Competition in higher education for the best and brightest students has never been greater. While academic excellence and price are still high on student priority lists when selecting a school, other considerations have come into play, such as location, quality of life, the availability of skills-training courses and university-facilitated internships. The emergence of distance learning and for-profit degree colleges have further changed the landscape. And New York City is one of the most crowded higher-education markets in the country.
In response to the changing dynamic of higher education, Fordham University is in the midst of a yearlong strategic planning process.
“We are planning because the climate in which we operate is a constantly changing, competitive environment,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University. “We must plan so that we don’t end up simply reacting in the future.”
During two open forums, at Lincoln Center on Oct. 28 in Pope Auditorium and at Rose Hill on Nov. 4 in the McGinley Center Ballroom, Father McShane personally invited faculty and staff to help chart the future of Fordham.
“Without the wisdom of the faculty, staff and students, this plan will go nowhere. It will sit on a shelf,” said Father McShane in Pope Auditorium. “With your wisdom, it will become a living document.”
The University-wide process of developing a concrete vision; collecting proposals from stakeholders, including faculty, staff, students and alumni; prioritizing initiatives; proposing strategies; and, finally, implementing a strategic plan began in earnest last March, when the University Board of Trustees adopted a vision statement:
“Capitalizing on its Jesuit identity and its location in New York City, within seven years of completion of its strategic plan, Fordham University will return to a position of recognized national prominence in the world of American higher education. Once it has achieved this status, the University will pursue its ultimate long-range goal of reclaiming its position as the premier Catholic University in the United States.”
Ambitious? Absolutely, said Father McShane. “But our location in New York places on us a heavy responsibility to be a place where future leaders are educated. It is our responsibility to achieve this transformation to greatness to better serve our students so that they can work toward creating a better world.”
In addition to building on what Father McShane called Fordham’s “two greatest assets”—its New York City location and its identity as a Jesuit institution—Father McShane said the University’s Board of Trustees identified four additional themes to help achieve the vision:
- to advance the culture of scholarship, teaching, research and service for faculty by investing in endowed chairs and faculty development to enhance recruitment and retention and secure world-class stature for University professors
- to develop graduate and professional programs that can win distinctive excellence, national prominence and external support, as well as enhance the graduate and professional learning environment
- to develop and sustain an undergraduate culture of learning and living that will be recognized for distinctive excellence and achieve national prominence
- to generate and sustain the funding necessary to support investments in physical resources and the University endowment, and to fuel growth in annual giving.
Father McShane encouraged faculty and staff to submit proposals and initiatives for enhancing their programs and departments to the strategic planning committee by Dec. 1. Feedback and discussion will take place throughout the spring and summer, with a final Integrated Strategic Plan to be presented to the University community by Oct. 13, 2005.