Context for the Plan
LMU's strategic plan arrives at a critical moment. When the university selected 2020 as the year of completion for its last strategic plan, we could hardly have guessed what a pivotal year it would prove to be in the history of the world, the nation, and LMU.
This planning process has taken place against an unfolding drama unlike any in our lifetime. A year of a deadly pandemic has brought in its wake economic pain and constraint, physical distancing and isolation, and widespread fear about the present and future. Alongside the pandemic, a parallel sense of urgency has developed within our public life. We have witnessed a reckoning and reawakening around issues of racial injustice, along with a deepening socio-political polarization culminating in a contentious election and its unsettling aftermath. These events have carried with them a sense of apprehension, distraction and fatigue, along with a heightened consciousness of the diminished certainties and raised stakes of our choices about the future.
The broader context for the plan, if somewhat less dramatic, is no less significant. Over the past quarter century, higher education has gradually – often too slowly – sought to adapt itself to a world transformed by the most impactful revolution in information and knowledge sharing since the invention of the printing press. The onset of the digital age has accelerated the already rapid expansion of an increasingly global, multicultural, and interdependent society. This has been an age of miracles – of reductions in scourges such as global hunger, extreme poverty, child mortality, and child labor, along with significant improvements in global life expectancy, internet access, education, and literacy. It has equally been an age of catastrophes, with the impacts of climate change, disruptive natural disasters, economic disparities, and mass violence darkening the present for many and haunting the future for us all.
LMU's mission has always been to educate its students to impact the larger world for good. In early 21st century Los Angeles, at the crossroads of global east and west, north and south, LMU's opportunity to extend our reach has never been clearer. We have developed rapidly as an institution, driving toward greater academic excellence and enhancing our local engagement, national reputation, and international outreach. Yet never before has the emerging future for which we are preparing our students been such a moving target.
To advance the common good, our students will continue to need the skills of critical thinking and disciplined reasoning that all universities aspire to cultivate, along with the moral acuity and spiritual sensitivity that are the special hallmarks of Catholic higher education. But to meet the pivotal moment into which we are entering they will need more. Tomorrow's students will need to graduate from LMU with the desire to lead in more inclusive, more imaginative, and more impactful ways, and the knowledge and abilities to realize that desire in all their endeavors. Creating the World We Want to Live In: LMU's Strategic Plan, 2021-26 envisions LMU as a university that forms such students with intention, and speaks to the institutional commitments and initiatives that will drive our institutional evolution.
Brief Summary of Process
In his October 2019 Convocation Address, President Timothy Law Snyder announced the beginning of a new strategic planning process. The strategic planning steering committee received its charge from the president on November 1, and during November conducted an initial survey of LMU's major constituencies, with hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and leadership board members providing input. In January the steering committee conducted an environmental scan to assess LMU's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges. Eight campus teams composed of faculty, staff, and student volunteers were asked to analyze several potential strategic issues facing the university and to brainstorm potential objectives and actions related to those issues.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring 2020 semester, the president authorized a delay in the process timeline, postponing the originally planned release of the steering committee's preliminary report from April until September. In the preliminary report, the steering committee shared a draft of the plan's mission statement, core values, and vision statement, and identified nine potential strategic issues for the plan to address with possible actions associated with each. All faculty and staff were invited to participate in facilitated community discernment focus groups, and steering committee members visited student, faculty, and staff leadership groups and volunteer boards across campus to obtain additional feedback. Based on this input, the steering committee created a draft plan during the fall 2020 semester and shared it with the community for feedback in January 2021, employing a broadly based survey and visits to the community's primary constituent leadership groups. Based on this feedback, the steering committee made further revisions to the draft plan and submitted its final recommendations to the president on April 9.
Throughout the process, the steering committee has structured our work through the lens of communal discernment, using concepts and techniques derived from our Ignatian tradition as a guiding principle within the committee's internal deliberations and in our engagement with the wider university community. The steering committee believes this approach has benefited the substance of the plan and has increased our confidence in recommending it as the result of an inclusive, intentional, and responsive process of community discernment.
Purpose of the Plan
The primary purpose of a strategic plan is to articulate a shared vision of the university's future to orient its collective efforts and to identify the most important strategies, goals, and actions for the institution to take in order to realize that vision. This plan does so by selecting three commitments that will define our strategic approach and serve as criteria for success, and five spotlight initiatives, inspired by those commitments, that will be the primary focus of the university's attention and strategic resources for the duration of the plan.
The strategic plan's implementation will be aligned with the annual university budget cycle and its spotlight initiatives will have presumptive priority in the allocation of strategic funds from the university budget. Many of the objectives identified in the spotlight initiatives will require substantial time and resources.
The university is currently in the "quiet phase" of a comprehensive fundraising campaign, the overall priorities of which were recommended by the Campaign Planning Council and approved by the Board of Trustees in May 2018. The spotlight initiatives were selected with an awareness of the campaign's fundraising priorities and were intended to align with those priorities. At the same time, the strategic plan elaborates and clarifies the areas of greatest need and significance within the campaign's broad priorities and offers potential guidance for further specifying the targets and content of the campaign's initiatives to support faculty, enhance educational facilities, and expand student scholarships.
Structure of the Plan
The sections that follow constitute the plan proper. The next section, LMU in 2021, presents statements of institutional mission and core values that constitute the underlying foundation of the strategic plan. The longer section that follows, LMU in 2026, offers proposed vision, commitments, and spotlight initiatives for the plan.