Dear Shimer Community,
As we move into the future, we must create a new strategic plan. Built on a vision of what that future will look like, the plan will be based on an inclusive process led by a steering committee that will coordinate its development and authorship. The plan we create must be both visionary and manageable, staged appropriately to ensure our success in building on today’s Shimer to create a successful future. It must connect with our historic traditions and values but be future-oriented. It must be aspirational. And, we must create a means by which we can choose the initiatives that best ensure Shimer’s sustainability and meet our mission in this time and in this place.
Indeed, our plan must be dangerously optimistic – and deeply realistic. For this reason, I propose we name our new strategic plan, “Dangerous Optimism Made Real: Planning for Shimer’s Future.”
This is a very exciting time for Shimer. I owe gratitude to the members of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee and to the community at large for embarking on this planning project together.
The Shimer College Strategic Planning Steering Committee (SPC) is:
- Peter Hanig ’71 Board of Trustees
- Chris Vaughan ’87, Board of Trustees
- Carol Adams, Board of Trustees
- Bev Thurber, Assistant Professor of Humanities and Natural Sciences and member of the IGAC Assembly Committee
- Daniela Barberis, Assistant Professor of History of Science and Social Sciences and member of the IGAC Assembly Committee
- James Bowers, Dean of Admissions
- Heidi Kloehn, Database Manager and Annual Fund Coordinator
- Isabella Winkler, Director of Strategic Communications and Special Assistant to the President
- Susan Henking, President
- Sally Brown ’65, Chair, Board of Trustees
The charge for the SPC is to develop a timeline and process for delivering
a draft of the strategic plan to the Shimer Board of Trustees by a specified date
(to be determined); to solicit, synthesize, and integrate broad community input in
the service of drafting the plan; and to regularly update the Shimer community on
the progress of the work. The final plan will be approved by the Shimer Board of
More specifically, this charge includes, but is not limited to, the following tasks:
- Review relevant internal and external documents
- Select an appropriate analytic method
- Identify key strategic themes and subcommittees to pursue focused inquiry
- Develop initiatives to pursue those strategic goals
- Set benchmarks for progress on strategic goals
- Connect overarching strategic plan to sub-unit strategic plans (e.g.,
- communications, budgeting, admissions, advancement)
- Create a communication plan to ensure both openness of process and inclusion of voices and ideas and to report regularly to the Board and campus community on the status of the planning process
- Create a written plan for implementation
Themes from President’s statements in such contexts as board reports and related documents will inform our planning. Among the central questions to pursue will be:
Who is a Shimerian for the 21st century?
This question raises issues about admissions, about our responsibility to various types of students (both in terms of demographics and relations of full to part-time, IIT to Shimer students, etcetera), and our relationship with alumni. Our answers also shape how we create new programs that share Shimerian educational values in wider ways.
What is a Shimerian education for the 21st century?
This question raises issues about both the content and delivery of a Shimer education in our time. Another way of phrasing this might be: Who is today’s Robert Maynard Hutchins, and what education is she or he imagining for the coming century?
How do we support Shimer for the 21st century?
This question raises issues about our institutional sustainability, including organizational and financial sustainability.
Credo’s Elements of a Thriving Institution
Credo, the consulting firm that the Strategic Planning Committee is working with, has identified nine characteristics of thriving institutions. Joanne Soliday and Rick Mann describe them in detail in Surviving to Thriving: A Planning Framework for Leaders of Private Colleges & Universities, which will soon be available in the Shimer library. In brief, they are:
1. Courageous & Collaborative Leadership: Identifying significant roles for good people and supporting their achievement.
2. Vision: Making sure we have mission and vision statements that are clear and inspiring to all constituencies.
3. Institutional Self-Esteem: Paying attention to internal and external communication and highlighting achievements of Shimerians.
4. Institutional Story: Integrating a set of marketing messages that distinguishes us in the marketplace and helps tell our institutional story into everything we do.
5. Habit of Reflection & Intentionality: Deciding what data we want to collect, collecting it, analyzing it so that it is useful, acting on it to continually improve, and finally celebrating our achievements.
6. Culture of Planning & Innovation: Developing a strategic plan that is up to date and frequently reviewed, with progress toward the goals assessed continually.
7. Net Revenue & Strategic Finance: Linking planning and funding, developing viable alternative revenue streams, and stewarding funds efficiently.
8. Student Learning & Success: Meeting the students where they are and putting academic and student support services in place so that student success is at the center of everything we do.
9. Transformative Environments: Designing and implementing experiences, not just pretty buildings, and aligning the physical environment with our vision and values.
The Strategic Planning Committee has identified the following major assumptions that are key to our work: Thinking out and not in; retaining our distinctiveness.
In addition, we developed three themes to guide Shimer’s new plan. The Institutional Goals and Assessment Committee and Strategic Planning Committee would like the community’s ideas about how to implement these themes.
A Thriving Environment
- Create an intentional Shimer co-curricular experience (this includes academic support, experiential learning, student mentoring, and life beyond Shimer).
- Provide professional enrichment, development, and resources for faculty and staff.
- Determine how to use the space we have or find the space we need to attract students and make them feel like they belong at Shimer, including developing a residential life experience.
- Research and propose possible digital initiatives that deliver our mission in a virtual environment
An Expanded Mission
- Establish degree tracks or pipelines that will help us recruit and graduate students.
- Ensure that we use our financial aid resources in the most effective way.
- Encourage dual enrollment (high school students taking college courses).
- Collect and use data to continuously improve learning outcomes and design new academic programs.
- Plan for the need for space as enrollment increases.
A Sustainable Foundation
- Achieve financial sustainability by enrolling 300 full-time students (traditional, traditional age transfer students, non-traditional age adult degree completion students). Online education is part of this strategy.
- Increase faculty and staff salaries and benefits.
- Clarify who (e.g. the President, Board, Assembly committees, etc.) is responsible for what and how individuals or committees can be held accountable.
- Enhance the use of marketing strategies for visibility and long-term institutional self-esteem.
- Increase alumni engagement at all levels.
- Maximize and formalize partnerships with other institutions.
- Find new, major sources of funding outside of tuition.