Working Groups

To deliver on the overall objectives of the plan and address the key challenges and opportunities, the next phase will divide work among five specific working groups.

It may be helpful to note that the five areas represent topical themes that the plan needs to cover. The wording used at this phase, for names of groups or how their respective objectives are worded, may evolve as we develop the finished plan.

The five working groups, listed alphabetically, are:

Groups will be chaired or co-chaired by various steering committee (SC) members and in some cases co-chairs will come from outside of the steering committee. SC co-chairs, as well as President Elam, will have oversight over all groups and be in regular contact to look for synergy and overlap between groups, and determine when and where adjustments or other actions are needed to ensure effective process and delivery of the plan. 

Below is a brief description of what each Working Group will be addressing, as well as the names of the co-chairs leading each group. A complete list of working group members will be updated later in May. 


ACADEMIC WORKING GROUP

PRIMARY OBJECTIVE:  Ensure that Occidental continues to distinguish itself academically by providing a transformational educational experience shaped by our institutional mission and values and our location in a global city. How do we make Oxy an innovative leader in liberal arts education for the future?

CO-CHAIRS:

Sharla Fett, Faculty Council President, Professor of American History
Wendy Sternberg, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College

BACKGROUND/CONTEXT: 

  • How can Occidental distinguish itself as offering a transformative educational experience, shaped by institutional mission and values and our location in Los Angeles, which excites students with new interdisciplinary programs, access to a vibrant faculty, and a sense of real world relevance?
  • How does Oxy develop and maintain an educational environment conducive to the success of each and every student? Our ambition is to develop and maintain an educational environment at Occidental in which all students, staff and faculty are welcomed and valued, where everyone can belong, thrive and excel.
  • In the larger universe of so many liberal arts colleges promising academic excellence and access to faculty, what makes Oxy different? Why come here?
  • How do we achieve this goal without spreading ourselves too thin and contributing to an unsustainable workload for staff and faculty? 

FOCUS AREAS: 

This Working Group will address the following items:

  • Work with the faculty to develop a proposal (or proposals) for a “shared or common experience” dimension of the curriculum. The idea would be to connect every student meaningfully to some dimension of our global metropolitan area in a way that reflects “new harmonies.”
  • In coordination with appropriate faculty governance bodies, develop a comprehensive plan for addressing faculty workload, compensation, and composition.
  • Consider ways to enhance students' research exposure through the curriculum and co-curriculum
  • In collaboration with the science division, plan ways to carry forward and amplify STEM initiatives for attracting and retaining majors from traditionally marginalized groups: BIPOC, first gen and students from under-resourced high schools.
  • Build collaborations between the academic program and the work of the Hameetman Career Center to help prepare students for fulfilling work lives post-Oxy. More broadly, explore how academic advising and career advice can intersect or be better integrated. Where does the HCC want to be by 2030 to best support student career outcomes?

 


Financial Working Group

PRIMARY OBJECTIVE:  Determine how Occidental will achieve financial stability and be in a strong financial position by 2030, while staying true to our mission.

CO-CHAIRS:

Amos Himmelstein, Vice President & Chief Operating Officer
Amanda Zellmer, Associate Professor, Biology

BACKGROUND/CONTEXT:

  • The environmental scan pertaining to finances clearly indicates that although the college is not in dire financial straits, current revenue and expense pressures are not moving in favorable directions. 
  • There are multiple levers that drive Oxy’s financial model. As a preliminary step, the financial members of the committee will need to make sure all working group members understand how these various levers affect the operating budget as well as the financial foundation of the College. The Working Group will need to discuss and analyze “which” levers to focus on, “how” or “to what extent” they can be modified, and “what” are the resulting implications.

Given the critical nature of finances for everything we do, and the important downstream implications of our choices around certain levers, key questions (described below) must be addressed early in the ISP process:

FOCUS AREAS:

  1. Review the current five-year budget model. Ensure the financial working group understands the inputs/levers that inform the model. The team will gain an understanding of the model and a known “baseline” of funds available in the operating budget for strategic investment. 
  1. The group should have in-depth discussion of specific levers, including:
    1. Enrollment & Tuition Discount Rate: 
    2. Endowment: Building the endowment is crucial to financial stability. What level of endowment do we aspire to (e.g. $1B? By when?).  What level of endowment per student? And what will it take to reach these goals?
    3. Expense Priorities: 
    4. Alternative Revenue: Can we develop alternative revenue sources that materially impact our financial trajectory? 
  2. Develop scenarios to discuss with the trustee working group - including a “recommended” path that will be the ultimate framework for our financial planning going forward. 

While considering the above questions and challenges, this group must broaden its lens to view these issues and solutions through equity and justice considerations and attention to sustainability.


Justice, Equity, Inclusion & Diversity (JEID) Working Group:

PRIMARY OBJECTIVE:  Ensuring equitable opportunities, treatment, and outcomes for all students, staff, and faculty at Oxy, and ensuring that the E&J Agenda and other strategic JEID initiatives are embedded in the ISP.

CO-CHAIRS:

David Carreon Bradley, Vice President for Equity & Justice
Julie Prebel, Associate Professor, American Studies

BACKGROUND/CONTEXT:

  • We envision a College where Equity & Justice are infused into the everyday work and lives of faculty, staff and students.
  • We envision a College where Equity & Justice are recognized as core institutional tenets that inform how we actualize the mission of the College and impact how we determine a vision for the College’s future.
  • How do we better anticipate needs in these areas going forward?
  • E&J Agenda

FOCUS AREAS:

  • Integration:
    • Partner with the other Working Groups to ensure that JEID strategic priorities are addressed in the ISP. Reference the Equity and Justice Agenda, paying particular attention to items dealing with recruitment, hiring, and retention.
  • Education:
    • Consider, develop, and recommend a model (or models) for a comprehensive and systemic faculty & staff professional development and education program that is purposeful in building our institutional capacity to address the JEID needs of the College
    • Consider, develop, and recommend a model (or models) to achieve a similar goal for students 
  • Recruitment & Hiring:
    • Develop a recommendation for an implementation plan for inclusive and equitable hiring for staff, T3 faculty, and NTT faculty to ensure that diverse representation exists across all units and levels of the College 
  • Retention:
    • Develop a recommendation for a comprehensive retention program for faculty and staff that addresses the systemic injustices inherent in higher education by centering the lived experience of people from marginalized and minoritized groups

 


Los Angeles Working Group

PRIMARY OBJECTIVE: How do we maximize engagement and mutually beneficial connections between Oxy and the city of Los Angeles for the intellectual, personal, and professional growth of our students, our faculty -- and for the good of Los Angeles?  How can our relationship to LA serve to amplify our distinct value proposition and differentiate us from our peers?

CO-CHAIRS:

Martha Matsuoka, Associate Professor, Urban and Environmental Policy; Interim Faculty Director, Center for Community Based Learning
Wendy Sternberg, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College

BACKGROUND & CONTEXT:

  • There is strong belief that Oxy’s location in the global city of Los Angeles is one of our most distinguishing characteristics. The results of the environmental scan bear this out, but also point to a number of opportunities that we may not be fully realizing. In thinking about Los Angeles, the areas of opportunity cover a multitude of areas across the College - academic, student life, career, community engagement, arts, financial opportunity. 
  • Students (and faculty) come to the college expecting a high degree of opportunity to engage and connect with the city in a multitude of ways.  Through the course of this strategic plan, we must seek to maximize engagements and mutually beneficial connections between Oxy and the city of Los Angeles for the intellectual, personal, and professional growth of our students and our faculty, and for the good of Los Angeles. Doing so will serve to amplify our distinct value proposition and differentiate us from our peers.
  • Prior to the beginning of the ISP process, the faculty committee on community based learning and research (CBLR) began work on envisioning a “Center” two years ago. The CBLR proposal effectively articulates many of the benefits of having a center - e.g. centralizing resources, creating continuity, finding synergy among areas. The CBLR proposal is one important entry point for this ISP working group’s discussion, recognizing that the center can manifest an important mix of direct/indirect support that will elevate and expand our Los Angeles engagement. 
  • Industry partnerships in LA - It is presumed that there is untapped opportunity to strengthen the College’s relationship with industry partners, particularly the arts/creative industries for which LA is a global hub - and that doing so can have multi-dimensional benefits (alumni engagement, more student opportunities, faculty research, curricular enhancements, and potential financial/philanthropic benefits).
  • It should be noted that not all Los Angeles related topics will be addressed by this group. For example, the Student Experience & Renewing Community group will work on how students can better access the city. The Financial Group will explore expanding philanthropy reach in Los Angeles.  

FOCUS AREAS

  • The ISP Los Angeles working group will be charged with furthering and expanding a Center proposal, building on the foundation established in the work of the faculty CLBR committee, and taking into account the updated center vision (described above). The group will include representation from a wide range of stakeholders, including alumni, involved in Los Angeles engagement (in addition to the representatives/leaders that developed the CLBR proposal).  

 


Student Experience & Renewing Community Working Group

PRIMARY OBJECTIVE:  Ensuring inclusion and belonging, and the most vibrant and engaged student experience

CO-CHAIRS:

Rob Flot, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students
Maricela Martinez, Interim Vice President of Enrollment 

BACKGROUND/CONTEXT:

  • A range of good student feedback came through the environmental scan and other feedback mechanisms. A campus climate survey (called “Oxy Speaks!”) is being fielded this spring and will provide additional student input. Common feedback topics heard from some or many students in our work so far include:
    • Not all Oxy students feel like they belong on this campus and they desire more tools, support, and resources that they need in order to thrive at the College. 
    • A desire to address perceived gaps between promises of a diverse and inclusive campus and students’ lived experiences.
    • Easier and better access to go out into the city of LA.
    • Additional health and wellness (mental and physical) supports, and better coordination and information to access these services.
    • Opportunities to upgrade physical facilities and amenities that serve students (e.g. residence halls, dining options, buildings, learning spaces)
    • A desire to have more spaces that facilitate community (as evidenced by the overwhelming positive reaction to the picnic tables on the quad). Students also ask for more social programming to build community.
  • Our ambition is to develop and maintain an educational environment at Occidental in which all students, staff and faculty are welcomed and valued, where they can belong, thrive and excel.

FOCUS AREAS: 

  • Develop an initiative/plan for identifying, renovating and/or designating/creating new key student spaces - specifically, the residence halls, social spaces, and the Academic Commons - to better meet current student needs.
  • Propose a plan to simplify the way students access services on campus. This could include development of a “student success center”, digitizing services that are currently laborious and paper-centric, new communication tools/strategies, (e.g., aggregating information/emails about campus events, deadlines, opportunities).
  • Identify the tools and resources necessary to consistently offer expanded social programming on campus that is relevant, regular, and inclusive. Areas to be considered under programming include:
  • Propose initiatives to better support students finding a sense of belonging at Oxy.
  • Fully consider how restorative practices and restorative justice can serve to build community and trust, respond to “flash points”, and engage in harm repair and reduction.
  • Consider to what extent the following Equity & Justice Agenda issues should be incorporated:
    • Developing Community Conversations, Documenting History and Creating Brave Spaces
    • Campus Safety
    • Increasing Focus on Mental Health
    • Promoting Diversity in Athletics
    • Fortifying the Residential Experience and Continuing Themed Living Communities
    • Supporting the First Gen Experience