President Helble at the podium

Transparent, open dialogue headlines latest university update on multiple strategic plan initiatives. The information session was held on the third floor of Lehigh’s Health, Science and Technology Building on the Asa Packer campus.

Lehigh’s Strategic Plan: ‘What a Difference a Year Makes,’ Helble says

University leadership updates the Lehigh community on the progress of strategic plan initiatives.

Photography by

Christa Neu

University leaders provided updates on Inspiring the Future Makers strategic plan implementation efforts and reflections on the first year’s progress on Wednesday at a campus-wide gathering online and in-person.

“We are still in the first year of a planned, 10-year implementation process,” said Lehigh President Joseph J. Helble '82. “We made a commitment to be transparent and accessible and that is why we are here today—to give you a sense of progress, and to ask for your feedback on how we are doing in providing opportunities to participate as well as how we can continue to keep you informed of progress.”

Notable Updates

Recognizing that much activity is happening within all 10 of the strategic initiatives, Helble shared the following highlights:

Research investment/environment

  • The Center for Catastrophe Modeling and Resilience has been launched and is gaining momentum.
  • Work is continuing on research expansion and investment for two other centers as well as a review of the process for application.
  • The faculty survey of research support needs is complete.
  • A second call for seed funding from the National Science Foundation ART (Accelerating Research Translation) grant is underway.

Data-informed decision-making

  • The data dashboard has been enhanced, and an inaugural Data Day event has been planned for select members of the Lehigh community to gather May 9. Participants will learn from university leaders and colleagues about data access, usage and case studies on how best to leverage data in daily decisions.

Mountaintop and campus planning efforts

  • The campus master plan is underway with a focus to improve connectivity between the three campus areas to reinforce the identity of Lehigh as a singular campus with an exceptional diversity of experiences. Results of a multimodal study to create better campus connectivity is ongoing with data being collected and reviewed.

Education Innovation

  • Lehigh faculty are engaged in Lehigh UDI with 14 related projects underway. Lehigh UDI represents a gradual shift in teaching over the next 10 years that fosters authentic curiosity for students and supports the value of higher education while providing faculty an opportunity to re-engage and refresh their courses. Analytics are being developed to verify the changes in student outcomes.
  • The P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science is working to revise its first-year program with an eye on Lehigh UDI as a way to transform the first-year experience for both engineering and non-engineering students.

Lehigh for Everyone

  • The search for a Director of Muslim Student Life is nearing completion.
  • Two food pantries, located on Mountaintop and Asa Packer campuses, have been established to address food insecurity needs.
  • The Campus Climate Initiative and Brandeis Center efforts on the campus climate initiative are ongoing.

Interdisciplinary Education

  • The desire to expand existing interdisciplinary programs is moving forward with the establishment of a new Integrated Business and Health undergraduate program. It will be available to students beginning Fall 2025.
  • Working groups focused on exploratory semesters and doctoral education programs are underway.

Operationalizing the Plan and Engagement Updates

Chris Cook, vice president of strategic planning and initiatives, spoke about lessons learned in the first year of operationalizing the plan with the goal to use existing committees and resources as much as possible. Cook said senior leaders are interested in community member feedback for how the communication and engagement structure for plan updates is working and provided a four-question survey to capture insight in these areas.

Student Outcomes Defined

Provost Nathan Urban first defined and then reviewed student outcome targets, sharing a dashboard of where Lehigh is today alongside the target goals ahead for the next four to five years.

“From the beginning, one element of the strategic plan was to provide a focus on student outcomes and address the critique of the return of investment of a college degree,” says Urban. “That includes how successful our students are after graduation. In order to do that, we needed to define what we meant by outcomes, determine where we are at today and where we want to be in the future.”

Urban walked the community through key “Make a Difference” dashboard data points on current and target undergraduate and graduate graduation rates and career placement current and target rates for both, along with first-year undergraduate retention rates, undergraduate internship and experiential learning opportunities, and return on investment.

While acknowledging some of the target goals were bold, he expressed confidence that a concerted effort by all would put the goals within reach.

Tracey King and Brett Ludwig address participants

Brett Ludwig, at right, vice president university communications and public affairs, and Tracey King, associate vice president for external affairs, discuss the results of a recent multimodal community insights survey.

Enhance the Shared Bethlehem Experience

Brett Ludwig, vice president university communications and public affairs, and Tracey King, associate vice president for external affairs, initiative co-leads, shared results of a recent multimodal community insights survey developed to gauge how Lehigh Valley residents feel about colleges and universities in the valley, including Lehigh University.

Ludwig explained why community insights are imperative to helping Lehigh devise meaningful action plans to advance implementation efforts of the Enhancing the Shared Bethlehem Experience (ESBE) initiative, which aims to enrich the community and expand Lehigh’s impact.

Ludwig and King engaged the audience by introducing some questions from the survey, seeking audience responses and comparing them against the actual survey results. Ludwig focused on questions centered on core themes such as trust, community impact and willingness to recommend organizations to family and friends. Ludwig explained the purpose, meaning and value of Lehigh’s net promoter score, which placed Lehigh in a strong place compared to other universities’ NPS scores across the nation.

King walked the audience through another set of questions focused on how Lehigh interacts with area residents and if the residents believe Lehigh’s actions are or are not adding value to them. In all, 65% of the survey respondents agree Lehigh enhances the quality of life in the local community.

As part of data collection efforts, King pointed out an inventory of programs, services and research efforts had been conducted and more than 150 local opportunities cataloged by the ESBE core team.

“Everyday, a new idea is born and is inherent to the environment in which we operate,” said King.

She encouraged community members to submit their efforts to her team.

Ludwig reminded the audience that the survey results are intended for internal use only as benchmark data to help Lehigh build a comprehensive, data-informed strategy for community enrichment and to measure progress moving forward. The development of a community and economic impact report is underway.

Cultivate a Lifelong Lehigh

Sabrina Jedlicka, deputy provost graduate education and initiative lead, gave an update on the vision for in-person and online graduate program growth.

“Our goal is to continue to open up lifelong learning opportunities for current students, alumni and members of our community to gain insight about and access to re-skilling opportunities to stay ahead of the needs of our evolving world and continue to excel in their professions,” said Jedlicka. “At Lehigh, we have the community to build a thriving ecosystem focused on adopting future-forward best practices, and we have future maker grants available to invest and support the growth of new or existing graduate programs.” Applications are due by May 15.

Jedlicka pointed out the need to build an infrastructure to provide microcredentials for professionals to gain “just-in-time” skills training, such as certificate and pathway programs, stackables or other non-degree type programs in addition to providing broad opportunities for continued intellectual engagement in general.

Jedlicka reminded the audience that many of these future-focused ideas have been happening organically at Lehigh. Her goal is to accelerate the current momentum by establishing a faculty/staff working group focused on Lehigh’s online educational structure, creating a faculty focus group to ideate on stackables and microcredentials policy structure and development and continue to focus on best practices and opportunities for improvement in graduate recruitment, mentorship, training and engagement.

More information about the implementation of projects related to Inspiring the Future Makers is available on the actions underway page.

Story by Amy Bilello

Read more stories on the Lehigh News Center.

Photography by

Christa Neu

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