this issue...

Where there is No Vision,
The People Perish

Keeping the Rock Rolling






Vision that directs institutional growth and change is an elusive but critical component for campus planning.

Arthur discusses the importance of developing a simple, forceful guiding statement that can be implemented through clear goals delegated to the appropriate people and offices.

George offers some suggestions for maintaining momentum in plan implementation, even when tight budgets constrain large-scale efforts. A combination of wisdom and persistence will advance many goals that strengthen institutional position as the economy improves.


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It is not often that a quote from the Old Testament can be found in a piece about campus planning. Having an institutional vision is one of the most important first steps of a campus planning process. Yet, often it is either missing entirely or done so poorly that it squanders its impact.

Most vision statements are less about defining a future, than describing the present. They are more a mission statement that describes what the institution is presently doing than a statement of what the institution intends to become.

Most vision statements are so generic that they are interchangeable – just swap the name of your college or university with some other institution’s vision statement and see if it applies.

Words such as “we will become ..,” or “we aspire to be ..,” or “we will be ..,” are indicative of a vision statement that is describing a future state. Jim Barker, the President of Clemson University in South Carolina had a simple but very effective vision: “Clemson will be one of the Nation’s top-20 public universities.” That vision has helped to transform the University.

A vision statement is worthless, if there isn’t a plan to achieve it. For instance, Clemson’s vision was accompanied by 27 goals that were divided into five categories: academics, research and service; campus life; student performance; educational resources; and Clemson’s national reputation. Responsibility for realizing the goals was assigned to actual people or the offices they held. Both vision and goals were approved by the Board.

Clemson University

The results of this simple vision are:

  • the hiring of 320 new faculty with an emphasis on research
  • greater proportion of grad students
  • increasing quality of students, faculty, and staff
  • significant increase in fund-raising and capital projects
  • doubled sponsored research funding in three years
  • increased space
  • created joint University and corporate research park
  • and USNews ranking moved from the mid 30s to the low 20s. In spite of the recent flap over Clemson’s conduct regarding USNews surveys, a rise of this magnitude would not have been possible without the strong vision and tangible results.

Shirley Ann Jackson, the President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, developed another example of a simple, but effective vision: “To achieve greater prominence in the 21st century as a top-tier world-class technological research university with global reach and global impact.” RPI developed 150 goals to support this vision and these goals fit into six themes: resident undergraduate education; research and graduate education; education for working professionals; scientific and technological entrepreneurship; Rensselaer communities; and enabling change. Again, key leaders were charged with achieving goals. Both vision and goals were approved by the Board.

The results of Dr. Jackson’s simple vision are:

  • 80 new faculty
  • doubled the amount of sponsored research dollars
  • anonymous gift of $360 million
  • new biotechnology center
  • new experimental and performing arts center
  • new interactive pedagogies across all curricula

The lack of an institutional vision is a failure of leadership – because it is the responsibility of the president or the executive cabinet to create a sense of direction toward a future and a detailed, strategy and accountable plan for achieving that vision.

“The planning effectiveness of a campus depends on the planning effectiveness of its presidential leadership. There is no escape from this situation." John Millett

“You got to be careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there.” Yogi Berra

Arthur Lidsky


Keeping the ROCK Rolling



The past year has been a real wet blanket on the fire that has burned merrily over the past decade driving the engine of campus development. A year in which the key campus development questions have abruptly morphed from “How can we secure that final lead donation for our new facility?” to “How many more people are going to be furloughed or laid off?”

As Arthur wrote back in Issue 21, down economies can be excellent periods in which to advance transformative strategic planning. In the physical and project planning realm, however, many participants are likely to be asking, “What’s the point in planning a new facility or renovation that there’s no money to build?” But just as this can be a good time for big picture plans, it’s also a good time for pre-architectural project planning. A couple of ideas:

  • Convene a group to discuss the next facility called for by your campus plan. Since with tight budgets you are more likely to be doing this in-house, focus the group on the program drivers, rather than the details of facility planning – Why do we need this facility? What strategic goals will it advance? What characteristics can be built into the facility to accomplish those goals? What existing and potential new uses will it accommodate? What principles should guide the reallocation of any space vacated when a new facility comes online? What institution-wide uses or values should it embody? In short, create a vision statement for the building.
  • Convene a group to discuss a long-standing, recurring planning concern. Have you been frustrated by the lack of planning guidelines at your institution? Have there been repeated directives to re-imagine the library, or the classroom pool, or departmental office allocation and configuration? Now may be the only time to advance these discussions in a deliberative way.

Take advantage of this time to establish visions and guidelines that can be applied to the next wave of projects you anticipate as the economy improves and feasibility returns.

George Mathey






New Projects

  • Umm Al-Qura University, Program for the Master Plan
  • Tennessee Tech, Implementation of THEC Guidlines
  • Chattanooga State Community College,
    Campus Plan

Completed Projects

  • Delgado Community College Campus Plan



On a Personal Note
Mary has been doing some volunteer work in Rhode Island in recent months. She is serving on a Master Plan Advisory Committee for Blithewold Mansion, Gardens and Arboretum in Bristol, Rhode Island, helping to select a team for an upcoming Master Plan.

She is also helping to organize the Aquidneck Land Trust's second annual Race For Open Space, a 5K race for runners and walkers that takes place on the conserved Sakonnet Greenway Trail on Saturday, November 7th.

Meet Petey
Erika's new budgie friend.  He's only been in his new home for a few weeks, but he's already settling in and learning the ropes.  We know he's looking forward to many years of chirping and exploring his favorite nooks in the apartment.


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