Strategic planning can benefit from benchmarking ourselves against peers. Other colleges at the University represent one such peer group, and as you will see from the blue-ribbon-committee report just released by the College of Liberal Arts (.pdf; 106KB), we share many of the same challenges as CLA, such as how to do more with less and how to enhance quality without substantially more resources.
Some of their solutions may not apply to us because of our different scales. CLA's committee, for example, calls for the college to have "fewer than half the degree programs that it has now" by 2015. While our size might now allow a decrease that drastic, it reinforces the need for us to look critically at the quality of and demand for each of our degrees.
But many of the recommendations in the CLA report seem very relevant. It urges the college, for instance, "to recreate itself in imaginative and inventive ways," calling "creative reorganization" the "only hope." The same applies to us and I plan to commence a process this summer to look at new ways of organizing the college, for widespread discussion this fall.
The CLA report also encourages "pattern-breaking suggestions for more global reorganization of academic programs" and I would add research and outreach efforts as well. "Why," asks the report, "would a student want to come from across the country to attend this program?" Or why, we might ask, would a funder or donor from across the country want to support this center or that initiative?
These are the issues we need to face and the questions we need to ask in our strategic planning efforts this year. They are not easy to address or to answer, but if the CLA report offers any consolation, we will have plenty of company in doing so.