Wendy and Richard Libby

President's Message

Showcasing Success, Promising Persistence

When I arrived at Stetson University in 2009, one of my highest priorities was the strategic direction and planning of the university. At the time I encountered Stetson, it was (and is) a wonderful institution with rich traditions and great promise. Using a comprehensive strategic planning process, my goal was to build a stronger, shared university identity. 

That work resulted in the Stetson University Strategic Map: 2011-2014, which represented the overarching goal of fostering innovation to move Stetson from "success to significance." As an institution, we focused our energies on increasing national prominence, strengthening recruitment and retention, and raising academic quality, along with developing our university as a great place to work. We also put our emphasis on enhancing the university's financial stability and examining our university values more deeply. Yet, as good as that map was in helping to guide the university in addressing obstacles and change, it was just a start.

Three years later, some of the same people who worked on the original map gathered again to tackle the work for the second time, and through that work and process we created a second Strategic Map, for 2014 to 2019, this time shifting the target to establishing Stetson as a university of choice for "innovative approaches to tackling complex challenges." In turn, we centered our goals on "daring to be significant" and "inclusive excellence and diversity." Other commitments included enhancing the quality and quantity of our undergraduate population and uniting – as a university with two campuses and two satellite locations – as One Stetson. The map is known by many on our campus as the "Bingo Card," since it is a single page and available to the community on our planning website.

Today, halfway through this strategic map process we earnestly continue to work toward those goals. Our colleges and schools have embraced the complex challenges we face as a society and applied themselves to finding innovative approaches, including the Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience that has been facilitating agreement among local governments to impact water issues in Central Florida; and the College of Law's Biodiversity Institute, working within the legal system to protect the Clean Water Rule and the nation's aquatic resources. Within our university community, our own Many Voices, One Stetson campaign has made tackling tough issues – the ones we don't want to talk about but know we must – a top priority. From DeLand to Gulfport we are hosting and holding discussions on politics, immigration and diversity, and have addressed our own issues with inclusiveness and diversity, recently completing and reporting on a Campus Climate Survey done by Rankin and Associates. We are now beginning the work of taking the community's suggestions and addressing them. 

Although each of our goals is complex, layered with both challenges and opportunities, we have enjoyed successes. On the following pages, we highlight some of them, categorized within the seven framing goals. We do so, however, not in an attempt to pound our chest in pride, well maybe a little, but in the belief that work remains undone and that now is our chance to see where we have been and set out for the land yet undiscovered. We are proud of our accomplishments, yes. At the same time, we fully acknowledge the exciting, and sometimes daunting, tasks that await.

As we go forward, nowhere are the challenges we face more evident than with the issues I recently discussed with faculty and staff in February 2017: achieving real inclusive excellence on our campuses, and linking progress in inclusion to improvements in our retention and persistence rates. Neither is new, having been integral in our plans from the outset, but in 2017 and beyond these will receive preeminent attention. We have been greatly assisted in our ability to identify the issues associated with retention through the innovative work from our Provost's Office and our Office of Institutional Research in wrestling the raw data and using the Power BI platform to analyze the information and provide specific, actionable items for follow up.

I see these two items, inclusion and retention, as Venn diagram circles that overlap, and while their realization may be ever so difficult to achieve and maintain, I am encouraged and emboldened by the work we have already completed. As a community, as individuals and as One Stetson, we will get there.