Student listening sessions provide opportunity for input to strategic planning process

The Strategic Planning Task Force facilitated student listening sessions on Feb. 16, 19 and 23 in Hindle Auditorium. President Dennis Hanno created the task force in order to engage the entire Wheaton community in developing its five-year strategic plan. The task force is co-chaired by Professor of Mathematics Tommy Ratliff and includes two members from faculty, staff, alumni and students. These information sessions with faculty, staff and alumni around the country have garnered input from 300 different voices.

The goal of this strategic planning process is to connect different constituents of the Wheaton community and to develop a shared vision that will help prioritize areas of focus. Later meetings will share these ideas across constituent groups while refining major themes that emerge. Those who are unable to attend these discussions are also given the opportunity to provide input through an online submission form.

Beginning in late March, this input will be used to develop specific actions needed to achieve our community goals. Meetings of the task force over the summer will identify key issues from these listening sessions and use them in drafting the strategic plan. This will be presented to the Board of Trustees for approval at its October meeting.

Hanno stated that, in total, only 15 students attended these listening sessions but that they provided good conversation and illuminating discussions. He also explained that since the last strategic planning exercise took place in 2004, this revised strategy would allow the college to identify key areas of focus over the next five years. Hanno urged the students present to “think about where we are today and where you think we could be in the future. Dream and have big aspirations about a Wheaton that you can be even more proud of.”

The group discussed a variety of ideas for improvement for the college. Student Sustainability Advisor Sarah Mitsinikos ’15 brought up the topic of increased sustainability in terms of recycling and becoming a greener institution. Others brought up issues of location and how Wheaton could be better connected to Boston and Providence in order to allow students better access to internship and job opportunities. Hanno agreed and stated that we could do more to turn our location into an advantage and “control some of that destiny.”

Rebecca Suarez ’15 stated that Wheaton was more diverse than many other small liberal arts schools but that we could do more to support this diversity. Hanno stated that he hoped Wheaton would continue to become more diverse across all dimensions in the next five years. He added that we have applicants from 49 states and territories and over 110 countries, but this isn’t represented because roughly 400 students are accepted from the 4,000 that apply.

At the end of the hour and a half long powwow, Mitsinikos said, “I think that Hanno cares about what students think; he’s listened to what we’ve said and will take [these issues] into consideration when making decisions.” Hanno added, “The student sessions have had a good core group that have shown up and shared a lot of great ideas about why Wheaton is such a great place. We must now work on how to build on those strengths and create a Wheaton that is even more distinctive in the future.”