Strategic Plan Updates

Plan Update - Brand Revitalization (March 30, 2023)

Strategic Planning Taskforce:  Brand Revitalization Update

Market Share: 8.98%*
Brand Strength (as measured through Net Promotor Score): 27
*Peer group small, private liberal arts colleges from top 20 cross-app schools.

In spring 2022, St. Ambrose University entered a partnership with SimpsonScarborough, a nationally recognized higher education marketing agency, to assess and engage in a comprehensive brand revitalization initiative.  As part of that work, Toby Arquette, PhD, joined St. Ambrose University in July 2023 as the inaugural Vice President for Communications and Marketing.  Arquette has since led the Communications & Marketing (CM) Team through a pivot toward a customer-first, agency-model for brand management. As the university moves strategically to revitalize and grow its brand equity, new team members have joined St. Ambrose:  Jackie Celske (Director of Public Relations & Strategic Communication, Alison Amyx (Director of Marketing Strategy & Insights, Shelley Little (Enrollment Content Creator, and Sara Zainal (Webmaster).  Internally, Randall Goblirsch assumed the role of Director of Enrollment Communications and Marketing while Rebecca Harris-Klawon served as Interim Director of Creative Services. 

Strategic efforts to date have included:  a competitive marketing analysis of peer institutions (June 2022), a paid media campaign for online graduate programs (August 2022), a comprehensive brand perception study (September 2022), development of a brand strategy platform (November 2022), development of a brand experience platform (February 2023), and development and A/B testing new branding creative and content (March 2023).  New refresh to the university homepage was completed as a transition to a new website (January 2023). 

Next steps in this strategic initiative include: production of brand creative print and digital materials (summer 2023), development of a new university website (work begins summer 2023 with deployment summer 2024), a new comprehensive university marketing strategic plan that integrates the new brand (summer 2023), institutional brand paid media campaign (summer 2023), and customer journey mapping for optimizing the student experience (summer 2023).

More tactical activities include the development of media campaigns for graduate marketing (in-process), the development of an athletics marketing tool-kit (in-process), and a more enhanced enrollment communications plan leveraging department outcomes, departmental distinctions, and special departmental initiatives (in-process). We have also developed a web and data governance committee to better understand how data infrastructure is created, used, stored, and managed across campus.  I want to thank the entire branding taskforce for their strong work in moving these new initiatives forward.


Amy Novak

Plan Update - Student Success (March 23, 2023)

Campus Community:  

I am pleased to provide an update on the Student Success Strategic Planning Taskforce. Their work falls under the Accessible category. 

KPI 1: 80% first year, full time retention
KPI 2: 70% graduation rate (6 year)

In January 2022, Christopher Waugh and Ryan Saddler submitted a campus-wide audit of past and current student success strategies, which was delivered to the newly-hired Director of Retention, who immediately began to work on the recommendations of that audit. In June 2022, after a successful 6-month launch, the Student Success Center was joined with the Retention Office, retaining the office title of the Student Success Center (SSC). The newly-formed team has made tremendous progress in building infrastructure related to overall student success at St. Ambrose University under the guidance of Kim Matteson, who served as director of Student Success from June 2022 until January 2023. (The University is currently in the process of searching for a new director, and Dr. Sarah Rissler has stepped-in as the interim director.) A strong infrastructure was built in the first 8 months of the newly-constructed Center's existence, starting with the establishment of the Student Success Task Force in July 2022, followed soon after by the hiring of Tinette Stoner as Assistant Director of the Student Success Center (replacing Dianne Gilchrist, who retired in the summer of 2022). 

Strategic efforts to date have included: Paul Koch and Mike Holmes updated the faculty handbook with specific protocols related to notifications to faculty when students are participating in athletics programs, Christopher Waugh completed an audit of second-year programming and presented findings to the Student Success Task Force in January 2023, and the Student Success team had over 1500 intentional interactions with students of concern throughout the fall semester (and over 2,000 alerts were completed through the ADVISE software system). This information is informing the strategic imperatives for 2023 school year.  

As Coordinator of Success Programs, Sarah Rissler taught 6 sections of the Learning Strategies for Student Success course in the fall 2022 semester, including a second 8-week course. 54 students were employed in the Student Success Center last fall as Supplemental Instruction Leaders, Tutors, Academic Probation Mentors, or Study Group Leaders. 146 individual students participated in study groups/open labs, 213 individual students participated in supplemental instruction sessions, and 325 individual students participated in 1-on-1 tutorials in the fall semester. In addition, the SSC team facilitated ongoing programming and individual appointments for assistance with time management, organization, and test preparation for graduate students. Student Peer Connectors reached out weekly to 12 students, who asked for additional support and reminders about important academic deadlines. We are now beginning a process to benchmark engagement with these activities against academic progress.  

The SSC tutors piloted a new initaitive with the football team. Tutors were available during football study halls this fall to assist with math, writing, and study skills. Athletes and coaches were surveyed to determine effectiveness and the outcomes were positive. The Student Success Center is working to replicate this same program with interested athletic programs during the spring 2023 semester. In the spring of 2023, the SSC is piloting a new course model for the Learning Strategies for Success course, focusing on incoming students with a GPA of less than 3.0, as well as students placed on academic probation who have not taken the course previously. Finally, academic probation programming was redesigned and formalized to include training for 32 new volunteer Academic Success Coaches, which launched in January of 2023.  

I want to thank the team for many tactical efforts to address student needs this fall and spring. This team has been tasked with mapping the student experience from enrollment through graduation and examining best practices, comparing our activities to benchmark institutions, and assessing where new measures may be piloted to yield stronger outcomes. It is noted that retention among African American students and students with entering GPA's below a 3.0 is an area cited for improvement. Strategies are being examined and will be assessed over the summer for potential adoption. 

Additionally, the taskforce is reviewing the use of the ADVISE system and  will be engaging with the faculty student support services committee to better determine how to improve faculty engagement with the tool and to establish a clearly defined set of best practices for use. 
I am grateful to the team for the strong work this year.


Amy Novak 

Plan Update - Strategic Alliance Taskforce (March 10, 2023)

Strategic Alliance Taskforce

Presentation College - We are pleased by the continued discussions with students from Presentation College and new students interested in the LPN-BSN program. To date, we have had discussions with over 100 students. We have 80+ students who have applied to the program from Presentation College and we are working to secure additional enrollments.  We have also had over 30 students who are not affiliated with Presentation College express interest in the program.  There have also been a few students that will be transferring in other majors. Dr. Katie Browning, Dr. Lynn Kilburg, and a team in the Nursing Department have been working with these students on a daily basis. Katie and Lynn have also invested considerable time in securing clinical placements, working on state authorizations, and securing new state approvals through various boards of nursing. Major hospital systems have also committed to funding students in the nursing program through a generous scholarship program.  I'm also pleased to share that we have successfully begun the transfer of curriculum between the two systems. Donnie Ingram has been instrumental in that effort. Dr. Katie VanBlair has been successfully managing the transition of students and student records in this process. The university has also secured some strong endowment gifts and continues to engage with donors who are interested in supporting this program.  At this point, we are on target to meet our revenue goals for the summer and fall in this program.  

Workforce Development - The Workforce Development Initiative was launched last week. Explanatory sessions were held with various constituent groups across campus. Certificate programs are being reviewed through the micro-credential committee if they are non-credit bearing, and will be reviewed by EPC if they are for credit. Many of these certificates will be announced at the Innovation Summit. Lead generation is scheduled to start in May with a launch slated for July/August. As a reminder, most of these are non-credit-bearing certificates designed for industry upskilling and reskilling and bring a more robust set of offerings to our professional development center.  

Come to Believe - A committed team of faculty, staff, and administration from across campus continue to examine the possibility of a 2-year degree pathway at St. Ambrose. More specifically, St Ambrose University received a grant to explore the feasibility of launching a Come to Believe (CTB) model program. The new program consists of pathways for workforce certificates and two-year associate degrees that align directly with existing bachelor degrees in the health sciences, business, and the liberal arts.  The program seeks to serve students who wouldn't otherwise have access to St Ambrose University. The CTB model, first established at Loyola University Chicago, provides commuter students from low-income backgrounds with a unique on-campus college experience featuring rigorous instruction, a strong sense of community, and comprehensive wrap-around support for little to no cost. The extension of wrap-around supports that supports students academically and personally would supplement existing services here at St. Ambrose. At St. Ambrose, we hope to extend what Loyola has done for our traditional 4-year students and on-campus students. We continue to be working through the planning in order to evaluate if this model is feasible at SAU. 

Other strategic alliance activity continues to take place. However, at this time, these conversations are occurring under non-disclosure agreements.  

This work focuses on the Adaptive and Accessible pillars, reinforcing Student Engagement and Innovation pillars.

Plan Update - Modernizing Infrastructure Taskforce (March 10, 2023)

Modernizing Infrastructure Taskforce:

The University hired RDG, an architecture and planning firm, to update the University's campus facilities master plan.  RDG has been on campus three times, and has met with a large number of faculty, staff and students to better understand our needs in the future.  They have provided a preliminary report to the Board of Trustees and plan to provide their final recommendations later this semester. 

The University hired Volz and Company to study the University's residence life offerings and provide recommendations to better meet student's needs.  Volz and Company met with students, surveyed students, studied the off-campus market and analyzed the best methods to finance the improvements needs in our current offerings.  Volz and Company also presented a draft report to the Board of Trustees in January and plan to provide their final recommendations in April. 

The University has been searching for an organization to audit or review our Security function.  The plan is to start this review this spring.  In addition, the Department has purchased new cameras for each residence hall and is studying better security systems in our parking lots.  Staffing levels for Security staff are also being studied.

Additionally, there is a new benchmark being established for all classrooms, with respect to technology and physical infrastructure. This committee is reviewing best practice and these recommendations will come forward in the campus master plan. 

This work focuses on an Aware and Accessible Ambrose, reinforcing the Student Engagement and Faculty/Staff Flourishing pillars.

Plan Update - Developing People and Leadership Initiatives Taskforce (March 10, 2023)

These strategic initiatives are designed to enhance both employee satisfaction and retention. Much of our work will be informed by employee satisfaction assessments and intentional efforts that enhance professional development opportunities for all University employees and equity throughout the University. The key performance indicators are:

  1. Sustain a three-year rolling average of median employee satisfaction ranging from satisfied to highly satisfied, and
  2. Monitor key benchmarks in a campus culture survey. Administration will begin in Fall 2023. The survey will be administered to all faculty and staff annually.  

Some of the work in this area overlaps with Administrative Efficiency work as seen in the initiatives noted below:

  • Agile Leadership - An Agile Leadership training platform has been identified that will be used to train a core group of St. Ambrose Employees during the Summer of 2023. Our goals are for the core group to be in a position by Fall 2024 to lead the agile leadership training which strives to create a more effective and productive work environment. 
  • Flexible Work Arrangements & Satisfaction -The committee assessed feedback from this pilot program as well as information gained from the Fall 2022 staff perception survey. The goal is to implement those changes in March, 2023. Supervisory training was held and a meeting with staff assembly was held. The updates to the policy on flexible work arrangements was shared.

Other initiatives in this area that are in process include: 

Employee Recognition

Awards for Excellence. Each of these awards has monetary value associated with them. The Whalen-Fitzgibbon Award for Creative and Imaginative Teaching will recognize an outstanding faculty member who demonstrates creative and imaginative teaching aligned with the St. Ambrose mission. The President's Award for Staff Excellence will recognize outstanding staff work on campus. Nominations will be sought following Spring Break. Each award provides $2000 to the recipient. The Whalen-Fitzgibbon Award is an endowed award that will be given annually at commencement and is endowed by Bob and Penny Whalen. The President's Award for Staff Excellence is an annual award funded by Ken and Amy Novak.

In addition, the committee is reviewing other ways that employees can be recognized for outstanding work. Our goal is to implement a quarterly employee recognition program Spring 2024.

Professional Development - The team is currently working on determining an applicable and effective professional development platform that provides appropriate growth opportunities for all university employees. Our goal is to have a platform and process available to all University employees by Fall 2023.    

This work focuses on an Adaptive Ambrose, reinforcing the Innovation and Faculty/Staff Flourishing pillars.

Plan Update - Advancement (February 28, 2023)

The Institutional Advancement Team is working toward launching a comprehensive campaign. Our aim is to raise $50 million in 5 years. We have raised $11.5+ million from last year through February 2023, without counting $3.5+ million in pledge payments for past campaigns. The campaign will include promotion of the annual fund, endowment and scholarship funds, planned giving opportunities, and priority strategic and facility projects. We are using new systems and best practices to engage our Board of Trustees and uncover new donors. In addition, we are enhancing our event offerings, corporate partnerships, and campus colleagues with a focus on fundraising.

 This work focuses on an Anchored and Affordable Ambrose, reinforcing the Faith and Tradition pillar.

Plan Update - University-Wide Efficiencies (February 28, 2023)

The Faculty Finance Committee is completing the Academic Efficiency work.  They have identified five departments or programs for further review, developed a rubric to evaluate an academic program and completed the rubric for these five programs.  They are also creating projected contribution statements for each program using the responses they received from each department.  This will allow them to see the impact of the changes recommended by each department.  They intend to make their recommendations to the President's Cabinet soon.    

A committee of faculty and staff is completing the Administrative Efficiency work.  They have designed a rubric to evaluate an administrative area or function and have selected three areas for review.  They plan to receive the rubrics from these three areas later this semester. 

An analysis of the contribution from each athletic team was completed using the results from the fiscal year 2022.  This analysis was shared with the Athletic Director and he is working with the various head coaches to create improvement plans for any team falling below certain contribution levels.  

An outside consultant completed a review and strategic planning process for our Information Technology Department.  The consultant is in the final stages of completing their report but has verbally discussed their recommendations with the Department.  The Department is in the process of implementing its recommendations and a plan is being developed for some of its longer-range recommendations. 

A pilot project to study a year-round flexible work/remote work policy was conducted in the fall 2022 semester.  A survey was sent out to the campus in December 2022 to better understand how the policy worked during the pilot project.  Those survey results are currently being reviewed and a final recommendation on the flexible/remote work policy is expected soon. 

This work focuses on an Affordable and Adaptive Ambrose, reinforcing the Innovation and Faculty/Staff Flourishing pillars.

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