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The Scarlet & Black

Kington Initiates Strategic Plan

The beginning of the 2011-2012 school years marks the beginning of yet another round of strategic planning. In the first convocation of the new school year, President Raynard Kington presented on the planned changes to Grinnell College, highlighting five areas of focus and an emphasis on administrative transparency during this time of change. Mariam Asaad spoke with President Kington yesterday to discuss his presentation.

President Kington speaks during convocation, commencing this year's project of creating a strategic plan for the College over the next five years. Photograph by Sophie Fajardo.

So what exactly is the Strategic Planning Process?
Well, the process is designed to get into a discussion with alumni, faculty, students on the future direction of the college, in the particular context that we’re making decisions in which there’s foreign pressure and all sort of pressures that we need to be aware of. Whether it’s the changing demographics, a shift in the college-attending population, or increasing pressures for students to be more aware of the implications of globalization.

How is the process going to work?
We have a steering committee and one group for each of the five areas: Post Graduation Success, Teaching and Learning, Enrollment, Alumni, and Distinctiveness […] each of the chairs of these will be working with a separate working group that pulls up on students alumni and faculty and staff, and there’s a sixth group on transparency.

Is there any way for students who are not on the working groups to get their ideas across?
Well there’ll be a website where you can get information and there’ll be opportunities for anyone to submit ideas of various types. Also, each of the five working groups has a representative from SGA and each of them is thinking about how to connect with students. Some will be forming informal groups of students to advise them others will be doing it on more of an ad-hoc basis and that varies from person to person but we decided that we rely heavily on the government structure of students to provide input.

You’d said that many people think that Intellectual Activity and Strategic Planning are mutually exclusive but that this wouldn’t be the case with this particular process, how is that so?
The intellectual part of the process is that it’s about making choices in a thoughtful way. It’s about analyzing data, it’s about trading off among competing goals, thinking deeply about our mission and values and making decisions about how we use our resources in a way that is most consistent with our values and that will help Grinnell be the best school it can be. That’s actually grounded in the many characteristics that we hope students have when they leave, the ability to analyze and critically think, to understand information, to communicate and to able to discuss and consider different and even competing ideas in a way that results in a careful and deliberate decision.

This is a five-year Strategic Plan, will it be adaptable?
Yes, because even though we’re thinking, in the most concrete way, about a five-year period we really want people to think about a longer time period in terms of making sure that whatever we do, we build in changes that will allow us to adapt as the world changes in ways that we can’t even predict. One strategy might be to substantially increase our ability to analyze data. And that will allow us, for example, to understand better the shifting demand for certain types of courses, or changes in the application pool or changes in the patterns of courses being taken so that we can understand them and adapt whatever we do to the changing world and efforts like that we hope will be helpful in a much longer time period.

Which part of the process are you looking forward to the most?
We learn and we grow as a community which is great and I’m looking forward to that. Also I’m looking forward to hearing very creative and ambitious ideas and we’ve already begun to hear some. People are beginning to think long and hard and to start the process, the first stage, which is a combination of understanding where we are as a community and then cast a wide net for all the potential ways we could go and that process will hopefully narrow down to a manageable list that is coherent and ambitious but also tied to reality, doable.

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