Vision 2020: Building a Thriving University
Washington Adventist University (WAU), from its base in scenic Takoma Park, Maryland, is laying out its set of goals to be achieved by the end of the second decade in the 21st century: 2020
Buoyed by a recent growth spurt, not previously seen in its 108 years, WAU is seeking to build a stable brand, characterized by programmatic excellence as well as take advantage of the unique status it enjoys as the only four year residential college in Montgomery County, a diverse and largely affluent suburb of Washington, DC.
Weymouth Spence, Ed.D. , president for the past five years, says Vision 2020 is a continuation of the planning process to create a culture of excellence at Washington Adventist University.
“Based on assessments conducted throughout the past four years, such as graduate surveys, employee satisfaction surveys, learning outcomes, we now have the data that will guide us to develop action plans that will transform us into a thriving university, Spence said. “We are developing game changing actions under the six institutional pillars of excellence: quality, people, finance, growth service, and community.”
Those game changing plans are geared toward creating a culture of excellence, modeled on the Baldrige Program, a high octave formula designed to raise awareness about the importance of performance excellence in driving the U.S. and global economy. The program stresses assessment and educates institutional leaders about organizational best practices.
“It is important to note that we are not redoing the strategic plan,” Spence explained. “Vision 2020 is a projection of where we would like to be. What we are seeking to do, therefore, is to get input from the community—from staff, faculty, the board of trustees on some concept and directions that we need to take.”
Consequently, the president said he expects that some things may be added while some could be discarded. “The overall goal is to focus on what we need to do to become a thriving university.”
Ultimately, the president sees WAU’s quest for excellence centered around: 1) exceeding institutional and accreditation standards; 2) developing a strong curriculum in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); 3) emphasizing service learning; 4) on-going program review; and continuous strategic reinvestment in the quality of programs. Programs would be designed to foster greater collaboration with K-12 institutions, strengthen remedial education as well as liberal arts and STEM curricular and attract more federal, state, foundation and private funds.
“Academic administration, inclusive of the deans, chairs, faculty and leaders of academic units are fully committed to the vision of the University which is to “produce graduates who bring competence and moral leadership to their communities,” said interim provost, Patrick Williams.
Williams identified key goals to be accomplished as part of the strategic initiative as: promoting academic excellence; hiring and retaining outstanding faculty who are committed to the mission of WAU; developing an outstanding center for student success and faculty development; establishing strong educational opportunities through on-line/distance learning that are accessible and affordable to non-traditional students; affirming the importance of service learning as a core element of the curriculum; providing instructional technology to enhance the learning and working environment; promoting and supporting a culture of academic assessment that can inform academic leaders and administration in decision making; and promoting and strengthening academic support services that reflect 21st century best practice such as the library and the office of the registrar.
Significantly improving the financial health of the institution is another critical component of Vision 2020. After struggling financially for many years, the institution, within the past seven years has made a turnaround and is now on a positive growth trajectory. Increased enrollment, contributions from alumni and friends, and prudent budgetary choices, have contributed to the institutions improved financial performance. The Consolidated Financial Index (CFI) score, a higher education financial health measurement, currently beats the average of all private colleges in Maryland.
“My goal is definitely to keep WAU on this positive trajectory. By meeting and exceeding our fiscal targets, we are positioning ourselves to make both the physical and programmatic changes that are necessary for WAU to grow and be true to our vision of producing graduates who bring competence and moral leadership to their communities,” said Patrick Farley, executive vice president for Finance and Administration.
Alignment of budget with the strategic plan, establishing a sustainable endowment, establishing working capital, generating additional revenue, enhancing fundraising and budgeting for surplus or other important financial targets, Farley said.
Ultimately, Spence envisions all round growth at the University. Physically, he envisions the student population growing to a total of 3000, on campus and online. This will necessitate purchasing or leasing new buildings, adding new programs and at least two schools: para-legal/law and medical education. He also envisions the university expanding to international locations as well as having a greater regional, national and international visibility.