MIDDLEBURY, Vt.?On Saturday, May 6, the Middlebury College board of trustees unanimously approved a new strategic plan, titled "Knowledge without Boundaries," which seeks to establish the institution as one with a global focus while strengthening its core mission as an undergraduate liberal arts college through increased financial aid, a larger faculty, and enhanced residential life.
Work on the document, which includes 82 recommendations, began in October 2004. Throughout the process, planners sought the input of students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and trustees. The final plan is the college's first new strategic plan since 1992, and is available online.
Middlebury College President Ronald D. Liebowitz said, "The plan combines the values and essence of what historically has made a Middlebury liberal arts education so meaningful and effective, with some special and unique attributes that align with major 21st century issues."
According to Liebowitz, the plan recognizes the timeliness of the college's unique resources that support international education, from its nine intensive language schools and seven schools abroad to its recent affiliation with the Monterey Institute of International Studies. "We envision innovative collaboration among these entities and others to provide Middlebury students with multiple ways to meet the challenges and opportunities of globalization," he said.
"These resources, once integrated, will distinguish Middlebury from other liberal arts colleges, and set the stage for what could become a truly global institution. Our goal is to educate students who will be highly competitive in a larger international context," added Liebowitz.
Increased financial aid is also identified as a top priority, said Secretary of the College John Emerson, who chaired the planning committee and will oversee the plan's implementation. "Larger grants to those students who need financial assistance will allow Middlebury graduates to enter the work force with less debt and greater freedom to pursue the careers of their choice, including nonprofit work," he said. More financial aid also supports another of the plan's key recommendations maintaining and expanding the diversity, including the socioeconomic and ethnic diversity, of the student body.
Liebowitz said it is equally critical to add to the size of the faculty by approximately 10 percent in an effort to intensify student-faculty interaction, increasing opportunities for close collaboration and student-faculty research. "A faculty devoted to and focused on undergraduate education is at the heart of a liberal arts college education. Direct and close contact between students and faculty promotes critical thinking and written and oral skills that are invaluable regardless of one's area of study or future career path." said Liebowitz.
The plan also calls for more programmatic support for the commons, Middlebury's residential system, by expanding opportunities for students to interact with faculty on a regular basis outside of the classroom. The plan encourages larger roles for the commons heads, who are also faculty members, so that students' academic and residential lives are more closely integrated.
The remainder of the plan's recommendations covers all facets of the college, from faculty and staff development, to student extracurricular and social opportunities. The document also addresses Middlebury's graduate and specialized programs, campus infrastructure, and environmental stewardship. Detailed models on how the plan will be financed are included as well.
The process of implementing the plan has already begun. More financial aid will be available beginning with the class that enrolls in the fall of 2007, and plans are underway to expand the faculty size. The increase will take place gradually, at a rate of three to four faculty members a year, and will be complete by 2015. A recent $20 million donation from an anonymous donor will help support the college's efforts to proceed with these changes.