Strategic Plan III Introduction

Dickinson College prepares aspiring students for engaged and fulfilling lives of accomplishment, leadership and service to their professions, to their communities, to the nation and to the world. Our founders intended the college to be a powerful agent of change—to advance the lot of humankind—and we expect no less today. 

Dickinson College Strategic Plan, 2001                  

The past decade has been one of significant accomplishment for Dickinson College. Growth and innovation across almost all dimensions of the institution have allowed us to establish Dickinson as a college that offers students the right preparation for the 21st century—a pragmatic education for democracy. We have developed a truly distinctive and worthwhile educational program, expanded resources and re-positioned the college among America’s leading institutions of higher education.

In both cases, the planning process, like all of Dickinson’s operations, embraced transparency and built consensus by soliciting input from across our community. Unlike the reality at many other institutions, our Strategic Plans became familiar documents, well-used by many members of the campus community. As such, they have served as a significant guide for our decision-making and actions, providing the foundation for an exceptional decade of progress. 

A key ingredient in our success over the past decade has been the strength and viability of our two strategic plans. Benjamin Rush founded Dickinson with the ambition of creating a college “first in America” in designing an engaged, “useful” education in the liberal arts and sciences to meet the needs of a new, ever evolving democracy. Strategic Plan I adopted that ambition and gave us specific goals, objectives and benchmarks against which to gauge our performance in achieving it. Strategic Plan II retained the ambitious outlook and structure of the original document and added the important elements of accountability and sustainability as defining characteristics of our practice. 

It is now time for us to carry forward the planning process with Dickinson’s Strategic Plan III (SP III). We are keenly aware that the world is far different now than it was a decade ago, and we are a far different institution. We have significantly enhanced our educational program and expanded the college’s human and material resources from admissions to endowment. As a result, Dickinson has moved into a new sphere of influence among peer institutions. Yet we currently operate in a financial climate of retrenchment and limits—both globally and for higher education. Moreover, we face a public that seriously questions the value of a liberal-arts education offered at institutions such as ours. SP III represents our response to our rapidly changing environment.

At its core, SP III reaffirms our historic vision and ambition. Others may try to resolve current difficulties through significant mission redefinition and/or the addition of new schools or branches. Dickinson remains convinced of the value of its distinctive formulation of a useful residential, undergraduate education in the liberal arts. We believe it represents our best response to current and future challenges. These challenges are, we know, very real. SP III is indeed structured around a series of major concerns that we, with many other institutions of our type, face. And it outlines the distinctive ways in which Dickinson will address these, always seeking to draw upon our historic sense of purpose and demonstrated ability through innovation to turn difficulties into opportunities.

Despite the times, we engage in the task of charting our path forward with optimism born of the momentum generated by our earlier planning efforts. Dickinson has in the past ten years established a more prominent position among America’s leading colleges, though, admittedly, one made vulnerable by our comparatively modest wealth. SP III is a blueprint for turning our decade-long momentum into long-term success.

The challenges which confront us are multifaceted. Therefore SP III touches upon virtually all aspects of the institution. It centers, however, on our students - from their recruitment through their experience on campus to their lives as alumni. We direct our energies and resources exclusively to undergraduate education. Our success ultimately rises or falls with our ability to provide our students with “an education without an expiration date,” one that gives them a firm foundation for lives of meaning and accomplishment as they engage a complex, global, and ever-evolving world.