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GATEWAY TO THE FUTURE
STRATEGIC PLAN FOR WILKES UNIVERSITY 2014-2020
1.) FOSTER EXCELLENCE IN ACADEMIC PROGRAMS
As a University dedicated to student success and lifelong learning, Wilkes must continue to build programs that transform the lives of the students we serve.
At the center of a Wilkes education is a commitment to academic programs that reflect the highest standards, and challenge students to achieve beyond their perceived potential. Central to this commitment is a faculty who, first and foremost, value excellence in teaching and learning. With an emphasis on “individualized attention” and “academic excellence”, the University’s values of mentorship, scholarship, diversity, innovation and community will guide the student experience in and out of the classroom.
Teaching and learning will be enhanced by high-impact and evidence-based practices that take fullest advantage of innovative pedagogy, technology and cross-disciplinary collaboration. Recognizing that teaching effectiveness is enhanced by faculty scholarship, the University must endeavor to enhance its support for professional development and access to extramural funding to ensure that students can continue to participate in faculty-supervised research and creative work. We must develop programmatic opportunities to maximize the academic experience for our highest achieving undergraduates.
A diverse and inclusive campus community is requisite for our students to be able to engage locally, nationally and internationally. Increasing the number of international students who study at Wilkes (with the requisite academic preparation and affiliated support services), as well as faculty and scholar exchanges, and creating opportunities for our domestic students to study abroad, will assure that we are preparing our students to be global citizens.
Recognizing that the number of undergraduates studying at Wilkes through our degree-completion programs or from a distance is projected to increase, it will be important to establish programs and services that are accessible for this population. Rigorous attention to the quality of programs and services provided by all units, both academic and administrative, will assure the success of our students, and thereby, enhance the reputation of Wilkes University.
In order to achieve these goals, Wilkes will:
- Support a culture of scholarship by creating incentives for and offering recognition of excellent scholarship among the faculty.Increase by $100,000 the University’s financial support for the Faculty Development Committee by the end of the plan.
- Create structures and support for undergraduate and graduate students to participate in faculty-sponsored research and scholarly activity by raising the mentoring project fund by $100,000 by the end of this plan.
- Structure the academic units into the best possible configuration for excellence.
- Restructure our global diversity efforts to maximize the international exposure of our student population through new course offerings, study abroad opportunities and faculty and scholar exchanges, while also considering a “global intensive” requirement as part of our general education program.
- Focus on achieving distinction in our accreditation pursuits, with an effort to obtain the highest accreditation standards in the disciplines for which the University believes this recognition adds value.
- Assess the opportunities and develop remote locations (i.e. Mesa, AZ; Bartonsville, PA) in order to serve students and expand our reach of programs.
- Review the approval process for academic programs to assure it supports the highest quality academic programs, is agile and user-friendly, and allows us to move new programs to market expeditiously.
- Focus on alternative delivery of programs (i.e. online and hybrid) to support faculty and students.
- Develop the option for an on-line pathway to fulfill our undergraduate general education requirements.
- Implement an honors program for undergraduate students with a goal of enrolling 160 by the end of the plan.
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2.) INVEST IN OUR PEOPLE
Our faculty, staff, and alumni are our single most important asset in transforming the lives of our students. Therefore, Wilkes must recruit, retain, and develop its faculty and staff members, as well as engage alumni in support of our students and programs.
A faculty and staff that are united in their focus on the University’s mission will create an optimal environment for discovery, learning and collaboration. An effective faculty and staff will be supported by a culture that is welcoming, purposeful and celebrative. A faculty and staff that are qualified, well supported and inspired by their work, will be required if we are to become the university we envision. A commitment to recruiting, retaining and motivating the best talent will require competitive compensation and benefits, and a performance evaluation system that is developmental, fair and supportive of the University’s mission and goals.
Building on one of the University’s key strengths and values, we must take best advantage of our mentoring culture to develop our staff and faculty. In addition, engaging our alumni in the life of the University through enrichment activities can have a long-lasting impact on our current students.
Assuring a quality life-long relationship between an alumnus and the University starts at the very beginning of a student’s relationship with Wilkes. Early on, connecting students to tradition and the value of “giving back” can elicit rewards for the University and its students that last across the generations. An alumni network that connects our current students with their aspirations enriches the Wilkes experience and will enhance the career prospects of our students.
In order to meet these expectations, Wilkes will:
- Build a campus culture based on shared responsibility, transparency, respect, and enthusiasm.
- Develop a compensation philosophy that is based on competitivesalaries and benefits and includes a merit component.
- Create faculty and staff development programs that are viewed as developmental and supportive.
- Develop a new, enhanced public safety operation to ensure the safety of our entire campus community.
- Institute a performance management system with recognition programs to celebrate the achievements of our faculty and staff.
- Develop programs to enhance alumni engagement through mentoring, internships, and job placement, offering increased and meaningful ways for alumni to interact with students and the University, with a goal of increasing the number of engaged alumni by 500.
- Bi-annually survey employee satisfaction, with a goal to achieve Honor Roll status in the Chronicle’s “Great College’s To Work For” survey.
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3.) RECRUIT, RETAIN, PLACE AND GRADUATE UNDERGRADUATE AND GRADUATE STUDENTS
In a market characterized by intense competition and unrelenting challenges, Wilkes must recruit, retain, graduate, and place students to maximize our transformative impact, while growing in a way that supports Wilkes’ mission and value.
Recognizing that the campus’ infrastructure and program capacity will determine how much the University can grow, it is critical that the University maximize its opportunities to increase enrollment at the undergraduate and graduate level.
Enrollment success will be dependent on our ability to attract students at or beyond our market share. Our ability to achieve our enrollment goals will require an academic profile and reputation desirable to our prospective and current students and their families; a tuition strategy that makes a Wilkes education affordable and attainable; a marketing strategy that conveys Wilkes’ vision and successes and increases our regional, national and international visibility; and a recruitment infrastructure at the undergraduate and graduate level that is responsive to the individual needs of our applicants.
Our commitment to individualized attention and academic excellence will allow our faculty and staff to identify early on in a student’s enrollment at Wilkes the key experiences, supports and services needed to be successful. New ways to personalize the Wilkes experience, different from what other colleges and universities offer, will set a Wilkes education apart from our competitors and reduce the impediments and barriers to student success. Whether graduate students are studying on campus or from a distance, being able to create a greater sense of community among them, will enhance their programmatic success and their identification with and loyalty to the University.
In order to reach these goals, Wilkes will:
- Build programs and support services that ensure all students are prepared for the intense Wilkes academic experience.
- Grow the undergraduate first-year class to 650 students by 2020, recruiting over 30% of these students from outside the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
- Grow our international student market to 10% of the undergraduate first-year class as a way to diversify our campus and reduce our reliance on mature recruiting markets.
- Develop strong articulation agreements with four Pennsylvania two-year colleges to grow new transfer students to 300 per year and build a support structure that assures readiness.
- Grow graduate enrollments by 25%.
- Identify specific retention efforts to boost our first-year retention rate to 82% and our 6-year graduation rate to 65%.
- Build a new marketing campaign to brand Wilkes, positioning it as the high-value option in our recruiting markets.
- Expand high-impact activities by offering at least five new sports and programs (i.e. marching band) with a goal to engage 200 additional students in these activities.
- Expand career placement opportunities for students throughout the region and around the nation, achieving a consistent placement rate of 90% or higher.
- Emphasize the value of experiential education of all forms, to include an expansion of our internship opportunities in our region, across the country and around the globe, while, at the same time, we prepare students for experiential education with the skills and experiences to assure their success.
- Anticipating growth in on-line courses and increases in adult student enrollments, create access to academic support services through on-line resources.
- Focus efforts on creating a summer school program that is an accessible and affordable option for native Wilkes students and visiting students, with the goal to increase summer revenue by 25%.
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4.) IMPROVE OUR FINANCIAL STRENGTH
As an enrollment-dependent university where cost of attendance will increasingly influence enrollment decisions, Wilkes must strengthen and diversify our ability to generate and manage resources.
No longer will colleges and universities be able to pass their additional costs on to students through tuition increases. Our ability to strengthen our financial profile will depend on: 1) enrollment strategies to sustain and grow our enrollment; 2) the growth of our endowment; 3) our ability to generate external funding; 4) a disciplined budgeting process; and 5) operational practices that create a culture of productivity, efficiency and continuous improvement. Budgeting conservatively and overachieving on our revenue targets will assure our ability to invest in our programs, our students and our faculty and staff.
Setting the path that will guide our fundraising, this strategic plan will identify the investments Wilkes must make to ensure the robust future to which we all aspire.
In order to meet these requirements, Wilkes will:
- Strengthen our long-term budget process to ensure strategic investments and to ensure operating surpluses each year of 5% of gross revenues through careful budget management and savings incentives.
- Maintain a University discount rate at 35% or less.
- Launch a campaign to support this strategic plan with a goal to raise $50 million over the next six years in gifts and pledges.
- Grow the endowment (including quasi-endowment) by $20 million by the end of the plan.
- Develop The Founders Gala into the marquee event of the Wilkes year, annually raising $300,000 from 500 attendees by the end of the plan.]
- Increase external grant funding by 50% to support faculty research and other academic endeavors through the Director of Sponsored Programs.
- Increase participation in grants/sponsored research proposals over the course of this plan by 50%.
- Strengthen our compliance, risk management and business continuity functions through the appointment of a Chief Risk Management Officer for development of specific risk management planning.
- Create a budget management process that ensures that our resources are allocated in a manner consistent with strategic priorities, and used in the most responsible, efficient and effective way possible.
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5.) STRENGTHEN OUR CAMPUS INFRASTRUCTURE
As the competition for students intensifies, Wilkes must enhance our campus to ensure that students, faculty, and staff have the facilities and resources they need to excel.
A quality education at the undergraduate or graduate level, whether a course is taught in-person, on-line or in a hybrid format, requires a campus infrastructure that operates dependably and seamlessly for all of Wilkes’ populations. The campus must develop its physical spaces with attention to aesthetic and functional design that builds upon Wilkes’ history and traditions, and creates living, learning, laboratory and studio spaces that are engaging and take best advantage of the power of relationship to enhance the student experience. At the core of a Wilkes education is the emphasis on “individualized attention.” Services and programs must be designed consistent with this value and commitment.
Administrative services across the University must be integrated and developed to provide ease of access and reliability. A safe and nurturing community that supports our students’ academic, social, emotional and physical development requires our special attention and must be at the forefront of our planning and implementation. Critical for the University will be an information technology infrastructure that is user-friendly and provides consistent support for our students, faculty, staff and visitors on and off campus and is available anytime and anywhere. Our technology infrastructure must be reliable and safe and enable communication, encourage collaboration and enhance teaching and learning.
In order to enhance our campus, Wilkes will:
- Develop a comprehensive campus enhancement plan, with a goal to invest in at least one enhancement project per year.
- Consolidate the School of Nursing into one location.\
- Renovate Stark Learning Center to improve engineering lab facilities and to enhance instructional space.
- Convert UCOM into a dedicated, state-of-the-art business school building for the Sidhu School of Business & Leadership.
- Consolidate the Communications Department into one state-of-the-art location.
- Invest in the required infrastructure improvements at the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center for the Performing Arts and the Eugene S. Farley Library.
- Make strategic acquisitions of property, including 141 South Main Street, to expand the campus footprint.
- Build a gateway that connects South Main Street with the Fenner Quadrangle, uniting in a meaningful way our campus and the city.
- Build student housing and dining capacity for an additional 200 students.
- Improve our IT infrastructure to better serve the teaching needs of our professors and the learning needs of our students, assuring access anytime and anywhere.
- Create operational redundancy for our academic program that can maintain the deliverability of our coursework in the case of an emergency.
- Continue our investments in our athletic and recreational facilities to support the addition of new student-athletes.
- Assure that the University has the required mix of instructional spaces that meet our program delivery needs and educational values.
- Maintain our commitment to environmental sustainability by minimizing our carbon footprint in campus construction, programs and activities.
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6.) SUPPORT EFFORTS AT REDEVELOPING DOWNTOWN WILKES-BARRE
Driven by a sense of its community responsibility and a business imperative, Wilkes must be a force for positive economic development, making Wilkes-Barre an increasingly attractive option for current and prospective students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
When Wilkes actively engages in our city, we affect not only those whom we touch, but ourselves as well. Driven by our “commitment to community engagement”, Wilkes’ five colleges and schools develop relationships with our region’s strongest private and public organizations, creating synergies that afford our students opportunities to prepare for the roles they will assume throughout their lives and careers. As an anchor in the center of Wilkes-Barre, Wilkes must continue to be an aesthetic, cultural, intellectual and economic resource and influence.
Our commitment to civic engagement and public safety will contribute to the social well being of our city and assure that our students, faculty and staff connect easily with the community around us and are a catalyst for positive change.
In order to support Wilkes-Barre redevelopment, Wilkes will:
- Actively support the downtown revitalization strategy by developing formal partnerships with area colleges, the City of Wilkes-Barre, and the Diamond City Partnership.
- Support efforts to redevelop South Main Street, in particular the three blocks that parallel our campus, and the neighborhood south of main campus.
- Expand programs that encourage students, faculty and staff to patronize businesses in downtown Wilkes-Barre and become participants in downtown revitalization.
- Further incentivize efforts to encourage faculty and staff to live in downtown Wilkes-Barre by extending a loan forgiveness program and by developing additional programs to serve that goal.
- Support the development of a business accelerator program in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
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