Over the last few weeks, students have received several emails from the University about its strategic plan, branded by the University as “Harvest our Treasures.” But what is the strategic plan? What are our treasures? And how does Seton Hall plan to harvest them? The Setonian breaks down what’s inside:
What is a strategic plan?
A strategic plan is a document which outlines broad goals for the University to pursue in the coming years, according to Dr. Alyssa McCloud, co-chair of the Strategic Planning Committee. This plan outlines a course for the next three years “and beyond.”
“In concrete terms, you wouldn’t just jump in your car and launch a three-year journey without charting a course, taking the rights maps so you know where to travel, where to stop and see the sites along the way to your destination,” McCloud said. “We have agreed on a set of priorities to nimbly and confidently move into the future and advance into a new era of greater distinction and achievement.”
The University has not released a strategic plan in over a decade, according to McCloud.
Since summer 2019, the University’s Strategic Planning Committee has been working with Keeling and Associates, a higher education consulting firm, to create the plan.
The committee is made up largely of administrators, faculty, and priests. One seat is reserved for a representative of the undergraduate student body, and is filled by 2020 SGA presidential candidate Stefan Ferreira.
A footnote on every page of the plan explains that it is not a contract and proposals it outlines are subject to change at any time.
The Board of Regents voted unanimously to approve the plan on Dec. 3, according to the plan’s preamble.
What’s in it?
The plan outlines five main goals for the University: Developing academic quality, supporting faculty, improving access, advancing inclusion and advancing institutional sustainability. Attached to each goal is a list of proposed actions the University can take to reach it.
Goal 1 of the plan is to “provide a distinctive and rigorous education in liberal arts,” in connection with the “Catholic intellectual tradition.”
One proposal under this goal is to increase the number of permanent and tenured faculty on campus.
The plan also suggests the University create a “centralized team” to “infuse liberal arts throughout the University,” expanding dual-degree programs and develop new connections with Catholic organizations.
Goal 2 hopes to develop the University through increased support of the faculty. It calls on the University to “sustain and continually renew a diverse and expert faculty of distinguished teacher-scholars.”
The plan hopes to create an improved culture for faculty by hosting collaborative workshops, expanding interdisciplinary study and establishing effective infrastructure to support grant-funding.
Goal 2 also suggests reviewing compensation measures to increase retention.
“We are looking at numerous opportunities for staff development and succession planning so our colleagues will want to remain at the University,” McCloud said.
Goal 3 is to improve access to the University while enhancing quality of education. It also outlines commitments to improving student services and investing in athletics.
Goal 3 plans to engage students from across Seton Hallwith philosophical and ethical thinking, expand study abroad opportunities and create state-of-the-art athletic facilities.
It also plans to establish and implement a new retention strategy. In 2019, Seton Hall’s freshman retention rate was 83% according to College Factual. Nearby Rutgers New Brunswick had a retention rate of 93%, while fellow Big East schools Providence College and Villanova retained 93% and 96% of their freshmen respectively.
Goal 3 also includes a goal of monitoring and improving accessibility.
The University recently announced plans to renovate the University Center, making the entire building accessible. Currently, the stage of the theatre-in-the-round, attached to the Center, is not accessible by wheelchair.
Other buildings on campus, such as Mooney Hall, are currently inaccessible.
The University may also utilize HyFlex technology beyond the pandemic, with Goal 3 including a plan to “utilize existing investments in technology to expand and modify the delivery of courses, student activities, conferences, events and services to students so that they extend beyond the typical geographic reach and normal operating hours of the University.”
The goal of increasing access does not make specific mention of tuition, which increased by 3.5% last year as a part of cost-saving measures taken by the University in response to the pandemic.
Goal 4 hopes to maintain an inclusive, transparent campus culture that provides a “transformative experience” for every student and creates greater communication across colleges and campuses of the University.
Goal 4 outlines plans to track demographic data by school and college and create initiatives to “increase the number of underrepresented minorities.”
The goal also calls on each school and college to create diversity, equity and inclusion committees.
“Each academic program will incorporate curricular and/or extracurricular that advances equity and social justice as it intersects with the discipline,” the plan says.
Goal 4 also calls on the University to create “affinity spaces” on campus including a “dedicated multicultural space.”
Goal 5 hopes to improve institutional flexibility by making strategic investments that will improve the University’s operational structure.
Goal 5 includes attracting “high-caliber” faculty, reviewing the structure of the schools and colleges to ensure efficiency and reviewing University contracts and expenses.
Why is it marked ‘confidential?’
Despite the University sharing the plan with the entire Seton Hall community, every page of the plan is watermarked as “confidential.”
“The University Strategic Plan is confidential and not for general distribution to the public because it is an internal University document and meant to be privileged in nature,” McCloud said.
The document sent to the community will be password protected to prevent those outside the University community from accessing it.
“Sharing this plan with our internal community is about doing the right thing and being completely transparent with Setonia,” McCloud said. “We are providing a special password and complete access to every aspect of the document through SharePoint for our own community.”
Daniel O’Connor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @itsDanOConnor.