Commission Gustavus 150 moves forward with new year

Students, alumni, faculty and trustees convene to discuss the future of the College

Commission Gustavus 150 worked much of last year and throughout the summer to create a strategic plan for the College, which will guide the College’s path for the next several years. The College formed task forces of faculty, students, alumni, administrators and members of the Board of Trustees to work on creating this strategic plan.

The Commission’s work

Junior Religion Major Megan Myhre served on the faith task force. “We met three to four times throughout the year and over breaks. It was a bunch of alumni and faculty and students that got together. We talked about things that we thought were important, not only currently at Gustavus in faith life, but also things that would be important to continue or to develop for the future of Gustavus,” Myhre said.

“We got into groups, took our ideas and wrote proposals that would go to The Board of Trustees. We developed ideas and concepts of things that we thought were important. There were different stages like faith based on the community, ways we can develop faith in our community of St. Peter and around the world. There was a social justice focus, as well,” Myhre said.

“As the committee [we then] prioritized which ones we thought were most important,” Myhre said.

“I think there was tension between what alumni thought, tension between what the faculty thought and tension between what students thought was most important. I think that the student body has changed since a lot of the alumni were here, and they can’t possibly understand [what] is best for our campus right now,” Myhre said.

Status of the Commission

“We ended last spring with eight Commission Gustavus 150 task forces. [They] finished their work of creating recommendations for the implementation of the college’s strategic plan,” Assistant to the President for Special Projects and Executive Director of Commission Gustavus 150 Barb Larson Taylor said.

“In May and June, we had the opportunity for people to review [a] website that had all of the recommendations listed. We knew it was long [but] we wanted input on each recommendation individually,” Taylor said.

Once the survey was complete, this information was tallied and given to The Board of Trustees along with final reports from each of the task forces.

Placing recommendations into tiers

Once the recommendations had been written, the Board of Trustees met and put the recommendations into three tiers. Tier one and two recommendations will be started as soon as possible, with substantial progress shown within three and six years, respectively. Tier three recommendations will be started when appropriate, with substantial progress shown within ten years.

“The definition of the tiers is important because … a tier one recommendation [isn’t] always philosophically more important, but the reality of a timeline of being able to show substantial progress in three years for some of these items is just not a reality,” Taylor said.

“For example, from a building perspective, the new academic building should be complete in three years. They could probably show substantial progress on at least one more, which means [things] like getting the architect hired. We are ready to go for breaking ground [on the new academic building]. [It took] substantial progress to get to this point,” Taylor said.

“I think when people start to look at the things … that fall in tier one and tier two, I think there aren’t many surprises. The things that should be there are there,” Taylor said.

Funding the Commission’s goals

“It’s no secret here at Gustavus; we have two big sources of revenue, tuition and gifts. We all know the reality of making a Gustavus education affordable. There is only so far you can go [in terms of] raising revenue [through tuition], so we are obviously gearing up for a campaign,” Taylor said.

“I think [we] originally [thought] that maybe we could launch a campaign publicly next year. I think with the economy it is clear that is not a reality. Our sesquicentennial year, the year 2011-2012, would also be a time that would be logical to be announcing a campaign. I think that would be our next target,” Taylor said.

“Involving the board, involving alumni, involving parents—that what makes this different. What we did last year is a much different process than the campus creating our strategic plan and our campaign and then going to our alumni and saying ‘Here’s what we want to do. Let me tell you all about it.’ We created this together,” Taylor said.

“People give to where they feel engaged and where they feel passionate. It makes sense that we would involve the people in helping create it and get them excited about what is happening,” Taylor said.

“Everyone wants a school they can be proud of,” Sophomore Chemistry Major Audrey Messelt said.

The next step

“The task forces are done. Their thinking is captured in the final report. The next step is implementations. The vice presidents will oversee [the] recommendations,” Taylor said.

“The key about the next step … is that I will be compiling a status report. The status report will go out to the Gustavus community. It is holding us accountable that we will at least address these things,” Taylor said.

Anyone interested in following the status of the Commission or looking at the recommendations can visit the Commission website.