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Pioneering Distinction:  A Framework for Carroll’s Future

May 2018

As approved by the Board of Trustees May 11, 2018
  1. Strategic Planning Process 2017-18:  Background and Next Steps

The strategic planning process was launched in October 2017 with a Board of Trustees planning retreat that included senior leadership and the Strategic Planning Steering Committee. Over the course of the fall semester, the Committee facilitated 33 focus groups with more than 270 faculty, staff, students, alumni, trustees and community stakeholders based on five strategic questions developed by the Board.  Campus feedback was also elicited through a strategic planning portal site.


The ideas generated through those discussions formed the basis of three draft scenarios that were presented to the Board in February 2018. The Board requested that the main concepts in the three scenarios be merged into a single framework outlining an academic vision and direction.  The resulting document was shared with the campus community in spring 2018, and focus groups discussions were again conducted.  Over 200 stakeholders participated in those discussions, and other suggestions were made through the portal site.


The feedback received was used to refine the framework for a strategic direction for academic development that will bring enhanced prestige and visibility to Carroll University as it strengthens the academic outcomes and professional success of its graduates.


This vision, once approved, will be the basis of campus-wide operational plans that will begin to be developed in fall 2018.  At that time, President Gnadinger will charge faculty task forces to develop the curricular components of the plan, and will invite faculty and staff to propose initiatives to support and extend the reach of the plan into all facets of campus life.  The Board of Trustees will annually evaluate progress against this plan through the outcomes of the operating plans that will be developed for funded initiatives.


  1. Strategic Planning:  Foundational Assumptions

The planning assumptions below emerged through focus groups and subsequent discussions in fall 2017 and spring 2018.  These assumptions do not necessarily appear in the narrative of the framework that follows, which is focused on articulating a vision for academic development to assure ongoing excellence and relevance. Rather, the assumptions below will be reflected in the goals and action plans that will emerge out of this process.


  • The Liberal Arts and Sciences are central to a Carroll University education that expresses the academic, human and professional goals of our mission.
  • The Carroll University mission is at the core of our work together to assure students’ academic and professional success.
  • The university recognizes the need for investment to fund strategic initiatives and the need to balance financial strength with investment.
  • Increasing the endowment remains a strategic focus.
  • We intend to grow traditional and nontraditional undergraduate and graduate student populations and extend our geographic recruitment reach.
  • We will continue to develop a diverse campus that supports faculty, staff and student growth and maintains the “secret sauce” that is the Carroll culture.
  • It will be a priority to continue to enhance the Pioneer Core’s focus on culture.
  • The demonstration of market relevance will be required for planning initiatives that emerge from this process.
  • Carroll University will continue to evolve and develop new academic programs that meet the needs of changing markets and operating environments. Maintaining the status quo is not an option.
  • We recognize the need to align governance and organizational structures to facilitate innovation.
  • Progress and outcome metrics will be established for each planning initiative.



                      III.            PIONEERING DISTINCTION:  A Framework for Carroll’s Future


Carroll University provides a superior education, rooted in its Presbyterian and liberal arts heritage, and draws upon its Christian tradition to prepare all students for vocational success, lifelong learning and service in a diverse and global society.



Through purposeful development over the next 5-7 years, Carroll University will become a leader in educating students who are optimally prepared for lifelong success by integrating experiential and problem-based liberal arts education with the expansion of outstanding and market-relevant professional programs in Health Sciences, Business, and Education/Human Services. Graduates will be distinguished by their core skills and their ability to deliver immediate and lasting impact in both their professional and personal lives.


The realization of this plan will be accomplished through deep partnerships and experiential learning opportunities that extend across the curriculum:

  • A new partnership of the liberal arts and sciences with professional programs as faculty collaborate to develop problem-based active learning experiences that will better prepare students for lifelong success.
  • External partnerships between each program of study and corporate and community organizations that will enrich student learning through experiential engagements that in turn provide significant benefits to partner organizations.


We expect that robust experiential learning opportunities, a reinvigoration of liberal arts and sciences, and academic excellence in market-relevant programs will result in the following outcomes:

  • Growth of the undergraduate and graduate student populations as Carroll becomes increasingly well-known throughout the Midwest across the region. In addition to continuing to meet the needs of traditional undergraduate and graduate students, we will reach new markets of non-traditional students and working professionals through innovative offerings and delivery models, which may include new pipeline programs, new degrees (from associates through doctorates) and credentials (certificates, badges, micro-credentials), as well as new delivery platforms, including the potential for satellite campuses in the US and abroad.


  • Strengthened impact and visibility as our students engage in experiential learning opportunities with our partners in healthcare, educational institutions, large corporations, businesses, and community and nonprofit organizations. Our students’ engagements will enhance their professional success while also bringing benefit to these organizations, enhancing the greater good of our local and global communities.


  • Enhanced success of our graduates, as demonstrated by their initial and long-term accomplishments.


As we achieve these outcomes, we will purposefully promote the quality and impact of a Carroll University education and we will look to expand the ranks of partners and donors across our stakeholder communities.

Pioneering Distinction:  The Process

  1. Promote the Importance of the Liberal Arts and Sciences and Integrate  Arts and Sciences into all Programs

Liberal Arts education at Carroll University cultivates the Pio Mind.  The Pio Mind uses many ways of knowing to deeply examine what it means to be human by understanding ourselves; others; and our natural, cultural, and spiritual worlds.  The Pio Mind believes in discussing, analyzing, and challenging ideas in pursuit of lifelong learning.  The Pio Mind allows us to live meaningful lives of compassion, respect, integrity, service and citizenship in our local and global communities.


Liberal Arts and Sciences majors at Carroll provide outstanding and rigorous educational opportunities for students interested in pursuing these fields or who wish to graduate with the broad and deep preparation that study in the arts and sciences provides.

Over the next decade, Carroll University will enhance the integration of the liberal arts and sciences in programs by engaging all students in experiential, technology-infused, and problem-based learning around issues of contemporary significance.   This component of the plan will reinvigorate campus-wide appreciation of core arts and sciences disciplines, which takes on particular urgency as many of these disciplines are currently challenged to maintain enrollment and their identities as major programs, at Carroll and across the nation.  Investment in robust faculty development programs and new technologies for teaching and learning enhance the strength of liberal arts and science program and support the development and success of this initiative, which has three components:

  1. Through the Pioneer Core and offerings at the undergraduate and graduate level, a Carroll University education will provide all students with shared foundational experiences, grounded in the knowledge and methods of arts and sciences disciplines, that focus on the development and demonstration of the knowledge and skills necessary to devise possible solutions to complex issues facing society and industry, such as:
  • How can we devise better solutions for assuring water and air quality, food safety, and environmental sustainability? How can be better address health inequities?  How can we assure that technological advances improve the human condition?  How can the arts illuminate and help improve the human condition? How can societies be organized to improve lives and promote understanding of commonalities and differences? How can understanding the past lead to better futures within and across nations?   How can data analysis deliver better solutions for communities, organizations and societies?


Faculty’s plans to achieve this goal could take a variety of forms, such as through new distribution options in the Pioneer Core, new interdisciplinary courses or programs, or options such as course modules, bootcamps, and hackathons.

  1. Arts and Sciences faculty will also partner with colleagues across the university to elevate the skills developed through a liberal arts education by creating distinctive and market-relevant applied learning components in all academic programs. New micro-credentials and “badges” will be explored to offer certification of students’ excellence in high-demand skills such as data analysis, writing, public speaking, teamwork, and critical thinking.  These credentials, some of which could be developed in collaboration with community partners, will provide students who earn them a distinct advantage in the marketplace.


  1. Finally, through the Pioneer Core general education program and community-facing undergraduate and graduate programs, all students will engage in experience-based learning opportunities locally and across the globe, through partner organizations such as healthcare systems, corporations, regional businesses, non-profits, schools and other community organizations in the region as well as internationally through the required cross-cultural experience. Traditional experiences such as internships, clinical placements and practicums will be expanded, while new models such as co-op experiences, team-based and project-centered learning, and innovation center rotations will be developed.  Through these experiences, students will learn to cooperatively devise solutions that encompass multiple viewpoints and address competing needs.  The measures of success for these off-campus experiences will be the extent to which they enhance graduates’ professional success and provide notable benefit to partner organizations.


  1. Achieve New Levels of Distinction in Health Sciences, Business, and Human Services

The second element of this plan calls for continued and purposeful investment in Health Sciences and Business fields, and a new strategic focus on market-relevant Education/Human Services programs.  Through these investments, Carroll University will achieve broader recognition as a leader in anticipating and responding to emerging workforce and community needs. Brief descriptions of these strategic priorities follow:

  1. Support Growth and Development of Robust Health Science Programs

Carroll University has a strong reputation for its high-quality health sciences programs that adapt to meet the evolving needs of healthcare organizations and our communities.  Sustaining the excellence and relevance of programs within the College of Health Sciences will require purposeful growth in existing areas, such as medicine, nursing, public and global health, and movement and rehabilitation sciences. The didactic and service components of these programs will be sharpened and our market reach will expand.

In addition, over the next decade new programs will be developed in mental and behavioral health, counseling psychology, pathologists’ assistant, medical technologies and biomedical sciences. Professional programs will place a strong emphasis on inter-professional education and team-based practice to prepare students with the cross-discipline knowledge and skills they will need for success in this emerging trend in healthcare practice.

As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, there has been a dramatic increase in the reliance on advanced practitioners to deliver patient care. This trend opens opportunities to develop five-year bachelors/masters’ degree programs to attenuate a growing workforce gap. These accelerated programs would meet market demand, be cost efficient to students and parents, and would enhance recruitment of both undergraduate and graduate students.

Faculty in the College of Health Sciences will collaborate with the School of Business and external partners develop an on-campus clinic that will foster development in inter-professional learning while providing students in business, health care administration, and public health opportunities for real-world experience in running a healthcare operation. The clinic will serve as a clinical experience site for students in medicine and the applied health sciences, and as an internship site for students in current and new programs in mental health, public health, business analytics, and others.

All of Carroll’s applied health sciences programs will be distinguished by the way in which they embed humanistic and cultural approaches to the study of health in modern society.  Faculty will gain expertise in integrating and actualizing the broad perspectives of the liberal arts across programs, and they will receive ongoing support in the delivery of engaging pedagogies that foster the development of students’ skills in critical analysis, communication, and cultural literacy.

Student outcomes, as reflected by persistence and completion rates as well as by long-term professional success, will rival those of outstanding peer institutions across the country.


  1. Enhance and Expand Business and Business-Based Programs

Carroll University signaled its commitment to enhance excellence in its business programs by establishing its School of Business in 2017.  As it continues to develop, the School of Business will provide an engaging and experiential education that produces highly sought-after graduates and successful alumni. Capitalizing on close ties to business and industry, along with dynamic partnerships with organizations in the region, the school will prepare students to become responsible leaders skilled in business and committed to helping improve the communities in which they live.

The faculty of the School of Business will leverage their abilities by integrating traditional and state‐of‐the‐art teaching approaches to develop and deliver market relevant undergraduate programs and specialized graduate programs within niche markets.  Traditional classroom instruction, distance delivered education, and on-site experiential learning will support high demand academic programs.

The School of Business will develop a vibrant outreach effort that engages with regional business as a solutions provider.  Continuing education, professional training, micro and digital credentialing, along with performance improvement will be features of the school’s workforce and organizational development portfolio.

A commitment to academic excellence will be reflected in high retention, graduation and placement rates.  Furthermore, a network of strong partnerships will support a range of experience and project-based learning to include internships, practicum, coop placements, and team projects.  Appearance in regional and national rankings among business schools, along with external accreditation will further represent the school’s commitment to excellence.

The School of Business will serve as a value-add resource across the university.  By collaborating with other disciplines, new programs will emerge that meld areas of expertise in response to market needs.  For example, an applied analytics initiative currently under development will feature learning content from the disciplines of mathematics/statistics, computer science and business.  An emerging collaboration of applied physics, engineering and business disciplines will prepare students who will be uniquely equipped to solve programs, create value and uncover opportunity.  These interdisciplinary endeavors combined with students’ grounding in the Pioneer Core liberal arts will foster future business leaders who have both an entrepreneurial spirit and a global mindset.


  1. Expand Education and Human Services-based Programs Across Disciplines

Building on its strong legacy of preparing teachers and school leaders, Carroll University will advance its leadership in Education and expand programming in complementary areas of Human Services, such as school counseling, social work, non-profit administration, public policy, and corporate training.  Interdisciplinary teams of faculty will continue to work with community partners who are addressing urgent social problems, such as substance addiction and the growing impact of social inequities on individual and community health; new programs will be aimed at practitioners in human services and healthcare professions who require new knowledge and skills to better meet individual and community needs.

These undergraduate and graduate programs will be designed and delivered in innovative formats to prepare students for opportunities in fields that are experiencing significant workforce shortages. Programs will be distinguished by unique cross-disciplinary approaches that will combine human services expertise with content and experience in business or science, technology, and engineering fields.

In addition to exploring new academic programs and degree options in these areas, we will explore ways extend the reach of faculty expertise through offering post-graduate professional development opportunities for teachers, clinicians, counselors, administrators and other professionals.  Some of these initiatives will cut across existing college, school and department structures and engender cross-disciplinary collaboration in the development of programs and experiential learning opportunities.


              III.            Pioneering Distinction:  Student and Community Outcomes

Comprehensive outcomes metrics will be developed across all areas of study to demonstrate student success and the lasting value of a Carroll University education.  A Carroll education will deliver positive outcomes to students, to our communities, and to the global society.  Our robust, problem-based liberal arts core, paired with professional programs and off-campus experiential learning opportunities, will prepare graduates to enter the workforce or post-graduate experience with multi-disciplinary knowledge and strong skills in communication, teamwork, information analysis, cultural competence and critical thinking.  They will be poised to succeed in their chosen professions, prepared to deliver immediate impact in the workplace, and ready to act as thoughtful and compassionate citizens in our society.

Students’ off-campus learning experiences will bring significant benefits to partner organizations, in turn enhancing the university’s visibility and donor base as organizations and individuals realize distinct advantages from Carroll partnerships.

This community-embedded, liberal-arts-grounded and experiential approach will distinguish Carroll from its peers and result in a regional and national reputation for excellence.  Carroll will be known for educating graduates who are prepared to make immediate and lasting impact in their professional and personal endeavors.  This renown will enable the university to expand its geographic and demographic reach to attract new and diverse populations of undergraduate and graduate students who aim to excel in a complex and rapidly evolving world.