Professor discusses unexpected benefits of strategic planning
Sanjay Paul

The article appeared in The Etownian, Nov. 3, 2011.

Strategic Planning (SP) at Elizabethtown College continues at a furious pace. If you are not a member of one of the five committees involved in SP, you probably have little idea about the work being carried out by these committees (and especially by the co-chairs).

Take the Campus Community committee. The group meets once every week for about 90 minutes. The members read different posts on Blackboard. They post comments on discussion threads. They even have a speakerphone in the meeting room in Wenger so they can include an alumna in their conversation. An alumna! She takes the time to join the group from Philadelphia and offer suggestions. If this was not promoting community on a grand scale, well at least at a state-wide level, Homer didn’t know what was.

But Homer suspected most of his colleagues were blissfully ignorant of such activities. They went about their daily lives—humdrum, mundane, uneventful lives, he thought—without experiencing the excitement of being involved in SP. These people did not realize that SP could alter everything!

The campus facilities, the curriculum, the relationship with alumni, the size of the student body (set to expand if you go to the Blue Bean and choose the scones with icing over those without—a friendly warning!)—all were being discussed at great length in these committees. Soon ideas will be put to paper, reports will be drawn up and an outline of the college’s strategic plan will begin to appear.But that is still a few weeks away. Yet the effects of SP have been felt already.

Take the Campus Community committee again. Recently the committee hosted a lunch where members of various groups (mostly staff) were invited to share their ideas on promoting community. It was an informal forum, and people could speak their minds without fear of reprisal. Several good ideas and suggestions emerged, including the pressing need to distinguish between the Business Office and the Business Department. The unfortunate nomenclature has been the cause of perennial confusion: The Business Office ends up getting all the hate mail sent to the chair of the Business Department, and the Business Department. receives vast numbers of checks made payable to the Business Office. (The department has its crack minds working on how to take advantage of the situation legally).

But it was another item that really captured Homer’s attention. Ever since coming to Elizabethtown, he had been buying groceries from Giant, blissfully unaware of a financial arrangement between the College and a local establishment that would have saved him hundreds, or at least tens, of dollars in grocery bills. Turns out that college employees are entitled to a 5 percent discount at Darrenkamp’s—and apparently Homer was the last person to know about it! But he is grimly determined to make use of the discount, as soon as he finds out where Darrenkamp’s is.

Still later, just as he was recovering from the shock of the Darrenkamp’s disclosure, Homer was jolted anew by another discovery. Thanks to further revelations in the Campus Community meetings, he learnt that he was entitled to an employee discount on Verizon calling plans! And all these years he had been paying through his nose for AT&T’s undiscounted service!

Good heavens—what else did he not know about employee perks at the college? Perhaps there were discounts on travel to Indonesia, or coupons for foot massages? Maybe 10 percent off on laundry bills or Blu-ray Redbox rentals?

But better late than never, thought Homer philosophically. Sooner or later, all this good stuff was going to come out, and his colleagues would be making a beeline for Darrenkamp’s, Verizon cellphones clutched in their hands. They might even begin to have warm thoughts about SP.

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