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A Window to the Future is Opened

Commission on the Future Completes Its Work

With a motion to present its final report to the Albright Board of Trustees, the Commission on the Future officially ended the work begun in January 2000. Some 175 members of the Commission's ten task forces attended the final Plenary Session on October 7 to celebrate the successful completion of the nine-month-long project. The Commission's goal was to envision the future of Albright College and make recommendations concerning Albright's responsiveness to societal changes in the quest to be a world-class liberal arts college for the 21st century.

 

 

 

"...over 325 of us

have participated in

a total of 53 task

force meetings...,

which have yielded

372 observations,

suggestions, and

recommendations for

consideration by the

administration and

faculty as they

develop a new

strategic plan for the

College."

 

- John H. Broadbent, Jr., Chair
Commission on the Future

 

Gretchen Keith, director of the Commission on the Future, said, "It was a positive, energizing, invigorating process, not just for alumni, but the entire college community. It was a unifying project. Everyone came together for one common goal."

Commission Chair John H. Broadbent, Jr. agreed. At the October meeting he told guests, "On January 15, just eight and one-half months ago, we assembled in this room to hear our charge and to commence our work. Since then, over 325 of us have participated in a total of 53 task force meetings (not to mention sub-task force meetings and countless hours of phone and mail discussions), which have yielded 372 observations, suggestions, and recommendations for consideration by the administration and faculty as they develop a new strategic plan for the College."

He expressed his thanks to the Commission members for "sharing in the conclusion of what has been a most useful and productive effort to involve key people in Albright's community envisioning the future of Albright as a liberal arts college." He added, "I wish to commend each of the Commission members for your dedication, hard work, and determination to succeed in this effort. Truly, without the contributions of each and every one of you, this report would not be possible."

The Commission report will serve as the basis for Albright's strategic planning initiative. President Zimon said, "I cannot stress enough the importance of this document to the future of this College, for this report serves as one key input into the development of a strategic plan for Albright. Far from being a nice document which sits on a shelf, the Commission Report will serve to guide the strategic planning committee which just recently began its work." He added that if the committee meets its schedule, work will be completed in January and result in a Board of Trustees resolution in February to approve an Albright College Strategic Plan for the period through 2007.

This strategic plan will then be re-evaluated annually each fall in an ongoing process.

Although the report is a key input, Keith emphasized that, "The report is only one piece of the puzzle. Faculty input is a separate piece. Alumni reaction is a separate piece. Administra-tion response is a separate piece. All the pieces will go into creating the strategic plan. This is not the end all, be all of the process."

Broadbent noted that when the task forces met for the first time last January, keynote speaker Robert Zemsky, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Institute for Research on Higher Education, stated that private liberal arts colleges must be "market smart and mission driven" to be successful in the 21st century.

With that said, each task force frequently referred to Albright's mission and its distinctive attributes as a small, private, church-related liberal arts college. All task forces agreed that it is important to base the next strategic plan on a clear re-statement of Albright's mission and a clear definition of the hallmarks of an Albright education.

Trying to envision the next 25 years was a daunting task for Commission members, leaving many key questions to be resolved. But, said Broadbent, several issues were clear. Albright's next strategic plan must recognize and address several important realities.

  • Although Albright has recruited a record number of undergraduate students the last couple of years, the new strategic plan must recognize that the positive demographic trend in the number of high school graduates during the last few years will end later this decade, thereby increasing the already fierce competition for these students.

  • To date, the College has not yet reached its practical capacity for educating students. However, some constraints on its physical assets are becoming more apparent, creating practical limits to growth in the number of traditional students.

  • While attracting more academically talented students is a worthy objective of most colleges and universities, Albright's next strategic plan must recognize that recruiting larger numbers of such students will require that the College improve its academic reputation and probably require relatively more financial incentives than are necessary to attract those students with lower academic credentials.

  • Since Albright's endowment is relatively small when compared to its present peers, the College must rapidly develop non-traditional sources of revenue to support its strategic initiatives and wisely allocate its available resources for maximum impact.

According to Keith, several common themes occurred within each of the task forces. Technology, she said, was a major theme throughout the report. Academic programs and the need to be "really smart about what programs should be continued and what ones should not" was another.

Lastly, almost every group, Keith noted, mentioned facilities and the need to look at which are enhancing the quality of student life and which are not.

Don De Hart '96, a member of the Task Force on Admission, Retention & Financial Aid, said a central theme for this group was "defining Albright's strengths, what it is known for, and the need to more effectively market our brand." The group also focused on the continuous improvement of student support services, he said.

President Zimon said, "In short, the report is the catalyst for an exciting and challenging process of preparing Albright for greatness - a College with a distinct vision of the world and its place in it as a leading liberal arts college, preparing future generations for leadership in a rapidly changing global society."

Commending the clarity of vision of the Commission, President Zimon presented Broadbent with a pair of binoculars "in most grateful appreciation for your vision, and for your determination to keep us "on track" and to a tight schedule, without compromise to the quality of the discussion or the report." Commission members received certificates of appreciation from the College.

The final report of the Commission on the Future is available on the Albright web site at http://www.albright.edu/commission and a limited number of bound copies are available on request by calling the Advancement Office at 610-921-7501 or by e-mailing loisk@alb.edu.

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