SLU is entering the next phase of recession response with the construction of strategic plan.
The university’s recession response began with a task force that tackled “immediate needs to help the budget in light of the downturn,” Tom Evelyn, vice president of communications, said. That task force was followed by the trustee’s recession response phase two (RRP2) report, which offered recommendations and preliminary research for the strategic plan.
The university also enlisted the help of a Hardwick Day professional marketing study, which described the university’s image and potential admissions markets.
“No one saw the recession coming,” Cania, vice president of university relations, said. “The endowment didn’t grow but in fact declined precipitously. We are dealing with that. We had to adjust our budgets to reflect both our change in projections as well as the reality of decreasing resources.”
The first phase of SLU’s recession response achieved it’s goal of maintaining the students’ experience – most students cannot identify what was cut, according to Don Rose, chair of the board of trustees. With more changes on the way, the question is whether that student perception will endure.
A writing team of staff, alumnus and a student are drafting a strategic plan for the university based on research and recommendations in the RRP2 report and guidelines assembled by a “mapping council” that assembled in August, according to Evelyn, leader of the writing team.
The draft will be available to students on September 12.
The writing team worked from August 10 to 26 and have given the draft to “first readers,” who were present for the mapping council meeting and will make the first round of revisions, Evelyn said.
SLU will hold faculty and staff forums on September 14, 16 and 19 to field questions and consider revisions of the strategic plan draft. Students will get a chance to voice their opinions of the plan to University President Bill Fox on September 21 during a Thelmo “town hall” meeting, according to Josh Lashway ’13, Thelmo vice president of university relations.
SLU trustees will vote on the strategic plan during their October 20 to 22 board meeting. If the plan passes, it will be implemented in November with full impact in the spring semester 2012.
Evelyn said he doesn’t expect the trustees to shoot it down but they do have the option to ask for further revisions.
University communications declined to comment on what the strategic plan draft will include. “I’m expecting [the strategic plan] will change dramatically through this process,” Evelyn said. “This is a living document.”
Cania said every idea in the Trustee’s 56 page phase two report is on the table.
“I think we’re looking at ways, and this is very general, that we can use our resources and increase our resources to provide the best liberal arts education possible,” Evelyn said.
“Everybody involved with the RRP2 are taking the correct steps and carefully moving forward, making sure all ideas are being examined and the long term financial situation of St. Lawrence is not being put in jeopardy,” Matt De Luca ’13, student delegate to the board of trustees, said. “The key to the whole process is to narrow down the report into a handful of projects that will be put into action in the future.”
University administrators, student leaders, and hired facilitators got together at SLU’s Canaras Conference Center – a quarter mile of Upper Saranac lakefront property with views of Whiteface mountain – for a three-day retreat in early August to discuss the strategic plan.
They weren’t discussing the details – that’s the job of the writing team. Cania and Evelyn said they were soul-searching.
An independent facilitator, Bill Weary, asked the conference participants, “What moment in SLU’s history or in your experience at SLU would you define as the moment you knew you belonged at SLU?” Cania said.
The consultant asked the council members to consider their vision for SLU and hear how others experienced St. Lawrence, according to Cania. “What evolved from that over the conversations was more of a shared vision than one would imagine, given how different people were in the room,” Cania said. “I found that to be a very emotional moment to think about those experiences.”