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Provost's Message: Update

February 5, 2010

Dear Members of the Northwestern Community:

In November, I wrote to introduce the University Strategic Planning process. Today I would like to update you on the progress we have made and outline the process moving forward.

After posting the draft planning framework, we received thoughtful comments from faculty, staff, alumni, students, and members of our local community. It was heartening to see enthusiasm from across the constituent groups, and the insightful suggestions helped to focus key ideas. In addition to these individual comments, feedback from a joint meeting of faculty and the Board of Trustees helped to refine the framework.

The final Strategic Planning Framework, which is the structure that will guide discussions during the process, can be accessed on the strategic plan website ( Compared to the previous version, the final framework provides principles to guide the workgroups, as well as refined workgroup questions. Additionally, a set of eight cross-group questions have been identified.

The seven workgroups charged in the framework are:

  1. Areas of Distinction: Scholarship, Research, and Creative Work
  2. Teaching, Learning, and Assessment
  3. Beyond the Classroom
  4. Globalization
  5. Diversity
  6. Strategic Partnerships
  7. Purple Sky

The previously proposed "Communications" workgroup has been moved into the next phase of the planning process. Based on feedback we received, it was decided that it made more sense to discuss "how" we would communicate our story once we had more insight into "what" that story was. While we all agree that a strong, integrated, communications strategy is critical to Northwestern's success, we believe it is prudent to focus on messaging once other pieces of the plan have been put in place. As you will recall, infrastructure issues are also part of the next phase of planning, for similar reasons.

Workgroup members and co-chairs have been identified and a kick-off event is scheduled for February. Groups are comprised of students, faculty, and administrators who are being explicitly charged with reaching out to the larger community for proposals and feedback. We will also continue to engage alumni, our Board of Trustees, community leaders, as well as other constituents, so that the plan represents the best thinking across the Northwestern community.

Workgroups will be provided the feedback that has been received to date. Additionally, members of the community are encouraged to submit brief proposals to specific workgroups, to continue the dialogue; the workgroups are being charged to review these submitted proposals in addition to ideas that emerge in their own discussions. Please submit all comments to indicating the workgroup for which the comment is intended.

Thank you for your continued interest in this process as we chart Northwestern's course over the next ten years.

Daniel I. Linzer