This strategic plan is part of Dickinson Forward initiative announced by President John E. Jones III ’77, P’11. For a year and a half, strategic planning committee members, with input from various constituencies across the institution, including faculty, staff, students, alumni and parents, developed this plan for Dickinson, a world-class college ready to take on the future.
Chartered in 1783 as the first college in the new nation, Dickinson was designed to provide a different kind of liberal-arts education. Our students would not just study theory; they would apply it. They would not just learn about the globe; they would travel it. We develop leaders with a broad understanding of the world and with an empathy earned through experience.
For 240 years, Dickinson’s mission has remained the same: To provide a residential education in the liberal arts, notable for its ability to prepare our students to thrive as engaged citizens throughout their lives.
In recent years, the Dickinson academic experience has been transformed to meet the needs of a changing student body. Our current pedagogy is multi-faceted, emphasizing active learning through such aspects as individual and group research projects, team writing, peer review, multimedia projects, student-led discussions, case studies and performance in the arts. Learning experiences also extend beyond the classroom through a range of transformative field experiences. These practices effectively meet the needs of a student body that is increasingly diverse in backgrounds, skills and experiences.
Dickinson has developed an international reputation for our commitment to imbuing our students with an immersive global perspective, a holistic sustainability education, a community orientation and civic skillset, and the ability to think across disciplines and dialogue across differences. Through these interdependent dimensions of a Dickinson education, students are better able to connect their values to their career and civic goals. Our alumni are out in the world building more just, equitable, sustainable and prosperous communities.
However, we must respond to the critical challenges of our times. The world our students confront is changing rapidly and becoming ever more complex. Dickinson students differ from earlier generations in their life experiences, interests, needs, perspectives and skills. Students now acquire knowledge differently and come to us with growing expectations for services and systems to support their development—in the classroom and beyond. They and their families increasingly question the value of an undergraduate liberal-arts degree. As college costs have risen steadily beyond inflation, so too have expectations that we ensure student success in careers and in the larger world. Demonstrating value and satisfactorily meeting the related critical challenges will lead to increased net tuition revenue, which along with our endowment are the primary drivers of our operation.
This strategic plan focuses on our students—they are the center of all that we are and do—and on the steps we must take to meet their changing needs, helping them achieve success, now and in the future.
At the same time, we recognize the need for faculty and staff support, as they expertly deliver the world-class experience we provide. We know that none of these goals and aspirations can happen without our people who work every day to provide students with the highest quality experience and make decisions through the governance system that impact the future of the college. We must remain committed to providing the salary, benefits and sense of community that make Dickinson a desirable place to work.
Diversity, equity and inclusion are embedded across the plan. Our efforts to create a community that is underpinned by respectful dialogues across differences is central to our approach. We know these dialogues are critical to the survival of democracy, and we are hopeful we can be a model for the nation.
This plan describes our challenges and opportunities to excel in a rapidly changing higher-education landscape.
Changing demographics, fierce competition, tuition dependency and increasing skepticism about the value of a liberal-arts degree make it harder to attract students who will be the next generation of Dickinsonians, and to inspire and engage alumni. Add to that inflation, rising costs and a growing job market for those without a college degree and Dickinson finds itself facing significant headwinds.
Bolded solutions indicate those actions we will undertake first.
This plan will continue to evolve as specific divisions outline the actions needed to meet these ambitious priorities and solutions set forth. We are in an era of rapid change, and we will meet the opportunities ahead, staying ever focused on our students and providing them the best experience possible. We must move quickly and decisively to take these steps, and to transform the Dickinson experience. We will do so collectively, in concert with our governance system, and in a way that is distinctive to Dickinson.