In September 2021, AS&E Student Life launched a strategic planning process with a clear goal of making the AS&E student experience a true center of excellence and pride for Tufts University.
AS&E Student Life Strategic Plan
Our strategic goals include many measures, processes, and actions designed to improve the student experience and develop professionals within Student Life. In the Strategic Plan, there are 20 initiatives associated with five goals and many action items that contribute to the overall advancement and accomplishment of the goals. The goals are as follows:
Universities and Student Affairs offices across the country are actively redefining the value of a college education. One lesson the pandemic taught was how valuable, and irreplaceable, residential student life truly is. It also taught us how great the demand and need for health and wellness services is among students, especially mental health services.
The Dean of Students Office has a transformational opportunity to reset its offering, culture, and role at Tufts. We will shift away from solely being a service provider, often giving high-touch service to students and parents and shift to also being responsible and accountable for the “whole student.”
Initiative #1: Essential Life Skills Planning
Map out what life skills are needed when and by whom to develop student goals, outcomes, and an educational framework.
Initiative #2: Redefine Health and Well-Being
Meet high demand for health and mental health services by redefining the offering and delivery systems. Having a strong student culture of participation, engagement, and kindness will be the foundation for our health and well-being goals.
Initiative #3: Elevate Career Services
Meet increasing demand for career services to prepare undergraduate and graduate students for work and life after Tufts.
Initiative #4: Staff Development, Motivation, and Recognition
Create or augment a professional development program so Student Life staff are informed, inspired, and equipped to deliver on our mission and strategic plan.
Initiative #5: Educate and Enlist Parents and Families Early
Engage parents and families early, preparing them for the transition in their relationship with their now adult students and enlisting them as collaborators in their students’ development of core life skills.
Students and campus partners found the Student Life organization confusing, not knowing if “DOSA, or the Dean of Student Affairs” referred to the whole organization, the dean’s office, or a select group of DOSA leadership. Research also indicated many students and campus partners lack basic knowledge about Student Life and its resources.
Initiative #1: Student Life Identity
Leverage the “post-COVID” pivot point with a reframing of Student Life, presenting a team motivated by highly professional, productive, and personalized standards.
Initiative #2. Scope Refinement
Redefine student services and resources provided by Student Life to reset support expectations.
Initiative #3: Student Life Communication Campaign
Reset the Tufts community’s expectations of students and Student Life with the launch and introduction to Life Skills education and a new Student Affairs role and voice. Continue to build reputation and value throughout the five-year plan.
Students and institutions alike benefit from belonging to a community. Community is so much more than living and learning together under one roof. It’s how we relate to one another. It can build connection, character, skills, and loyalty. For Tufts, an institution that promotes active citizenship and diversity, community experience is arguably more important than at other institutions.
Emerging from COVID, students and the Tufts Community yearn for connection and integration. They want to come together and belong to something bigger. This is our moment to move towards being One Tufts.
For Tufts to create an overarching community and integrated experience, we ought to promote and deepen the shared values that attracted students to Tufts in the first place. Creating shared community experiences, whether for personal growth or simply for fun and socializing, will advance this goal for students, faculty, and staff alike.
Initiative #1: “One Tufts” Community Values Program
Leverage the good relationships and common ground among students, faculty, and staff to make more connections of Tufts’ “little communities” and university silos to build the larger Tufts community.
Initiative #2: Build Signature Civic Engagement and Restorative Practices Programs to Build Community Bonds
Elevate civic engagement and restorative practices to tap into Tufts’ core values, students’ passions, and the need to engage everyone in building One Tufts.
Initiative #3: Significantly Improve the Residential Experience
Improve the residential experience through increased programming aiming to become an industry leader.
Initiative #4: Revitalize the Student Social Experience
Improve the student social experience through increased programming of community-wide events promoting a culture of inclusion and providing a wide array of ways to come together and socialize.
Initiative #5: Come Together to Support “the Teams”
Improve integration of Athletics into the student experience for fun and pride and bring people together to celebrate talent throughout the Tufts community.
To serve students well, you must know students well. That is more challenging today because there is no “mass” student—everyone is intersectional. The challenge is even higher at Tufts, as one of the most diverse universities, with eight separate identity centers and a first-year class that is majority people of color.
There is a great opportunity to foster a closer, more structured working relationship with Campus Partners (e.g., Institutional Research, the Identity Centers, StAAR, etc. to establish research initiatives and to develop insightful solutions for this important shared goal.
Initiative #1: Build on-going student knowledge
Build base of knowledge to help shape all initiatives and build professional reputations.
Initiative #2: Map the student journeys of emerging, under-represented and influential segments
Build new knowledge of the needs of under-represented and emerging groups at Tufts.
Initiative #3: Partner with DSDI to identify and address diverse needs
Collaborate with the Identity Centers to create and interpret targeted research better and develop insightful solutions within both organizations.
Initiative #4: Track, leverage, and share “the pulse of students” via heavy engagement and collaboration with students
Understand immediate issues impacting students and pre-empt future problems.
Building One Tufts Community requires space that we currently do not have. Lack of space has driven many students and parts of the culture off-campus, notably, coming together for fun off-campus. Defining and securing the space required to enable this strategic plan’s implementation is critical for its success.
Initiative #1: Space to Come Together
Advocate to bring the community together by identifying and repurposing existing facilities and building new facilities.
Initiative #2: Improve Navigation, Efficiency, and Accountability
Build out an improved “traffic” system, both digital and human, to ensure that inbound requests are acknowledged and handled in a timely and responsive manner.
Initiative #3: Staff to Plan
Realign the staffing and reporting structure of Student Life to ensure it is operating at peak efficiency with limited, but sufficient, staff.
Developing the Plan
In September 2021, AS&E Student Life began its work on the strategic plan in earnest. In collaboration with consulting firm Brodeur Partners, the AS&E Student Life Strategic Planning Steering Committee:
- Conducted a comprehensive audit of Student Life’s existing resources, programs, and staffing levels;
- Interviewed 60+ senior administrators and staff in person to understand strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats;
- Hosted multiple focus groups with students and faculty;
- Surveyed Student Life staff;
- Reviewed 5 years of student surveys conducted by Institutional Research
- Explored current trends in student affairs/student life;
- Conducted a competitive analysis across five of our peers;
- Hosted several workshops to review and discuss their findings; and
- Synthesized findings to shape the strategic plan
While the development of this strategic plan clearly had a beginning, it does not have an end. We intend for this plan to be a living, breathing, dynamic instrument for change.
Implementing the Plan
In September 2022, Camille Lizarríbar, Dean of Students and Chief Student Life Officer for AS&E, convened a steering committee with five sub-committees and charged each of the members to help develop initial implementation plans for Student Life.
In February 2023, progress reports were submitted on learnings and recommendations. Following these reports, smaller project-based implementation teams will be formed to move the strategic plan from the planning phase into implementation. The implementation teams are responsible for ensuring successful implementation of a particular initiative. Each implementation team will have a project lead and 2-5 team members.