Strategic plan designers seek input from VCU community for a new vision of the university’s future

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The next iteration of Virginia Commonwealth University’s strategic plan has reached a critical juncture, and the plan’s many architects are returning to the wider community for feedback to help refine a document that provides direction for the university and plays a key role in its future.

A strategic plan website,, details the plan development process and the progress made so far in replacing the original Quest for Distinction, the current strategic plan that was implemented in 2012.

Kathleen Shaw, vice provost of planning and decision support in the Office of the Provost, said the strategic plan, which will go into effect next fall and run until 2025, serves as a guide to the allocation of resources and the setting of priorities throughout VCU.

“It provides a systematic structure for the planning for our future,” Shaw said. “It encompasses everything we do here at VCU.”

Gail Hackett, Ph.D., provost and vice president for academic affairs at VCU, and Marsha Rappley, M.D., vice president for health sciences at VCU and CEO of VCU Health, serve as the plan’s co-chairs and are advised by a 49-person steering committee with representatives from across the university’s two campuses. Each of the plan’s five focus areas also has an individual work group — a separate eight-to-12-person team charged with shaping and identifying goals within its given theme. In turn, these teams have task groups to further explore specific goals and develop practical implementation plans.

VCU strategic plan town halls

Oct. 19, 2–3:30 p.m., room 1201, Academic Learning Commons

Oct. 24, 3:30–5 p.m., Baruch Auditorium, Egyptian Building

The five focus areas the steering committee and work groups have explored are leveraging diversity, local impact and social embeddedness, national prominence, student success, and a culture of appreciation. Currently attached to those areas are more than 30 goals. The steering committee will cull and revise the themes and goals in the coming months, sharpening them into a more focused list. (The current Quest for Distinction plan, for instance, contains three themes and eight goals.) The committee will finish implementation plans for the new plan in February, with the goal of finalizing the full strategic plan in April, pending review by the Board of Visitors.

Listening sessions held with the VCU and wider community in November 2016 helped provide initial direction for the plan, and town halls in April 2017 provided additional insight. Now, with the plan at a more advanced stage, those shaping it are reaching out for fresh perspective from a larger audience. VCU will hold two town halls this month to discuss the strategic plan update. The first will be held on Oct. 19 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in room 1201 of the Academic Learning Commons, and the second will be held on Oct. 24 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the Baruch Auditorium of the Egyptian Building.

Montse Fuentes, Ph.D., dean of the College of the Humanities and Sciences, serves as co-chair of the national prominence theme work group with Peter Buckley, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine. She said widespread participation in the development of the plan is critical.

“The process to develop our strategic plan is as important as the results,” she said. “For the process to be valuable to our institution, it needs to be inclusive and our entire VCU community needs to take ownership and accountability. The new VCU strategic plan will enable us to embrace the future, and we all need to be part of that process.”

Fuentes said the strategic plan can only represent a truly shared vision for the university if the VCU community actively participates in the process. She said a strong strategic plan keeps a university from wandering “aimlessly” without direction, as if never sure of its destination.

“The VCU strategic planning process is promoting an open exchange of ideas, while working together on a shared vision and setting of priorities,” Fuentes said. “A strategic plan with only the partial involvement of our VCU community will not lead to desirable results. If we do not get actively involved in creating the plan, we will not be committed to seeing it through. By being actively engaged and part of VCU’s strategizing, we will guarantee VCU’s success as well.”

The strategic plan process also involves the participation of the broader Richmond area. Ashley Hall, manager at the Capital Region Collaborative, a collaborative effort to identify and implement priorities in the region, serves on the task group for the local impact and social embeddedness theme. She is one of many community members who are involved in the process. Hall said VCU’s role as an anchor institution — a large enterprise rooted in its community — makes it imperative that the future scope and work of the university includes input from the community and reflects the region’s priorities.

“VCU’s strategic plan touches so many sectors and focus areas throughout our community, from health to education to arts and culture,” Hall said. “The work of VCU and our community will both be stronger if there is input and collaboration from diverse perspectives.”

Hall said it has been rewarding to be involved in the plan’s development so far.

“It’s been a fantastic opportunity to learn where VCU is headed and how that intersects with current regional work,” Hall said. “VCU has such a wealth of resources, from groundbreaking research to impactful student projects. We’re excited to be at the table now and moving forward to continue to build connections.”


For more information about VCU’s 2025 strategic plan, visit