Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues,

In February 2014, I spoke candidly about the changing landscape and increased challenges facing higher education, including demographic disruptions, rising external scrutiny, financial constraints and the market’s increasing focus on a college education’s “return on investment.” I posited that these issues will prove deeply problematic for many institutions and insurmountable for some. I emphasized the need for Bucknell to embrace these challenges, and described our capacity to achieve strategic sustainability by being:

  • Forward Looking
  • Data Informed
  • Highly Intentional
  • Prudently Bold
  • Student Centered

As I said in 2014, and believe even more firmly today, we have the capacity to distinguish ourselves from a sea of institutions as we compete for the best students, faculty and staff, and seek to ensure a sustainable Bucknell. Our recent history gives us reason to be optimistic, as we have shared in many significant achievements in support of Bucknell’s mission, including expanding our academic programs; strengthening and growing our student body, faculty and staff; founding a third college; and successfully completing the most ambitious fundraising campaign in University history. Now is the time for us as an institution — as a community — to focus on making strategic, though sometimes difficult, decisions that allow us not only to confront the challenges ahead, but also to seize upon the opportunities that will allow Bucknell to carry out its mission for generations to come.

Our existing strategic plan, The Plan for Bucknell, was promulgated more than a decade ago. Its five pillars remain relevant goals today:

  • Strengthen the Academic Core
  • Deepen Residential Learning
  • Enhance Diversity
  • Build Bridges
  • Secure our Financial Future

It is difficult to imagine ever declaring our work “complete” in any one of these areas. Nonetheless, we have reached a period during which we must refresh our strategic goals and initiatives detailed in The Plan for Bucknell, which includes being fully open to considering additional strategic pillars. In order to be successful, we will need to engage in deep and broad discussions within our campus community. The reality is that while we can aspire as individuals, we will succeed only through a collective effort.

As Bucknell’s president, I have spent considerable time thinking about “strategic commitments” that I believe to be paramount if we are to strengthen our University and fully capitalize on who we are as an institution. Specifically, Bucknell must commit to:

  • fostering a shared understanding and ownership of its mission, values and institutional identity;
  • animating and extending academic excellence across the University;
  • providing an integrated and exemplary residential student experience; and
  • exercising optimized stewardship over its resources.

To begin this strategic planning initiative in earnest, it is essential that we share our respective understandings of today’s Bucknell. In other words, we have to get to the starting line together. From that shared situational understanding, we can begin to plan. To that end, the first phase of this strategic planning process will comprise a series of open forums on the following topics throughout the academic year. I will send additional details in advance of each forum, but the basic format will be a short presentation followed by what I expect will be a healthy and productive conversation.

Date*   Topic   Discussion Leader
Thurs., Oct. 26   Development & Alumni Relations   Scott Rosevear
Tues., Nov. 14   Admissions and Enrollment Mgmt.   Bill Conley
Thurs., Dec. 12   Finance   Dave Surgala
Tues., Feb. 13   Academic Affairs   Barbara Altmann
Tues., March 6   Campus Life   Amy Badal
Tues., April 10   Summary and Moving Forward   John Bravman

*Each session will be held from 4-5:30 p.m. on the dates listed above.

I anticipate that other topics will materialize for future discussions, but we need a shared foundation in these broad areas in order to engage in generative thinking about Bucknell’s future. Although Tuesday and Thursday afternoons present the fewest conflicts with classes, I recognize that we cannot accommodate everyone’s schedule. We will record the sessions so that they are available to view online.

These discussions will lead us to the next phase of this initiative — the development of a clear path forward toward executing on our strategic commitments. This will include forming the appropriate infrastructure and communication flow to ensure broad participation. While strategic thinking and planning are never complete, I am committed to introducing a refreshed plan in spring 2019.

This is, of course, only a cursory overview of what will be an ambitious, complex, challenging and, I fully believe, rewarding undertaking. I am excited and inspired by the opportunity to partner with you in this endeavor. I look forward to the many conversations ahead; they will lead us to a stronger, better and more sustainable Bucknell.

My best,
John

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