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Process will result in strategic plan

Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colorado, launched a campus-wide initiative called Forming the Future. The initiative will result in a strategic plan and roadmap for how CMU advances the mission of the university for years to come.

The announcement of the effort included around 400 CMU faculty and staff who attended the kickoff meeting to discuss first principles — the values that will guide the planning effort during the next year.

In 2021, CMU President John Marshall outlined his vision for building what he called a Human Scale University. The human scale vision was based on a campus that would serve as a microcosm of an ideal world — a world that CMU would like to see emerge in the future.

One of the principles outlined during the kickoff event was courage. To illustrate this value, Marshall initiated the event by featuring a video of CMU student leader Jason Hunter and himself skydiving. The video was meant to emphasize the importance of gaining new perspective and having courage to take risk and do things differently for a better future.

“We understand creating a plan to form our future is no plan at all if the collaborative process doesn’t begin with a precise articulation of our values,” said Marshall. “There is no value in a document that describes what we are going to do if the publication doesn’t explain why we are doing it. The initiative is leading CMU down a path few others are pursuing because values are not easy to talk about. But we believe a values first approach to planning is how we best advance the mission of CMU.”

After the introduction of the skydiving experience, Marshall provided keynote remarks that outlined the vision he and the CMU leadership team devised during a workshop that occurred earlier in the summer. Marshall’s keynote presentation included a web-based interactive survey that explored the proposed guiding principles. Having every person in attendance participate from the beginning of the interactive process was an important goal of the event. Attendees responded to a series of questions that explored the first principles of:

  • Love
  • Dignity
  • Courage
  • Humility
  • Resiliency
  • Curiosity
  • Power

“These principles are basic and fundamental by design and will guide how the campus community inclusively develops our Forming the Future Initiative and subsequent strategic plan,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs Cher Hendricks, PhD. “There is a tendency in higher education to migrate towards tactics and preferred outcomes, which are important conversations too. But values are where we start at CMU.”

Following remarks by Marshall, CMU students, faculty, staff and alumni speakers shared powerful life stories about how first principles have impacted their lives, and how the values are now providing benefits that are enriching campus culture and community.

adult student mathias on stage speaking at the kickoff eventMathias Malumba is an adult student from Uganda and spoke about the principle of Love. His speech invoked powerful responses as he shared his story about growing up homeless on the streets of Kampala, and how his journey helped him arrive at CMU where he is a first-generation U.S. citizen, a first-generation college student and is in the third year of his educational journey moving towards a college degree. Malumba shared how the love he received from unlikely places opened doors that led towards his college education.

After each speaker, the campus community was prompted with a question about the principles and engaged in discussion around how the values could enrich and enhance the campus community.

The final principle discussed by faculty and staff was power. CMU Alumni Association Board President Dusti Reimer shared her story about growing up in a home and community where she experienced abuse and neglect, and where shame was a part of her everyday life. She concluded that the power she acquired through education at CMU allowed her to empower herself in order to support other women who come from similar backgrounds or find themselves in similar situations.

Student Andy Tyler on stage speaking at the kickoff eventWhile all the speaker remarks invoked robust conversation, one speaker stood out when it came to invoking tears — student Andy Smith. He proceeded to speak about resiliency and shared his story about brain surgery, cancer, loss and grief, and ending with an uplifting message about persistence and resilience in the face of adversity.

Marshall and Hendricks both reinforced: more important than any data that might have resulted from the discussion is the value of the conversation itself. The two noted the process of engagement and discussion are paramount and believe speaking about values with one another orients the campus conversation and planning efforts moving forward.

Each table of attendees took notes, offered observations and made suggestions for the future using paper pads and note cards. Marshall is displaying the written feedback on the walls of the President Office’s conference room for the month of September and invites the campus and larger community to stop in and review the feedback on display. Hendricks is working to establish a permanent location on campus to house all feedback and data related to the initiative between now and the completion of the campus strategic plan.

Leadership reviewing strategic planning notes

“We want the initiative to have a physical home so that anyone on campus at anytime can review and track the project of our efforts to form the future of CMU,” said Hendricks

The CMU Board of Trustees also engaged in conversation about the proposed first principles and expressed support for the concept. Trustee David Foster said the outline was an “astonishing” approach in its aspiration and expressed support for continuing the conversation around CMU’s return to basic values that unite people.

Using the guiding principles, the Forming the Future Initiative will engage students and community members to also further revise, refine and perhaps expand the list of principles while also focusing on a series of events, occasions and workshops that will create an enhanced mission and vision for the university that establish objectives, action plans and implementation strategies.

CMU selected the set of guiding first principles based on conversations from the campus leadership team and the Board of Trustees and will work with students to create a plan that can position CMU for the future.

After the kickoff event was complete Marshall reflected that, “This is not an exclusive list of principles — we will explore other principles and adjust our approach as we learn about additional issues important to our community. By identifying these important principles, we believe people can engage more openly, honestly and with more authenticity knowing some of life’s most basic human values are at work within the foundation of our process.”

The Forming the Future Initiative is led by a steering committee co-chaired by Professor of English Kurt Haas, PhD, who is the former vice president for academic affairs and also includes co-chairs Davis School of Business Department Head Carlos Baldo, PhD, and Senior Recruitment Specialist Sharaya Cowen. The steering committee has engaged national higher education professionals Campus Works to help facilitate creating the overall vision and strategy while the campus community continues to define and refine the underlying values. The committee, which reports to the leadership team and Board of Trustees, will oversee the progress of working groups and workshops that are tasked with producing reports on mission, vision, strategies, goals and action plans associated with the strategic plan. The committee represents the campus community through representatives of faculty, staff and students and will also include input from stakeholders outside the community.


Written by Staff