Listening, Constructing Together as a Community

By: Dr. Jeremy Martin, Strategic Planning Steering Committee Co-chair

In summer 2019, two teams led by Vice President Ginger Ambler and Chief Diversity Officer Chon Glover began working on a comprehensive vision, mission, values statement. The teams shared their work in progress with the William & Mary community on Oct. 1.

In the weeks following, online comments and nearly a dozen sessions – including at least one at each of the university’s five schools – have provided opportunities for feedback. I’ve been privileged to review the comments and take part in most of the on-campus sessions. Here are three observations I’ve gleaned from the process.

  1. We embody the drafted values as we attempt to convey the essence of our community.
    In each conversation, views diverge, converge and move in any number of directions; all are welcome. There’s a sense of respectfulness and curiosity as we remain focused on the desired end: greater belonging and flourishing. We undertake the work as an act of service to one another, with a commitment to integrity in the process and excellence in the outcome. Observing William & Mary (i.e., all of us) attempt to espouse its distinctiveness is indeed a privilege.
  2. Constructing as a group process of creation yields meaningful improvement.
    All group editing processes entail a fair bit of critique. We are, after all, an academic community. However, our conversations haven’t lingered on criticism. Rather, we explore the desired ideas, co-constructing phrases to more fully capture our intent. Where someone may not quite have the words, others join in and create together. The results are meaningful suggestions, crafted in community, for the drafting groups to consider.
  3. The drafting groups did their initial work incredibly well, and are poised to do even better.
    When asked, about 90 percent of participants in the Oct. 1 community forum indicated the statement sounded like William & Mary. For that group (primarily faculty, staff and students), “flourishing” resonated most. In other discussions, different values have resonated more. As the entirety of our community reviews the statement, each of us finds aspects aligned with our own W&M experience, and something within the statement appeals to nearly everyone in our “vibrant and inclusive learning community” (in the words of our draft mission statement). Thanks to the drafting groups, we started the review process from a position of strength. In undertaking a final round of refinements based on the feedback received, the drafting group’s work will become an even stronger reflection of William & Mary.

Time remains – though a limited amount – for others to share their views. The web form is the best venue. We want to hear from you as we refine the draft statement. And, ultimately, we want everyone to embrace William & Mary’s stated vision, mission and values as the strategic planning process continues.

Communication & Participation

By: Professor Tom WardFaculty Assembly President

This year is likely to be busy, exciting and anxiety-provoking. We are heading into a strategic planning process that seeks to “identify a small set of the most significant opportunities” facing our university. Those opportunities will shape William & Mary in the coming five to ten years and perhaps beyond.

The timeframe for this process has strategies emerging before the end of the current academic year. This means we must progress at a rapid pace. To achieve the objective of a whole-institution process, the burden is on the process planners to provide opportunity for participation and also on all of us to take advantage of those opportunities.

It is exciting to consider that we will shape the direction of the university. It can also be anxiety-provoking to deal with the ambiguity of not knowing what those directions might be and how they may impact us.

I would suggest three things that we should do to make this effort successful.

  1. First, pay attention. There will be information circulating about the planning process and any opportunities identified. While communication is built into the method, we all must take the responsibility to seek out the information provided and to ask for that information if we don’t see it.
  2. Second, we need to participate. All of us will have the opportunity to participate in the planning process. Being informed is the first step, and responding and reacting are even more important. This may happen in an available forum, via online commenting or in a departmental or school discussion. All avenues can provide valuable input to the process.
  3. Last, we should each consider a higher level of participation. Once potential opportunities are identified, the planning process envisions the participation of individuals with expertise. If you have expertise surrounding one of the opportunities, consider volunteering to serve. You may also consider participation in governance groups, like the Faculty Assembly, that will have an opportunity to provide feedback on this and future plans.

To navigate the excitement and ambiguity of the planning process, we need to pay attention to each other, making sure that we listen, share, comment and support each other.

Whole-Institution Mindset

By: Dr. Peggy Agouris and Dr. Jeremy Martin

There’s only one William & Mary and now it’s yours.

This sentence has greeted thousands of William & Mary students in acceptance letters to the university in recent years. That invitation extends to the entire W&M community as we engage a strategic planning process during the 2019-20 academic year.

We are pursuing ambitious goals in the year ahead. Our first goal for the process is to advance a whole-institution mindset throughout the university – there’s only one William & Mary. That mindset requires a greater shared understanding of the opportunities and challenges we face in the coming years. It also depends on a sense of shared responsibility for cultivating opportunities and crafting solutions: and now it’s yours.

So, what are the characteristics of a whole-institution mindset?

Beth Comstock ’82, who gave the address at Opening Convocation this fall and was a W&M biology major before rising to the role of vice chair at General Electric, often speaks of the “ecosystem” of an organization. All the components of an organization connect to each other. They depend on one another as they do on their surrounding business environment. At William & Mary, all of our units, departments and schools are interdependent, their health connected to the health of the whole.

Most of us naturally focus on our specific part of that ecosystem: our offices, programs or initiatives. That local focus is appropriate and necessary – and it can also create silos. When local thinking dominates, a territorial mindset can too: “What’s in it for me?” Or for my school? My department?

Throughout strategic planning and beyond, a whole-institution mindset means asking “what’s best for William & Mary?” and holding the interconnected whole in mind. As we explore the most significant challenges we will need to navigate, and the opportunities we might embrace, listen to how we talk with each other about the university. Among the indicators of our shared success will be a pronoun shift from me and my, from us vs. them, to we and ours.

As we embark on strategic planning, let’s embrace that invitation. There’s one William & Mary: ours.