The overarching goal of Wilkes University’s strategic plan is
for Wilkes to be recognized as a premier small university in the Mid-Atlantic Region, dedicated to academic excellence through mentoring. We want to move from being a very good institution to being a great one. To achieve this goal, Wilkes must implement its strategic plan, Vision 2010, and its ambitious campus master plan by strengthening its academic programs, building its mentoring brand, creating world-class support services, enhancing its facilities and technology resources, establishing a strong relationship with its alumni, and greatly enhancing its financial strength.
There are a number of internal and external forces affecting Wilkes’ future that are addressed in Vision 2010.
- Wilkes has an exceptional history of mentoring and personal attention for its students. This capacity is a genuine strength because it is precisely the relationship prospective students of all ages seek in their higher education experience.
- The traditional high school graduate population in Pennsylvania is projected to decline by about 10 percent and to become increasingly diverse by 2011. At the same time, the fastest growing area in higher education is continuing education for adults—an area where Wilkes has considerable experience and should build greater capacity to diversify its academic program portfolio into high demand areas.
- There is genuine public concern about the rising costs and value of a higher education; the institutions that can control or lower costs will be significantly advantaged.
- Any institution that wants to be a part of the future of higher education must develop strong competency and capacity in information technology.
Vision 2010 Strategic Initiatives
After a review of the University’s progress toward the Vision 2010 goals in June 2005, the Board defined three strategic initiatives to realize the overarching goal of greatness set for the University.
- Excellence and growth in academic programs. There are four action plans for this initiative:
- Build the capacity to deliver a world-class mentoring experience. These efforts under the direction of the mentoring task force and with broad-based participation by faculty and staff will define over the next five years the way we interact with our students and alumni at all learning levels with the goal of significantly enhancing student learning performance, graduation rate, and student satisfaction. It will fully incorporate the work done on the signature undergraduate experience and will encompass planned efforts to create a more coherent and engaging core curriculum, to build strong learning experiences in each of the majors culminating a demanding capstone experience. It will also include the enhancement of co-curricular experiences, including athletics, as mentoring opportunities. This action plan is at the center of achieving excellence that exceeds that of our competitors.
- Promote Wilkes University and our mentoring brand. This effort will get the word out about Wilkes and our unique capacity to enhance student learning through mentoring. It will enhance Wilkes’ brand strength in the Mid-Atlantic region, increasing demand for our academic programs and allowing us to reduce our discount rate.
- Define our enrollment growth in graduate and continuing studies to 2010. This effort will build significantly the University’s capacity to meet the growing societal demand and thirst for continuing education—resulting in an increase of about 1,000 full-time equivalent students from 2005 levels. This will bring the overall University enrollment to 4,000 full-time equivalent students. Successful development and execution of this action plan is essential if Wilkes is to remain competitive and reach its budget goals.
- Examine the case for a law school. This multi-year effort will involve development of a business case and, if that proves out, the planning and building of a law school with appropriate campus participation. Enrollments would be considered part of graduate growth. A law school will also add to Wilkes prestige and develop an alumni base over time that can serve as a powerful advocate for Wilkes throughout the region and state.
- Develop a world-class support environment. This initiative has five action plans:
- Transform University services into lean, customer-focused support operations. This effort is essential to our efforts to deliver a world-class mentoring experience, serve new populations in extended graduate and continuing studies programs, make all transactions with Wilkes better, and reduce administrative costs.
- Achieve 15 percent operational savings for the University. To keep tuition increases to a minimum and mount a world-class mentoring culture, we will have to achieve significant savings in existing operations. This should help increase return on net assets and increase the University’s efficiency.
- Implement the campus master plan. This effort will involve step-by-step implementation of the Wilkes master plan with participation by appropriate campus groups as the plan is implemented. Over time it will develop a world-class campus that matches our academic program, with particular emphasis on building space to foster mentoring relationships, reduce deferred maintenance, and contribute to the development of Wilkes Barre.
- Work with the City and County to provide great campus surroundings. Work will continue on this initiative to maintain and enhance the significant momentum in the revitalization of Downtown Wilkes Barre.
- Carry out a University capital campaign. Work has already begun on the mounting of a capital campaign over the next five to six years to fund the major capital projects called for in the campus master plan and build Wilkes’ endowment.
- Valuing our people. This new initiative has two action plans.
- Focus on the development of University faculty and staff. This effort will involve the development of a performance review processes, including training opportunities that will help each Wilkes faculty and staff member to grow personally and professionally. These efforts are in line with Wilkes’ goal for greatness and should help increase employee satisfaction with the University and help Wilkes achieve best workplace status in Pennsylvania.
- Develop much stronger, ongoing relationship with the University’s alumni. Work is already underway to build an alumni organization and a set of aggressive programs that will greatly strengthen the University’s relationship to this all-important constituency. These efforts should result in an increase in the percentage of annual alumni giving, a key measure of satisfaction.
The Focus of Work for Academic Year 2006-2007
The Board of Trustees has decided to focus the work of the University on six of the action plans noted above because they are so critical to the University’s success. They are:
- Building the capacity to deliver world-class mentoring
- Defining our enrollment growth in graduate and continuing studies to 2010
- Examining the case for a law school
- Developing lean, customer-focused support in all University operations
- Continuing relocation of university resources to fund strategic plan priorities
- Carrying out a University capital campaign
As we have begun the work on the development of a change management plan for the University, we have found that these initiatives are highly interdependent. Indeed, finding creative ways to exploit the synergies between them is likely to be a critical factor in Wilkes’ achievement of greatness. Support will be provided to each of these action planning teams in the form of a change management strategy, opportunities for the development of team and individual competencies, and the provision of appropriate technical support when needed.
The Centrality of Support from the Capital Campaign
A critical assumption in Vision 2010 is the development and execution of a highly successful capital campaign. The strategic plan is supported by a planning budget that assumes that the University will generate significant new sources of revenue in excess of expenses, particularly from programs in graduate and continuing studies. The budget also assumes a 15 percent reallocation of the University’s operating budget into initiatives aimed at strengthening the excellence of the University’s academic programs, building its mentoring brand, and greatly improving its technology and facilities.
Even with this self-reliance, the University will still need the crucial support this capital campaign provides to achieve its goal of greatness. Thus this capital campaign will be different than nearly all others in higher education today—the projects proposed below will be directly and meaningfully linked to the successful execution of the strategic plan. The proposed areas of need include:
- $25 million for a $40 million science, health and engineering facility. This facility is essential to reaching two goals in Vision 2010—1) building a facility that significantly enhances Wilkes’ ability to foster the kind of mentoring relationships in science that are so necessary for training the researchers of the future; and 2) addressing the need to upgrade science and engineering facilities that are operating well beyond their projected useful life. Building this new facility will result in a significant reduction in operating costs as well as more enlightened operation in accord with “green” facility standards.
- $5 million to renovate the University’s athletic facilities so that they match the excellence of our athletes and teams and operate more efficiently.
- $5 million for the renovation of the Farley Library to create spaces that foster mentoring and the collaborative learning of today and provide the library with a much needed face lift.
- $5 to $6 million to renovate on-campus buildings to accommodate a law school if the business case for such a school proves out.
- $10 million to endow student scholarships to increase access for young people from our region.
- $10 million in annual fund contributions to support ongoing operations of the University.
- $5 million for a faculty academic excellence fund to enhance Wilkes faculty and staff’s capacity to be mentors and to foster the practice.