The Strategic Plan event took place at the flag pole on the Front Lawn on August 29. Lehigh strategic planning promotes an open discourse about the university's direction for the future. (Xinyi Ren/B&W Staff)

Strategic planning calls on all university voices


Thirteen years ago, Lehigh set out to expand its “intellectual footprint,” the theme of its 2009 Strategic Plan

It involved “grand challenges” of energy, environment and infrastructure, health and globalization — in addition to emphases on research and academic success. 

Our Future, Our Lehigh” is the topic for the Strategic Plan that will be finalized by June 2023. 

A Strategic Plan is what Chris Cook, the vice president of Strategic Planning and Initiatives, calls “a long-term planning tool,” helping institutions articulate aspirations and develop structured goals.

“It should allow us to look at our aspirations and sort of set the trajectory for the institution,” Cook said.

Nathan Urban, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, said Lehigh is brainstorming a new official plan this year to identify new needs from when the 2009 Strategic Plan was drafted. 

“The world changes, the country changes, the needs of students change, the environment for higher education changes,” Urban said. “We’re trying to identify goals, initiatives and metrics in a way that will foster the success of Lehigh and the success of students, faculty and staff.”

The plan is in its beginning stage since it was announced last month. Cook and Urban said their main effort is gathering information and opinions from as many Lehigh community members as possible. 

They said there are four themes structuring this stage, including Education with Purpose, Lehigh User Experience (LUX), Research for Impact and Smart Growth. These themes will each include a “working group,” consisting of various chosen faculty and staff members. 

The working groups will work alongside other “stakeholder” groups on campus including undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty and staff. There have been and will continue to be formal sessions for these groups to discuss in person, Cook and Urban said. 

They said all students, faculty and staff can give feedback via an Idea Portal and email addresses made specifically for each of the four themes, which can be found on the Our Future, Our Lehigh homepage

Victoria Drzymala, ‘23, president of the Undergraduate Student Senate, said she recently spoke with a group of senators about the strategic planning and their place in the process. 

“We talked about how the strategic planning process was very intentional,” Drzymala said. “It seemed like the administrators in charge were really inclined to look for input from stakeholders.” 

Drzymala said they were appreciative of the relaxed timeline and dedication to building on preexisting university missions. 

Though they can join the undergraduate and specialized sessions, Drzymala said she wants to push for already established groups on campus getting involved directly. 

The Strategic Plan event took place at the flag pole on the Front Lawn on August 29. Lehigh strategic planning promotes an open discourse about the university’s direction for the future. (Xinyi Ren/B&W Staff)

“We want to be as involved as possible,” Drzymala said. “Instead of putting together groups, they could use the groups that are already established and have a trusted presence on the campus.”

Urban said sharing all ideas will inform and shape the strategic planning approach and can have a significant impact on the outcome. 

“There’s no bad idea,” Urban said. “Let’s just collect them and get them on the table so that we can see what people are thinking.” 

 Without this critical input and feedback, Urban said he believes the plans that most affect students can lack creativity, curiosity and targeted impact. 

Cook said the structured brainstorming period is planned to officially end after this semester, leading into the drafting of the Strategic Plan. 

“Don’t wait,” Cook said. “Tell us now.”

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