Inspiring the Future Makers

Lehigh University Launches Strategic Plan, ‘Inspiring the Future Makers’

The plan will guide Lehigh’s goals and priorities over the next decade.

Story by

Carina Sitkus

Lehigh University has launched its strategic plan, Inspiring the Future Makers, which outlines a bold vision for the university over the next decade centered on breaking boundaries to address societal challenges, innovating in academics and research, and cultivating collaborations and partnerships that build community and amplify Lehigh’s global, national and regional impact.

“Many wonder what the future holds. At Lehigh University, we shape it together,” wrote President Joseph J. Helble ’82. “We are a community of future makers—people who are inspired to think deeply and create grounded, pragmatic solutions through our research and scholarship,” he said.

Lehigh’s plan will create a dynamic academic and research environment where the “future makers”—students, faculty, staff and alumni—are enabled to do their best work. Long-term planning ensures that Lehigh continues to progress and enhance efforts to provide educational opportunities for current and future undergraduate and graduate students.

Helble said: “... Our strategic plan, Inspiring the Future Makers, builds on the investments and work of the past decade, which expanded our reach, made clear our commitment to support a diverse, equitable and inclusive community, and established a flourishing new College of Health.” He continued, “Taking pride in Lehigh’s strengths in interdisciplinary education and research and a strong sense of community, our plan articulates a shared vision for new directions and bold possibilities. It will continuously evolve through implementation to be responsive to our changing world. Developed with the input and support of our community, it presents our aspirations and goals—goals designed to help Lehigh lead in what we do best.”

Many wonder what the future holds. At Lehigh University, we shape it together. We are a community of future makers—people who are inspired to think deeply and create grounded, pragmatic solutions through our research and scholarship.

President Joseph J. Helble ’82

At a time when higher education is facing rising costs, the educational needs and desires of students and families are evolving, and technology and artificial intelligence are changing the way in which knowledge is created and consumed, there is a tremendous opportunity to think differently and embrace disruption to shape a better future.

With its distinguished reputation in higher education and a strong commitment to academic and research excellence, Lehigh is poised to confront these challenges with a mission centered on teaching and learning, research and service to others.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Nathan Urban said: “Lehigh has an opportunity to lead in higher education by focusing on ensuring great outcomes for students and by being an innovator in both what students learn and how they learn best.”

Inspiring the Future Makers

Goals and Initiatives of Inspiring the Future Makers

Three strategic goals will be activated through key initiatives that define specific projects and actions and determine the focus of future investments.

The strategic goals are:

  • Make it New - Innovate, take risks and spark curiosity to become a leader in the discovery and sharing of new knowledge.
  • Make a Difference - Break boundaries, think differently and translate theory to practice to address society’s most important challenges.
  • Make it Together - Foster belonging, cultivate connections and heighten Lehigh’s global and regional impact to strengthen community.

Read more about the strategic and supporting goals.

A set of foundational initiatives articulate a set of projects that will enable the key initiatives, and ultimately the goals, to be successful. These foundational initiatives center on ensuring a welcoming, engaging and personal Lehigh experience; focusing on making processes and systems efficient; using data and analysis to guide decision-making; and expanding and strengthening Lehigh’s research environment.

The key initiatives, built on this framework, are designed to be nimble and able to respond to changes while recognizing that sustained focus and effort will be needed in several areas to achieve the goals.

The key initiatives are:

  • Redefine a deeply interdisciplinary education.
  • Invest in strategic interdisciplinary research.
  • Lead in educational innovation.
  • Transform Mountaintop campus.
  • Enhance the shared Bethlehem experience.
  • Cultivate a lifelong Lehigh.

Read more about the key initiatives.

As described in the plan, the goals and initiatives together comprise a compelling 10-year vision for Lehigh to “achieve the highest outcomes in an environment that is among the best places to work in higher education”—a place where undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff pursue novel solutions to “real-world issues that threaten to divide society” and are empowered to shape and make the future.

The plan also notes the importance of equipping students with the skills and knowledge needed for both academic and career success:

“This will have a lasting positive impact on their lives, enabling them to thrive, adapt, and make valuable contributions to society to their fullest capability.

“We will look to double our research activity and number of Ph.D.s awarded, and triple our graduate student enrollment. We seek to be a national leader in student learning outcomes, including our graduation rates and six-month placements after graduation.”

Inspiring the Future Makers

Implementation

Vice President of Strategic Planning and Initiatives Chris Cook said that the implementation of the plan will be where the vision comes to life: “The strategic goals describe where we will play and the initiatives show us how we will make it happen,” said Cook.

“The key initiatives are tangible manifestations of the goals, where they take concrete shape and direction. The initiatives span the three goals. If we are successful it will be because our work becomes the embodiment of the goals.”

We will look to double our research activity and number of Ph.D.s awarded, and triple our graduate student enrollment. We seek to be a national leader in student learning outcomes, including our graduation rates and six-month placements after graduation.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Nathan Urban

Lehigh’s plan outlines areas critical to our research and educational mission where Lehigh can innovate and be a leader, building on our unique strengths; however, it’s only the beginning of a years-long process involving many key stakeholders and partners including students, faculty, staff, Lehigh families, alumni, the local community, South Bethlehem and regional stakeholders.

The groundwork for the implementation of this plan will take shape over the summer with implementation beginning in earnest at the start of the Fall 2023 semester.

A publicly accessible university dashboard will track progress toward each goal over the life of the plan.

Members of the Lehigh community are invited to indicate interest in becoming involved in the implementation of Lehigh's strategic plan.

Inspiring the Future Makers

A Plan Developed and Realized With Strong Community Input and Partnership

Before Inspiring the Future Makers, Lehigh’s last comprehensive strategic planning process was conducted in 2009, culminating in the creation of Advancing Our Intellectual Footprint. Before the launch of the strategic planning process in the fall of 2022, a working group of faculty and staff, including many who participated in Lehigh's prior strategic planning process, completed a review of progress toward the goals set forth in the 2009 plan, identifying areas of strength, opportunity and improvement.

Building on these learnings, Lehigh launched the process—Our Future, Our Lehigh, an open dialogue on the strategic direction of the university. Between August 2022 and February of 2023, a total of 2,444 faculty, staff and students engaged in more than 105 in-person and virtual sessions. These sessions resulted in nearly 350 ideas and 1,000 comments. More than 76,000 of our Lehigh community members, including alumni and families, were surveyed to learn what initiatives mattered most to them. A synthesis of this input informed the creation of Inspiring the Future Makers.

Read more about the strategic planning process that led to Inspiring the Future Makers.

The Future is Ours for the Making

Lehigh has a crucial responsibility to advance the betterment of society, enhance meaningful conversations, and foster an environment where innovative ideas can thrive.

Created together, and implemented together, Inspiring the Future Makers allows Lehigh to anticipate and capitalize on opportunities in a coordinated way, guided by clear strategic priorities that align with our mission.

The power to shape the future is ours.

Read more about the Lehigh University Strategic Plan, Inspiring the Future Makers.

Story by

Carina Sitkus

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