Alfred University's Strategic Plan 2017-2022
Alfred University's Strategic Plan builds on our current strengths and focuses our energies and resources on the most pressing issues we are positioned to address. The structure of the plan encourages multidimensional approaches to achieving significant goals in three key areas critical to the University's future.
(July 2017-June 2022)
Alfred University is at an exciting juncture.
We can take pride in our 181-year history of inclusiveness. Over that period, our University has provided a remarkable intersection between opportunity and impact. The contributions made by our 36,000-plus alumni to their families, communities, and society attest to our university’s ability to transform student lives and better our world. Our graduates have developed cures for bilirubin and glasses that correct for color-blindness. They have contributed to the invention of Gorilla glass and created the means to transmit data and voice through fiber-optic cable. Their inspiring works of art and design adorn leading museums around the globe. Their creativity, resilience, and leadership have shaped multi-billion dollar enterprises, won Emmys, and facilitated travel around the globe as well as into space. Their kindness and empathy epitomize our values, are at the heart of the “Alfred hello,” and illuminate how differences can be our greatest, unifying strength rather than divide us.
Our future holds promising opportunities based on our values, the breadth and quality of our curricular and co-curricular offerings, the viability of markets that we serve, and the potential of markets that we have historically not addressed.
At the same time, our University operates in an ever-more challenging environment. Among the known challenges are demographic trends in upstate New York, rankings, growing competition from public as well as private higher educational institutions in our state, and changes in federal tax policy toward the deductibility of charitable giving as well as state and local taxes.
In light of the foregoing, making the best strategic choices is critical to our University’s ongoing success. With this in mind, we have developed a five-year strategic plan. The process we have followed has been a lengthy one but has allowed for the plan’s organic development, a transition in presidential leadership, and extensive input by our constituents.
In the following sections, we spell out how central elements of our strategic plan will advance our University’s mission, vision, and values. We articulate how the plans of our various units dovetail with the overall strategic plan and determine our five-year financial plan. These materials help frame and evaluate our university’s strategic goals.
Advancing Our Mission, Vision, and Values
In 2015, our Board of Trustees approved a 251-word statement of our mission, vision, and values. An apt distillation of this statement is to “provide the intersection between opportunity and impact” since it reflects:
- Our highly personalized setting, where faculty and staff are committed to helping our students identify their passions and then to develop the confidence to pursue those passions.
- Our intersections achieve productive outcomes because we approach them from diverse places and by different means.
- Our inclusiveness from the start with regard to students of all races, religions, ethnicities, and genders.
- Our openness to students lacking sufficient financial means but laden with drive to improve themselves and better the world.
- Our alumni’s observation that what they treasure most about our University is that someone (faculty, staff, and/or fellow student) took an interest in them and changed their life. We can thus be proud of how “Our intersection transforms student lives and betters our world.”
Of the three themes articulated by our strategic plan, the first two (“Transform Student Lives and Better Our World” and “Forge Strength through Inclusivity”) focus largely on our mission, vision, and values. The third theme (“Amplify our Impact”) outlines the key foundational initiatives required to attain our strategic goals. In terms of advancing our mission, vision, and values, we believe four transformational initiatives of our strategic plan most warrant attention:
1. Leverage our community, diversity, and inclusivity
Universities are pivotal places for students to identify their passions and then develop the confidence to pursue them. Our University is ideally suited to create such transformational opportunities due to the diversity of our programs and people as well as our community’s closeness and inclusivity. The latter fosters a deep commitment to the student experience by our faculty and staff.
Universities, like other organizations, create silos when seeking to accomplish certain tasks. Silos, however, do not work to our University’s advantage given our smaller size. Our strength lies in relying on our highly personalized setting and exposing students to the rich array of our offerings, thereby helping them to identify and pursue their passions. As we go forward, the advancement of integrated approaches and elimination of silos across academic and staff units will underpin all our strategic initiatives.
We already have made the borders between our offerings more porous, as exemplified by our arts management minor. We intend to build similar interdisciplinary bridges between science and engineering, technology and entrepreneurship, art and design and engineering, and liberal arts and business. Performing arts and health care offer opportunities to align expertise presently scattered across various pockets on campus to the benefit of our students. We will explore other potential curricular and co-curricular intersections between our students, staff, and faculty so that we can continue to fulfill the social justice mission upon which we were established. Finally, given our commitment to inclusivity and transforming student lives, we will enhance our student advising so that we can help each of our students better identify the pathways available to them at our University to realize their potential.
2. Promote APEX
Studies indicate that applied, experiential learning experiences significantly determine a college student’s ultimate professional success. When students have opportunities to see how well theory stacks up against real-world data plus the means to broaden their horizons beyond the traditional classroom setting, they acquire greater personal depth as well as ownership of their education. Greater personal depth and ownership improve educational outcomes.
Alfred University has a hands-on, “maker” culture. This reflects our long-standing roots in ceramics and being in the heart of Silica Valley. We estimate, for example, that roughly 70 percent of our undergraduates have at least one meaningful applied, experiential learning experience.
Over the next five years, we will make applied, experiential learning even more of a hallmark of our University. Thanks to the generosity of Board member Michele Cohen and her husband Marty, we are launching our APEX (short for applied, experiential) program effective Fall 2018. Through APEX, our juniors and seniors will be able to apply for a grant in support of applied, experiential learning opportunities such as study abroad, research beyond classroom assignments, co-ops/internships, and service learning.
We envision APEX becoming a high point of our students’ educational experience and a signature element of the Alfred University “brand.” We aspire to be a leading university when it comes to both promoting applied, experiential learning and affording students the means to pursue such learning.
3. Build a more immersive learning model
Our location and size, coupled with our curricular and co-curricular breadth, create the potential for a truly distinctive immersive educational experience. The benefits of our personalized setting hinge on student connections to faculty and staff outside of the classroom, co-curricular activities, athletic programs and our buildings and grounds. For example, residence halls, dining facilities and services, workout areas, academic meeting spaces, communal spots for student gatherings, and our natural surroundings (including trails, an equestrian center, and a lake) play vital roles in student enrollment and success. Moreover, they allow students to benefit from the diversity and inclusivity of our community, thereby growing as individuals. Similar positive impacts occur when there are opportunities for students to interact with faculty and staff outside of academic settings. Consequently, we will advance our mission, vision, and values through planned, mission-centered improvements in our facilities and grounds, as well as through innovative initiatives encouraging faculty and staff to live in our community.
Thanks to the philanthropic support of Board members, donors, and friends, we have begun renovating Moskowitz Residence Hall, our chemistry laboratories, and gym. In December 2017, the State of New York awarded a $1 million Regional Economic Development Commission grant to our University to renovate South Hall and create a one-stop shop to foster economic development through linking our relevant centers with companies in our region, state, and country. We are now raising the needed matching funds through other private and public sources. The project offers the potential to create a state-of-the art living and learning building for students from across our various disciplines, which will foster APEX opportunities with partner external organizations.
Of the first-year students matriculating to our University in 2017, 42 percent are student-athletes. Not only are athletic programs a vehicle for recruiting and, in the case of most sports, retaining students, they represent a vital means for developing leadership, team-playing, time-management, and resilience skills. Thanks to the generosity of board members, alumni, and friends, we have begun to upgrade the weight and locker rooms for our student-athletes. Moreover, given that a limiting factor for the scheduling of team practices is our field facilities, we are exploring options to relax this constraint while improving the balance that our student-athletes can strike between their studies and their sports.
We have all the essential ingredients to create an immersive learning environment through a traditional residential campus experience that is treasured by our students and a hallmark of our brand. We will create a winning mix of these ingredients for the benefit of our students and Alfred University.
4. Capitalize on ceramics
The New York State College of Ceramics was established at Alfred University in 1900 through then-Governor Teddy Roosevelt’s support. Because of this public-private partnership, we are a leader in ceramic art and engineering and glass art, engineering, and science. This redounds to the benefit of our broader University and scores of organizations hiring our graduates. For example, our School of Art and Design regularly ranks in the top ten in the country due to our preeminence in ceramic and glass art. The reputation of our Inamori School of Engineering rests primarily on our excellence in ceramic engineering and glass engineering/science. In 2004, Dr. Kazuo Inamori, the founder of two Fortune 500 firms (Kyocera and KCCI), made a significant naming gift to our School of Engineering on account of the ceramic engineers that he had recruited from our university and their influence on his entrepreneurial success.
Tremendous opportunities exist for us to build on the distinction we have achieved in ceramics and glass including:
- The engineering of biomedical implants.
- LED lighting that promotes safety and sustainability.
- The design, from both an engineering and arts perspective, of electric motor vehicles by Tesla and components for autonomous vehicles.
- Composites that improve the efficiency and durability of turbines for aircraft and renewable energy sources.
- Enhanced ways to transmit voice and data through fiber-optic cable.
- Filters to increase potable water supplies and mitigate environmentally harmful emissions from mobile and stationary sources.
- Materials and processes to drive the 3D printing and additive manufacturing revolution.
- Fortified and otherwise higher quality glass products for our mobile devices, appliances, and television screens.
We will seize these opportunities through enhancing our public and private funding streams. Hiring a new engineering dean plus investing in a full complement of engineering faculty will be critical. We will explore a dual degree program, BS in Engineering coupled with a BFA in Art and Design, to promote greater cross-fertilization between these two distinctive programs at our University and to meet a market need for such interdisciplinary talent. Furthermore, we will develop curricular pathways between our hallmark ceramics programs with other units on campus such as business and the liberal arts to the benefit of our students, University, and state. Bottom line: we intend to capitalize on ceramics.
Key Foundational Initiatives Supporting Our Strategic Plan
As more fully spelled out by our various unit plans, five key foundational initiatives support our strategic plan and determine our five-year financial plans:
1. Build and promote the Alfred University brand
Articulating our brand in an authentic, clear, and compelling manner through relevant channels such as our website, advertising, social media, print materials, campus signage, and events is critical to our success in terms of enrollment, alumni engagement, and building our organizational culture. We are taking steps to do so while building a centralized marketing unit that will create ongoing content in support of our branding endeavors, ensure the dynamism of our website content, lead the strategic direction for our graphic identity and core messaging, manage our social media efforts, create print materials, generate press releases, and match on-campus experts with media outlets.
2. Enhance student recruitment and success
Nearly 80 percent of our annual revenues hinge on student enrollment—tuition as well as ancillary services such as room and board. Over the next five years, our goals include increasing our first-year enrollment to 550 students without comprising quality, improving our retention and graduation rates by at least five percentage points, and grow non-traditional enrollments by 50 percent.
The unit plans detail the tactics that we are relying upon to achieve our residential student enrollment and success goals. Our tactics involve:
- More proactively reaching out to prospective students.
- Engaging alumni, faculty, staff, current students, and friends to help us recruit prospective students through the Volunteers in Support of Alfred (VISA) program and then mentor them once they matriculate.
- Arranging more campus visit opportunities for prospective students.
- Clearly outlining and promoting paths to professional success through our majors and skills developed by our curricular and co-curricular offerings.
- Fostering curricular and co-curricular programs that attract and retain students.
- Eliminating administrative silos that impede student success.
- Enhancing our data analytics to better promote student success.
- Focusing on a first-year experience that builds community and identity among our students as Alfred University Saxons.
To increase non-traditional enrollments, we are building community college partnerships, engaging alumni as ambassadors, and deepening our cooperation with CITE, the firm helping us market and manage our AUNY programs.
3. Strengthen alumni engagement and philanthropic investment
Fundamentally, the more engaged our alumni and their sense of ownership for our University, the brighter will be our University’s future.
We will assist our graduates with their ongoing professional development through identifying relevant networking contacts as well as recruiting contacts for the organizations with which that they are affiliated. In turn, we will engage our alumni as recruiters of prospective students (through the VISA program), speakers, mentors, and advisory board members. Our graduates can identify APEX learning opportunities as well as internship and job leads for our current students.
In terms of philanthropic investment, we will promote three-part giving: annual discretionary support, major gifts, and bequests. In encouraging the habit of the heart, we will double annual discretionary support for our University. We will give particular emphasis to attracting at least 750 members to our five-year leadership giving society, the Saxon Circle, which provides discretionary support for various University activities notably the Alfred Fund.
We will increase membership in our Heritage Circle, composed of donors who have designated our University in their estate plans, and the number of major gift commitments on behalf of Alfred University. Among our strategic objectives, we will increase annual philanthropic support for scholarships and the number of endowed faculty and staff positions (to 27 from the 18 in existence at the start of the 2017 academic year). Other opportunities for major gifts to advance our strategic objectives include $15 million to permanently endow our APEX program, $10 million to underwrite building an innovative South Hall living-learning community, and $20 million to expand, through a domed-stadium initiative, our athletic facilities while better supporting our surrounding community.
4. Increase support for research and socio-economic development
We have applied to New York State for enhanced funding for our College of Ceramics with particular emphasis on building bench strength in engineering. Building such bench strength allows us to better promote economic development in partnership with corporations that can benefit from our intellectual expertise. We also are making structural changes in our various centers and University to promote greater success in securing research grants.
We will apply to New York State for a Downtown Revitalization Investment Grant in partnership with Alfred State College and our local community. We will also foster local socio-economic development through the APEX projects that our students undertake, speaker series, our art studios/museum, performing arts programming such as the annual MostArts Festival, finding innovative ways to encourage more of our faculty and staff to live in Alfred, and nurturing entrepreneurial activity by our students, staff, and faculty.
5. Build an entrepreneurial culture that empowers our people
Successful organizations have cultures focused on creating a better future through the innovativeness, dedication, and ownership of their employees. Fostering such a culture is integral to enhancing our University’s impact as well as taking better care of our people and place. We will strengthen our organizational culture by promoting greater opportunities for our employees to help us invent a better future for Alfred University while appropriately recognizing and rewarding them for their entrepreneurial contributions.
While we can take great pride in what Alfred University has accomplished over the past 181 years, the future is where our focus lies. With this in mind, our strategic plan outlines the transformational objectives that will best advance our mission, vision, and values as well as the key foundational initiatives required to attain those objectives. When it comes to providing the intersection between opportunity and impact through transforming student lives and bettering our world, we will shape an even brighter future for our University and thus best honor the many generations before of us who have sacrificed so much to position us at our present juncture.