Pitzer partners with consulting firm to develop vision for future

Pitzer College is working with a consulting firm to develop a plan for the college’s strategic priorities over the next five to seven years, President Melvin Oliver announced in an email to Pitzer students Sept. 25.

As outlined in the project brief shared in the announcement, goals will be set with community input, and distinctive qualities of the college will be determined and preserved accordingly.

“Strategic planning is more than developing ‘wish lists’ of our favorite projects; it requires us to make choices and set priorities,” Oliver wrote in the email. “It offers both responsibility and opportunity for us to create a shared vision for the future of Pitzer College.”

Pitzer is working with the firm Keeling & Associates, which specializes in assisting colleges and universities through strategizing, professional development, organizational effectiveness, and searching for executives. Among the many colleges the group has partnered with, several are also small liberal arts colleges, such as Amherst College and Grinnell College, according to Dean of Faculty Nigel Boyle.

“K&A understands and appreciates Pitzer’s core values, including the importance of an inclusive process where all voices have the opportunity to contribute,” Oliver wrote.

Political studies professor Sharon Snowiss, a member of the committee responsible for the selection of K&A, said the previous strategic plan ended four years ago. Pitzer has been without a strategic plan since then.

“But it’s important when you’re making decisions about the direction of the college to have something in mind beyond just maintaining the status quo,” Snowiss said.

In this interim between strategic plans, the college still had a master plan that focused on streamlining the accessibility of the college’s campus and facilities.

Pitzer Chief of Staff Jamie Jorgensen wrote in an email to TSL that a new strategic plan is being worked on “to ensure that the college is aligned with its core values and future potential.”

The upcoming changes to the strategic plan are a response meant to reflect the college’s evolution as an institution.

“The college has changed a lot over the last 10 or 20 years,” Boyle said. “The admit rate has fallen dramatically. There’s a mix of student interests now. About a quarter of our students are STEM majors. And the faculty have changed.”

Pitzer aims to finish the strategic plan and develop an implementation plan by the end of this academic year, so they can begin executing their strategic initiatives in fall 2019, according to Oliver, who characterized the timeline as “ambitious.”

In September 2017, Pitzer faculty held a retreat, during which the topics of financial aid and economic sustainability were discussed.

“Pitzer doesn’t have the endowment to support the sort of financial aid that we would want,” Boyle said. “If we had more money, we could offer more financial aid to the sorts of students we want to attract. … Rather than trying to do lots of new flashy initiatives, it’s about how we can sustainably maintain what the college has done.”

One of the changes put forth by the new strategic planning model is platforms for student input. Boyle said there will be an eight-person strategic planning committee consisting of “two students, two faculty, two staff, and two trustees.” The students who will take part in the committee are Brendan Schultz PZ ’19 and Matthew Brunstad PZ ’20.

“Working groups are going to be built on our existing governance system where there is student representation,” Boyle said. “One of the working groups is going to be on the academic program, on which there are four faculty and four students, so students will be fully represented.”

While the role of Pitzer students has been finalized, the “intercollegiate role” has not, according to Boyle.

“We’ve got lots of students from across the 5Cs who are not just taking classes here, but they’re [majoring at] Pitzer,” Boyle said. “[These] students would have a legitimate interest in Pitzer’s strategic orientation.”

Boyle brought up the example of Pitzer’s Organizational Studies department, a Pitzer major popular among students from the other 4Cs, as one such area where non-Pitzer students “should have a voice.”

Oliver encouraged students to be involved in the process. “The success of our strategic planning depends on our whole community being engaged, and I urge all of you to join in the process,” he wrote.

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