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Fall Update to the Campus Community

Dear Macalester Campus Community:

We are delighted to share an update on steps that advance the Imagine, Macalester strategic plan. The Senior Leadership Team (SLT) made decisions in the last month about a set of 2023-24 commitments to action. The written summaries and exchange of ideas with the working group co-chairs in August revealed points of common enthusiasm and intersecting actions that support elements of the strategic plan. The initial set of commitments makes progress on one or more of the plan’s four foundational imperatives: academic distinction, financial sustainability, social responsibility, and community well-being. 

The SLT organized actions into two categories: Operational Projects and Strategic Implementation Initiatives. Both distinguish us as an institution; we cannot fully engage in strategic work without sustained attention to our operational responsibilities.

Operational Projects

Operational projects involve work that can be taken up more directly, without requiring significant study or development for implementation. The year-long planning process and the efforts of the working groups and committees have resulted in the suggestion of over a dozen such projects, not all of which can be done at the same time. Some of these projects already have begun and some will be initiated during the coming year, as workloads permit: 

  • Support employee well-being and thriving. For example:
    • In conjunction with the Comprehensive Campus Plan, optimize the use of space to  foster employee well-being, and
    • Strengthen employee onboarding and orientation. 
  • Sustain intentional digital transformation efforts by digitizing manual processes across campus to more efficiently capture data and improve user experiences.
    • An example of progress in this area is the creation of Mac Nav, an app that addresses the need identified by the student ready campus working group to “create a readily discoverable resource that can provide a conduit to other resources on campus.” 
  • Clarify the role of alumni in supporting the strategic priorities.
    • The Immersing Alumni in the Intellectual Life of the Campus working group made several suggestions to prepare the campus community to further engage alumni in a coordinated manner. For example, create scalable best practices across both academic and non-academic spaces, as well as identify new ways to increase alumni engagement in partnership with the on-campus community.

If you have, or your department has, an idea about an operational project that supports the goals of the Imagine, Macalester plan and that falls within the bounds of your authority and current scope of work, you are encouraged to discuss with your supervisor how to proceed. Supervisors, please communicate the plan to your line leader so that they can share examples with the Strategic Plan Implementation (SPI) Committee and the SLT. 

Strategic Implementation Initiatives

These initiatives require sustained study and planning, allocation of new resources, and possibly changes in organizational structure. Building on the momentum from the working groups and committees that provided insightful and varied perspectives, the Senior Leadership Team endorses the following 2023-24 commitments to action:

1. Initiate sequence A of the Comprehensive Campus Plan. (SLT partner: Patricia Langer)
The Comprehensive Campus Plan has been shared widely after being endorsed by the Board of Trustees in May. HGA was selected as the architecture firm for the design phase of a new residence hall and welcome center. Initial discussions for this project are underway with key stakeholders, including faculty, students, and staff. The college began a sequence of interdependent actions that will lead to student-centered improvements in the Campus Center in the summer of 2024. This sequence includes updates in Lampert, which will bring the Advancement division together in that space. This will allow space for several student-facing administrative offices currently located in the Campus Center to move to Weyerhaeuser, which the campus plan highlighted as a space to better connect with students. The specifics of such moves have not yet been determined.

2. Develop a holistic first-year experience that integrates academic and psycho-social learning. (SLT partner: Lisa Anderson-Levy)
This priority emerged clearly from each of the working groups this summer. By integrating all the ways students are welcomed to Macalester, we will more clearly invite them into conversations about the purpose of a liberal arts education and create a framework that supports their success. Efforts in this area will result in a unified set of principles, outcomes, and actions that could be piloted next year.

3. Expand opportunities for students to engage in high-impact practices and experiential learning. (SLT partner: Kathryn Kay Coquemont)
Consistent with published observations, Macalester students regularly engage in high-impact practices such as: study away, research mentorship, internships, writing-intensive courses, community-based learning, and collaborative assignments. Such opportunities are not, however, uniformly distributed, equitably accessible, or intentionally coordinated. Through better data collection and sharing, we will create the conditions to guarantee access to these opportunities, as well as better understand the capacity and organizational location of such efforts.

4. Make innovative changes to the Macalester curriculum. (SLT partner: Tom Halverson)
The term “curriculum” has broadened its associations in recent decades to include both formal coursework as well as other intentionally designed programs that facilitate learning beyond progress toward a degree. The Student Learning Committee will draft updates to the institutional education outcomes that reflect Macalester’s values and meet external standards for accreditation. The Educational Policy and Governance Committee (EPAG) will hear an update from the ad hoc Curricular Committee and respond to options shared in the ad hoc committee’s written summary. The SLT and SPI Committee are poised to support pilot projects during the 2023-24 academic year.

5. Create a signature advising and mentorship program for students that engages the Macalester community broadly in relationship-rich practices. (SLT partner: Alina Wong)
The working groups this summer uniformly affirmed that each member of the Macalester community has a role as an educator, advisor, and/or mentor. Expanding such an affirmation to create an advising and mentorship program for students will involve deep collaboration. The new approach must acknowledge the time and effort that such relationship-rich practices take. Several concrete suggestions exist in the written reports that will serve as a starting point for action.

6. Determine changes(s) to the college calendar (SLT partner: Jenn Haas)
The Reimagining Time discussion paper offered by the Strategic Planning and Analysis (SPA) committee last year generated further conversation in multiple working groups during the summer. At this time, there is no consensus around upending the academic calendar and moving to a set of quarters or trimesters. Instead, the potential benefits of changing the weekly organization of time and augmenting semesters (e.g. adding January or May learning opportunities through travel or focused activities or altering the length of spring break) both garnered interest and, in some cases, enthusiasm from multiple working groups. This fall, SPA will refine options related to the weekly calendar and the SPI committee will outline alternative term models.

Listed with each commitment is the SLT partner for those actions. As partners, the SLT members will work with the SPI Committee to make critical decisions about the sequence and timing of tasks, as well as how best to configure the work and with whom to meet deadlines for specific actions or milestones. The SPI Committee will continue its role of facilitating, summarizing, and keeping the community informed of progress toward the Imagaine, Macalester goals. We recognize that progress on strategic priorities is evolving in large and small ways. Our goal is to provide enough information and detail for the community to measure progress and understand what is happening. 

If you have questions or comments, or suggestions of ways to improve communication, please share them with us at [email protected].

Thank you for your continued engagement with becoming the place we collectively imagined during the strategic planning process!

Wishing you well.

Paul Overvoorde (co-chair), Jeff Allen (co-chair), Julie Hurbanis, Bethany Miller, Sara Suelflow

Strategic Plan Implementation Committee