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Strategic Plan

Achieving Our Greatness: A Bold Plan to Fulfill a Promise
We are a college for those who view the world through a creative lens. We promise our students that we will prepare them to author the culture of their times and that we will equip them with knowledge and skills to succeed in work and in life.

To fulfill our promise now and in the future requires continuous innovation. It requires a commitment to investing in our people, programs and infrastructure. And it requires an understanding that, like most institutions of higher learning, we face a multitude of challenges. Our plan is to meet those challenges, but also go further.

The history of Columbia is one of reinvention, innovation, and excellence. It’s what makes Columbia one of the most exciting educational institutions in the country. It’s also what makes the energy palpable anytime someone visits our campus. We embrace this history, and we bring it with us as we take the next great leap in our evolution.

The Launch
In 2015, we launched Achieving Our Greatness: A Strategic Action Plan for Columbia College Chicago. The five-year plan is designed to ensure we continue our commitment to student success; and to maintain our determination that graduates stay a step ahead in the world they enter. We are fostering a distinctive learning community that brings together creative and media arts, liberal arts and business, and that gives our students access to the best working minds in today’s creative industries.

Charted around six goals, Achieving Our Greatness guides us in reinventing the way we prepare our students in an ever-changing world. These six goals are designed to work together as a whole, just as every member of the Columbia College Chicago community – faculty, staff, students, administration, and trustees – work together to achieve those goals.

Following are summaries of the six goals and updates on progress made in the Strategic Plan's implementation. 

Provost's Strategic Plan Update from Faculty/Staff Convocation, Sept 16, 2016

Goal 1: Student Success

All higher education institutions want their students to graduate and succeed, but we have bigger ambitions. We expect and empower our students to define their own success and create careers that are meaningful to them. From admission to commencement and beyond, an education at Columbia goes beyond the classroom. That’s why we’re strengthening our operations so we can provide exceptional student support services such as internship and career placement; premium campus spaces to explore their work and engage in collaborative projects; and comprehensive personal, academic and career advising.

Columbia launched three major initiatives in the 2015-16 academic year to strengthen the student experience while preparing students for professional success:

1) A collaborative process resulted in planned programming for a new Student Center (planned for Fall 2018.) Twenty-seven groups, including 18 student organizations, shared their ideas and hopes in “Dream Out Loud” sessions. The result is a student center that will provide greater support for collaborating across disciplines and showcasing more student work.

2) A new Career Center was launched to provide students with more resources, guidance and career opportunities by forging Student Employment, Internship Coordinators and the Portfolio Center together.

3) Columbia’s new Internship Award funds students who take unpaid internships. Recognizing that unpaid internships can limit opportunities for many students, the college committed to assisting them each with $2,500 stipends. This year, more than 50 students received a stipend for professional internships.

Additional enhancements in 2015-16 included strengthened support in student counseling, a summer alumni residency program and student art spaces. More information on all initiatives include:

Goal 2: A 21st-Century Curriculum

Our demanding interdisciplinary curriculum blends the best of creative and media arts, liberal arts and business. Technological and entrepreneurial skills are also essential to ensure our students are prepared for creative practice, employment, and citizenship in the 21st century. Our challenge is to thoroughly assess content, examine all programs and making necessary changes and new investments so our programs align with our mission, have real-world relevance, and equip students with transferable knowledge and skills.

During the 2015-16 academic year, the college focused its resources on developing the foundation for a new, 21st-century curriculum through the following initiatives:

1) The foundation of Columbia’s new curriculum began with the creation of Universal Learning Outcomes this year. The ULOs were developed by a 14-member committee of faculty, staff and students. They present a new set of guidelines for curriculum changes that will guarantee every Columbia graduate is work-ready in a contemporary, global and technologically dynamic culture. Each department will adjust their own curriculum to ensure it is meeting ULO standards, and will begin implementation in the Fall 2017 semester after a rigorous review process.

2) An exciting, new First Semester Experience (“Big Chicago”) was launched this year to provide incoming students with an immersive focus on Chicago. The new seminar challenges students to understand the city both intellectually and experientially, and gives students the opportunity to network and interact “in-the-field,” which are all at the core of this introductory seminar.

The expertise of faculty members and academic leadership are at the core of building a new curriculum. This year, the college invested in promoting outstanding faculty members into new leadership roles and recruiting externally; supporting the launch of new interdisciplinary programs; and creating new offices (such as Digital Learning, and Continuing and Community Education) that will support 21st-century learning at Columbia.

To learn more about our impressive faculty, academic leaders and more:

Goal 3: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Engaging Difference

We believe a community that brings together people with diverse experiences and backgrounds creates fertile ground for new ideas and new creative practices. That’s why we are entering into a process of structural and systemic change to transform our campus community across a spectrum of practices: curriculum, pedagogy, communications, professional development, intentional recruitment and retention strategies, evaluation models, shared governance, and budget. By engaging difference in our collective work as an institution, we will strengthen outcomes on every level.

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee was formed this year to frame our understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion. The committee is currently working on a statement of purpose to define the lived experience of diversity, equity and inclusion at Columbia. More background on these and other activities include:

Goal 4: Community Engagement

Our students don’t want to wait for graduation to become involved in the world around them. As an urban institution immersed in the city of Chicago and in creative industries nationally, we want our students to engage beyond the boundaries of the campus to test their actions, beliefs and values in the world. Community engagement will be embedded in experiential learning modules, academic coursework, and multiple experiential learning opportunities created in collaboration with community partners. New models of institutional support and recognition will support faculty whose teaching, creative practice and scholarship are rooted in community-based topics.

In order to best determine how Columbia will sustain and support diverse forms of community-engaged teaching, creative practice and scholarship, we must clarify definitions. As a first step, the Community Engagement implementation committee undertook a campus-wide survey to help establish a baseline understanding of the innovative work our faculty and students are already doing.

Goal 5: Optimizing Enrollment

Maintaining healthy enrollment across degree programs is fundamental to our success. To support this, we are clarifying our brand story; devising new methods and measures to attract and evaluate qualified students; developing more effective transfer and international student recruitment pipelines; and creating new graduate and non-degree programs that appeal to professionals and other adult learners. As we do this, we remain focused on our commitment to keeping a Columbia education accessible to the broadest range of motivated students who are prepared to succeed here.

This year, Columbia focused on restructuring and building several key operational offices that will help Columbia achieve its enrollment goals. This also included defining the college’s brand and helping prospective students identify what it means to be a student at Columbia. Three major areas were restructured and strengthened this year to move the college closer to its enrollment goals:

1) The Enrollment Management team made key changes in how we identify and communicate with students who are likely to have a strong interest in Columbia. From examining and revising the on-campus experience, including visitation days and tours, to streamlining and improving geographic targeting, the EM team has refined its recruitment approach to ensure that Columbia is sharing the right information at the right time in the right ways. They changed the way they do searches and are making connections via phone, email and face-to-face conversations at key points in students’ decision-making processes.

2) A new Office of the Registrar was established this year with new roles and systems that will help increase retention and on-time graduation. New students want to know they will be supported throughout their whole journey, and the Office of the Registrar will be a major touchstone in ensuring their academic success.

3) The Strategic Marketing and Communications (SMC) team engaged faculty, staff and students in understanding what makes Columbia unique and how to tell our brand story in a compelling and consistent way. In Fall 2017, the college will roll out its new brand. This includes new modes of storytelling; new language, logos and color palettes; strengthened engagement with news and social media; and an invigorating advertising campaign.

In addition to these core initiatives to optimize enrollment, the college has begun building its offerings for adult learners, including Digital Learning and Continuing and Community Education, and strengthening the School of Graduate Studies. More on all of these initiatives include:

Goal 6: Aligning Resources with Goals

As a private, non-profit higher education institution, we achieve our goal of student success only if we manage and invest our students’ tuition dollars and donors’ funds wisely and well. That’s why we are implementing an ambitious program to strengthen operational efficiencies and central management systems; contain costs; build fundraising capacity; and develop other new revenue sources. These actions help ensure we are directing our resources where they matter most.

In this first year of the Strategic Plan, Columbia focused on building a foundation that included: ensuring the college is technology-ready, investing in the retention and recruitment of talented faculty and staff, bolstering alumni relations and recruiting new Board of Trustees members to strengthen the donor base. This year, the college made impressive strides in all of these key areas. Highlights include:

1) Information Technology – a major college-wide network upgrade
2) Human Resources – recruitment of a new associate vice president of Human Resources
3) Alumni Relations – recruitment of a new director for alumni relations, and increases in alumni events and activities
4) Board of Trustees – six new board members were recruited this year

Finally, the college made a major investment in supporting MAP-funded students when the state of Illinois was faced with budget cuts and a budget impasse. More information on this and more: