Earlham has recently concluded a comprehensive, multi-year strategic planning process, culminating in the approval of the final plan by the Board of Trustees in June of 2015.
This complex and multi-dimensional planning process unfolded in three phases.
From the fall of 2011 through the 2012 academic year, a College-wide committee engaged in the first round of strategic planning, which sought to offer students enhanced and balanced preparation for life after college. Known informally as the “Ten Year Mindset,” the result of this initial stage of planning was a coordinated set of experiences designed to enable each student to get the most out of an Earlham education by fusing traditional liberal arts disciplines with vocational and professional development, exploration and preparation. The process resulted in the Earlham Seminar Program, new educational immersion experiences, enhanced career advising and mentoring, and a new Class Dean structure. In addition, the College undertook a major facilities renovation and construction program and launched a comprehensive branding and marketing initiative organized around the concept and Earlham experience of “Fully Present.”
Phase I I
In this second phase of planning in 2012-13, a small group of professors and administrators known as EPIC (Earlham Planning Implementation Committee) implemented key features of the plan. Catalyzed by a $1M grant from the Lilly Endowment, a principal achievement of this process was the implementation of the Ten Year Mindset, which involved the creation of the Center for Integrated Learning as a new locus for funded internships, curricular connections, faculty and student collaborative research, and career advising. In addition, curricular innovation across the campus was sparked by the addition of ten new limited-term visiting professorships focusing on cutting edge interdisciplinary areas of inquiry.
Phase I I I: Becoming Fully Present for the 21st Century
Two key strategic priorities governed the third phase of planning, from 2014-June 2015: 1) optimize the College’s core academic offerings to achieve stronger enrollment and higher perceived value by prospective students and their families; and 2) optimize the use of resources and the operational effectiveness of all College administrative areas to become more effective and considerably less expensive. This phase of the planning process involved working groups comprised of faculty, administrators and trustees, in the three areas of Educational Programs, Enrollment and Marketing, and Finance and Administration. Overall, the planning process sought to provide a decisive and compelling answer to a question key to Earlham’s future: “Why will students choose Earlham College?”
In June of 2016, the Board of Trustees approved a final version of a comprehensive plan ultimately focused around the core concept of “integrative learning.” The experiences represented by this concept are currently being developed through three new strategic centers — the Center for Social Responsibility, the Center for Global Health, and the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation – in concert with a full complement of curricular and co-curricular structures that will offer Earlham students an education that is personal, international, and experiential and designed to enable them to tackle the most pressing problems of the 21st century world. As part of this commitment to integrative learning, the faculty modified the College’s general education structure to provide students more flexibility in devising their educational plans, replacing the laundry-list approach to requirements typical at most colleges with integrated designations that organize coursework outside the major in unique interdisciplinary, experiential, and thematic ways shaped by student aspirations.
In addition to making the curriculum more contemporary and flexible, the College is also redirecting ten tenure-track faculty positions to academic departments with demonstrated high appeal to prospective students, drawing on faculty retirements and departures in lower demand areas of the curriculum. This approach seeks to strategically deploy more of the College’s teaching resources in areas currently sought after by prospective students, while continuing to maintain the full character of a comprehensive liberal arts college as well as maintain the staffing flexibility to make additional adjustments as might be required by changing patterns of future student interest.
This multi-year planning process has positioned Earlham well to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing and highly competitive national marketplace. With its bold and innovative emphasis on the power of Integrative Learning in a global context, the College seeks to restate the personally rewarding character and socially progressive power of a liberal arts education for a new and unpredictable century.