Draft of initiatives to be presented in May
Envisioning Roanoke College as an exemplar among small colleges navigating the rapidly changing higher education landscape, President Frank Shushok Jr. announced last month the establishment of a college-wide Strategic Planning Team and a Shared Governance Task Force.
Comprised of a representative cross-section of faculty, staff, administrators, students and trustees, these bodies reflect an expressed commitment by Shushok and the board of trustees for proactive and inclusive opportunities for constituents to work hand in hand to design a shared future, the college said.
“In conversations with colleagues, I’m struck by the creative ideas that they are eager to discuss, debate and test as we chart our path toward the next best version of Roanoke College,” Shushok said. “We’re poised to respond well to the challenges of the 21st century, and it’s exciting to think about what we can dream into existence together.”
The Strategic Planning Team is tasked with developing a ranked list of specific, actionable and measurable strategic initiatives for the college in each of three key areas, informed by the institution’s mission, vision and five strategic goals. These areas include thriving as a focused and exemplary institution; championing student success, well-being and potential; and creating transformational learning experiences.
The college said that community engagement will be central to the team’s work, as will reviewing community feedback and other relevant data, starting with the ideas collected during last fall’s Community Day gathering for faculty and staff.
The college’s previous strategic plan, “The Roanoke Difference: Live on Purpose,” launched in 2017 and was completed in 2023. Much has changed in the world and in higher education since the conception of that plan, including a worldwide pandemic, the rise of artificial intelligence, substantive demographic shifts and increasing skepticism of higher education.
In his charge, Shushok called on the planning team to embrace a mindset of curiosity and experimentation and to be willing to travel in uncharted territory. “We must imagine how to fulfill our enduring mission in an ever-changing world,” he said.
This charge reflects the challenge Shushok issued to the community during his inauguration last October: “As it has been for 181 years, the future of Roanoke College is ours to create and ours to become,” he said. “Once again, we must bravely find the courage to imagine it together. And I mean big, bold ideas—even (or especially) the kind that defy convention and seem unthinkable.”
Brian Reed, vice president for student success and the Roanoke experience; Elizabeth McClenney, director of the library; Pam Cabalka, member of the board of trustees; and Matt Rearick, associate professor and chairperson for the Health and Human Performance Department, will coordinate the 19-person team with support from higher education consulting firm Credo. Shushok, Board Chair Malon Courts and Vice President for Academic Affairs Kathy Wolfe will serve as ex officio members.
The team will begin its work in February and present a draft list of strategic initiatives to the president by May 1, 2024.
Working in parallel with the Strategic Planning Team, the Shared Governance Task Force is charged with studying, designing and recommending a new structure for shared governance at Roanoke College. The task force’s creation comes at the board of trustees’ request with members appointed by the president, as specified in a resolution at the board’s October 2023 meeting, which reaffirmed the institution’s commitment to shared governance.
“Shared governance has always been foundational to the success and evolution of Roanoke College,” said Malon Courts ’92, chairman of the board of trustees, following the October meeting. “With a new president and growing challenges for colleges and universities nationwide, now is the perfect time to explore ways to include more voices in shared governance at Roanoke and to find ways to strengthen collaboration and communication as we work together for the good of the College.”
The task force is designed to clarify roles and processes, strengthen trust and communication, and expand representation across campus. The group will consider the scope of shared governance and the primary responsibilities for each constituency, along with developing inclusive processes for policy development and communication.
As part of this work, the task force will also develop recommendations for establishing a staff council to represent the needs and interests of staff in shared governance. At the recommendation of an ad hoc group of faculty, the task force will also recommend a plan for establishing a unit at the college with a focus on rapidly developing, piloting and assessing innovative program ideas.
Concurrently, the task force will work closely with faculty and administrators whom the board of trustees has tasked with undertaking a comprehensive review and revision of the Faculty Handbook by April 2025.
The group of 21 faculty, staff, students and trustees will be coordinated by Kathy Wolfe, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College; Jennifer Berenson, professor and chair of the Religion and Philosophy Department; Ennis McCrery, executive director for administration in the President’s Office; and Kirk Betts, a member of the board of trustees. Shushok, Courts and Vice President David Mowen will serve as ex officio members.
The team will begin its work in February and issue recommendations to the president by Dec. 19.
Information about each initiative, including committee charges and members, is available on the President’s Office webpage. The community is encouraged to visit the page for regular updates.
-The Salem Times-Register