February 05, 2024

An Update on Strategic Planning

Dear Colleagues,

When the Lewis & Clark community comes together, our strength is unparalleled. Now is the time for us to look ahead and think about how we can best shape our future for continued success. Last semester institutional leadership began developing a new strategic plan and, with the help of a growing circle of faculty and staff, we have made good headway. We are now looking for wider participation in the process.

This message will show you (1) what we’ve done so far, (2) the broad strategic themes that are taking shape, and (3) explain how you can be involved. We aim to gather information and feedback by the end of the semester and then draft and deliver a plan to the Board of Trustees.

Some of you may have already heard me say that I like strategic planning: the need for a community to slow down and consider where we are and where we need to go. This is collective work that sets our course for an even better future. The task may be difficult, but we learn more about ourselves, our place in the world, and the best path forward.

Our competitiveness requires a dynamic strategy to meet challenging circumstances. A good plan and successful implementation will help us differentiate ourselves from peers and accomplish key objectives: to meet enrollment and retention goals, provide stronger student outcomes, raise institutional visibility, and increase our financial resources through increased revenue and fundraising.

This strategic plan will not be a business or operational plan, the kind that covers all the bases. Rather, we’re looking for a document that is short and focused. The result should be a plan that centers on a few big ideas that will distinguish and benefit Lewis & Clark for years to come.

We started our planning in earnest last fall with meetings of the Executive Council, as well as groups of faculty and staff from all three schools. Our work to date has progressed toward what we might think of as a few emerging themes, the likely pillars of a new strategic plan. They arise, in part, from a series of questions:

  • How do we fulfill our mission, and how do we educate students to take their place in the world?
  • In a highly competitive landscape, why would a student choose Lewis & Clark?
  • How can we enhance our institutional academic offerings, programs, services, and strengths in ways that are of even greater benefit—to our students, to the region, and beyond?
  • How can we meet and support students where they are in their own personal and professional development?

Responding to these imperatives will help us set a course that is true to the collective strengths of all three schools. The working themes are broad in scope and hold great potential for positive impact. Each is dynamic and linked in vital ways to the other themes by people, programs, and the need for coordination. While the language is still in draft form, I believe that the general themes and ideas below should be the cornerstone ideas of a new strategic plan:

1. We rise as one

Lewis & Clark is greater than the sum of our parts. The collaborative potential of our three schools is boundless. Driven by a singular mission, our faculty and staff will marshal our collective resources to offer even greater opportunities for our students, and more effectively tackle some of society’s greatest challenges, locally and globally.

2. Experience beyond the classroom

A Lewis & Clark education happens inside and outside the classroom, on and off campus. Societal challenges, the pace of technological advancement, and a rapidly-changing workforce are transforming students’ educational needs. Experiential and immersive learning are more important than ever to equip our students for their lives and careers, some of which are in fields that may not even exist yet.

3. Relentlessly student-focused

We aspire to a robust culture of student support and engagement across the three schools, believing that this holistic approach to students’ social and emotional well-being best positions them to thrive academically. We put our students first. And so we can and must do better to meet the needs of our student populations, now and into the future.

4. Academic innovation to meet the future

Now is the time to be bold in developing new academic programs and curriculum that meet the needs of our students and a changing world. Within each of the three schools, and in the pathways between them, lie immense potential to enhance existing programs and degrees, and to develop new ones, with our students and solving society’s greatest challenges in the forefront of our minds.

5. Partnerships with Portland for the benefit of all

We are a vital part of Portland and can play a greater role in building a better Portland for all, while engaging our students in impactful, community-focused, skills-building work. The foundation for a productive and mutually beneficial partnership has already been built. We will significantly increase our impact by improving coordination across and within the three schools, collectively harnessing our resources and talents to bring positive change to the Portland community.

Please visit the webpage for more detail on each of these themes. We will soon be seeking your help, as well as the help of students, in generating initiatives that would fit into one or more of these overlapping constructs. The initiatives will be the big ideas that move us toward implementation and success.

Additionally, as part of this planning process, we’re revising the institutional mission statement. This language hasn’t been updated in three decades and is not fully reflective of who we are today. A draft can be found on the strategic plan webpage, and we welcome your feedback.

Most of us will have roles to play in the fruition of our finalized strategic themes and the initiatives and activities they point us toward. All of us will find our own work buoyed by their implementation. Students will benefit, and, on the grandest scale, success will mean a better planet for current and future generations.

Thank you for taking the time to be a part of this important effort. The more we work together, the stronger Lewis & Clark will become.


Robin H. Holmes-Sullivan