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.