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Strategic Planning
and Setting




A strategic plan is an essential and early first step in the campus planning process. It provides context and direction for a campus plan. Unfortunately, on many campuses, the strategic plan has lost its meaning and effectiveness. It is disconcerting to see a “strategic plan”, created in a participatory process involving a broad spectrum of the community, a year or two in development, with most participants pleased with the result, formally approved, and yet — it is not a plan. Rather, it is a statement of goals. Sometimes the goals are focused on supporting the institution’s mission; sometimes the goals are focused on achieving the institution’s vision of the future.

Goal setting is a critically important early step in the planning process for any college or university — but goals, by themselves, do not make a plan. What is missing is the difficult piece of the process — identification of the strategies for achieving those goals and identifying the person or department who will be responsible for each strategy. See the example below from a mid-west law school’s strategic plan. The school identified 6 strategic goals and 14 strategies for attaining those goals. An example of achieving one goal is described below.

Goal 2: Enhance the Experience of our Students

Strategy 1: Augment mentoring/advising, including improved curricular guidance

Strategy 2: Build on our strength in skills training

Strategy 3: Improve the first year experience

Strategy 4: Increase diversity in the student body

Strategy 5: Enhance long-term career prospects for our graduates

Action Items for Strategy 1 include:

  • Improve the faculty advising program
  • Hire an additional full-time academic support instructor, starting no later than FY11
  • Inaugurate a “take a law professor to lunch” program, including financial support
  • Increase availability of faculty for individual/small group consultation with students
  • Continue to implement informal/formal gatherings with dean/associate deans to advise students/obtain feedback about student concerns
  • Continue to ensure student participation on appropriate law school committees
  • Continue to conduct regular meetings between deans and SBA president

In addition to having strategies for achieving those goals, the plan also had action items for realizing each strategy and a list of metrics for measuring and assessing how well the goal was being obtained.

An effective strategic plan will have the following components:

  • An institutional mission and vision statement
  • A set of goals
  • Strategies for realizing those goals
  • A timeframe for the plan
  • Resources required — faculty, staff, facilities, financial
  • Identification of who is responsible for managing the strategies
  • Priorities
  • Metrics to measure progress towards strategy and action completion.

Setting Priorities

Even with a well-crafted strategic plan, an institution's physical planning will lack direction without clear decisions regarding priorities. Setting priorities ought to be fairly easy, but it is not. Each institution must decide who sets priorities and how open the process should be. Not everything is, or should be, a high priority and the process of deciding is political, emotional, social, and has implications for the curriculum, staffing, facilities, finances, and the attraction and retention of students and faculty.

There are different methods for prioritizing — from the simple grouping of projects or strategies into High, Medium, and Low categories to the same principle but different descriptor categories of Essential, Desirable, and Enhancement.

Project managers use some variation of what has become known as the Iron Triangle of Scope, Time, and Cost — sometimes using Quality instead of Scope.

There are various quantitative methods that give a semblance of rationality. Essentially, criteria are defined and each given a weighting number that represents how important that criterion might be. However, any group of committees looking at the same projects and the same criteria will inevitably differ on weights assigned and how the criteria might be applied — it is not always a replicable result.

Another method is one that Dr. Stephen Covey has described where projects or strategies are place in a matrix that has the following axis: Important — Urgent, Important — Not Urgent, Not Important — Urgent, and Not Important — Not Urgent.

The method I like is similar to Covey’s and I first saw this method in use at the College of Wooster presented by Dr. John Sell. The axis of the matrix is Supports the Mission, Benign to Mission, Urgent, and Not Urgent. Those projects or strategies that fall into the quadrant of Supports Mission and Urgent would be the highest priorities while those that fall into the quadrant of Benign to Mission and Not Urgent would be the lowest priority.

The strategic plan and priorities are the essential beginning of a campus planning process. Without them, any planning process will falter and be diminished.

Arthur Lidsky




We recently received an Award from American School & University 2013 "Architectural Portfolio" award for Austin Peay State University Campus Plan 2012-2013 for outstanding designs: Campus Master Planning.


Current Projects

  • We are updating its 2010 Campus plan for Stetson University in DeLand, FL

  • We are assisting Grinnell College, Grinnel, IA, in assessing and confirming its future space needs

On-going Projects

  • We continue our collaboration with Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH, programming high-priority projects identified in the 2009 Campus Plan we helped to develop

  • We are collaborating with Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, IA to prepare a new Campus Plan

  • We are in the process of completing a Space Needs Study for Westfield State University's, Westfield, MA, Academic Support programs. This project is a joint effort of WSU, the Commonwealth's Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM), and DLM

Speaking Engagements

Arthur Lidsky spoke at Union College about trends in Higher Education, Fall 2013.

Along with colleagues from Westfield State University and the Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, George Mathey presented a concurrent session at SCUP- 48 in San Diego on the topic of " Institutional Planning and Plan Execution: Integration for Impact in the Real World". The session described Westfield State's integration of strategic, financial and physical planning from the multiple viewpoints of the different speakers.



Recently Completed Projects

  • Comprehensive Campus Plan for Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, TN

  • Austin Peay State University Facility Program for Art, Theater/Dance, and Music

  • Campus Plan Update, Carroll College, Helena, MT

  • Criswell College, Dallas, TX, Relocation Plan

  • Fitchburg State University, Fitchburg, MA, Facility Program for Industrial Technology

  • Space Study - Phase I, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston, MA

  • Tennessee Tech University, Cookeville, TN, Facility Program for the Sciences



American School & University award for Austin Peay State University Campus Plan 2012-2013


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