The words spoken so eloquently by President Abraham Lincoln here in Gettysburg 153 years ago provide a rich context for the education of today’s students. We look to them as a reminder of our nation’s founding principles of liberty and equality, and as a source of inspiration—both for our students during this significant time of their personal and intellectual development, and for our College community more generally, as we reflect on our values and goals. With this plan, we envision a future in which our students will be superbly prepared to engage productively in the unfinished work of our age—to be agents of meaningful change in an increasingly diverse, complex, and globally interconnected world. To meet the dynamic challenges ahead, we envision a future in which
- our students will engage in high-impact experiential learning opportunities that build upon our fundamental commitment to academic excellence in the liberal arts and sciences;
- our students will receive outstanding mentoring from a broad array of Gettysburgians who will help to provide a strong foundation and network that will support their personal and professional lives as they move on beyond Gettysburg;
- our students will thrive in their interactions with others in an inclusive campus community that more fully reflects the diversity of the world at large and in which the understanding of others’ perspectives is enriched by candid dialogue and a respect for freedom of expression;
- our students will learn to be bold thinkers, effective collaborators, and lifelong learners, inspired by innovative practices integrated into our community fabric and the opportunities to engage in innovation and entrepreneurship; and
- our students will integrate Lincoln’s charge -- to complete the unfinished work of justice, equality, and freedom -- into their civic and professional lives after Gettysburg.
As a prelude to the strategic planning process, we conducted market research on prospective students, parents, and high school college counsellors to learn about their impressions of Gettysburg, as well as to determine the interests and expectations of these students as they made their college decisions. Not surprisingly, academic quality and the opportunity for interaction with faculty were seen as important deciding factors in making a college choice. In addition, there was strong interest expressed in outcomes, and in particular career planning and internships. A global focus was also perceived to be quite important.
These findings are consistent with what has been reported about Gen Z (those born in the mid-90s or after). These young people have entrepreneurial interests and are focused on career outcomes; they are interested in social causes and want to make the world a better place; they are technology-focused and health-conscious; and they are interested in global issues. As we developed a strategic plan to guide us over the next five years, we wanted to be sure that Gettysburg College would respond to the needs and interests of this generation of students.
This strategic plan was born out of a year-long process that engaged many members of the Gettysburg College community. In the fall of 2015 the Board of Trustees gathered with faculty, staff, and student representatives to discuss possible future scenarios in higher education. Key themes that developed out of that discussion were distinction, inclusion and international initiatives, and innovation. Provost Chris Zappe and Professor Sharon Stephenson led a process in which working groups composed of faculty, staff, and student representatives generated ideas related to these themes, that were then reviewed by the Board of Trustees. During the spring 2016 semester, all members of the campus community had the opportunity to participate in the planning process. All faculty, administrators, and support staff were invited to meetings to discuss the plan and provide input. The themes of the plan were also presented to Student Senate. Finally, all members of the campus community were invited to submit their comments through an on-line survey. The Forward Thinking Group also provided input throughout this process as a more finely-tuned version of the plan began to emerge. The plan was completed in September and approved by the Board of Trustees in October, 2016.