Foundations for Hamilton’s Next 200 Years

(Editor’s note: On March 6, 2015, the Hamilton Board of Trustees formally extended the College’s Strategic Plan for three years)


Strategic planning is institutional self-definition. It clarifies relative strengths and weaknesses, it articulates strategic intent consistent with historical values and traditions, and it takes into account the external realities that provide new opportunities and challenges. What emerges is a blueprint to guide our future work. In this document we build on previous initiatives identified in the College’s 2002 Strategic Plan, which have emphasized Hamilton’s notable leadership position in teaching students to write and speak well and to take responsibility for their academic and personal development.

As we plan our future direction, we face major demographic shifts resulting in fewer high school graduates and a wave of baby-boomer retirements. Since a college education is fundamentally about the interaction that takes place between individuals, these shifts will define Hamilton in important ways for years to come. We also face, in the near term, an economy in peril, and we anticipate that during the next five years the College will encounter new challenges in revenue growth, student recruitment, fundraising, construction, renovation, and financial aid.

Hamilton enters this new environment from a position of strength. Enrollment is steady, the budget is balanced, new facilities have opened, and over the past decade Hamilton has excelled in the areas of admission selectivity, philanthropic support, and endowment growth and performance. The College has provided an increasing number of opportunities for students to collaborate with faculty members, and our students have won national fellowships and scholarships in unprecedented numbers.

Institutions and organizations in decline tend to alter their course out of necessity, but strong institutions have a clear sense of who they are and the capacity to realize their vision. With our history of continual self-assessment and the ambition to improve on previous benchmarks, our purpose in planning strategically is to enhance the Hamilton experience, not transform it radically. As current economic conditions limit available resources, we must identify the initiatives that matter most to us in the short term. Planning enables us to make the strategic choices that promise the greatest benefit to the College.

Over the course of the planning process, we have come to recognize our greatest strengths to include inspired teaching, a supportive, nurturing community, an alumni body of exceptional loyalty, and a campus graced by natural and architectural beauty. We have also recognized that insufficient funding for financial aid is a significant weakness. 

From a review of our history and an assessment of our current circumstances, four priorities emerged to guide our planning for the next five years:

  • An academic program that is rigorous, challenging, and relevant to a new generation of students
  • Student services that encourage and support personal development and responsibility
  • Financial aid that meets the demonstrated need of every student, and a long-term goal of being need-blind in admission
  • An inclusive community whose demographics reflect those of the coming generation of faculty and college-bound students

With these priorities in mind, the subcommittee recommendations were categorized according to four defining values:

  • Education for self-direction
  • Self-governing community
  • Thoughtful dialogue and debate
  • Engagement with the world
The articulation of these priorities and values followed a strategic planning process that began with the faculty, eight of whose members chaired subcommittees that addressed the following topics:
  • Academic Program
  • Athletics
  • Ethics and Academic Freedom
  • Faculty and Staff Recruitment and Development
  • Residential Life and Co-Curricular Programs
  • Resources, Facilities and Environment
  • Shared Governance and Administration
  • Student Recruitment and Retention

Each of the strategic planning subcommittees included an additional tenure-track member of the faculty, along with representatives of the student body, the Board of Trustees, and the staff, and each subcommittee consulted other members of the community. The process included a series of open meetings and surveys so that as many voices as possible could be heard. Several hundred members of the community participated. At the conclusion of deliberations, the eight subcommittees prepared reports that articulated the context for their recommendations to the Strategic Planning Executive Committee. Those observations and recommendations were compiled and posted to the College’s Website for comment, and open meetings were held to elicit additional reactions. The strategic planning Website also received ideas, and a community blog facilitated exchange.

The following pages provide the rationale for the goals and priorities on which we will focus in the coming five years. We will take from this document a focus for future discussions, especially those leading to our Middle States reaccreditation process in 2010-11 and to the formulation of objectives for our next capital campaign.

Next:  I. Hamilton’s Foundation

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