|Centrepiece Online | Spring 2008|
The Centre Saga
At their January 2008 meeting, the Centre board of trustees adopted a new strategic plan for the College, The Centre Saga.
Centre is no stranger to effective strategic planning. Planning has been pivotal in maintaining the College’s position as Kentucky’s educational point of pride and advancing Centre toward becoming a nationally recognized undergraduate college. The leadership on the board, in the administration, and among the faculty and staff have responded each time to produce a plan that has led the College to the successful attainment of its stated goals and objectives. For example, the plan approved by the board of trustees in October 1999 generated a capital campaign, the Campaign for A More Perfect Centre, that was completed in December 2007 more than $49 million over its goal.
Successful as this legacy had been, the College took a different path as it began to think about its next cycle of planning. The normal approach to college and university planning has been to look “vertically” at each of the institution’s operational areas and develop goals and initiatives for them. Also, most strategic plans project out only five or so years, developing a “to-do” list that, once accomplished, requires the institution to start from scratch as it looks to plan again.
This time, however, Centre chose to work differently. First, Centre took a “horizontal” approach—identifying issues and themes that cut across the College’s operation. Second, the College chose to create a vision that extended 15 to 20 years in the future, with specific goals and actions designed to move Centre toward that vision in a comprehensive and continuing plan of strategic thinking and management.
This concept held the promise of a more cohesive analysis of Centre’s current place in its own history and the broader environment, a more focused and ambitious vision of Centre’s future, and a more thoughtful sense of how to achieve that vision. This method would require a different degree of investigation and, if successful, would challenge the Centre community’s thinking more directly than previous planning efforts. Inspired by this approach, an anonymous donor provided a generous gift to support this work.
The resulting process directly involved more than 250 members of the Centre community and included some of the nation’s leading experts on college and university planning, most notably Richard L. Morrill, University of Richmond chancellor and former Centre president. According to these experts, Centre has created a new standard for strategic planning at undergraduate colleges. The plan articulated opportunities for the College to become a national model within such areas as global citizenship, engaged and experiential learning, faculty and staff development, technology, and alumni and friend relations. The process also identified important facilities needs, inspiring a small group of trustees to make it possible to begin work immediately on the most prominent of these—the construction of new science labs and classrooms, the construction of a campus center, and the refurbishment of the Norton Center—now known collectively as the Trustee Challenge.
However, these recommendations, in and of themselves, cannot describe Centre’s definition of success—what, at its core, it wishes to be. Such statements of aspiration are usually cast in the present tense, setting the target for which the organization strives. For Centre College, this definition, this desired state of being, is contained in the following statement of aspiration:
Centre College is the national model of the transformative power of undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences. At the core of that transformative effect is realizing the power of possibility—in the work of the faculty and staff, in the continuing development of the College itself, and, most of all, in the lives of the young people whom Centre serves. Essential to this statement of aspiration is Centre’s historic and increasingly distinctive commitment to being a place of high achievement and high opportunity, committed to preparing students for successful lives of learning, leadership, and service. As Centre has pursued this aspiration, it has come to be recognized as one of the nation’s leading undergraduate colleges.
Of course, without concrete plans and dedicated effort, even the most inspiring statement remains just words on paper. The implementation plan has already been developed and is underway, supported by the commitment and hard work of the Centre community. Stay tuned for regular reports.
Clarence Wyatt ’78 is Pottinger Professor of History, special assistant to the president, and chief planning officer at the College.
Jacky Thomas ’02 is Centre’s director of alumni affairs. They served as co-chairs of the 2008 strategic planning process.
For more details of the plan click here.