President Joseph J. Helble ’82, right, at the 2022 Convocation

President Joseph J. Helble ’82 at the 2022 Convocation

Investing in Lehigh's Future

A letter from President Joseph J. Helble '82

Photography by

Christa Neu

Our strategic planning process, which launched in August, is now well under way. Since we began this work, one of the questions I’ve been asked is, Why now? Why this moment in Lehigh’s history? Given all the change in higher education—and at Lehigh—since we last went through a strategic planning process more than a decade ago, it is clear that now is precisely the time to ask questions about our position in the world of higher education, about the direction we need to head, about the choices and investments we need to make to best prepare our students for lives of meaning, engagement and value. 

Hybrid and online learning have exploded, fueled in large part by the pandemic but also by technological advances that have impacted how we deliver content. There also has been an increase in experiential learning, which is something that we at Lehigh have embraced and do extraordinarily well. At the same time, there has been criticism of higher education in general. Does the education that students get matter? 

As we chart Lehigh’s future, we are asking the tough questions. We do so from a position of strength—our finances are strong, our graduates’ employment and placement rates are high. Still, as a small, residential research university, we face the challenge of identifying the university’s true points of excellence and building on the areas that distinguish us from other institutions. 

President Helble address forums

Helble addresses faculty at a strategic planning forum.

We have been bringing the campus community together to identify the most creative ideas and opportunities for Lehigh. You can read more about the process, and considerations for alumni, here

As we look to the future, we also have been reflecting on our core purpose as an academic community, namely one that values learning as well as the open exchange, discussion and debate of ideas. 

In addressing Lehigh’s newest class of students at convocation earlier this year, I encouraged them to take advantage of the opportunities before them—to listen and engage, to be curious, to explore and to maybe challenge their own preconceived notions of how the world should be. I encouraged them to not just respect other points of view, but to seek them out and challenge themselves to learn from others who have had different life journeys. 

In a video message to the campus community in late September, I reiterated the importance of open, honest and respectful discourse.

If that cannot occur on college campuses, where can it? 

We are forming a new committee at Lehigh to examine our approach to freedom of expression. Our goal is to reach a common understanding to help guide us in modeling respectful and constructive discourse on campus and beyond. A Lehigh education, as our alumni well know, provides an important foundation for the contributions our students will go on to make in the world. The open exchange of ideas, including the expression of different viewpoints, is an important facet of a healthy community and central to our educational mission.

Joseph J. Helble ’82, President

Photography by

Christa Neu

Related Stories

Mountaintop campus

Lehigh’s Strategic Plan: ‘Exciting Work Ahead’

University holds an information session on the implementation phase of the strategic plan.

Shalinee Kishore and Arindam Banerjee

Interdisciplinary Lehigh Team Awarded NSF Grant to Train Future Energy Leaders

Professor Arindam Banerjee will lead the team that will provide graduate students with the skills needed to pioneer solutions toward an equitable, decarbonized energy future.