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In planning, strategy is only the beginning

Published: March 8, 2013
Section: Editorials


After months of brainstorming, writing, listening and consulting, the Brandeis community at last has a full length draft of its strategic plan to review.

Students, administrators, faculty, staff and others on the Strategic Planning Steering Committee have worked diligently during the past year to shape a democratic process for thinking about the university’s long term future. We applaud their efforts. Seeking feedback from so many individuals on one document is no easy task and university officials have taken great care to include as many voices as possible.

The central theme of the plan—defining the university’s values, mission and story is not new to the planning committee formed in 2011. Our values and mission and story have been well-defined since the university’s founding. But the central challenge of implementing it, as mentioned in the plan, is financing our initiatives. It’s about paying for the expensive ideas, offices and people required to change Brandeis for the better.

In effect, a strategic plan is only the beginning of envisioning our long term growth and goals. More applicable and significant will be things like a campus master plan of our infrastructure and a capital campaign or fundraising plan. Of course, such documents and proposals do not need to seek the extensive feedback that the SPSC has in this process.

While we greatly admire their approach, the specifics of fundraising and buildings can be managed best by enabling senior administration officials, faculty and trustees to work collaboratively and take into account the many voices we’ve heard along the way. In short, we hope that a master plan or capital campaign plan can be a process much quicker than this one.

There is no one master secret to a successful fundraising strategy or capital campaign. Rather, as officials outlined in the plan, any strategy must be joined by a university wide effort to cut unnecessary costs and use financial resources more efficiently.

That task is one that requires balancing creativity with feasibility and long-term vision with immediate circumstances.

The commitment to quadruple spending on building renovations is exactly what this university needs. While Brandeis’ academic reputation and faculty are first rate, in comparison to peer institutions, campus buildings require extensive renovations and investment.

We’re excited the strategic plan recognized that. But to address the challenge, the real measurement won’t be about plans but about how they’re implemented. Doing so will take creative ways to attract new financial resources and find other ways to more efficiently manage current resources.