Over the 2013–14 and 2014–15 academic years, Reed College engaged in strategic planning. Led by the Ad Hoc Strategic Priorities Committee, the process provided an opportunity for the college to examine a host of questions about its foundation and mission, its place in the changing landscape of higher education, and its values.
Higher education in the United States has been in a time of transition, with national discussions about access to college, the cost of attendance, and the value of a degree animating conversations from dinner tables at home up to the Oval Office. These discussions presented a perfect backdrop for engaging questions central to Reed’s goal of providing a transformational undergraduate education.
The Ad Hoc Strategic Priorities Committee characterized both the context and goals of the strategic planning process:
Engaging in strategic planning provides the rare and welcome opportunity to ask ourselves some fundamental, existential questions about Reed as an intellectual community and educational institution. It presents the occasion for wide-ranging discussions on what we want the college to be in twenty years and prompts us to collectively consider plans to advance that vision. While many would agree that we do an excellent job of educating our students, we face new challenges to liberal arts education, among them our own challenge to ourselves to do what we do better and to ensure that what we do remains relevant and accessible to the broadest community of learners. This will involve interrogating our current practices with the goal of aligning them with our broader vision; determining what else we might want or need to do in order to fulfill that vision; realistically assessing what we can do, given our actual and potential resources; and recognizing and addressing the challenges, both internal and external, that confront the college, as well as identifying possible opportunities.
The goal is to consider and determine our broader priorities, and not to produce a comprehensive review of everyday college operations. Our planning needs to go beyond the normal processes of review and policy setting, in order that we can examine and become more intentional about what we do, whether in order to recommit to it or to modify it. We should treat no institutional structure or practice, beyond our fundamental commitment to the liberal arts, as beyond need of justification to ourselves and to all of those who have a stake in the education we offer.