and financial needs of students as we also continue challenging them to lead lives of purpose and meaning—lives of consequence.
Share suggestions and ideas regarding the Strategic Plan with President Joyce P. Jacobsen at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Under the leadership of President Joyce P. Jacobsen, we will increase and clearly articulate the value of a Hobart and William Smith education and make that education more accessible by investing in programs, people and ideas that will enhance our academic enterprise, strengthen our reputation, and build our financial and operational excellence.
Given the significant prior engagement with planning in recent years and a number of clear directives coming from the most recent set of reports and plans, rather than asking faculty and staff to engage in further protracted strategic planning processes, this strategic plan takes the best thinking of recent collective exercises as its basis. The direction outlined in this document builds on what has gone before, takes up some of the ideas that were previously vetted by faculty and staff that remain unrealized, and develops an ongoing rather than time-delineated strategic planning process intended to serve the Colleges for the next 10 to 15 years before requiring substantial review. It is a strategic plan that informs a process that is both overarching laying out three main areas for investment in HWS’ future, and granular — explicating a vetting process that both encourages exploration of new ideas as it also aligns any idea adopted for consideration with one or more strategic investment areas (See Planning Process).
If executed with proper inventiveness and efficiency, along with the necessary resources and reliance on data-driven decision making, these three themes have the capacity to differentiate the Colleges in the marketplace, increase the variety and depth of our revenue streams, and enable us to advance key metrics.
The three themes of Advancing HWS mutually reinforce one another and lead the Colleges to improve overall. They are:
Academic effectiveness means that we are graduating students who have gotten the most, and hopefully even more than they had anticipated, out of their time at Hobart and William Smith. If Hobart and William Smith can provide an ever-improving academic experience for our students and our faculty, including its co-curricular elements, then we will rise in the education marketplace and develop a positive feedback mechanism whereby capable students (and more of them) want to be at the Colleges, and our alums and other friends (including parents) want to support us further. The Colleges have many wonderful programs already in place, but all of them could use more development and funding so that they can serve even more students, and serve them better. In order to strengthen our reputation and garner more financial resources, we must demonstrate and increase our academic effectiveness.
Aspects of this thematic area include:
In order to attract and retain the best students, faculty and staff, and to continue to draw philanthropy that allows the Colleges to offer exceptional access to a Hobart and William Smith education, we must enhance our reputation in the marketplace. Reputational improvements will make it possible for us to continue an ongoing positive dynamic of attracting an exceptional student body and set of faculty and staff as we provide an ever-higher, value-added educational experience for students, and an enhanced work experience for faculty and staff. Success and positive thinking will lead to more success and positivity. An enhanced reputation will increase our ability to provide academically effective programs on campus, lead to increased return on investment, and make it easier to attract additional financial support from our donors — individuals as well as foundations. While we are firmly in the top 100 national liberal arts colleges, our goal is to rise substantially in reputation within this group.
Aspects of this thematic area include:
In order to be academically effective and strengthen our reputation, the Colleges need both to garner more resources and to manage the ones that we already have with close attention to cost containment, net revenue generation and fundraising from a variety of sources (individuals, foundations and government sources). Toward this end, we will launch a comprehensive capital campaign to support the three themes of strategic engagement and articulate specific ways in which donors can support those themes. Through increasing our endowment, we will reduce our dependency on tuition and be able to support a wider range of opportunities for our students. While a specific endowment goal will be articulated in the campaign documents, it is clear that for us to rise from the 80th percentile up into the top decile of liberal arts colleges, we would need to double our current endowment level within the next ten years. Increased and more stable finances along with improved operational efficiency will make it easier for us to support academic effectiveness and will improve our reputation.
Aspects of this thematic area include:
An integral part of the overall strategic planning process is a clearly articulated method for the day-to-day vetting, development and implementation of new projects (for details, click here). We intend to develop new projects that support these three themes within a rolling or iterative timeline, initially prioritizing tasks within an 18-36 month period. New projects will be approved only if they fall within at least one of the three themes and only if they are shown to propel significantly the Colleges forward in one or more of these areas. We anticipate that as we experience changes at the Colleges and in higher education in general, we will advance or modify these themes and priorities on an as-needed basis.
The objectives of the project planning process are to:
This process, comprised of five distinct phases with clear objectives, deliverables and exit criteria for each, will allow us to work on the right projects at the right times with the right resources.
Distinguishing attributes of this process are:
Prior to starting the process, a set of 4-6 coaches will be identified and trained by the VP for Strategic Initiatives so that they provide appropriate advice, including stressing the importance of alignment with the overall strategic plan. Additional high-level criteria will be developed prior to starting the process and refined over time, with the coaches participating in the development of criteria along with senior staff. Strategic Projects Coaches will be staff or faculty who are one level down from senior staff who will provide confidential advice in the initial discussion stage.