Lake Superior State University Approves New Five Year Strategic Plan

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Lake Superior State University's Campus sits at the top of Upper Peninsula, Michigan -

Lake Superior State University Board of Trustees approved the new five year Strategic Plan during a special board meeting on April 24, 2020. This new plan focuses on an overall theme of Superior Education.  Superior Experience.  Superior You. During the fall 2019 University Convocation, President Rodney Hanley challenged the LSSU community to think strategically about the future of LSSU over the next five years – who we are, why do we do what we do, and how can we do it better.  The response from the LSSU community was overwhelming and drew from all constituents in the university as well as the Sault Ste. Marie community.  A Strategic Planning Committee was formed that was comprised of faculty, staff and student representation from across LSSU.  After extensive listening sessions, the priorities and theme of the Strategic Plan were developed.

In developing the overall theme, the word “superior” is an important word to our identity. LSSU borders the largest of the Great Lakes, Lake Superior, which has become a destination throughout the year for vacationing, boating, fishing, admiring, and for educating. Additionally, Superior is part of our name and part of our identity. As we collectively thought through the challenges of the next five years and how we will meet – and overcome – the challenges facing the University while continuing our service to students, “superior” also became an important adjective that we used to describe not only what we do and how we do it, but also what comes of the students who experience it. This strategic plan outlines the ways we will enact the notions of a Superior Education, Superior Experience, Superior You. This threefold title, though, also transcends the plan and becomes our promise to our students who “Enter to Learn and Go Forth to Serve.”

Guided by this plan, our new Strategic Plan will focus on:

  • Student Learning and Development – Through curricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular experiences, students develop skills that transform them and set them on an upward social mobility trajectory. They will be ready to excel in the jobs of today and have the training to keep them competitive in a rapidly changing, globally interdependent arena.
  • Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging – Everyone should have equal possibility to find their place at LSSU, to feel like they belong, and to have a shared Laker identity.  Our diversity reflects the many ways in which individuals and communities uniquely identify – socioeconomic, first-generation status, veteran status, religious, racial, sexual orientation, ethnic, or political – contributing distinct and valuable experiences and perspectives to the makeup of the university.
  • Fiscal Resilience and Operational Excellence – A strong, stable fiscal position is paramount to the University growing and thriving as a vibrant campus and community, where students pursue their education and where faculty and staff grow in their careers. The choice of the word resilience over sustainability is purposeful in that we wish to maintain and create systems that can withstand changes and still function efficiently. Operational excellence will require investment in LSSU’s human capital, underlying technologies, and campus infrastructure, while addressing budgetary challenges.
  • Community Partnerships and Engagement – As a key economic anchor in Sault Ste. Marie and the Eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan, LSSU has and will foster a symbiotic relationship with the community. A healthy relationship with area partners will not only help our students thrive, it will enrich the community as a whole. The success of LSSU as a university is co-dependent on the strength of our neighboring communities and on the strength of our relations with them.
  • Sustainability – Development of sustainability at LSSU requires that we push beyond our current boundaries toward new initiatives, requiring some initial investment and ultimately leading to a healthier planet, enriched academic experiences, and ongoing institutional savings.

The new Strategic Plan includes five main priorities, 22 goals and over 130 strategies that involve all areas of campus.  As LSSU develops new programs, such as cannabis chemistry and the new Center for Freshwater Research and Education, it is fitting that the first goal talks to “revitalize and supplement academic offerings that respond to student needs and promote transformational growth.”  LSSU was ranked as the #3 public university in Michigan by the 2020 WalletHub college rankings which heavily emphasizes the social mobility of students.  With a high frequency of first generation students, we are changing generations of lives for our graduates.  Drawing on that recognition we have incorporated the need to “increase awareness of student social mobility and the challenges associated with it, and increase support activities for socioeconomically disadvantaged groups” into the Strategic Plan to continue in the growth and development of our students.  Our student’s success remains vital to the mission of LSSU, which led to including strategies around increasing funding for our students and increasing student retention to 75% were vital strategies to incorporate into the plan.

Lake Superior State University’s unique location on the international border in the twin Sault Ste. Marie communities provide our students with a distinct landscape to live and learn. Our location is further enhanced by the presence of several vibrant Tribal communities. The success of LSSU as a university is co-dependent on the strength of our neighboring communities and on the strength of our relations with them.  The need to strengthen these successes were included within the strategies.  Beyond sustaining our university and surrounding community through fiscal measures, the importance of overall sustainability was recognized through strategies such as utilizing more eco-friendly options and utilizing the new Center for Freshwater Research and Education to promote healthy Great Lakes.

Dr. Rodney Hanley, President of LSSU, stated, “I am very pleased of the work the Strategic Plan Committee completed.  As we embark on this strategic plan at the same time that our country and world are fighting a global pandemic. We do so acknowledging the fears and concerns that all of us have for what the future holds. But we also know that we must be innovative, conscientious, and purposeful in navigating these troubled and uncharted waters. We also know that by continuing to rise to the occasion as Lakers do, we will prepare our students for the world ahead and establish a thrilling new chapter in the history of the institution.”

Our primary role as a University is education. Our primary tool is quality teaching and learning. To be a world-class university in a changing world we must recognize our strengths, tackle our weaknesses through systematic continuous improvement, and welcome a culture of transformation. Therefore, with every goal we have asked ourselves “how will this goal positively affect student learning, provide them with needed resources, or later enhance their quality of life?”  The final Strategic Plan represents broad input from the LSSU community providing a continued strong foundation of collaboration and forward thinking needed for continued growth of Lake Superior State University.