Strategic-planning report summaries

The Quest ran a terrific piece on the findings by all strategic-planning work groups; the students involved in each group submitted the following summaries, and we are pleased to share them with you. If reading the full reports is a daunting task, enjoy these cogent recaps!

Strategic Planning Working Group Report Summaries
April 25, 2014 (originally printed in the Quest)

Over the last academic year, student representatives have collaborated with members of the staff and faculty on working groups as a part of the College’s Strategic Planning process. Each working group was presented with a specific charge as well as a series of cross-cutting themes to consider throughout their work. On April 15, 2014, each working group submitted a final report that outlined some strategic suggestions and observations about the current status of the Reed. These summaries, authored by the students on the working groups, briefly discuss their findings of the Strategic Planning process. The final reports of many of the working groups will be available to the Reed Community sometime later this month. Many of the recommendations of the working groups will be discussed at a retreat this summer, but movement upon strategic decisions will be enacted through their traditional modes of mobilization (e.g. CAPP, CAC/Faculty Initiative, Senate Initiative, etc.).   

—Danielle Juncal ‘15, student-body president


Student representatives: Archit Guha ’14, Julia Selker ‘15

What is foundational to a Reed curriculum? Is it just Hum? Is it group requirements? Is it all first year classes. These were some puzzling definitional questions was confronted with from the moment we convened. For our purposes, we decided that Hum 110 and the group requirement structure did, in fact, serve as a foundation to all Reedies’ educations. While the proceedings of our group have been especially contentious because of strong faculty interest, we have been able to make suggestions to streamline the Introductory Science courses, so as to offer a wider array of courses, in order to encourage students to fulfill these requirements on campus. In addition, we have moved toward reconsidering the rationale of Group D, and the viability of standalone quantitative and foreign language requirements (don’t worry — that’s not happening anytime soon). Suffice it to say, all that is holy to Reed’s foundations remains largely the same, but on our part, we have tried to ensure that students are more interested in taking classes that they are just fulfilling requirements with.


Student representatives: Kasra Shokat ’14, Elizabeth Pekarskaya ‘15

Group B organized its recommendations around five main “vision points” that conceptualize the role of the intermediate and advanced curriculum in the future mission of the College:

1. Fostering Faculty-Guided Pedagogical Goals – Recommendations address improvements in: advising technologies/practices, communication between faculty and CIS/Admissions/Registrar, and dispersal of information regarding Reed’s grading policy to new faculty, other schools/employers.

2. Promoting and Supporting the Senior Thesis Capstone – Recommendations: Address imbalances in faculty thesis loads across departments, provide academic staffing support needed to enable students to have successful thesis experiences, and improve available technology that can be integrated into theses.

3. Encouraging Liberal Arts Breadth and Depth in the Major – Recommendations: Strengthen and elaborate on advising protocols to signal multiple curricular pathways for majors, develop and support targeted and structured minors complementary to major programs, actively market Reed’s unique balance of breadth and depth via the rejection of a dichotomy of academic v. practical skills.

4.  Expanding Curricular Diversity to Enhance Students’ Major and Thesis Experience – Recommendations: Hire faculty that specialize in non-Western areas of study, hire strategically for curriculum expansion and inter-disciplinarity, increase upper-level course offerings, make it easier for students to study abroad, hire staff specifically to support the above goals.

5. Encouraging Rigorous Upper-Division Interdisciplinarity to Strengthen the Major.  – Recommendations: Rethink disciplinarity beyond departments and cultivate links among faculty, expand opportunities for cross-department/division interactions, provide structural ways fro courses to serve multiple departments’ courses and major programs, and strengthen academic advising and faculty support to guide students to multiple curricular pathways.


Student representatives: Jessica Camhi ’14, Andrew Watson ‘14

Strategic Planning Group C, The Arts at Reed spent our time assessing the current practice and developing a future vision for the arts (including Art, Dance, Theatre, Music and Creative Writing).  In order for the arts to be fully integrated into Reed’s philosophy of “life of the mind,” we propose several measures: allow studio/“applied” courses to fulfill Group A, create a clearer crediting system for such courses, create an independent Dance major, and invite local artists to teach academic classes in their areas of specialty. Bringing studio classes into Group A, as well as creating an understandable crediting system, will allow more students to take arts classes, and perhaps earlier in their Reed careers, without worrying about graduating on time. A stand-alone Dance major is long overdue, as Dance is now widely recognized as a rigorous academic discipline. Learning from visiting artists will allow us to practice a broader range of artistic mediums as well as interact with the greater community. The overall intention of our goals is to bring the arts at Reed to a level at which its resources and accreditation make it a respectful and essential component of the Reed education.


Student representatives: Dean Schmeltz ’14, Elisa Cibils ‘15

Working Group E discussed Reed’s Summer and January Term, and made recommendations about the following subjects: a bridge program, summer courses, Paideia, internships, and study-abroad. BRIDGE PROGRAM: Rather than a summer program for incoming students, establish a remedial program open to any student during winter break. Students who struggle in their first semester would be encouraged to attend, but an overlap with Paideia should reduce stigma. SUMMER COURSES: Rather than offering introductory courses for credit, set up a range of alternative course options for current students and others, including high school students. Science faculty overwhelmingly reported that official summer courses would take away valuable research time, as well as time needed to mentor students who already conduct summer research. PAIDEIA: Continue with the improvements already in process. Add more academic and skills-oriented offerings (perhaps with incentives for faculty and staff), in conjunction with bridge program. INTERNSHIPS: We recommend a more centralized administration, more prominent presentation of these experiences (e.g. a no-class poster-session day), and making service/employment a regular part of student advising to reinforce that the institution supports these activities. STUDY-ABROAD: Through funding and administrative support, make it possible for more faculty to add travel components to their semester courses that would take place during either summer or winter breaks.


Student representatives: Ari Galper ’14, Evvy Archibald ‘16

The Strategic Planning Working Group F: Community Governance and Academic Administrative Structure was charged with assessing the functioning of all levels of community governance. Accomplishing this charge involved looking at the ways in which the various community documents delegate governance and administrative responsibility across the college, and interrogating the gaps between what the documents call for, what the community thinks it put into practice, and what is actually put into practice. In the process of mining the community documents and receiving input from the various campus constituencies, a number institutional principles of governance emerged. One of these is the belief that each community member should be able to—and, to an extent, is expected to—participate in their respective sphere of governance. (Other principles included self-governance, diversity, and bounded student autonomy). One gap related to the principle of involvement and participation is that staff members have no formalized involvement in the legislative process. Another issue related to involvement is that relatively few people within carry the burden of the majority of community governance within their respective spheres. This is true of both faculty and students. A difficult question that we confronted was how leadership positions can be structured such that the largest possible diversity of people is able participate in governance, while at the same time enabling consistency and the maintenance institutional knowledge. Among the working group’s recommendations are that the Agenda Committee be reconvened and that the faculty consider the option of creating the position of Associate Dean of the Faculty.


Student representatives: Shruti Korada ’14, Ben Morris ‘15

The Research and Teaching working group (RTWG) concluded with 5 major recommendations concerning both with faculty and student scholarship. Three of these recommendations concerned faculty research: (1) to clarify the expectations for junior and senior faculty to be researching and publishing (2) to provide support for teaching and scholarship that recognizes the differing needs of different types of teacher-scholars (e.g. funding experimental laboratories or foreign travel), (3) to reduce committee work to allow faculty engage more with teaching and scholarship. Two of these recommendations concerned student scholarship: (4) to create a campus-wide post-bac program for students to develop ideas that have arisen through the senior thesis project or in earlier research projects with a faculty member, and (5) to increase funding for student travel to conferences. The proposed post-bac program would enable collaborative research between faculty and graduating seniors, with funding split between fellowships lasting either 2 months or 1 year after graduation to allow some flexibility in the role of a post-bac. The recommendation to increase funding for student travel to conferences, for students who will not be presenting work, was based on demonstrated interest as heard through student interviews and discussions of funding requests.  The RTWG also suggested that (1) junior faculty and faculty for whom external funding is difficult to obtain be able to utilize year-long sabbaticals, (2) increasing funding for faculty and student research in departments that have unmet needs, and (3) working to better publicize the scholarly achievements of Reed faculty within and outside the community.


Student representatives: Ari Galper ’14, Danielle Juncal ’15, Bryan Kim ‘14

The Student Success working group (SSWG) concluded with three strategic suggestions: to implement a January term Bridge program, to enhance the academic advising experience, and to increase emphasis on helping students launch after Reed. Defining what “success” meant took up most of Fall Semester’s work, but we finally concluded that success was ultimately defined by each individual student but generally related to our community’s commitment to living honorable lives, inside and outside of the classroom. For the bridge program, the SSWG recommended that the program occur over Winter Break with follow-up during the Spring semester. This program would be targeted toward but not limited to students who struggled academically during their first semester at Reed. For academic advising, the SSWG wanted to raise the bar and make sure that advising was held to a consistent standard in which advisers acted as a switchboard for on-campus resources, a mentor to students, and (of course) a guidebook to academic requirements for graduation. Lastly, the SSWG wanted to put more focus on helping students see the instrumental value of a Reed education when launching into the job market alongside intrinsic “learning for learning’s sake” side of one’s time at Reed. Each of these parts are important, but in order for the former to succeed, the Center for Life Beyond Reed needs more funding and staffing to accommodate the diverse post-graduation needs of the student body.


Student representatives: John Iselin ’14, Rennie Meyers ‘15

Working group K  – the Long-Term Financial Health of the College Group – focused primarily on determining how to model the next decade of the college’s finances. This means that if you read our report, you will be presented with information concerning how the committee anticipates the college will fare financially over the next ten years in a range of scenarios.  This effort is supposed to provide assistance to the other working groups and college officials who are making decisions regarding what changes should be made over the next few decades. In essence, it is important to know if the college can afford to build a bunch of new buildings, or hire 20 new faculty, or start accepting a whole lot more aided students.

Our basic conclusion was that the college is financially stable and not at major risk of collapse barring any major shocks. Our major financial flows – net tuition, endowment income, and personnel expenses – are to differing degrees volatile, and we spent the majority of our report determining sources of risk.  We model the variations in tuition and employee compensation, changes to financial aid, growth in college size, shocks to the endowment in terms of returns and gifts, and we create a worse-case scenario, where these shocks all happen at once. The result is that Reed is financially strong, but still vulnerable enough to shocks as to require financial caution. In considering our report, please keep in mind the long term investments the school should make by looking at the infrastructure and maintenance going on on Reed’s campus every day.

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