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Strategic Planning

2023-2028 Strategic Plan

Updated June 20, 2023

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Guiding Principles and Goals

Western Colorado University has an unwavering commitment to providing an exceptional educational experience to all students, and we take pride in the values that inform our collective vision. With the Rocky Mountains as our laboratory and the Gunnison Valley as our community, our location offers a unique value proposition for a public institution. Western is a premier provider of rigorous, immersive education and champions intellectual exploration, critical thinking, and integrity, all while inspiring innovation. We offer an inclusive and personalized academic experience that enhances the lives of our students and their communities, now and into the future.

We do this with CourageInclusivity, and Integrity to promote Growth in all Mountaineers as we provide Stewardship for our community and world.

Values and Priorities

Every five years, we craft a strategic plan based on our Vision and Values. The plan was developed through a process that was:

  • Inclusive and Respectful: We engaged students, faculty, staff, alums, community leadership, employers, and trustees as co-creative participants, reaffirming a sense of belonging while respecting current workloads and making use of previous and concurrent work (e.g., the HLC self-study).
  • Data-Informed: We used the best available data to inform discussion, strategies, and tactics, and to assess success.
  • Transparent: We communicated consistently and clearly, following a public timeline, and including opportunities for engagement which will continue across all five years of the plan’s implementation.

Guiding Principles

The plan incorporates five fundamental guiding principles:


  • Financial Stewardship of the University: The financial health of the university is fundamental to carrying out our mission. Responsible stewardship of our financial resources will underlie all aspects of our work.
  • Sustainability: Western is a leader in sustainability, and issues of sustainability are central to many degree programs. We will capitalize on this to make all aspects of Western’s operations sustainable—both socially and environmentally—with questions of sustainability appearing across Western’s curriculum.
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice plus (DEIJ+): Western has made progress in diversity, but the work of making the university a more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and just learning environment and workplace remains a priority and our curriculum will reflect the diversity of our local and global communities.
  • Sense of Place and Belonging: Among Western’s most important characteristics is its mountain valley location and how that develops a sense of place, in both social and environmental contexts. We will cultivate relationships with local and regional communities to ensure access and career success for students. We will emphasize “place as a teacher” using Western’s unique location and history, serving local organizations in our curriculum, engagement, and recruitment.
  • Global Outlook: Western is global in its outlook and we prepare students for work and citizenship in a globalized world. We will embrace this global perspective and apply it across the university in student and faculty recruitment, scholarly engagement, institutional relationships, and curriculum development.

Strategic Goals

Why is this important? Metrics
Western strives to provide a learning and working environment where students, faculty and staff feel valued and all have the opportunity to thrive and succeed. Western will be a desirable place for diverse people to authentically work, learn, express, collaborate, and grow. Key Metric

  • Campus Climate

Secondary Metrics

  • Student Success (retention, persistence and completion)
  • Workforce Retention

How do we get there?

Community, Wellness, & Sense of Belonging

This initiative is designed to promote an institution where faculty, staff, and students identify Western as a welcoming place to work and learn with a strong community and quality of life. This initiative includes, but is not limited to, security, access to mental health resources, and personal connection in order for all to thrive. Western’s classrooms, offices, common spaces, and events should reflect a robust culture of student engagement and wellness centered on learning.

Rather than individual Student Affairs department programming, the curricular approach to student engagement is a national best practice that offers a more cohesive means to efficiently use campus resources which requires staff to evaluate programming based upon student learning and development. Shifting to this curricular approach provides intentionality, structure, and sequenced learning applied to college student experiences beyond the classroom.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice are primary values of the Western community and a fundamental principle of this Strategic Plan. All Western community members have a responsibility to incorporate an on-going, informed dialogue on wellness, diversity, equity, inclusion and justice into daily work. Training is essential for faculty, staff, and students to examine their roles and interactions with personal, social, cultural, and environmental awareness. Using “place as teacher,” we see a model of a diverse and thriving ecosystem.  Staff and faculty offering a broader perspective will enrich community members’ educational and professional experiences in unique ways, elevating the inclusive standard of the institution. Including and empowering community voices will promote buy-in throughout the learning process and, as a result, community members will understand the importance of these efforts to their personal success and to the success of the organization.

We will accomplish this through:

  • Developing strategic opportunities for student engagement and community building.
  • Advancing a culture that promotes mental health, wellness, and safety for faculty, staff, and students.
  • Promoting inclusive policies, programs, and learning environments that strengthen an institutional culture in which diverse faculty, staff, and students trust they are welcome, valued, and safe.

Creation of a Culture of Value and Support

This initiative is designed to develop students’ and employees’ potential to find stability in change, connect to a common vision, and employ their voices in a fruitful and powerful way. Faculty, staff, and students should have confidence in the structures and forums available for communication and advocacy, and they should have a strong belief that their concerns will be heard and addressed.

This initiative is also designed to ensure that faculty and staff feel supported and fulfilled as individuals and as professionals. We will succeed as a learning community that values high-quality faculty and staff and empowers them to engage students and colleagues for long-term growth. This initiative is designed to retain strong professionals by demonstrating that they have a permanent place at Western and that they have respect, autonomy, and opportunities to grow and advance in their careers.

We will accomplish this though:

  • Cultivation of strategies and forums that encourage proactive and meaningful communication and empower the voices of faculty, staff, and students.
  • Creating a comprehensive compensation plan for all Western employees. This will include systemizing a culture of value for non-tenure track faculty and staff by innovating titles, salary structures, contracts, benefits, and opportunities for professional activity.
  • Development of supervision, evaluation, and knowledge management best practices.

Meeting Western’s Housing Needs

Western continues to develop short-term and long-term solutions to the housing challenges facing our faculty and staff. This initiative has been developed through an in-depth assessment of these challenges and includes recommendations regarding student housing as a significant factor in student recruitment and retention.

We will accomplish this through:

  • A short-term strategy of developing rental property access for employees through Multi-Unit Lease Agreement(s) to secure roughly 15 units (mix of 1, 2 and 3 bedrooms).
  • A long-terms strategy to develop construction of new faculty and staff housing units, and development of relationships with local entities to expand current opportunities.
  • Development of a Housing Assistance Fund to assist with initial rental costs and down payment assistance by offering low- or no-interest loans to faculty and staff.
  • Development of a planning process regarding student on-campus residence halls including plans for renovation, potential expansion, funding opportunities to complete deferred maintenance, and constituency housing.

Why is this important? Metrics
Demographic shifts towards more diverse, less affluent, and more first-generation students require the university to ensure that a Western education is financially attainable Key Metric

  • Net Cost of Attendance

Secondary Metrics

  • Student Debt
  • Scholarship Dollars Available
  • Distribution of Scholarship Dollars

How do we get there?

Cost Reduction

The overall cost of attendance at Western continues to increase and is cost-prohibitive for many students, particularly those from Colorado’s Western Slope. Projections of future student demographics indicate this trend will continue. Western will look to reduce the overall cost of attendance for students in order to make a Western degree more attainable.

We will accomplish this through:

  • Creation of a proposal to the Colorado legislature’s Capital Construction Fund to reduce Western’s facility fee to students.
  • Supporting and encouraging the use of low- and no-cost instructional materials, including open educational resources, in place of costly textbooks.

Enhance Scholarship Resources and Optimize Technology to Deliver

In the continuing effort to make our campus more accessible and affordable, Western must increase funding resources for students and enhance the application and awarding process through optimization of existing technology. In addition, Western should enhance fundraising initiatives introduced through the Elevate Western Campaign, including First Generation, Gunnison Valley Promise, NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), and Mountain Sports scholarships. Increasing scholarship resources and simplifying the financial aid packaging and application process will directly enhance affordability and accessibility.

We will accomplish this through:

  • Reintroduction of the campaign liaison model within each academic unit to foster increased fundraising communication and collaboration.
  • Development of a network of funding source experts across campus to assess opportunities and maximize collaboration.
  • Assessment and full utilization of scholarship-related platforms.
  • Possible adoption of a student-friendly financial aid portal.

Why is this important? Metrics
The Colorado Commission on Higher Education’s (CCHE’s) 2023 Strategic Plan focuses on ensuring that students receive a positive financial return on their educational investment, backed by data suggesting economic mobility is a central reason for post-secondary learning. Western will be responsive to the expectations of Colorado citizens and our students by demonstrating the value of a Western degree. Key Metric

  • Alumni Satisfaction and Success

Secondary Metrics

  • Percentage of programs with Professional Pathways
  • Percentage of faculty fully engaged with Center for Teaching, Learning and Mentoring
  • Percentage of GE courses incorporating strategic plan guiding principle(s)

How do we get there?

Professional Pathways

This initiative is aligned with the CCHE’s 2023–2027 strategic plan, which prioritizes building bridges toward economic mobility and career opportunity for learners with special attention toward learners from diverse ethnic, racial, economic, and geographic backgrounds. Nationally, 55% of surveyed alumni report that career success was a top motivation for pursuing a college education – higher than intellectual development (42%) and financial gain (39%) (National Alumni Career Mobility Survey). These statistics underscore the importance of recognizing that prospective students and families increasingly make college enrollment decisions based on career outcomes.

We will accomplish this through:

  • Supporting and promoting curricular innovation and instructional excellence, working with all programs to develop industry connections in the field and promoting professional pathways for students.
  • Implementing robust and relevant opportunities for students, community members, and life-long learners across the country to earn certificates and micro-credentials for enhanced career progress.
  • Creation of an ecosystem of wholistic mentoring and career success as part of a comprehensive academic advising model that integrates both professional staff and faculty in every academic program across the campus to provide support and guidance through the entire academic and career exploration cycle.

Liberal Arts

This initiative will improve the value of a Western education and degree by strengthening the liberal arts education that lies at the heart of the Western undergraduate curriculum, bringing it into line with current best practices and increasing its relevance to the twenty-first century world of students’ professional and personal lives. The creation of distinctive curriculum is intended to aid recruitment, thereby contributing to the financial stewardship of the institution.

We will accomplish this through:

  • Placing a strong liberal arts core at the heart of the undergraduate Western experience.
  • Supporting and encouraging interdisciplinary research and teaching in general education and elsewhere, with an emphasis on the Guiding Principles of DEIJ+, sustainability, global outlook, and sense of place.
  • Supporting and encouraging curricular innovation across academic departments and graduate and undergraduate programs, bringing course offerings into alignment with the Guiding Principles of DEIJ+, sustainability, global outlook, and sense of place.

Teaching Excellence

This initiative will increase teaching effectiveness and improve student learning outcomes by providing faculty development opportunities.

We will accomplish this through:

  1. Establishing a Center for Teaching, Learning and Mentoring CTLM (Center for Teaching,  Learning and Mentoring) that will support and guide faculty in developing courses and curriculum rooted in the Strategic Plan’s Guiding Principles.
  2. Leveraging CTLM resources to increase and enhance access to a Western education through optimized use of educational technologies in online, hybrid, and in-person learning environments.

Why is this important? Metrics
Students are at the heart of Western’s mission and are the key driver of fiscal stability and growth. In an increasingly competitive market, balancing enrollment growth with a focus on academic excellence and responsibility for fiscal management is paramount. Key Metrics

  • Enrollment Market Share
  • Financial Sustainability

Secondary Metrics

  • Net Tuition Revenue
  • Operating Margin Ratio
  • Reserve Ratio
  • Viability Ratio
  • Deferred Maintenance
  • Percentage change in revenue from state support

How do we get there?

Develop and implement a responsible and sustainable enrollment management plan

An institution-wide responsibility, the enrollment management plan will focus on what is best for students and how we facilitate their success while addressing key aspects of the institution’s mission. The plan will outline strategies to achieve and maintain optimal student recruitment, retention, and persistence while meeting the institution’s fiscal and academic enrollment goals. The plan will be developed with an eye to inclusivity and continuity.

We will accomplish this through:

  • Expanding campus expertise in strategic enrollment planning and student success.
  • Fostering a culture of data-guided decision-making concerning sustainable enrollment management plan actions.
  • Building and communicating a comprehensive enrollment plan.

Create and implement a visionary and compelling marketing plan that capitalizes on Western’s strengths and unique characteristics

Western will develop and implement a marketing plan that clearly identifies and analyzes target demographics; strategizes how to achieve marketing goals while maximizing resources and increasing efficiencies; tracks and measures results; and assigns roles with accountability and responsibility.

We will accomplish this through:

  • Revitalizing Western’s brand to better reflect the voice, initiatives, and community of the campus and the Gunnison Valley.
  • Building diversity and inclusion in internal and external marketing efforts.
  • Partnering with alumni relations, graduate studies, academic departments, Center for Teaching, Learning and Mentoring (CTLM), and concurrent enrollment programs to create awareness and consistency in voice and brand.

Implement a Comprehensive Budget Development Process

Recognizing the need for a budgeting architecture that is both systematic and flexible, the development of a comprehensive budget plan will require the development (and broad socialization) of policies and practices that: clearly define how Western sets priorities that align with the institutional mission, vision, and strategic plan goals; guide the operations of program planning and development; direct our process of resource allocation; and align with the evaluation of the quality and effectiveness of academic and support activities.

We will accomplish through:

  • Building a comprehensive annual budget process.
  • Guiding the operations of programs’ planning and development.
  • Evaluation of resource allocation.
  • Review of fee structures.
  • Facilitating coordination such that fundraising partners can work collaboratively.
  • Communication of fundraising goals across campus.
  • Updating a needs assessment so that Western stakeholders gather to share and assess overall University needs.

Appendix: Strategic Plan Concept Papers for Initiatives and Resources


Dates Milestone(s)
August – October, 2022
  • Appoint Steering Committee
  • Steering Committee and Trustees draft Guiding Principles and Goals
  • Campus input
  • October 6: Trustees finalize goals
  • Task forces assembled
October – February
  • Task forces develop initiatives
  • Campus and stakeholder input
February – April
  • Trustee, campus and community input on draft strategic plan
By July
  • Trustees approve final plan

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