Notes from Ransom Hall: A Higher Ed Blog

Concrete Steps Forward

Sean Decatur
March 21, 2016

Dwight Eisenhower once quipped that plans are useless but planning is indispensable. I’m on board with this sentiment. A good planning process does not produce a script that we follow to the letter but, rather, produces an overarching vision that focuses our attention, resources and conversations as we move forward.

My first two years at Kenyon were very much focused on planning. The central product of this work is the Kenyon 2020 Strategic Plan — a vision statement, a distillation of our institutional priorities for the next few years that arose through a series of discussions with representative voices from all campus constituents. The Kenyon College Board of Trustees endorsed this vision about a year ago, and during this academic year we have made great strides as an institution toward making this vision a reality.

The overarching priorities of the Kenyon 2020 vision frame our regular work on campus and guide our movement into the future. These priorities include focus on an integrated, comprehensive experience that prepares students for post-graduate success; strategic use of Kenyon’s resources to attract, retain and graduate an academically excellent and diverse student body; and the intentional building of community on campus, in our local region and among the global Kenyon family.

In addition, with the leadership of a group of faculty, staff, students and community members, we developed an updated Campus Master Plan to guide our decision-making about capital improvements.  As I have described previously, the Campus Master Plan does not independently define building priorities for the College. The process, rather, helps us identify important needs and weaknesses in our facilities (think of housing, classroom spaces and accessibility); define opportunities for improving campus services; and weigh options created or eliminated by our choices of projects.

Our decisions about what pieces of the Master Plan take precedence and make sense are determined, first, by the condition and immediate needs of campus facilities; second, by what helps advance the Kenyon 2020 priorities; and, third, by opportunities for financing projects. This process guided our vision for improvements in the village of Gambier and for a new Academic Commons building as projects to tackle over the course of the next five years.

In the coming months, I will give weekly descriptions of our initiatives arising from the Kenyon 2020 priorities as well as the village and Academic Commons projects.  These will be posted and archived on the Kenyon 2020 website. For those of you on campus, I also will hold regular talkback sessions during common hours this semester. This is an opportunity for members of the community to provide feedback — particularly after reading my weekly entries.  For those of you not on campus, you may submit questions online at the webpage, and I will provide video chats in response to those questions as well as additional updates.

I am very excited about the ideas and directions generated during the Kenyon 2020 conversation process, so much so that I keep my purple 2020 book on my bedside table for handy reference. (These books are free for the taking at the Office of Communications in Sparrow House.)

But now, the real work has begun, as we take concrete steps forward to make this vision a reality. I look forward in continuing the community conversation as we move ahead.