Simpson looks to restructure its strategic plan Five key goals outlined after yearlong discussion

by Allison UllmannStaff Writer

After over a year of gathering data, Simpson is in the implementation stage of introducing their strategic plan, titled “Reshaping the Simpson Experience: Preparing Students to See, Serve and Shape the World.”

“The plan really lays out a couple of important ingredients as we look to the future development of Simpson College,” President John Byrd said.

According to Byrd, the plan contains two major components. The first is to ensure the school maintains its commitment to its “historic traditions,” which include a commitment to maintaining the liberal arts and Methodist traditions Simpson was founded upon.

“Every good planning process seeks to reaffirm those things that have been important to you in the past and…in the future,” Byrd said.

The second initiative, being described as a “curricular perspective,” aims to prepare students for life after graduation. According to Byrd, a number of specific steps will guide the second component of the plan.

“In answering that question, we’ve developed five initiatives that we will believe will come to define the ‘Simpson Experience,'” Byrd said.

Jim Thorius, vice president of student development, said the process began in September of 2006. Throughout the semester, Simpson asked over 1,000 faculty, staff, students and community members about what they perceived to be the strengths and historic traditions of the institution and what things Simpson should carry forward. The discussions resulted in five major themes- intellectual and practical skills, integrative learning, responsible citizenship in a global context, leadership and personal and social responsibility.

According to Thorius, the school was able to continue use this feedback to begin developing the plan.

“Over the summer, we tried to take that information and refine it,” Thorius said. “This fall, we presented a draft of the strategic plan to the board of trustees and they have endorsed those areas and that general direction.”

Steve Griffith, vice president and dean for academic affairs, said the first phase of information gathering is complete and the plan is ready for implementation.

“Now we’re at the point where we’re saying that we have five strategic initiatives, it’s time to really start moving and working with them,” Griffith said. “The goal of this plan was not have a chiseled into stone strategic plan, like a lot of strategic plans are typically, but rather to come out with theories of initiatives or directions that could be used to make decisions. It will allow us to make decisions that will be comprehensive and coherent across the campus.”

Griffith also said that Simpson has already started making decisions based on the ideas in the plan, including expanded opportunities for service.

“Simpson recently announced the establishment of what is called the Simpson Urban Studies Institute,” Griffith said. “SUSI will be a partnership with a service agency in the Des Moines area and what we hope to do is to provide more opportunities for students to do research up in the Des Moines urban areas. It fits the Integrative Learning part of the strategic plan.”

The plan also has expansion goals for study-abroad opportunities.

“We’re thinking about doing another semester program in Thailand and also bringing in some other semester-long programs,” Griffith said. “That fits with the Global initiative, living in a global context. We’re already making decisions based on these five directions and that’s all we’ll probably every do – use it as a way of making decisions.”

Byrd said that he believes that Simpson’s strategic plan will enrich the Simpson Experience and will allow the experience to adapt with the changing times.

“I think that it will make for a much richer experience at Simpson and I think it will provide for the kind of preparation that’s going to be required of our students as we look ahead,” Byrd said. “The world is changing very rapidly and, as a result, the education experiences that our students get here at Simpson need to change along with it. I truly believe that our students will be better prepared to meet the challenges that they will face in the world.”