Over the next 18 months, Smith will be actively engaged in creating a strategic plan to focus our efforts over the next decade. Building upon our core mission of providing an engaging and excellent liberal arts education to women, the plan will reflect the distinctive characteristics and advantages of the college. We begin our efforts from a position of strength, with a talented and engaged student body, an excellent faculty, distinguished for their teaching and research, dedicated staff, and extraordinary facilities. Our new plan will build on the momentum of the last strategic plan and its related fund-raising campaign, whose initiatives have propelled the college forward in recent years: the Brown Fine Arts Center, the Campus Center, the Kahn Institute for the Liberal Arts, the Poetry Center, the Center for Women and Financial Independence, Praxis, and, of course, the Picker Engineering Program.
Why plan now? Faculty have been engaged in a careful review of the curriculum for the past year, giving particular attention to the capacities that we want all of our students to develop in their time here. I believe that complementing these discussions with equally reflective reviews of other areas of student experience and campus operations will produce a set of strong initiatives. The admission picture for Smith and for other liberal arts colleges has become increasingly competitive in recent years, as students broaden their choices. Responding to this trend requires institutional reflection, focus, and reinvestment. The budget flexibility created by recent financial planning efforts provides the foundation on which to undertake a meaningful planning process. In addition, we will be able to integrate findings from the Common Ground project into our deliberations. Finally, we have the opportunity to integrate the college's 10-year re-accreditation, scheduled for 2007, with this process.
The aim of our planning efforts is to identify the goals and priorities most critical for the college over the next decade. I expect to complete the planning process by the end of spring 2007. This spring, we will begin a review of Smith's current strengths and challenges. This process will include opportunities for faculty, staff, students, and alumnae to identify and comment on important issues facing the college. By spring's end, my hope is that we can articulate six to eight critical issues. Over the subsequent academic year, we will work to develop, analyze, and prioritize specific initiatives for making progress in each of these critical areas-an action plan for achieving our strategic vision. These initiatives will, in turn, shape our fund raising goals.
I have already begun a set of conversations with alumnae entitled "Shaping the Future of Smith." In small gatherings, most often at alumnae homes, I ask two questions: What in your view are the distinctive strengths of Smith that shape the college's opportunities in the future? And, what are the capacities you feel we should develop in all of our students in their time here? These conversations have been vigorous and invigorating. Alumnae have spoken about the importance of critical thinking, of public speaking, of quantitative reasoning, of science and science literacy, of developing leadership, of the strength of the arts at Smith, of study abroad and international education. In the spring semester, I will be extending this conversation to the campus. Faculty, staff and students will have forums to identify and discuss the priorities that they feel are most critical for the college at this time.
The Committee on Mission and Priorities will serve as the steering committee for the strategic planning process. While my preference is to use the college's various standing committees to develop and review strategies to respond to the critical issues emerging from this process, I may also appoint special ad-hoc working groups to explore issues in greater detail, as needed. Early next semester, we will announce dates and times for campus conversations about the future of the college, as well as an interactive Web site that will foster dialogue throughout the planning process. I look forward to your participation.
Carol T. Christ