On Feb. 18, President Paula A. Johnson sent a school-wide email informing students that the College was entering a new phase of strategic planning for a “five-year long-term vision.” According to the email, four teams of working groups composed of faculty, staff and students were created last semester to develop recommendations for how to establish a “strategic vision” for the future on the topics of organization and governance, liberal arts, Wellesley in the world and community.
In early January, each group presented their current state analysis report, a short summary of the problems and possible solutions that the College was currently facing in each sector.
The organization and governance working group, led by Program Director for Civic Engagement & Career Education Erin Konkle and Associate Professor of Economics Casey Rothschild, focused on internal structure.
When the College was re-accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) last November, the accreditors noted that “the College’s overall governance structure is highly inclusive … but it appears to lack committees with sufficiently broad purview and power to assist in effecting institutional change … This approach tends to lead to a great deal of time being spent in committees on managing routine tasks that are commonly done by administrators at other colleges … [The result is] a system that is biased toward deliberation over action and routine allocation over strategic planning.”
In response, the working group aimed to restructure governance at the College so that inequitable hierarchies in the current governance structure would be addressed and both participation and speed were at optimal levels.
“[Our] primary goal is to examine the current state of governance at our college and make recommendations for how to restructure in a way that allows us to better work with each other, and for our goals at the College,” said College Government President Diana Lam ’20.
The liberal arts working group, led by Associate Professor of American Studies Micheal Jeffries and Director of the Botanic Gardens Kristina Jones, is focused on developing a “clear, succinct narrative of the value of a Wellesley education,” according to the group’s current state analysis. The group discussed how high curriculum requirements could negatively affect low-income and minority students.
“As Wellesley pursues inclusive excellence for students, there is also plenty of room for improvement in diversity, equity and inclusion among faculty and staff, especially as demands on time and for collaboration increase with reductions in personnel,” the analysis read.
Also focusing on internal issues was the community working group, led by Carlos Ramos, professor of Spanish, and alumna Heather Woods ’97, associate chief information officer for the College.
The community group assessed four key elements of the Wellesley community: diversity and inclusion, student life and experience, health and wellness and transitioning the community to “achieve [a] higher standard of belonging … in and out of the curriculum, in our living and working environments, and across gender, class, race, ethnicity, and diversity of thought,” according to its current state analysis report.
The community working group’s strategic rationale explained that “building an inclusive community where everyone is valued takes advantage of our diverse experiences, talents, and ideas, allow[s] individuals and the College community to engage in meaningful experiences and realize their full potential.”
The Wellesley in the world working group, led by Carol Bate, associate dean of students, and Anjali Prabhu, professor of French, looked beyond the College, assessing the institution’s track record for producing strong leaders and its strong alumni network.
The working group emphasized how many institutes and centers that projected Wellesley to the world “operate[d] without sufficient coordination”, making better communication and collaboration between them a key point of concern.
“Wellesley needs both clarity of its mission and boldness of its messaging as it refines and extends the adaptable structures that enable the institution to accomplish its goals,” the working group wrote in its current state analysis.
The group also focused on promoting Wellesley’s name internationally.
“Depending on where you are … I don’t think that [everyone knows Wellesley] … you’ve heard of Yale or Harvard, but Wellesley isn’t on the horizon, and I think we can do a whole lot more and connect with partners who are like-minded,” said Prabhu.
After each group developed a current state analysis for their topic, they continued to the second stage, aspirations, where they developed a five-year plan for the College.
As part of the strategic planning initiative, Johnson invited the student body to participate in a series of meetings between Feb. 20. and March 2. Students could either visit large group discussions or smaller meet-ups, with the opportunity to engage with working group members.
“We’re working on [the aspirations stage] by trying to get more students to the feedback sessions so that we can get wider community input,” Lam said.
The College’s inclusion of their voices in the strategic planning has been welcomed by students.
Konkle also emphasized the need for student voices: “We need to proactively invite and engage students in the process. Students are the heart of the Wellesley community and we simply cannot do this work well without them.”