Higher Education

Pre-strategic planning: Sharing what we learned

During the spring 2019 semester, I asked members of our university community for your input leading into our long-term strategic planning process. Thank you for being a part of visioning for our future through that process, which involved a community-wide survey, focus groups, and individual meetings in partnership with the consulting firm Collaborative Strategies, Inc. This was an opportunity to share your feedback on four specific questions:

  1. What are your hopes for Washington University’s future?
  2. What are the priorities you’d like to see addressed in the university’s next strategic plan?
  3. Are there any university initiatives that should be retired or discontinued?
  4. How would you describe WashU’s “culture” or “climate” at the moment?

In total, we gained input from 821 survey respondents, 34 one-on-one interviews, and 18 focus group interviews — each with a careful attention to thought and detail.  The process alone serves as a reminder of how incredibly diverse, wide-reaching, and dedicated we are as a WashU community. 

As your 15th Chancellor, I am deeply committed to leading with transparency, approachability, accountability, and data-driven decision making.  To that end, I am sharing the entire report, in its full, unadulterated form. I feel this is important for several reasons. First, to walk-the-talk and be fully transparent.  Second, to allow all of us to learn through this process. And, finally, to respect the input so many of you provided and empower continued dialogue. It is very important to me that each of you feels – and knows – that you have a seat at the table.

As you read this report, keep in mind that these findings represent the perceptions among everyone around our community table, as seen through each individual’s lens and experience.  

In the report, you’ll find many common themes — some that may surprise you, and some that may not.  Some that may be difficult to read, and others that might feel seamless. There are things in this report that you might not agree with.  Indeed, there are things in this report that I do not necessarily agree with. Nonetheless, it captures the views of members of our community and reinforces everyone’s freedom to share viewpoints, celebrate our successes, grapple with our challenges, and grow together.  

As I mentioned during my call for participation, I do not intend for our strategic planning to be a top-down exercise, but rather a community-wide effort.  In the months to come, I will look to you for continued feedback, service on strategic planning groups, and more as we work together to layout our path for the future.   

We have a lot of insight to glean from this report as we prepare for the next steps. Thankfully, we are exceptionally well-positioned.  And that’s because of the leaders who have helped us become the institution we are today — the dedicated faculty and staff who are committed to our mission; our outstanding students; our alumni, partners, and supporters who make all our work possible; and of course, members of the wider St. Louis community.   

I’m grateful to have the opportunity to lead in these challenging yet exciting times as we work to serve and empower our students, to conduct groundbreaking research, to deliver compassionate and cutting-edge patient care, and to play an even bigger role and have a greater impact here in the St. Louis region.  None of this is possible without a solid legacy upon which to stand. And because of that foundation, the future is limitless. 

With that, I’m eager to roll up our sleeves and continue fulfilling our mission to improve lives in service of the greater good.  I hope you are equally as eager, and I invite you to join me as we continue our shared pursuit of distinction in education, research, and patient care. 

Thank you again, and more to come soon.