Strengthen, Support, Secure

Calvin’s Expanded Statement of Mission (1992 and 2004) emphasizes that the University “must continue to live by the best features that have marked it from the start” and that “maintaining its character in changing times might require altering various policies.” All our times are changing times, and our present circumstances require us to think strategically and articulate and pursue measurable objectives, with the goal of ensuring that the University remains rooted in its traditions and mission and that it adapts to meet the challenges and opportunities of changing circumstances.

Our mission remains what it has always been, growing as we more fully envision the Kingdom of God. The University continues to aspire “to provide formal education marked by rigor and excellence, infused in whole and in every part by a vital Reformed Christian vision.” It continues to combine liberal arts, pre-professional, and professional education, intertwining them so that exploration of “fundamental issues of human endeavor” and creative expression culminates “in an enriched, responsible, Christian understanding of work and vocation.” And the University continues to aspire to be “egalitarian in its culture” and “communal in its sociology.” A crucial area in which we are working to do better is articulated in From Every Nation, our statement on racial justice and cross-cultural engagement. “As a Christian academic community… we seek to model" multicultural citizenship, anti-racism and accountability, and reconciliation and restoration. At our best, we share our burdens and encourage “the development of gifts of individuals and groups,” making “mutuality in service of God and to neighbor the means as well as the end” of Christian learning and life. All sectors of the University play a vital role in this mission.

The litany of challenges faced today by Calvin University is by now familiar. We compete with hundreds of other liberal arts and comprehensive institutions for a shrinking pool of students, doing so at a time when state and federal governments are cutting funds for higher education and increasing regulation and reporting requirements, when students and parents find it ever more difficult to pay for rising tuition, and when a narrow culture of job training dismisses broader visions of education and vocation as frills. Calvin must be particularly vigilant, because as a residential university it has depended on one kind of student, the traditional, middle class, 18-22 year-old recent high school graduate, the bulk of them coming from one region of the country. The University will meet these challenges in the context of an unanticipated debt load and a concerted effort to improve decision-making, governance and oversight, and recruit and retain a diverse faculty and staff.

Calvin has considerable strengths to meet these challenges. These include a record of excellent teaching; a strong tradition in scholarship and in the performing arts; rich extra-curricular activities; a growing number of AHANA and international students; dedicated alumni and donors; historic roots in the CRC; growing relationships with wider Christian communities through our student body, alumni, supporters, and faculty and staff; and developing connections with local, national, and international organizations through internships, off-campus programs, research partnerships, and professional ties. The University is demonstrating its ability to make difficult choices, as our prioritization process realigns programs, offices, and facilities to prepare for a more sustainable future. The goal of this Strategic Plan is to build on this sustainability and envision and pursue new opportunities in the near future that will advance its historic mission. It assumes that we will continue to do what we are already doing well. It focuses on some specific new initiatives, several areas where the University will consider new programs and building projects, and the more effective and systematic measuring of how well we are doing these things, and doing all of these things in ways that are sustainable ecologically, communally, and financially.

A strategic plan such as this one is not a blueprint. It is a framework to help us keep the University on task, both when we have consensus and when we disagree. The Expanded Statement of Mission reminds us of both of these things: “While different constituencies expect different qualities from the same university, and while different cultural pressures place their demands upon the university, Calvin University continues to testify particularly to Christian education based upon a liberal arts curriculum, to scholarship that shapes a Christian mind and that demonstrates the engagement of that mind with the world, and to a life of community that acknowledges each person as made in the image of God.” Between now and 2019, we commit ourselves to new levels of accountability in all of our endeavors, in every office, division, and program. In the six themes that follow, note that intention—to advance our mission in each strategy, to articulate our goals, and to find appropriate ways to measure what we are doing.

Strategic Themes

  1. Strengthen Calvin’s Mission in Education

  2. Secure Calvin’s Mission in Scholarship

  3. Support Calvin’s Mission in Community

  4. Strengthen Calvin’s Pursuit of Diversity and Inclusion

  5. Secure Calvin’s Financial Future

  6. Support Calvin’s Mission through External Partnerships


I. Strengthen Calvin’s Mission in Education

Educating undergraduate students is our core activity. "To ask about the goals of education is also to ask how we should live," according to our Expanded Statement of Mission. This part of our task includes knowledge and competence in the methods and skills of specific fields of academic study, professional work, and the arts. It also "entails responsibility" and "caring." These "interlocking educational goals" define the University. To better define and assess these goals, Calvin is developing an education "framework," the equivalent of all-university student learning objectives. It will use this framework to assess how well graduates have done in meeting these goals and to evaluate and coordinate curricular (core and majors/minors) and co-curricular programs, with an eye to traditional goals—integrating faith, learning, and living—and more recent ones, such as diversity and sustainability. Flourishing teachers are essential for effective student learning. Such assessment thus is not meant to add new burdens to what faculty and staff already do, but rather to measure how well we are meeting these goals so we can better sustain what we are doing and improve. In addition to reviewing existing programs, in the next five years the University also will consider developing new programs, for traditional undergraduate students, adult learners, and graduate students, including through partnerships with other institutions.

  1. Articulate and implement an educational framework which embodies our current educational philosophy and enhances and supports Calvin's Reformed Christian mission in higher education.
    1. The framework will embody Calvin's current educational philosophy as represented in the core curriculum document and Expanded Statement of Mission, and acknowledge the strategic importance of rigorous academic majors and minors, strong pre-professional and professional programs, a vibrant liberal arts core curriculum, and thriving co-curricular offerings.
    2. The framework will specify a set of educational principles that will guide and coordinate the development of learning outcomes and assessment plans for all components of the curriculum and co-curriculum.
    3. The framework will coordinate the educational goals, outcomes, and assessment plans of:
      1. the core curriculum
      2. all curricular programs, majors, and minors
      3. Calvin's co-curriculum, including programming and living-learning plans.
    4. The framework will ensure that cross-cutting educational components (e.g. diversity, sustainability, and others as approved by Faculty Senate) are integrated into the educational goals, outcomes, and assessment plans of the core curriculum, academic programs, and the co-curriculum.
    5. All Calvin courses, experiences, and co-curricular activities will align with the educational framework and provide evidence of that alignment for internal and external evaluation.
    6. Calvin will establish and implement a plan for the organizational and staffing structure of other programs that do not fall neatly within the curriculum and co-curriculum, such as athletic teams.
  2. Promote student excellence and engagement in learning.
    1. Retention and graduation goals will be set across all subpopulations of students and existing services aimed at success will be modified as needed.
    2. Calvin will support the Hekman Library so that it compares favorably with peers in key library indicators related to student learning and success.
    3. Calvin will provide increased financial support for instructors who wish to engage students in practices that are known to be high-impact (e.g., academically-based service learning, community-based research, off-campus programs, internships, and research and creative projects with faculty).
    4. To ensure transition readiness for employment or graduate school upon graduation, Calvin will continue to promote student success by providing best-practice Career Development programming, career counseling, campus-wide internship program development, and online employment and internship postings.
  3. Enable faculty to flourish as teachers and advisors.
    1. Calvin will implement a faculty workload study that sets reasonable guidelines for faculty productivity.
    2. The Teaching and Learning Network (TLN), Faculty Development Committee, and the Provost's Office will support departments that wish to develop departmental teaching statements (parallel to department scholarship statements).
    3. The TLN will develop a summer seminar for newer faculty to develop a 3-5 year teaching plan (parallel to the scholarship-planning workshops that Calvin has offered).
    4. The provost will coordinate additional university-wide support for faculty and staff development (e.g., to develop faith-informed pedagogy; to deepen theological understanding in relation to disciplines or professions, to gain further competence in diversity, cultural competency, and global literacy; to integrate sustainability themes into the curriculum; to develop cross- or inter-disciplinary teaching skills).
    5. The TLN will work with Advancement to seek external grants to initiate a Calvin Teaching Fellowship program (CTFs, parallel in expectations and application process to CRFs).
  4. Evaluate existing programs and develop new ones.
    1. The Core Curriculum Committee and Educational Policy Committee will revise procedures that review existing programs and make recommendations to the Planning and Priorities Committee about future investments in these programs (e.g. maintain with additional investment, maintain at current level of investment, maintain at lower levels of investment, reorganize, discontinue).
    2. The University will develop and implement plans for maintaining vitality in the arts, languages, and other areas in which specific programs have been reduced or reorganized.
    3. The Provost's Office will oversee the assessments of several current pilot programs (i.e., online education, dual enrollment and concurrent enrollment programs with high schools) and make recommendations about continuing these programs to the appropriate committees, the Faculty Senate, and the BOT.
    4. At least two possible initiatives will be selected annually by the provost for further exploration, feasibility analysis, and mission fit, so that recommendations for next steps (if any) can be considered by the Planning and Priorities Committee, the Faculty Senate, and the BOT. Possible ideas for exploration include the following:
      • New undergraduate programs that will attract additional students
      • New graduate programs that will attract additional students
      • Certificate programs, possibly for adult learners
      • Faculty and/or student exchange programs with partner institutions
      • New athletic programs
      • Curricular programs initiated in partnership with other institutions
      • Curricular programs in key areas such as sustainability and diversity

II. Secure Calvin's Mission in Scholarship

Calvin University has long been a leader in producing Christian scholarship and promoting the life of the mind among Christian scholars and lay people. This calling is more vital than ever in a time when the value of deep learning is threatened by narrow concerns about job training. "The life of the mind" includes the classroom and extends beyond it, "in articles, books, workshops, conferences, and performances for larger audiences," in specialized academic fields, professional settings more broadly, the CRC and other Christian communities, and public life in West Michigan, the nation, and the world. No one model of scholarship defines productivity and success in these endeavors; rather, we honor the diverse gifts of individuals, in different phases of their careers, as well as the diverse needs and expectations of different fields of work. Securing this aspect of the University's mission requires providing faculty with adequate resources to do scholarship, engaging students in faculty research, as appropriate in different disciplines, effectively communicating the fruits of this work to diverse academic, Christian, and public audiences, and measuring how well we are doing in this task. Such measuring is meant not to exact burdensome new expectations of productivity, but rather to monitor how well the University is doing in sustaining and enabling our faculty in the life of the mind while modeling that life in and out of the classroom. Scholarship and creativity in the arts will remain a distinctive and compelling feature of Calvin University's mission.

  1. Secure stable support for faculty scholarship.
    1. The annual investment in sabbatical and Calvin Research Fellowships will be restored to a level equivalent to 6.5% of the total expenditure on the salaries of tenured and tenure-track faculty.
    2. The university will develop a financial plan for restoring and maintaining scholarship endowments, including those supporting Centers, Institutes, and chairs.
    3. The grants office, provost, and deans will coordinate and enhance their support of faculty seeking external grants and contracts.
  2. Promote student engagement in research, scholarship and creative production.
    1. Calvin budgets will support significant numbers of faculty-student research projects.
    2. The university will place high value on programs and projects that lead to early-career achievements by undergraduates (e.g., presentations, publications, exhibitions, performances).
  3. Facilitate and promote scholarly achievement
    1. The provost will coordinate university-wide support for two major scholarly projects, each focused on an area of relevance and concern, in which interdisciplinary, Calvin-led teams will, by 2019, produce (i) high-impact products in advanced scholarship and (ii) textbook-level materials for widespread use in courses at Calvin and throughout the world.
    2. The provost and deans will seek to enable Calvin faculty to maintain their high rate of scholarly output and grant-seeking relative to faculty at peer institutions.
  4. Spotlight Calvin scholarship in recruitment and advancement efforts.
    1. Calvin educators will be encouraged to share their work with general audiences and to contribute in this way to Calvin's recruitment and advancement efforts.
    2. Calvin lecture series and other academic events will be recorded in high quality video format and distributed through online outlets (e.g., iTunes U).
    3. The Provost and Advancement divisions will encourage and assist academic departments as they seek support for the mission in scholarship in specific areas.

III. Support Calvin's Mission in Community

Developing our gifts and making "mutuality in service of God and to neighbor the means as well as the end" of Christian learning and life is little more than a pious ideal without a workplace culture that allows University employees to thrive and grow. Surveys of faculty and staff in recent years indicate the strong support of faculty and staff for the University and its mission, as well as satisfaction in that mission, but the surveys also indicate a need to clarify expectations about workload and job requirements, promote clearer decision-making processes and collaborative governance, and build more trust between employees and their supervisors and between faculty and the Board of Trustees. The objectives under this goal are meant to develop policies that encourage balance in work and life; promote mutuality in service; enable faculty and staff to grow in their vocations; foster more effective leadership and coordination between all sectors of the University; cultivate strategic thinking; recruit and retain a diverse community of faculty, staff, and students; and to do so in an efficient and sustainable way. The University's focus in the near future is on being more effective at retaining and sustaining employees and developing better strategies for recruiting employees when we have opportunities to hire. Sustainability in this mission refers specifically to the natural environment on campus and its material infrastructure, but the ideal also points to sustaining the health and welfare of the community of people who make up the University.

  1. Develop a workplace culture in which employees thrive and grow.
    1. Calvin will achieve workplace survey results matching the levels of peer Christian workplaces in the following measures: trust, mutual accountability, learning, professional growth, and valuing diverse cultural backgrounds, personal styles, and ideas. In these surveys, there will be no measurably significant difference between the responses of identified underrepresented groups and overall results.
    2. Calvin will enhance selected employee benefits, fully funding the family care benefit and providing a more flexible paid-time-off policy.
    3. Calvin will enhance training and performance evaluation efforts, including implementing a "safer spaces" plan and a performance review process based on best practices.
  2. Develop and implement an employee leadership training program.
    1. Calvin will implement an employee leadership development curriculum broadly available to employees in every division that emphasizes characteristics of leadership best suited for the mission and values of Calvin University.
    2. Calvin will achieve workplace survey results matching the levels of peer Christian workplaces in the following measures: leadership effectiveness, and identifying Calvin as a workplace marked by collaboration and teamwork. In these surveys, there will be no measurably significant difference between the responses of identified underrepresented groups and overall results.
  3. Strengthen governance practices, collaboration, and teamwork across the University.
    1. Calvin will strengthen strategic planning and other university-wide decision-making with increased training, improved structures, and regular review and reporting schedules.
    2. Calvin will improve processes and organizations that require evidence-based decision making and function to meet university-wide requirements such as institutional performance, legal and regulatory compliance, and launching major initiatives.
  4. Implement an aligned and coordinated compensation strategy that recruits and retains highly qualified faculty and staff.
    1. Calvin's benefits will rank above the 75th percentile when compared to similar benefit packages of peer institutions.
    2. Calvin's employee retention will rank in the top 10% among peer institutions.
    3. The median salaries of faculty, staff, and administrator groups will exceed the median salaries paid in similar categories by peer institutions.
    4. Calvin will review its financial support of employee families with children attending K-12 Christian schools, to fully align this support with university strategic goals.
  5. Recruit and serve a diverse and dynamic community of students.
    1. Calvin will consistently enroll at least 1,000 FTIACs and 100 transfer students each year, with the aim of maintaining a total undergraduate headcount between 4,000 and 4,250 students.
    2. Enrollment Management will establish and implement policies and procedures for the annual determination of a purposeful, mission-centered demographic profile of the future incoming classes.
    3. To continuously enhance and integrate service to prospective and current Calvin students, expectations will be clarified and support provided for cross divisional cooperative efforts, particularly toward recruitment, direct academic support, student engagement, internships, and transition readiness for graduate school or employment.
  6. Embrace and enact environmental sustainability as a core value.
    1. Governing committees and boards with responsibilities relevant to sustainability will continue to align the University with the guidelines expressed in the Statement on Sustainability.
    2. Environmental sustainability will be developed as a valued theme in Calvin's educational framework, scholarly agenda, and operational practices.

IV. Strengthen Calvin's Pursuit of Diversity and Inclusion

As we affirmed in the Expanded Statement of Mission, "an ethnically diverse community recognizes that the Christian community transcends cultural and geographical boundaries and we live in a world community." We have made many gains as a university, but still have much to do, as From Every Nation details. The University has not always succeeded in its efforts, but it remains committed to examining the "deeper structures" of the University, holding itself accountable to "communities of color," and including students, faculty, and staff of color as full participants in the community rather than "special guests." Despite the financial constraints the University will face in the next five years it is determined to recruit new staff and faculty from racially/ethnically underrepresented groups. It also will develop strategies to better retain faculty and staff of color and socioeconomic variety. And it will enhance its efforts in recruiting AHANA and international students as well as students from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. Calvin and its diverse constituencies also will have to wrestle with how pursuing inclusion will change the community. Progress will mean the University has become more genuinely hospitable as a community, redefining who "we" are and how we work together. If we can better practice mutuality and hospitality in a diverse community where all are full members, not just guests, then the University will be more effective in recruiting and retaining staff, faculty, and students of color and of lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

  1. Deepen understanding within the Calvin community of diversity, inclusive excellence, cultural competency, and global awareness.
    1. Calvin will create a set of core diversity, anti-racism, and intercultural competency workshops for all staff, faculty, administrators, and BOT members.
    2. Each Calvin staff person, faculty member, administrator, and BOT member will be expected to participate in at least one of the core workshops annually.
    3. Calvin will develop and deploy a common language, an action plan, and other tools meant to track the community's mutual understanding of and commitment to diversity and the creation of an inclusive community.
  2. Advance and support inclusive excellence, cultural competency, and global awareness on campus.
    1. Performance appraisals for all staff, faculty, and administrators incorporate cultural competency measures as a dimension of performance.
    2. Calvin will create and fill a permanent cabinet-level "Chief Diversity Officer" position housed in the President's Office.
    3. The educational framework for undergraduate education will include diversity-related learning outcomes for the core curriculum, for majors, and for the co-curriculum.
  3. Increase the proportion of underrepresented populations on campus, and raise measures of student and employee satisfaction in these populations to levels similar to those in majority populations.
    1. Academic departments will enhance recruitment efforts of racially/ethnically underrepresented faculty, and Human Resources will enhance recruitment efforts of racially/ethnically underrepresented staff.
    2. Five-year average rates of retention, promotion, advancement, and job-satisfaction among underrepresented employee groups will not differ from those of the majority.
    3. Calvin will develop and implement an enrollment management strategy specific to the recruitment of AHANA and International students.
    4. Calvin will develop strategies and deploy administrative structures and supports that promote the retention and success of AHANA and International faculty, staff, and students.

V. Secure Calvin's Financial Future

Stewardship has become a watchword at Calvin University, as in many other Christian communities, and this ideal is adding significantly to our understanding of our tradition and mission as a Christian community of learning. This goal is where the University's vision is addressed most practically. Securing the University's financial future requires, most immediately, making progress toward a sustainable financial model and using the resources we have to pursue our mission efficiently. It also requires strengthening Calvin's financial foundation by building the endowment and by increasing the support of programs we have and the possible new projects outlined in this Strategic Plan. Securing this future also entails sustainable maintenance of the University's existing infrastructure and, where appropriate, new projects, whether buildings, classrooms, or information systems. Developing and implementing the campus master plan also involves sustainability in the specific ecological sense, in considering whether Calvin will become a signatory to the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment, in sustaining specific areas where our Physical Plant already meets or exceeds best practices in environmental sustainability, and in considering new ways to be better stewards of our resources.

  1. Develop and implement a sustainable financial model.
    1. Calvin will adopt and implement a prioritization plan that balances annual revenues and expenses, evaluates all non-core real estate and sells its non-essential elements, repays from fundraising and real estate sales at least $35 million of present long-term debt principal, and refinances remaining long term debt.
    2. Calvin will achieve and maintain at minimum a Composite Financial Index of 6.0.
    3. Calvin will seek to maximize workplace quality and collaboration and become more efficient through rigorous and ongoing operational process analysis.
    4. Calvin will complete a risk assessment analysis and implement plans to minimize its top five risks.
    5. Calvin will establish preferred ratios related to students, staff, and faculty that ensure sustainable excellence in meeting the University's mission and workplace quality goals.
  2. Strengthen Calvin University's financial foundation for future generations.
    1. Calvin will conduct a comprehensive campaign to support cost elements of the strategic plan.
    2. Calvin will move to an endowment spending formulation that results in a sustainable annual spending rate.
    3. Calvin will set targets for overall endowment (currently $107 million) and endowment per student, and raise such funds for tuition reduction and adjusting to a sustainable spending rate.
    4. Calvin will maintain published tuition, room and board rates, and a discount rate that ensure net tuition revenue increases each year while achieving enrollment goals.
    5. Calvin will develop and implement a financial literacy program for student borrowers and evaluate alternative strategies for managing student debt.
  3. Achieve excellence in information and communications systems planning and operations
    1. Calvin's CIT will establish an integrated database strategy and technology architecture to be used across all university divisions.
    2. Calvin's CIT will launch a lifecycle approach for a sustainable technology infrastructure that provides, services, upgrades, and keeps secure technology and data according to best practice guidelines.
    3. Calvin will establish and resource a unified web/social media communications team that ensures strategic and timely web communication efforts.
  4. Develop and implement a strategically aligned campus master plan that prepares fully for key university needs and their long-term sustainability requirements.
    1. The needs to be considered include (but are not limited to): -more suitable spaces for present business programming and the Calvin Center for Innovation in Business -unified space for the social sciences -space for visual arts programs -a new campus commons -new or renovated learning space in or adjacent to the present library -new or renovated learning spaces in various locations that facilitate interaction and synergy within and across departmental and program faculty, staff, and students -learning space renovations and additions that anticipate future programmatic demand and facilitate a variety of quality pedagogical practices, and -outdoor athletic facilities for intramural and intercollegiate sports.
    2. Calvin will complete a cost-implementation analysis to inform a decision on whether Calvin becomes a signatory of the American College and University President's Climate Commitment.
    3. Calvin will develop a plan to decrease vulnerability associated with deferred maintenance.
    4. Calvin will adopt an all-university approach to scheduling classrooms and other campus spaces.
    5. Calvin will evaluate the feasibility of expanded on campus housing option including staffing and policy implications.

VI. Support Calvin's Mission through External Partnerships

The University has a long history of external partnerships, not only in recruiting students, faculty, and staff, but also in the communities it served. Historically these partnerships were deep but narrow, in ties to the CRC, the Dutch immigrant community, and Reformed circles more generally. In recent decades they have broadened, to include diverse national and global church communities, professional contacts, partnerships in West Michigan, and the call to speak to national issues. The demographics of our student body, alumni, and financial supporters will continue to evolve. The challenges and opportunities in this goal involve sustaining historic ties while deepening and strengthening new ones, locally, nationally, and globally. These goals need not conflict, but they do often involve tensions. How should Calvin invest the finite resources it has? How does it pursue new relationships without losing sight of sustaining existing ones? This goal is essential in following the University's mission, and it is practical and self-interested in finding partners to collaborate with and to share the financial burdens of such ties. It involves finding new ways promote the University's mission and tell its story and making new practical connections with communities and institutions. Measuring our progress in this goal involves both empirical measures of success in various kinds of partnership and evaluating how such partnerships continually reinforce and renew the fundamental aspects of the University's mission.

  1. Expand networks to provide key opportunities that enhance learning and growth.
    1. To strengthen and expand mutually beneficial relationships with church communities, Calvin will develop, implement and monitor an outreach plan to better help students find opportunities for initial and lasting church involvement regionally, nationally, and internationally.
    2. To strengthen and expand mutually beneficial alumni relationships, Calvin will develop, implement and monitor strategies to maximize effective alumni engagement in student service-learning, internship, fellowship, and creative work opportunities, and the like.
    3. To maximize the breadth and depth of student opportunities in areas like service-learning, cross cultural engagement, internships, fellowships, and creative work, Calvin will develop, implement and monitor local, regional, national and international strategies to build new partnerships among non-profit, for-profit, government and similar entities.
  2. Extend institutional partnerships that benefit teaching, research and scholarship.
    1. Calvin will establish a clear process and point of accountability to govern and guide planning; support assessment, evaluation, negotiation, and implementation; and provide long-term oversight of institutional collaborations with non-Calvin entities.
    2. Calvin will establish criteria to maximize effective use of partnerships with other Christian colleges, universities, and seminaries in areas such as faculty, student, or curricular exchanges.
  3. Enhance partnerships that fulfill the University's broader mission in community.
    1. Calvin will review its partnership with churches and other Christian organizations in key areas of expertise, such as public health, social justice, sustainability, anti-racism, and leadership development, to maximize its ability to fulfill its mission.
    2. Calvin will review its participation in local, regional, national, and international partnerships particularly those aligned with key strategic emphases, to maximize its ability to fulfill its mission.
    3. Calvin will establish mechanisms for documenting, tracking, and assessing the effects of community engagement initiatives on students, faculty, the University, and the involved community to improve their effectiveness and to obtain recertification in the Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement.