Editorial: The strategic plan: Canisius’ future boiled down to few pages

It’s hard to believe that the future of Canisius College as we view it today can be boiled down to just a few pages through the creation and articulation of the strategic plan for the institution. Outlined in terms of our mission, values, promise, vision, and goals and objectives, the strategic plan becomes a means of assessing where we are now and where can go. Additionally, as time passes and we conceive a new strategic plan several years down the road, the leadership of the College will be able to return to this document in order to consider what we said would be done.

On Wednesday, 6 April, there was an open forum in which students, faculty, and staff could offer their feedback on the plan, a product of the cleverly named Strategic Planning Committee and its subcommittees that came together to work on each goal. The Vice Presidents of the College were each heavily involved in crafting the details within each goal, and so as the President prepares to move forward, it became crucial for it to be brought to the student body at-large.

This plan seeks to address a number of new ideas that the College wishes to realize in order to promote the institution, including the creation of the New Buffalo Institute, which would “address the persistent challenges of the poor and marginalized in our city and leverage the opportunities presented by new developments in the region.” While this paper isn’t sure that we should “leverage” anything as part of a goal dedicated to “demonstrat[ing] our dedication to our Catholic, Jesuit character and to the promotion of justice in the world,” integrating Canisius into the Buffalo community and giving back to our community is incredibly important. Further, the strategic plan also redresses a number of issues that we’ve perennially had as an institution, including, of course, retention.

The Undergraduate Student Association’s influence on the plan is perhaps evident in the third goal, “Advancing Institutional Effectiveness and Sustainability” through the desire to “design a comprehensive plan for sustainability and implement environmentally-just practices and policies across the institution to responsibly steward the earth’s natural resources and benefit the common good.” Current Sustainability Chair and Class of 2018 Senator Clayton Shanahan worked with his committee predecessor and former Class of 2016 Senator Meg Zickl to create a sustainability policy brief, which was then forwarded to administration, fervently suggesting the integration of sustainable practices into the institution’s strategic plan. Additionally, representatives from U.S.A. have been present at Strategic Planning Committee in order to offer student feedback on the plan as it was developing. This paper is pleased to see that there was was both undergraduate and graduate student involvement in the creation of such an institutionally important document, and it would be curious to see how administration involves students as the goals proposed are actualized on campus over the next several years.

At the open forum on Wednesday, a prominent issue discussed became the place of leadership within a the plan for the institution. As it exists now, leadership is included in the articulation of Canisius’ mission, but at least one faculty member raised objections to its inclusion, positing that we can’t prove that our students develop this quality during their four years at the College. When asked for comment, former Griffin editor and Canisius President John J. Hurley states that “I think we do a tremendous job of developing our students’ leadership potential. The proof of this is in where our students go and how they perform in their lives after Canisius.” This paper would certainly disagree, especially if one applies a broad view of students outside of the classroom. Further, other opportunities outlined in the plan make it clear that we want our students to embody this quality as they go forth. For example, in wishing to “pursue innovative partnerships and significant relationships with alumni, friends corporations and external stakeholders that will create internship and job opportunities,” we’re working to produce leaders in their fields in addition to those in the over ninety clubs and organizations. On how we as a college wish to work on this, Hurley stated that “I personally think that it would be better for us to be more intentional about this, to develop more consistent methods of measuring how well we do it, and then publishing that data. No one really disputes that Canisius is the place where leaders are made.”

While the strategic plan does not mention initiatives that a number of undergraduates heard of during their time at Canisius–including achieving university status or specifically knocking down Health Science–the strategic plan ultimately works to develop the College into a stronger institution that is more stable in its mission and values. This paper is pleased to see that that discussion will not only include older debates such as the place of leadership within our academics but also new enterprises like the New Buffalo Institute and a commitment to diversity.

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