In an era marked by economic dislocation and uncertainty, Sarah Lawrence confronts urgent challenges unique to its very costly but most effective faculty-intensive, student-centered operating model. These challenges in turn present us with a pivotal opportunity to renew the College’s leadership role and strengthen our capacity to deliver on our mission.
Some of the challenges we face, such as the extremely turbulent economic climate, shifting demographics and emerging student expectations, are global and affect the higher education community generally. Even the best endowed institutions are experiencing financial pressures, and, like society at large, are recognizing and working to respond to the needs of an increasingly diverse population of students, faculty and staff. At the same time, the very premise of a liberal arts education is undergoing intense scrutiny. Colleges and universities are being called upon to examine their education models and to assess whether their long-cherished, much-defended traditions are adequate to the task of preparing young people for a world of permanent change and uncertainty; they are being asked to demonstrate that a liberal arts education is worth the cost.
Other challenges are specific to the College: a time- and labor-intensive education model; a small endowment; low awareness and recognition of the benefits of the Sarah Lawrence model; below-average alumni engagement and giving due to inconsistent attention to development and alumni relations; under-investment in facilities; our location in one of the most expensive geographic markets in the nation, and the physical limits of College’s footprint, situated as it is in the midst of a suburban community.
We take these challenges as a defining opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to our core teaching model, and build our reputation, while at the same time innovating for our future and strengthening our capacity to deliver on our mission.
Building on our traditional strengths in student-centered and practice-based learning, we will re-assert our leadership by raising awareness of the benefits of our model and the achievements of our faculty, students and alumnae/i. Through curricular developments, new cross-disciplinary programs built on existing academic strengths, institutional partnerships and innovations in student assessment, we will extend our reach while managing the costs and risks of expanding our offerings.
By more effectively communicating the benefits of our distinctive model to a wider group of students who would thrive at Sarah Lawrence, and by addressing affordability issues, we will increase our applicant pool, achieve greater diversity and balance our financial aid mix.
By cultivating a vibrant student community that promotes social and intellectual development and is responsive to the needs of individual students, we will enhance retention and long term attachment to the College.
We are committed to sustaining and enhancing a diverse and inclusive learning, working and living community. Diversity enables a genuine liberal arts education, in which the presence of people with different experiences and ideas, engaged in critical dialogue, overcomes ignorance and builds trust and knowledge.
The College will strengthen our foundations through initiatives that fortify the distinctive attributes of our educational model, with an emphasis on the First Year Experience, Donning, the Conference System and our unparalleled commitment to faculty-student contact and Practice-Based Learning.
We will build our capacity to deliver on our mission through enhanced fund-raising and revenue generation, an emphasis on sustainability, more effective management practices that support our faculty and staff, and through the strategic realignment of resources to sustain core activities while realizing emergent priorities.
By taking on the opportunity in the challenge, we will bring Sarah Lawrence to new levels of prominence and put the College on a solid footing for further achievement.