To the Marietta College Community:

As the work continues to plan for a bright future for the College, I want to keep sharing with you a look at the strategic planning process and how the plan refresh has been informed by what we learned from the campus community survey conducted in February.

The draft plan, which the committee and I will present to the Board of Trustees next week, identifies three Priority Areas which are further spelled out in a total of 27 initiatives. All of the initiatives should be carried out over the next three years, with some that must be addressed immediately.

I am confident that Marietta College can successfully navigate the financial challenges and changing higher-education landscape that we face, but success requires urgent action on our part. I look forward to a busy summer of building our future with the engagement of faculty, students, staff and administrators.

The survey results revealed a broad consensus on what people see as Marietta’s top strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. In last week’s message, I discussed how those results are reflected in Priority 1: Support the Students of Today. This week I am looking at Priority 2: Academic Challenges of Tomorrow. (The third priority, which I will discuss next week, is Create the Campus of the Future.)

The Priority 2 objectives focus on bolstering our strongest academic programs and developing the new programs we need to respond to the higher-education marketplace of today and tomorrow. The three objectives are:

  • Review and align academic portfolio to the market
  • Create new residential and online degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels
  • Expand to new, non-degree products, including micro-credentials

Those objectives and the initiatives associated with them correspond directly with a lot of what the community told us via the survey.

The community is concerned about low enrollment and our recruitment and marketing efforts and cited a “lack of vision for the future” as a weakness. Several of the Priority 2 initiatives address these concerns. Fine-tuning our existing academic offerings — investing in the strongest and setting guidelines for when a program should be sunsetted — will involve tough choices, but developing a vision for the future requires a better-defined academic market strategy.

Nearly every area of the draft plan addresses enrollment concerns, but especially those under Priority 2: establishing a “Strategic Enrollment Growth Fund,”; creating a “SWAT team” to develop online offerings as quickly as possible; and expanding into nondegree offerings. All of these promise to make Marietta a more attractive option, both to our traditional student and to those who would not have considered us before.

When survey respondents were asked to list top opportunities, two of the most commonly mentioned were creating partnerships with corporations and higher-education institutions and growing our online and graduate offerings.

Of course, the objectives around online programs address those opportunities; in addition, the plan calls for creating an “education-to-employer pipeline” and working with area employers to make sure those new online offerings are in fields with the greatest employee demand. It suggests external partnerships to guide the development of non-degree programs, as well.

Finally, the plan’s focus on online programs and external partnerships also addresses what the Marietta College community sees as our greatest threats: the unaffordability of traditional undergraduate degrees, price competition from public and online options, and a lack of student persistence.

Clearly, we have a consensus that offering online programs, both degree and non-degree, is central, not only to growing Marietta’s enrollment and revenue but to serving the needs of our community, state and nation. We do not have years to get this done. To leverage these improvements in our recruitment efforts and to stabilize our finances, we need to have high-quality online offerings ready to go by the start of the fall semester.

I offer thanks in advance for your help in the work that lies ahead. Together, we can put Marietta College on the path to another two centuries of success.

Bring Forth a Pioneer!

Bill Ruud
President and Professor of Management