Aerial shot of Montclair State University's campus.

Strategic Plan 2025 – Project Soar

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Strategic Plan Pillars

Graph of Three Pillars

Pillar One: Fostering Student Transformation

  • 1.1 Create and sustain high quality, rigorous, and competitive academic programs that serve student needs and continue to elevate the institution’s reputation
  • 1.2 Increase engagement through participation in an expanded range and variety of campus experiences and support activities available to students
  • 1.3 Identify and craft signature transformative student experiences that contribute to a distinct identity for the University across both curricular and cocurricular programming
  • 1.4 Leverage new services and technologies to ensure timely completion of degrees
  • 1.5 Expand programs and services that improve students’ opportunities for life-long success and engaged citizenship, and increase the University’s commitment to their continued relationship as alumni
  • 1.6 Increase awareness of the University’s identity and impact, and enhance its reputation

Pillar Two: Growing Through Diversity and Access

  • 2.1 Capitalize on the historic strength of diversity in the institution and continue to grow that strength as the State increases its diversity
  • 2.2 Reaffirm and maintain the University’s long-standing commitment to affordability
  • 2.3 Ensure that the university provides full access, for students, alumni, faculty and staff to all activities that make the university an engaging community
  • 2.4 Assure that the University’s diversity, inclusiveness and provision of affordable access to excellence are conveyed clearly and consistently.

Pillar Three: Discovery and Application of Knowledge

  • 3.1 Improve and upgrade business processes, facilities, and technological resources in support of research
  • 3.2 Increase external research funding
  • 3.3 Expand and enhance the reputation and impact of University research

Montclair Vision

By 2025 Montclair State University will be nationally recognized as a premier public university, serving 25,000 students with programs from bachelor’s to PhD. It will provide students with a welcoming, supportive and responsive student experience that enables post-graduate success. It will continue to be affordable and accessible, acclaimed for its research contributions, locally valued for its community and business partnerships, fiscally sound and nimble in its business practices, and diverse in its students and employees.

The 2002 Mission Statement remains relevant and inspiring for the next generation of the University’s growth.

Montclair State Values

Success:
Continually promoting academic excellence and post-graduate achievement
Access:
Proactively employing strategies to level the playing field for students seeking further education
Innovation:
Embracing innovation, experimentation, and creativity for excellence and efficiency
Social Justice:
Understanding and working to dismantle barriers to the opportunities and privileges appropriate to all residents of New Jersey
Sustainability:
Building practices and programs for long-term survival and flourishing of the University
Community:
Connecting to community through strategic partnerships, collaborations, and services

Path to the Plan

Beginning in Fall 2017 the University launched an extensive program of data gathering, analysis and consultation which resulted in PROJECT SOAR. This journey helped us understand our history, values, and accomplishments; our place in higher education in the state, region, and nation; and the ways we have been successful in moving the University from its inception more than 110 years ago to today. With advice and assistance of an external consultant, this process included:

  • A review of the 2011 strategic plan and our signature accomplishments under it;
  • An analysis of findings and recommendations from our 2016 successful Middle States Commission of Higher Education accreditation (MSCHE) report and study;
  • A thorough environmental scan of relevant demographic predictors, labor market projections, technology developments in classroom instruction and program delivery modes (including active learning, low-residency, partially online and fully online programs), comparative degree production data among New Jersey institutions, and State funding expectations, all of which contributed to an understanding of the University’s market position;
  • Two summit discussions with campus leadership, including faculty, staff, administrators and students;
  • A SWOT analysis based on input from more than 550 University community members;
  • Three presentations to and discussions with the Board of Trustees;
  • Many dynamic conversations and extended working sessions by the Committee on University Effectiveness (CUE) and five Design Teams charged with shaping key success outcomes and strategies;
  • Two public fora to which the University community were invited for open discussion of the draft plan;
  • An extensive benchmarking study and comparison of universities through which 11 universities were identified that reflected significant achievements in areas of interest to Montclair State’s growth.

This dynamic and comprehensive process was inclusive of the full University community, and it modeled the values we expect to cultivate in our University culture and in our students. The process enabled a rich and broad reflection of the pathway of change that has brought us to the current day.

Vision for Student Success

Building on the successes of its previous Plan, Connecting to Tomorrow: Vision, Creativity, Adaptability, Montclair State University will found its new Plan on three guiding “Pillars” or themes, each pointing toward and promoting student success at every level of the institution: Fostering Student Transformation; Growing Through Diversity and Access; Discovery and Application of Knowledge.

Student success will be supported by the interconnections and interactions of these three pillars. These drivers of effort will help us to focus our attention, commit resources, develop strategies and tactics to achieve preferred outcomes, and measure evidence of our successes. They inform and call out the priorities for resource allocation and decision-making to 2025.

Championing Student Success

Over all the Pillars, strategies and success measures of our Plan hovers the single unifying intention: student success, defined both within the Montclair State University experience and following graduation in their diverse and multiple careers. Numerous studies (such as the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce Reports), that continue to confirm the lifetime income value of degrees and the still-growing burdens of student debt in achieving those degrees, urge graduation as soon as possible. This Plan assumes both of those realities for contemporary students and proposes to prioritize University strategies and resources most effectively and efficiently to deliver the highest quality degrees at the maximum value. Montclair State is justly proud of its proven ability to deliver the highest quality education at a price that is among the most affordable in the region.

This Plan will sustain and strengthen that value proposition by enhancing even further the quality of the student experience and learning outcomes, by increasing revenue generation from diverse sources, and by positioning Montclair State University as an institution of choice for talented students from New Jersey and beyond.

In light of the growth in academic programs, facilities, research and enrollments under the previous Plan, the University will focus its resources to support student success in a future characterized by mobility and change. Through synchronization of our human resources and expanded data systems, we will both motivate student intellectual development and catch at-risk students before they fail, enabling us fully to live up to the hallmark “small college” feel that has made this large University the institution of choice for generations of New Jersey families. A personalized and individualized approach will be extended to non-traditional students through degree-completion programs, new graduate programs, and multi-modal instructional models, to bring Montclair State’s total population to 25,000 students by 2025, contributing meaningfully to the skilled workforce demands of New Jersey and beyond. And finally, our dedication to our graduates will be life-long, supporting them with career services, networking and continued learning opportunities throughout their careers, and making Montclair State University their permanent partner for success.

 

An Entrepreneurial Strategy

Underlying the pillars, strategies and success measures is a single aspiration: to be ceaselessly innovative and demonstrably effective in every process that will improve academic quality, promote student success and augment institutional communication and efficiency. American higher education has experienced several periods of significant change, similar to what, today, is referred to as disruption. In the past, institutions that were established primarily for the training of teachers and support of agriculture were transformed into institutions providing educational programs in a wide range of professions. Institutions that were established to educate a very small percentage of the population opened their doors to the vast majority of the nation’s high school graduates. Huge investments in research were initiated, a massive system of financial aid was implemented where none previously existed, and quickly evolving developments in technology transformed the instruction, the research initiatives, and the administration of universities across the nation. The current time is also a period of change, and, as Montclair State has grown and transformed itself to meet the changing needs of society throughout its history, it will continue to do so by drawing on its energized entrepreneurial spirit, prepared to seize the new day with yet unseen and unknown opportunities, while staying true to its fundamental values and never failing to place student success as its foremost goal. The University has been and will continue to be both nimble and thoughtful in making the continuing adjustments essential to maintaining its vital relevance for both transmitting cultural traditions, creating new knowledge, meeting emerging market demands, and serving the higher education needs of an evolving world.

Our goals are ambitious but achievable. To accomplish them by 2025, we must adopt an entrepreneurial, nimble, innovative and risk-rewarding approach to all aspects of the University’s programs and operations. This entrepreneurial attitude will speed up time-tables and require alertness, excellent communication, and collaboration across divisions. This responsive, change-ready culture will be transformative, enabling timely creation of new programs and strategies supported by data and the timely recycling of other programs and strategies that are unsupported by student demand or university mission. Analytics already in production and reaching across University divisions will arm leaders and innovators with methods for evaluating initiatives for their effectiveness, value, and resource allocation.

In an entrepreneurial culture, innovative thinking allows for experimentation, and therefore risks unsuccessful ideas as well as successful ones, with individuals recognized and valued for engaging as well as succeeding. Ideas, programs, and initiatives will rise with their successes, and the people who invent and promote them will understand their responsibility to plan strategically and shrewdly while also understanding that every innovative idea, program, or initiative will not flourish and those that fail following our best efforts must be promptly discarded. These values — innovation, creativity, efficiency, and data-informed decision making — are characteristic of vital institutions and compatible with flourishing careers.