As it prepares to commemorate its first 200 years, the College already has been thinking deeply about the next 200: How will the abiding values that define Hamilton inform the future? What does the College do well, and how can it do those things even better? In response to such questions, Hamilton has created a new strategic plan — its first since 2002 — that considers important demographic trends and the potential long-term effects of economic turmoil while also remaining true to the College's mission and identity.
While the plan, "Foundations for Hamilton's Next 200 Years," looks ahead over many generations, at its core is "a statement of strategic intent designed to guide our work at the college for the next five years — through the marking of our Bicentennial in 2012 and beyond," says Acting President and Dean of Faculty Joe Urgo, who led the 15-month planning process.
The plan is "mindful of current economic conditions," Urgo says, but it offers an optimistic and resolute vision of the future as it reviews Hamilton's place in American higher education. "Hamilton has faced challenges in the past, but never from such a position of relative strength," the plan reports. "Over the next several years we will focus on those areas that give us the greatest strategic advantage: the academic program and the community."
Building on the College's 2002 strategic plan, which placed special emphasis on Hamilton's leadership position in teaching students to write and speak effectively, "Foundations for Hamilton's Next 200 Years" identifies four defining values to direct future decision-making:
"An open curriculum challenges students to acquire a broad liberal arts education. We will help students meet that challenge by making structural and policy improvements to existing advising and course selection procedures. Likewise, we will assess College programs and procedures to ensure that the educational experience is sufficiently rigorous, accessible and pertinent to our changing student demographic."
"Education for self-direction demands an inclusive self-governing community. To the extent possible, constituencies ought to be self-regulating — students regulating students, faculty governing faculty, and staff administering to staff — as well as interlocking, to assure consistent, inclusive and effective exchange and interaction."
"Self-direction and self-governance require and engender dialogue and debate; opportunities to enhance skills and deepen expertise will be provided to all students and employees, ensuring that the College is an educational institution for all."
"The purpose of an education centered on self-direction, self-governance and thoughtful dialogue is to prepare students for effective engagement with the world. Society is served by giving students and faculty alike a place for thinking, imagining and creating. But on a more practical level — and especially in this economy — we recognize that everything we do on College Hill is influenced by the world around us."
Also among the College's important long-term goals, previously stated but re-emphasized in the strategic plan, is a need-blind admission policy.
The plan is based on the work of eight subcommittees that reviewed the academic program, faculty and staff recruitment, admission, governance, athletics and residential life, among other topics. More than two dozen action items were identified in the plan and are now the focus of various committees, task forces and existing departments and programs at the College. Semiannual updates will be reported on the College's strategic planning website (www.hamilton.edu/StrategicPlan), where the document also is available in PDF form for review and comment.