In Fall 2021, Occidental commenced work on a highly collaborative strategic planning process that will result in a compelling vision and a corresponding set of institutional priorities that will propel Occidental through 2030.
Led by President Elam and a steering committee composed of senior administrators, faculty, staff and students, Integrated Strategic Planning (ISP) aspires to enlist the participation of the entire Oxy community and will be completed in April 2023. In recognition of the complexity of the planning environment and the importance of delivering an actionable roadmap, the College has consciously termed this effort an “integrated” strategic plan. Issues of budget and finance will be central to this process. Accordingly, the final plan will include not only priorities but a clear delineation of necessary financial investments, timing, milestones and accountability.
The College is well poised to take on this important planning effort as we negotiate the demands of our present circumstances and look to the future. Developing this plan will need to both build on and diverge from the most recent plan, which was adopted by the Board of Trustees in 2012 and extended in 2017. While our mission to provide a gifted and diverse group of students with a unique and impactful educational experience has not and will not change, the environment in which we operate continues to change around us. The disruption caused by the pandemic has only exacerbated the challenges we face. At the same time, Occidental’s collective values and singular position as a residential liberal arts college in a global, dynamic city provide us with exciting and diverse opportunities to prepare students to be leaders, change agents, and engaged citizens in an increasingly complex world.
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Planning Goals and Principles
The College’s planning process aspires to:
- Candidly assess strengths, challenges, and opportunities at Occidental
- Thoughtfully and objectively prioritize efforts that address the institution’s most pressing issues and opportunities
- Recognize existing financial realities, while exploring paths to lead the College to a more sustainable financial model
- Recognize the external planning environment, including Occidental’s position in relation to colleges and universities that we compete with in the region and nationally
- Bring the Oxy community together to develop a clear and compelling vision that articulates why Oxy exists and the value we provide to students
- Utilize an equity and justice lens throughout the process, including incorporating priorities articulated in President Elam’s Equity & Justice agenda.
In striving to achieve these goals, the Steering Committee will be guided by the following principles:
- Community involvement: Actively and meaningfully including key stakeholders from across the Oxy community throughout the process -- faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents and trustees
- Transparency: Providing frequent updates to the community and making robust information available online.
- Institutional stewardship: Given that difficult decisions are inherent in strategic planning, the Steering Committee will remain objective and keep the mission and the long-term health of the institution at the forefront of its work.
In his message to the community announcing the beginning of Integrated Strategic Planning, President Elam posed questions that this planning effort will consider:
- What makes us distinct from our peers? Or in other words, what is the “Oxy difference,” and how do we put it into action?
- How do we achieve long-term financial stability and maintain academic excellence?
- In an increasingly competitive environment, how do we increase our visibility and gain increased national prominence and reputation for the great work that we do?
- How do we step out boldly into our future?
Structure and Timing
Occidental’s Integrated Strategic Plan will be led by President Elam and an ISP Steering Committee. The steering committee is charged with organizing and leading the collaborative, community-informed process from start to finish, concluding with the drafting of the final plan which will be initially presented to the Board of Trustees in January 2023, and in April 2023 the Board of Trustees will vote on whether to endorse the plan. To co-chair the steering committee, President Elam initially appointed Sharla Fett, Robert Glass Cleland Professor of American History and Faculty Council president, and Marty Sharkey, vice president for communications and institutional initiatives. Upon Marty Sharkey's departure in July 2022, President Elam appointed Chief of Staff Priya Sridharan to co-chair with Professor Fett. Reflecting the importance of the Board of Trustees, which must ultimately vote on and approve the plan, the steering committee will regularly update a newly formed board working group on strategic planning. Additionally, the campus-wide strategic planning work will dovetail with concurrent work on the College's Equity & Justice Strategic Plan, led by our new VP for Equity & Justice, David T. Carreon Bradley. In Spring 2022, the process will also include the creation of working groups that will lead the initiative-specific planning as described below.
The ISP planning process will take place over five phases:
- Environmental Scan: A review of internal and external factors that could potentially impact the scope and direction of the plan. This phase includes a significant community input component to ensure all key stakeholders have an opportunity to participate, in addition to other inputs including reviews of existing data sources. The goal is for the steering committee to develop a comprehensive view of the institutional strengths, opportunities, challenges and threats that will inform the plan.
- Vision & Strategy: Based on the inputs from the environmental scan, a vision statement will be developed that articulates the direction for Occidental over the duration of the plan. The committee will also determine three to six core strategies to help realize the vision and form the foundation for the initiatives within the plan. This work will commence late in the fall semester and is expected to be completed early in the spring semester.
- Initiative Development: Thematic working groups will be formed, one for each of the core strategies articulated in the prior phase. Each working group will be led by a member of the steering committee and members will be appointed based on subject-matter expertise for the associated theme, as well as to ensure representation among faculty, staff and students. Where possible, the working groups should involve members of existing committees that focus on relevant areas. The specific charge for each working group will come from the steering committee. However, generally speaking the working groups will be tasked with developing specific, multi-year plans that support each core strategy.
- Feasibility, Prioritization & Integration: The purpose of this phase is to ensure the plan is truly “integrated” in a financial sense and will provide a specific, executable roadmap for Occidental over the course of the 5-7 year planning period. The steering committee will collaborate with working group representatives to confirm planning assumptions and recommendations, review financial assumptions (including projections of necessary incremental funding), and look for overlap or synergy among working group recommendations. This phase is also likely to include input from, and review with, key stakeholders.
- Finalize the Plan: In the final stage, the steering committee will ensure the plan delivers on intended objectives. Steering committee members will draft a long-form written plan with supporting financials and timelines. The final outputs will also include a presentation version of the plan as well as a one-page executive summary.
(See Spring 2022 Progress update for additional timing information)
A critical part of the first phase of Occidental’s Integrated Strategic Planning was to seek input from a wide range of community stakeholders. Faculty, students, staff, alumni, parents and trustees all have an important voice in this process. Input from the community has helped to develop themes and strategies that will renew and reimagine Oxy’s vision.
Community Input sessions were held in person and virtually during November 2021. Participants were also able to submit individual input forms online. In total, the Steering Committee conducted 26 group sessions and heard from over 600 individuals including students (183), staff (171), faculty (41), alumni (171), and parents (37). Dedicated input sessions were also held with the Board of Trustees and the alumni Board of Governors. Questions covered topics such as academics, the student experience, JEID (Justice, Equity, Inclusion and Diversity), working at Oxy, and Los Angeles - as well as open ended opportunities for community members to comment on any topic deemed relevant to college planning.
Steering Committee for Integrated Strategic Planning
- Sharla Fett, co-chair, Robert Glass Cleland Professor of American History, American Studies Chair, Black Studies Affiliated Faculty Member, Faculty Council President
- Priya Sridharan, co-chair, Chief of Staff, Office of the President
- Kristi Allen, Associate Vice President, Budget & Planning
- David Carreon Bradley, Vice President for Equity & Justice
- Charlie Cardillo, Vice President of Institutional Advancement
- Rob Flot, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students
- Amos Himmelstein, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Finance, Planning & Operations
- Andrew Jalil, Associate Professor, Economics Department
- Maricela Martinez, Vice President of Enrollment
- Eileen Spain, Special Assistant to the Dean for Assessment and Accreditation, Carl F. Braun Professor of Chemistry
- Wendy F. Sternberg, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College, Professor of Psychology
- Amanda Zellmer, Associate Professor, Biology Department
Community Representative Members:
- Elizabeth Boyd ’96, Staff representative, Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs, All Staff Council (ASC) board member
- Ellie Findell ’22, Associated Students of Occidental College president
- Ashley Muranaka-Toolsie ’23
- Tyler Yamaguchi, Assistant Coach, Track & Field and Strength and Conditioning, ASC board member