Shimer College

Strategic Planning 2014

Welcome to Shimer College Strategic Planning 2014

October 2014

The Board of Trustees approved the strategic plan, “Putting Shimer on the Map: A Transformative Plan, 2014-2017” during the October 25-26 Board meeting, having accepted the vote of endorsement of the plan from the Assembly (September 10).


Strategic Plan Mission
To ensure that Shimer College will continue to provide a rigorous liberal arts education, one based on the belief that open-ended questioning of enduring texts in a community committed to diversity and service makes for unconventional thinkers who are engaged, productive, ethically-minded, and fulfilled human-beings.

Strategic Plan Vision
Shimer College will take advantage of and build upon the strength of its curriculum and its pedagogy to prepare for a future that is not only viable but vibrant. The quality of our academic offerings will be apparent and Shimer will be known for its ability to create, share, and apply knowledge that prepares students to succeed as individuals, professionals, and global citizens. As a truly premier liberal arts college with a great books tradition, Shimer will expand its reach to new pools of qualified prospective students, develop partnerships with like-minded institutions in Chicago and beyond, and strive to create an environment that optimally supports students, faculty, and staff.

Planning Imperatives

  • We must think out and not in. We will thrive by seizing opportunities to be found by attention and responsiveness to the market, to broader trends in education and society, to our relationships with our community and other institutions, and the wants and needs of prospective Shimer students.
  • We must retain our distinctiveness. While many other schools struggle to become distinctive, Shimer has always been unique among liberal arts colleges, and we must build on those qualities that make us different to secure a more vibrant future.

Our Goals
There are three overarching goals we must achieve to realize our vision of a thriving and expansive future:

Goal 1: Expand Our Mission. We seek to grow not only to become more sustainable, but because it meets our educational mission. We must reach out to new audiences of prospective students and offer our curriculum in innovative ways that fulfill our mission and best serve all Shimer students.

Goal 2: Create a Thriving Environment. Our environment consists of our physical surroundings, our culture, and our campus life.  We must offer an exciting, engaging, and nourishing college experience that attracts students to us and meaningfully contributes to their education.

Goal 3: Build a Sustainable Foundation. To grow we must be financially strong and effectively managed. Growth itself will not provide this. We must make intentional decisions to achieve financial health, establish sound practices for management and governance, and cultivate the talent of our faculty and staff.

Strategic Commitments
Strategy is about making choices. We make the following commitments in this strategic plan, as vital elements of our successful future.

  • Chicago is Our Campus. We are an urban college. The city is an inseparable part of the intellectual and student life experience at Shimer.
  • IIT is Our Partner. We intend to share our campus with IIT for many years to come and to partner with IIT strategically wherever possible to advance our common interests.
  • Our Core Principles Are What Make Us Distinctive. Our curriculum, our pedagogy, our shared governance, and community values are what make us distinctive.
  • We Are Inclusive. Our brightest future requires diversity of viewpoints, perspectives, and identities. We will widen our offerings to attract students from communities we have not traditionally served.


October 2013

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.


Susan Henking


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.