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Strategic Planning Committee strategizes for years ahead

Most students are only on campus for four years, but Macalester is often in the midst of projects and goals that last much longer than that. Planning for many of these begins in the Strategic Planning Committee (SPC), a group of administrators, faculty and students who meet over the course of three semesters to develop goals and strategies for the next ten years.

The current committee will be completing a strategic plan for 2015 to 2025. It will be the first strategic planning document President Rosenberg has officially helped author within a committee during his time as President.

On an individual advisory basis, President Rosenberg drafted a document of strategic imperatives for the college for 2005 to 2015, titled “World Class.” It includes discussion of how to combat Macalester’s tendency to downplay its accomplishments and several ideas for development projects, including the new arts and music facilities currently in construction.

On the first page of the document, a boldface statement reads “Macalester’s fundamental goal over the next ten years and beyond should be to become widely recognized as a college distinguished by exceptional academic quality, a pervasive sense of excitement and innovation, a keen awareness of the changing world into which we are sending our graduates, a distinctive and demonstrable commitment to the education of socially responsible global citizens and leaders, and a student experience informed and enhanced by a rich urban environment.”

During the January retreat of the Board of Trustees, the members of the board discussed questions that should be answered by the SPC during this strategic planning process, coming up with a list of seven in a document sent to students by President Rosenberg on Feb. 6. The questions raised deal with the potential role of technology and distance learning in the college’s future, how to emphasize Macalester’s strengths and how to establish “a sustainable economic model” for the college as costs continue to rise, among others.

The committee has 22 members. President Rosenberg serves as chair, and the committee includes 12 administrators, eight faculty members and two students—Grace Putka ’16 and Ruxi Zhang ’14. A full list of members can be found in the email from President Rosenberg sent on Feb. 6. The student representatives were chosen by the executive board of MCSG, who nominated them on Feb. 19 for President Rosenberg’s official confirmation later that week.

The SPC had their first meeting on Feb. 25. Members of the committee plan on meeting with the Board of Trustees when they are campus this weekend.

Putka sees being a member of the SPC as a way to be involved in the direction of the college as a whole, distinct from some of the on campus political activism she does through MPIRG and Kick Wall Street Off Campus.

“It’s a different way to get involved with the direction of the college,” she said.

Putka, a first year, was surprised to be selected as a underclassmen, but remembered that due to study abroad and graduation “basically half the campus is ineligible” to serve on the SPC, which requires a three semester commitment.

Putka sees the goals of the SPC broadly, thinking of it as an opportunity to “advance to model of residential liberal arts colleges a whole.”

“A lot of it will focus on the strengths we already have and what distinguishes us from other colleges,” she said.

For the remainder of this semester and in Fall 2013, the committee’s primary goal will be collecting input from the broader Macalester community, Putka said. Plans are in the works for “listening sessions,” some of which will be general, others of which will focus on specific themes like the role of technology. The first of several listening sessions where students and community members can bring their ideas and voice their concerns will be held during March.

Both Putka and Zhang hope to use these sessions to develop a sense of what direction students want the college to go in for the next decade.

“I’m going to try to represent the general students as much as possible,” Putka said.

In the first meeting, Putka said felt that her voice was heard and that the students were on equal standing with the committee as whole. She is excited for the semesters ahead.
“I’m really optimistic,” Putka said.

The SPC will begin weekly meetings this April. After two semesters of information gathering, much of the development of the actual strategic plan will take place in Spring 2014.

March 8, 2013

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