St. Lawrence Friends:
Our annual Trustee Planning Retreat, held this past weekend at Canaras Conference Center, had as its focus the immediate, intermediate, and long-term questions of curriculum, recruitment strategies, and student experience, all factors of and influenced by financial resources. Our participants explored the sustainability of financial model (as you know, over the past 5 years, expenses have grown more than revenue); major capital needs and plans (again, as we have studied, operations can only fund 60% of the depreciation needs for our campus infrastructure of buildings and equipment); admissions market forces, especially demographics of our traditional market; and the evolving higher education landscape.
Our discussion was our usual interactive model, with trustees, trustees emeriti, senior staff, and delegates from the faculty, students, and alumni gathered in conversation groups guided by assigned trustee facilitators.
With an introduction that presented the “non-negotiables” as defined by our community--our liberal arts mission, our residential experience for students, and our commitment to a full-time tenured faculty—I asked participants to consider ideas for boldness in this context. Chair of the Board Mike Ranger and Vice Chair Jennifer Curley Reichert outlined the purpose of the retreat and we engaged in a plenary session that allowed everyone to describe the University’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This exercise especially was helpful to the 10+ trustees in their first or second year of trusteeship as they become more deeply acquainted with contemporary St. Lawrence.
During breakout sessions on academics, student experience, and recruitment, we addressed these questions:
- What is sacred in this area? What are we not willing to change?
- How can we change what we’re doing currently?
- How would it add value*?
- What are the potential risks of that change?
- What are the new opportunities that could add value*?
- What would be considered a “bold” idea in this topic? What is our tolerance for risk?
- What ideas are most exciting to you?
*Value should include: improved reputation, strengthened academic profile, more net revenue from student enrollment and retention, new revenue streams, and attractiveness to campaign/donors
Our texts were reports from and about the University over the past decade:
*Campus Building Needs (evaluation by SightLines from 2012)
*Middle States Report Recommendations
*February 2018 Values Exercise led by Faculty Delegate Ana Estevez
*The report of the Institutional Strategy and Assessment Committee’s work in 2018-2019
*Recession Response Planning Group II Report: February 2011
As we adjourned, we took away insight about our shared values and goals, for the next academic year, the next decade, and for St. Lawrence’s secure future. I expect our community will continue these discussion on campus when the academic year begins in August.
I wish everyone a productive and restful summer.