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Strategic Planning Process, Structure, Charge and Timeline Fall 2020

DePauw University Strategic Planning Process Structure, Charge and Timeline

Fall 2020

Strategic Planning Mission

Beginning this month, DePauw University will engage in a highly collaborative planning process that will result in a clear and concise vision for the renewal and reimagination of DePauw as a 21st Century liberal arts university. 

More specific overall planning goals include: 

  • Assessing our strengths, challenges, and opportunities so we can make changes to better position ourselves as a top liberal arts college distinctive from our peers.
  • Evaluating our academic and student life experiences and creating a compelling value proposition to attract a growing pool of prospective students.
  • Coalescing our investment of resources on a programmatically and financially sustainable institutional model including what we need to do differently in order to re- invest in priorities toward achieving our strategic vision.

Our goals rest on our transcendent priorities:

  • An unparalleled student experience that, in the spirit of the best liberal arts tradition, intentionally integrates students’ academic and co-curricular learning.
  • A campus culture in which every student, regardless of identity, background or financial circumstances, thrives at DePauw and has full opportunity to participate in all aspects of a DePauw education.
  • Strong partnerships with the city of Greencastle such that the city and the University continue to see ourselves as mutually intertwined.
  • The financial health of our institution today and for the future, including the growth of our endowment.
  • A resolute commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion made explicit to those whom we invite to join our community; we should not be afraid to publicly state these are aspirational values – that part of our learning environment is to figure out together what it means to study, work and live in a diverse, equitable and inclusive community.


DePauw’s strategic planning will be organized through a three-part system (a Strategic Planning Steering Committee, a set of Thematic Working Groups, and a community-wide input process) that will enable us to engage the entire community while also enabling us to work efficiently within the project timeline described at the end of this memorandum.

President White will chair a Strategic Planning Steering Committee that will be made up of the six elected faculty members of DePauw’s Strategic Planning Committee (SPC), the Chair of the Staff Advisory Council, and the Chair of the Administrative Council as well as six Cabinet Members. Steering committee members will serve as chairs or co-chairs of the Thematic Working Groups. The framing for this process has also been informed by Dr. Mary Marcy’s book, “The Small College Imperative; Models for Sustainable and Futures” which we encourage others to read as part of the strategic planning process as well.

Strategic Planning Steering Committee

The Strategic Planning Steering Committee is charged with organizing and leading the Phase One, Vision Renewal and Reimagination, and coordinating in Phase Two the work of the Thematic Working Groups. The Steering Committee will also identify opportunities and challenges that cut across multiple working groups to ensure a cohesive planning process. This committee will continue to engage the community throughout the entirety of the strategic planning process. In addition, the Strategic Planning Steering Committee is charged with drafting the strategic plan and an associated five-year financial plan with input from the Thematic Working Groups and the community. 

Thematic Working Groups

The Thematic Working Groups will be determined based on input from the fall 2020 community- wide input sessions, which will be an important part of Phase one, as well as previous strategic planning work conducted over the last seven years. Each working group will focus on a theme, which will have emerged from Phase One work (e.g., common experiences for students, campus infrastructure, academic initiatives.) Each thematic working group should consider issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and community as an integral part of their work with particular attention to bullet number five of our transcendent priorities. Additionally, each thematic working group should center the student experience in their work, keeping in mind the University Learning Goals endorsed by the faculty in May 2020 as well as the importance of positive post-graduation outcomes (e.g., graduate school, professional school, employment, and fellowships).

Members of each thematic working group will be appointed based on the nature of the associated theme and will include faculty (selected in consultation with Faculty Priorities and Governance Committee, which will include members of existing committees such as the Curriculum Committee and General Education Subcommittee), staff, administrators, students (including representatives from DePauw Student Government, Greek Life, Athletics, and the Student Advisory Board), alumni, Greek Advisory Board members, and Board of Trustee members as appropriate to each thematic working group.

Each thematic working group is charged with actively soliciting community-wide input related to their theme. In addition, each thematic working group should review any existing material and data that may be related to their themes and also look at other successful institutional models and programs to inform our thinking. For example, in recent years, proposals have been developed related to strengthening global education at DePauw, creating new Honor and Fellows programs, developing a Center for Race, Ethnicity and Political Engagement, the Sanger Leadership Initiative, and expanding DePauw’s connections to Indianapolis. Community members are invited to share such proposals with the Steering Committee or relevant Thematic Working Groups.

Phase One: Vision Renewal and Reimagination

In Phase One we will seek broad input to develop themes that will lead to renewing and reimagining DePauw’s vision. Steering Committee members will lead this collaborative work by gathering input through community discussions focused on our overall planning goals. 

Exploration in Phase One will consider environmental data related to changing student demographics, academic interests, preparing students to be personally and professionally successful in a diverse and rapidly changing world, as well as other factors including shifts in the perceived value of higher education and how DePauw fits within a competitive landscape.

Phase Two: Plan Execution Strategies

In Phase Two, Thematic Working Groups, derived through work in Phase One, will be established to further explore, and build plans for executing, strategies that follow from our Phase One work.


The Strategic Planning Steering Committee will be staffed and working by September 15th, 2020. Community updates will be provided in mid-October and mid-November. The Steering Committee’s goal is to prepare a draft report to be presented to the Board of Trustees at their January 2021 meeting.