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By Stephen Collins '74
A strategic planning initiative undertaken at Colby last year was completed this spring and will provide incoming President William D. Adams with a detailed inventory of where Colby stands and what its various constituents believe are the opportunities and challenges looming in the next 10 to 15 years.
While the inquiry produced an enormous amount of data and a wide range of "option plans" for Colby's future, conclusions, priorities and policies were never intended to come from this first phase of the planning process; those will be developed as Adams gets involved during the coming year.
Further, the major planning issues that emerged "aren't going to come as a tremendous surprise," according to Vice President Peyton R. Helm (alumni relations and development), secretary to the Trustee Planning Committee. "They're obvious," he said.
Exhibit Athe "new" campus isn't new anymore. The time has come to engage professional master planners to study future development on Mayflower Hill.
The Trustee Planning Committee, established in the spring of 1999 and chaired by Trustee William H. Goldfarb '68, had three charges:
survey important trends in higher education;
Seven subcommittees studied academic affairs, diversity, enrollment, facilities and technology, external affairs, financial resources and student life. Trustees, faculty, staff, alumni and students participated in the process.
The millennial urge to reflect on the past and contemplate the future just happened to coincide with a watershed time in the College's history. The College is experiencing only its sixth presidential transition since 1901; architect J. Fredrick Larson's layout for developing Mayflower Hill has been fulfilled and the direction of future expansion is no longer prescribed; Colby's Plan for the '90s was completed or exceeded; and the final chords of The Campaign for Colby, an unprecedented success, are still reverberating. All of which created an appropriate moment to take inventory and to imagine the world that today's grammar-school students will inherit and the Colby that they will attend.
"Looking back on the 1991 plan," said Goldfarb, "it was very gratifying to see how much we had accomplishedfar more than we probably should have dared to dream." He described the planning process to date as producing a series of options to present to the new president"sort of a wish list"that will be the foundation of a formal strategic plan.
Options and challenges that emerged in the study of facilitiesdesires for new offices, classrooms, performance space, athletic facilitiesrevealed the need for a new master plan for the campus. An architectural firm and a facilities planning firm were chosen this spring to study the siting of future buildings, use of space, adaptation of existing buildings, open spaces and traffic flows for both autos and pedestrians.
Helm said other issues that emerged from the study cut across several of the subcommittees' jurisdictions. He described a matrix of academic quality, selectivity, financial aid capabilities and diversity that raises questions. "You can't plan sensibly for Colby's future without looking at how these fit together," he said.
The intersection of technology and the curriculum is another area, along with financial planning, that will require hard analysis and creative thinking as Colby continues to compete with the best liberal arts colleges and universities in the nation.
Helm said he concluded from the planning initiative that people care very deeply about the College's prospects for the future. "Colby people can dream the big dream, but they're also not afraid to get under the hood and tinker with the nuts and bolts," he said, if that's what it takes to keep the institution running at peak performance and achieving its full potential.
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