Colgate University, now entering its third century, is a distinctive and strong undergraduate liberal arts institution of national reach and reputation. It has an excellent faculty, who are scholars and teachers of the first order. It attracts students of achievement and promise from around the nation and the world. Its alumni have obtained remarkable success as national civic, commercial, and community leaders, and they remain deeply interested in and loyal to Colgate. The University enjoys a campus of remarkable beauty. Further, Colgate’s intangible qualities — its energy, its unique size and character, its history — make it distinctive in the landscape of higher education. Colgate University looks toward its third century, therefore, with both pride and a sense of possibility.
Colgate now seeks to pursue its mission at an even higher level, to establish the University, more firmly than today, as one of the small handful of truly outstanding colleges and universities in the nation and the world.
This Third-Century Plan is a long-term plan for that quest, a framework to help guide the trustees, the alumni and friends of the University, the administration, and the faculty over many years — even decades — as Colgate seeks to achieve the highest fulfillment of its mission. As Colgate enters its third century, it is incumbent on those who steward the institution and those who enjoy its current benefits to determine which initiatives will best strengthen the University and then to vigorously pursue those initiatives over many years. The legacy of the founders of the University demands that we be ambitious. The mission of the University requires that we enter a period of sustained boldness.
The achievement of the highest form of expression of the University will depend on the extent that trustees, administrators, and faculty are focused, over a significant period of time, on the following fundamentals for Colgate’s future:
Within each of these areas, this plan identifies both new initiatives and existing strengths that should be enhanced. The initiatives are designed to ensure that Colgate remains competitive with those colleges and universities to which it wishes to be compared. It is a plan to move Colgate robustly forward, maintaining those characteristics that have long-defined the campus — its unique size, its energy, the totality of the student experience, the quality of the faculty and their commitment to teaching and scholarship — while achieving more, and being recognized for those new levels of achievement.
While it is surely the case that Colgate must, by necessity, sequence these initiatives and prioritize certain plans over others, it is also deeply important that the University stay mindful of all of its programs and endeavors. To allow, or accept, mediocrity in some areas harms the institution in its totality. Thus, the plan described below avoids the temptation to focus only on one or two areas of university life. It seeks to be comprehensive in approach, offering plans for all divisions of the University.
To fully meet the requirements of each initiative described herein will take many years — decades perhaps. To fund these endeavors will require a series of fundraising campaigns and a concentrated effort to increase the University’s resources. But a consistent and sustained focus on these fundamental goals and the plans to achieve them will ensure the continuous strengthening of Colgate. Institutional excellence is not achieved simply through the articulation of a series of short-term steps. It is achieved through deliberation, analysis, and execution — all in service of a widely embraced, deeply understood, long-term institutional vision.
All the plans and initiatives outlined below will rely on the University’s financial foundation and Colgate’s capacity to increase its financial resources. Any proposed new activity or endeavor will have to be considered against available resources and potential fundraising support. It is imperative that the implementation of these initiatives in total result in a financially stronger institution — that the resources each requires be identified and obtained and that investments in programs have measurable returns in reach, reputation, or financial soundness.
Some initiatives will be launched before all resources for their ultimate attainment are identified. This is true of much planning at any university, relying as any college or university does on fundraising and constituent support. But a long-term financial plan for each initiative must be developed and consistently monitored.
Over the course of the University’s first two centuries, Colgate has established a considerable endowment that supports the University’s ongoing activities. For multiple decades, Colgate has maintained an endowment spending policy designed to both regularize the amount of funds that are available to the operating budget in any given year (smoothing out the inevitable rise and fall of endowment returns, thus enabling the University to reasonably plan its annual operating budget expenditures) while also preserving intergenerational equity. This spending policy has served the institution well. So, while the plans described below are ambitious and will call on the University to invest in a number of new endeavors, they must preserve this endowment spending policy.
It is important to recognize that this plan summarizes and organizes the work of many Board and campus-based governance committees and administrative offices over many years. Its continued development will also rely on the work of standing campus and Board committees. For this plan to become reality, it will have to rely on and engage the campus through the traditional ways that a university works, embedding it in sound governance structures. Fortunately, Colgate has such a sound foundation in place.
Starting in 2016, the Board of Trustees underwent a nearly two-year-long governance reorganization, creating a new Board committee structure designed to focus trustee work on long-term strategy and the oversight of its fiduciary obligations. Four new programmatic committees were created — Academic Mission and Programs, Campus Life and Programs, University Outreach, and University Resources — to align Board activity with the major planning efforts of the campus. These committees — newly constituted and charged — have established a long-term strategic view and have sought to establish, with campus committees, the priorities for each of their respective areas.
On campus, meanwhile, a strategic planning effort was launched that was designed to use existing campus governance. In 2018, the University president charged a number of campus committees to develop long-term plans in key areas of the University. These committees — some standing faculty governance committees, some specially constituted task forces and working groups — worked in earnest throughout the 2018–19 academic year. These committees, when beginning their work, took careful notice of the many reports and recommendations created by faculty committees that had gone before them. In a number of areas — the arts, residential life, campus planning generally — there were actually dozens of prior reports and studies to guide present work. This plan, thus, represents the accumulated effort of decades of Colgate faculty and trustee work.
In the 2018–19 year, the faculty voted to expand the membership of the Advisory and Planning Committee, a long-standing advisory committee of faculty governance, to allow it to guide the president on the development of this plan. This body will retain its expanded size and charge throughout the 2019–20 academic year, and perhaps past that year, so that it can serve as a coordinating campus-based strategic planning committee.
Through these governance structures, this Third-Century Plan should be continuously monitored and adjusted. This plan should serve as a living document, not a static plan that, once adopted, sits on shelves in decanal offices, neither guiding administrative action nor inspiring the campus or its constituents.