Eliot Circular

Considering Reed’s Future

College embarks on strategic plan

By Randall S. Barton

We are always arriving and departing, as Henry Miller observed. “One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.”

In that spirit, Reed is looking toward the future and working on a strategic plan to answer existential questions such as “What do we want the college to be in 20 years?” Staff, faculty, trustees, alumni, students, parents, and friends are working collectively to formulate the answers, with the goal of identifying priorities by summer 2014 and designing a plan to implement them by July 2015.

Reed’s last major bout of planning took place in 2004–05, before the launch of the Centennial Campaign. One of the main results was the decision to expand the curriculum to create a new major in environmental studies.

The first conversations about the current plan began in the spring, when alumni and parents discussed Reed’s central issues at events in alumni chapter cities. During Reunions, keynote speaker Eduardo Ochoa ’73, former assistant secretary for postsecondary education and current president of CSU-Monterey Bay, outlined challenges and opportunities for liberal arts colleges—a theme that alumni took up in subsequent panel discussions.

Early this summer the ad hoc ommittee on strategic planning solicited input from faculty, students, staff, and trustees and held two public meetings. Working groups are being established to consider a nexus of topics, such as the following:

  • Curriculum.
  • The arts. 
  • Education beyond the classroom. 
  • Summer and January term. 
  • Student life, health, and well-being. 
  • Financial aid.
  • Community governance and academic administrative structure.
  • Research, teaching, and the liberal arts college.
  • Faculty and staff quality of life.
  • Size of institution and infrastructure.

In addition to the array of questions that fall loosely into these categories, each working group will consider five “cross-cutting issues” that pertain to every aspect of Reed:

  • Reed’s identity. Do any changes being considered challenge, enhance, or alter any aspects perceived as central to Reed’s identity? What is or should be central to Reed’s identity? What makes it unique? Why should students want to come to Reed, and why should parents want to help them go? 
  • Diversity and inclusion: Do any changes being considered have an impact, positive or negative, on the accessibility or attractiveness of a Reed education to a more diverse student body, or a more diverse community more generally? How can the changes be used to forward the community’s goals regarding diversity and inclusion? 
  • External pressures. How do any changes considered respond to changes or potential changes in the applicant pool; changing expectations on the part of students, parents, and potential employers; the rise of online education; or other external developments that are putting pressure on our educational model? Technology. How can changes in technology capacity or in the use of technology further any of the changes being considered? What are the technological requirements, if any, for any of the changes considered? What impact, if any, will technological changes have on the issues being considered?
  • Environment and sustainability. How do the changes being considered affect our environmental footprint? 

The working groups will submit reports to the president in April 2014; their conclusions and recommendations will be discussed at a retreat for faculty, senior staff, and trustees in June to determine Reed’s major priorities. 

Students will be actively involved in on-campus conversations and by participating in working groups and the trustee retreat.

Alumni will receive regular reports on the plan and will have opportunities to engage in the process at major alumni events on campus in the coming year, namely Leadership Summit (September 20 & 21), Working Weekend (February 7–9), and Reunions (June 4–8). In addition, the college has assembled a group of 40, including alumni association leaders, recent graduates, and parents, to submit reports in three areas: financial aid, academic support, and career services. Parent comments will be solicited during Parent & Family Weekend (November 1 & 2).