2022-27 Strategic Plan

On Jan. 28, 2022, the Board of Governors approved Wayne State's 2022-27 strategic plan, "Our Moment in Time." This plan reaffirms our core mission, builds upon our highly successful 2016-21 strategic plan, focuses on key elements of scholarship and engagement, and incorporates lessons learned from the pandemic. In keeping with the heart of everything we do, "Our Moment in Time" prioritizes student success and our impactful engagement with the city of Detroit and surrounding communities, as well as academic excellence, research that tackles real-world problems, interdisciplinary collaboration, and more. The plan focuses on WSU's long-term vision and goals in the following key areas: research and discovery; teaching, learning and student success; outreach and engagement; diversity, equity and inclusion;and financial sustainability and operational excellence.

Committee charge

Based on the background below, as well as on the input and direction from the Board of Governors and the information to be gathered and analyzed as part of the planning process, the 2022-27 Strategic Plan Steering Committee was charged with developing a new five-year strategic plan for Wayne State University that was approved in January 2022.

The Steering Committee was co-chaired by Dean of the College of Nursing Laurie Lauzon Clabo and Provost Mark Kornbluh, upon his arrival; Vice President for Research Steve Lanier; and Vice President for Communications/Chief of Staff Michael Wright. WSU Board of Governors Chair Marilyn Kelly represented the board. The committee was also supported by MGT Consulting, a consultancy with expertise in higher education strategic planning.

WSU background and progress of current strategic plan

Wayne State University is a premier, public, urban research university located in the heart of Detroit. Founded in 1868, Wayne State today pursues scholarship at the highest levels and serves a diverse body of nearly 25,000 students through a broad array of approximately 350 academic programs.

Since its founding, Wayne State has been inextricably linked to a city that has been a symbol of the American dream and a kaleidoscope of cultures, ambition, inspiration, contradictions and challenges. Following a long period of growth and development, Detroit suffered a period of urban decline unprecedented in American history. In recent years, the spirit and resilience that once made Detroit great has re-emerged in full. New vision, new leadership, willing participation, growing investment, economic growth and, most of all, palpable optimism helped Detroit become a model for the reinvention of the great American city. Even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic that affected Detroit disproportionately and a surge in the demand for social justice that unleashed national protests, the city has continued to move forward with grit and perseverance.

Throughout Detroit's changing fortunes, Wayne State has remained a steadfast partner, playing a lead role in the city's resurgence while maintaining the university's historical commitment to opportunity and excellence.

Opportunity is embodied in the chance for a diverse array of students from across the community and around the world to study at a major research university and prepare for a lifetime of success. It is found in the cultural and community experiences that are unique to a Wayne State education, including the opportunity for students to help remake a city, strive for social justice and serve the people of the community. It is evident in the wide spectrum of academic programs at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels. At Wayne State, students can learn from professors at the forefront of their disciplines and participate in the creation of new knowledge. Most of all, opportunity means a chance for students with desire and talent to achieve their dreams, no matter what their backgrounds.

At Wayne State University, excellence is evident in the quality of its faculty, the caliber of its research and the rigorous academic expectations of its students. It undergirds and guides our endeavors both in and out of the classrooms and labs, and fuels a relentless pursuit of improvement.

2016-21 "Distinctively Wayne State" strategic plan and the last five years

In 2016, Wayne State launched its five-year strategic plan, entitled "Distinctively Wayne State." This plan was molded throughout 2015 with participation from the Board of Governors, all levels of campus, alumni and members of the community at large. It was shared with the entire organization through a series of training and cascading communication activities that solidified the mission, vision and values of Wayne State, and identified the individual and unit roles in achieving the goals and objectives of the plan.

The campus community's embrace of our mission, vision and values and the goals/objectives of "Distinctively Wayne State" resulted in notable successes over the past five years, including:

  • Exceeding our Pivotal Moments campaign goal of $750 million.
  • Exceeding our six-year graduate rate goal of 50% while exhibiting a record rate of improvement.
  • Tripling the Black student six-year graduation rate.
  • Creation of the Office of Multicultural Student Engagement.
  • Increased research grants and expenditures.
  • Increased freshman enrollment, including the three largest freshman enrollments in Wayne State's history.
  • Record applications for the School of Medicine (SOM), now exceeding 10,000 applications annually.
  • A record improvement in the diversity of the SOM's students.
  • Completion of the new Mike Ilitch School of Business, made possible by the largest funding gift in Wayne State's history.
  • Repurposing of an existing campus building to create a new STEM Innovation Center.
  • Positioning of Wayne State and its president as leaders in the fight to eliminate health disparities. This includes leadership during the pandemic on policies for dealing with health disparities, and leadership in the testing and mobile testing of first responders and vulnerable citizens.
  • A joint venture with the Detroit Pistons to build a new G-League arena on Wayne State's campus that will also be used by WSU Athletics and students.

The past several years have also seen challenges and setbacks, all of which will feed into the creation of the next strategic plan. Among these are:

  • Graduation rate disparities: Although the previous strategic plan included the goal of eliminating minority graduation rate disparities, the rapid improvement of the overall graduation rate with the concomitant rapid improvement of the minority graduation rate has limited our ability to close this gap. This is good news for all cohorts, and these trends must continue, but the ability to close the gap will be hindered until the overall graduation rate levels off.
  • Enrollment: The stated goal of the strategic plan was overall enrollment of 30,000; this has not been achieved. Although there have been bright spots in applications/enrollment (e.g., record FTIAC enrollment three years in a row), enrollment in other cohorts (e.g., graduate students, international students) has declined. Some of this is due to external factors beyond the control of WSU (e.g., immigration policies and politics, pandemic reaction, etc.) but some point to opportunities (e.g., transfer, graduate students).
  • Business engagement: Although sporadic progress has been made with select outside organizations, the launch of an integrated WSU system/organization to create and capitalize on business and scientific engagements was slow to materialize. The recent launch of WSU's Office of Business Innovation (OBI), however, will help the university capitalize on this opportunity.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic

In February 2020, Wayne State mobilized a cross-campus team to steer the university through an unprecedented pandemic. The team was guided by three principles:

  • The safety of our campus community is paramount and will guide all decisions.
  • Our people are not responsible for the pandemic and we will, to the extent possible, shield them from the financial and career effects of the pandemic.
  • We must continue to serve our mission faithfully.

These principles resulted in an effort characterized by ongoing, transparent and two-way communications; rapid shifts in our delivery of teaching/learning from in-person to virtual; and new policies and procedures to promote safety and equip people to work/learn/teach in a virtual environment. Feedback from the campus community on WSU's handling of the pandemic has been overwhelmingly grateful and positive. Early in the pandemic, the team's focus shifted from the present to the future, from reaction to planning for a campus restart dependent on the easing of the pandemic. A fourth principle was added to the three: we must learn from the pandemic and apply this learning in the future.

Questions, challenges and opportunities arising from the pandemic as well as the progress, challenges and opportunities experienced during the time of our "Distinctively Wayne State plan will influence the next strategic plan profoundly.

Board retreat output: March 5-6, 2021

The Board of Governors convened for two half-day sessions on March 5 and 6 to discuss the 2022-27 strategic plan. The board discussed the university mission, vision and values, and agreed to a working edit of the vision, and the addition of a new value. The Board also reviewed and discussed information regarding the importance of strategic planning, a potential planning process, and examples of university strategic planning and strategic trends in higher education. These discussions were led by Carol Cartwright, president emeritus of Kent State and Bowling Green University, and a strategic consultant for higher education for the AGB.

Strategic Focus: The board spent considerable time discussing the strategic issues facing Wayne State University and proposed the following subjects for further exploration and potential strategic focus areas for the new plan.

  • Financial sustainability/higher ed business model
  • Enrollment/changing demographics/market disruption
  • Future of graduate education
  • Student Success/Completion/Retention
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Research
  • Entrepreneurship/innovation
  • Community engagement
  • National prominence/rankings/reputation
  • Teaching excellence
  • Facilities/Capital needs

Additional BOG input on strategic issues for consideration by the Steering Committee

  • Space and infrastructure: Master Plan should be revisited in light of ongoing decline of infrastructure and evolving space requirements resulting from pandemic lessons. We need to envision the "campus of the future."
  • Graduate School recruitment efforts need to have a strong focus on current WSU undergraduate students.
  • Continue to solidify our relationship with Detroit and Lansing governments to further the understanding of the importance of WSU and its mission.
  • Research is a competitive advantage and needs to play a key part in our innovation and entrepreneurship efforts.
  • Social justice continues to grow in importance, and the Social Justice Action Committee initiatives need to be folded into the strategic planning efforts.

Planning process:

Based on the success of the process that yielded the 2016-21 strategic plan, the board considered and approved a general process for development of the new plan, with the understanding that the Steering Committee will manage and adjust the process as appropriate. General timing of the phases of development are:

  • Phase 1: Input and analysis (April June)
  • Phase 2: Plan development (July  September)
  • Phase 3: Drafting and refinement (October December)
  • Phase 4: Adoption and implementation (January 2022 December 2027)