Honoring Lawrence’s Past and Present
Incoming Lawrence students arrive in Appleton having navigated an adolescence different from any previous generation. Yet today’s first-year student walks onto campus with hopes and dreams not dissimilar from those of Lawrentians throughout our history; excitement about learning, lofty career expectations, meaningful contributions to community, and the possibilities of tomorrow abound. Lawrence University’s goal is to support the aspirations of our students and prepare them for lifelong learning, even as the world around them continues to change. This strategic plan will position Lawrence to ensure that our students of today and tomorrow will be equipped to pursue their dreams, a tradition that Lawrence has maintained for over 175 years. This will require preserving and strengthening our identity as a leading liberal arts college and conservatory of music through:
- Academic excellence grounded in the liberal arts that embraces access and diversity
- A diverse student body well-suited for the rigor of liberal learning
- A financial model that is sustainable and positions the institution for success in an increasingly competitive landscape
- An equitable workplace that is collaborative and fosters a sense of belonging
Planning Lawrence’s Future
“We believe that incremental changes to our current strategy and tactics—as valuable as they have been—will not prepare Lawrence for the new world of higher education."
In November 2021, President Laurie A. Carter charged a committee of Lawrence faculty, staff, students, and administrators to lead Lawrence’s strategic planning efforts.
The committee’s charge was to develop recommendations for a five-year strategic path that acknowledges and builds on the university’s many strengths, recognizes the need for change and innovation, and positions Lawrence as a global leader in liberal arts education. In so doing, it was incumbent on the committee to critically and thoroughly explore our current approaches, address both internal and external challenges and opportunities, and to recommend viable strategies for transformational change.
Realizing that institutional success is dependent on the principles of shared governance, the committee solicited broad input from all constituencies within the Lawrence community. Through these intentional and honest community conversations, the committee identified four areas of focus: academic excellence, a transformative student experience, strengthened institutional sustainability, and a supportive workplace environment – with the understanding that effective communication and a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion are critical components of each.
As we present our recommendations, it is important to recognize the context of our work. We are enacting this plan in a very different world from the one we knew even a few years ago. Our lives are being transformed by many forces, including a global pandemic; shifting student demography; sweeping movements against racism, and for equality and justice; new phases of globalization, and of resistance thereto; emerging redefinitions of knowledge, expertise and authority; sharply polarized and hyper-politicized national discourse; and the sharp effects of climate change, technological innovation and economic realignment. These and many other forces interact and contribute to a complex and continually shifting societal landscape, and thus necessitate a sense of urgency as we work to fulfill our shared duty: to prepare future Lawrence graduates to thrive and lead in circumstances that none of us can foresee. By translating our goals into practical and practicable programs over the coming years, we will equip Lawrence to excel in new times – preparing students to thrive and contribute to a changing world while holding true to the principles that make us proud to say, "Forever a Lawrentian.”
Because higher education is changing so rapidly, Lawrence has already launched several strategic initiatives to address some of the opportunities reflected in this strategic plan, courtesy of the unprecedented financial investment by the Board of Trustees in 2022. Substantive upgrades to the physical plant, positive change within the Student Life division informed by a comprehensive external review, professional consultation and guidance with our brand strategy, and modifications to our budget model all are in process. In addition, our signature First-Year Studies program and our overall general education curriculum are both undergoing faculty review. The world is moving too fast to explore one strategy at a time, so coordination and communication have never been more important across the Lawrence community.
1) Lawrence will create an academic experience, anchored in the liberal arts, that prepares students for success after graduation.
Our institutional commitment to equipping students for a vibrant, robust, and successful Life After Lawrence – a commitment reflected in previous strategic planning documents – has never been more important. Current and future Lawrentians will enter a dynamic employment landscape and will have the opportunity to realize career trajectories that previous generations of Lawrence graduates may never have imagined. The academic experience at Lawrence, steeped in the liberal arts, must be reflective of this reality and will be structured with intention and purpose.
- Lawrence will transform the academic advising process so that students are guided, supported, and can developed a growing sense of their ownership of and agency in their education.
- Lawrence will advance a First-year Studies program that regularly reimagines the shared learning experience in the first year for new generations of Lawrentians.
- Lawrence will reform the General Education curriculum to ensure that Lawrence provides a strong academic foundation and sequenced pathways that contribute to the rich development of the whole student, from First-Year Studies to the Senior Experience.
- Lawrence will intentionally operationalize the theme of “Life After Lawrence” throughout the student journey so that each experience a student has prepares them for post-graduate life.
- Lawrence will institute a regular and rigorous process of academic program review to ensure that the university offers academic programs that are of consistently high quality, that respond to students’ changing aspirations and goals, and that engages students in the transformative process of learning.
2) Lawrence will create a vibrant student experience that promotes wellness, a developmental approach to student learning, and engagement opportunities that build a sense of belonging and pride and contribute to an inclusive community.
One of the many benefits of a liberal arts education at a residential college is the rich tapestry of co- and extra-curricular experiences that supplement a student’s academic development. At Lawrence, we recognize the power of an intentionally curated student experience that transcends the classroom environment and prioritizes student development across the institution. The global and societal shifts mentioned above mean students are arriving to campus with greater needs in the areas of mental health and wellness, limited interpersonal socialization in secondary education, and an acute awareness of social and educational inequity. To effectively and efficiently support the next generation of students, Lawrence must transform its student experience.
- Lawrence will implement a comprehensive student-experience advising program that complements academic advising and unites the network of faculty and staff who guide a student’s personal and academic progress.
- Through a robust program of co- and extra-curricular experiences, Lawrence will support students’ development of belonging, community, inclusion, and well-being.
- Lawrence will elevate holistic wellness within the student experience.
- Lawrence will create opportunities, places, and structures for students to engage in healthy civil discourse, while developing a broader sense of community across the University.
3) Lawrence will design and implement business and administrative models that ensure the long-term sustainability of the university.
We know that Lawrence University is living in a new era of financial accountability. As you will read throughout this report, Lawrence cannot afford every program or service we might wish to provide. Every decision we make must be fully informed by the financial implications. It is imperative that we manage our resources wisely, develop diversified revenue streams to reduce dependence on tuition, and align every resource with the university’s broader strategic initiatives. In today’s world of higher education, this is the job of every Lawrence division, department, and office.
- Lawrence will create and implement an enrollment management plan that supports long-term institutional sustainability.
- Lawrence will successfully steward its resources and investment in the physical and technological infrastructure to ensure that the environment in which our students live and learn and employees work supports their success, instills prides, and supports a bright future for Lawrence.
- Lawrence will use its financial resources responsibly, refining the model to balancing the institutional budget, while creatively considering alternative financial opportunities.
- Lawrence will be an accountable steward of the planet’s resources.
4) Lawrence’s workplace culture will nurture a sense of belonging, encourage collaboration, promote health and well-being, and ensure an equitable climate in which all voices can be heard.
Lawrence’s most important resource is its people. Our success depends on attracting and supporting a diverse, dedicated and skilled faculty and staff who are also outstanding researchers, creators, and holistic educators. As an educational institution, we should incorporate learning into all aspects of our operations – encouraging, implementing, and celebrating professional growth. To create a strong work environment for our faculty and staff, Lawrence must communicate expectations, changes, and decisions effectively and transparently, while ensuring access to professional resources. Investing in and supporting our faculty and staff demonstrates their value to Lawrence’s long-term institutional success.
- Lawrence will develop a practice of appreciation for the individual so that our people feel valued and understand that their work is meaningful.
- Lawrence will prioritize development of the individual and community in the workplace so that our people are continuing their growth, are modeling the lifelong learning, and feel equipped to demonstrate and articulate their connection to each other and our mission.
- Lawrence will develop policies and practices that support clear, effective, and timely communication throughout the organization.
A Commitment to Implementation
The recommendations outlined in this report are ambitious, but achievable – the work ahead notable, but necessary. We commit to implementing these strategies with integrity and fidelity, but doing so will require transparency about our current processes and the challenges therein.
We recognize that Lawrence cannot act upon all the recommendations at once, so this plan is a living document that will require constant adaptation as higher education continues to evolve.