In the spring of 2010, as the global economy remains in its most difficult financial crisis in 80 years, Susquehanna University is a strong and vibrant institution that recently concluded the celebration of its sesquicentennial. While our first century was marked by a pragmatism borne of necessity, in the past 50 years we have witnessed a period of significant growth, development and innovation throughout the institution. Credit for this progress is owed to the extraordinary efforts and generosity of students, faculty, staff, board members, alumni, parents and friends, and to a succession of thoughtful and focused planning activities. We approach this strategic planning process as a fiscally strong institution with momentum, ambition and enthusiasm. Yet it must be acknowledged also that the challenges facing private liberal arts institutions are many. Remaining focused on our mission, guiding values and core strategies, making wise choices and investments and remaining a dynamic and agile institution will be keys to sustaining and increasing our momentum.
The most recent strategic plan, Susquehanna University: A Plan for Greater Intellectual Engagement and a Stronger University Community (adopted in 2003) has served us well in providing strong and enduring institutional guidance and has created opportunities for significantly enriching the experiences of our students. In reviewing that plan in 2003, one senior trustee remarked that, more than previous efforts, the plan expressed “timeless” objectives that he could imagine resonating far beyond an incremental planning period of three to five years. It was clear as we began the process of developing this current plan that the 2003 document still resonates with our academic community and that it has retained a currency and vibrancy rare in institutional planning. It should be no surprise then that much of the work we envision for the years ahead rests on the foundations laid during these past six years.
The 2003 plan sought to enhance the student experience, further strengthen the institution and secure the university’s standing as a national model for exemplary undergraduate education. We recommit ourselves to this vision mindful of the global financial crisis. While its full impact cannot be predicted, there seems little doubt that there will be significant consequences for Susquehanna University specifically and for higher education generally. The plan is intended to be both focused and dynamic: allowing us to attend to the university’s priorities during this time while remaining agile enough to adjust to an uncertain future. This approach is in keeping with current perspectives on strategic planning and marks a transition for this institution from “strategic planning” to “strategic thinking.” It is critical that planning become more of a regular activity rather than a discrete episodic event that brings our community together in these kinds of discussions only every five years.
At the plan’s core is the commitment to strengthen those areas of our educational work that reflect our collective values. While it differs from a more typical strategic plan in that it is written for three years as opposed to five (thus reflecting the current difficulty of predicting long-term financial conditions), its new initiatives continue to advance the university during this time of crisis, thus ensuring institutional progress rather than retrenchment. This plan is written with a combination of realism and optimism, reflecting a cognizance that while some challenging times lie ahead, the strength and commitment of the university community will ensure its future success. It remains our vision that Susquehanna can be a national model for exemplary undergraduate education and that these commitments will further distinguish the university and most importantly the education it provides for its students.