Our Future,
Our Lehigh

An open dialogue on the strategic direction of the University

About Our Strategic Planning Process

The structure of the planning process is intended to provide opportunities for members of our community to participate no matter where they are or when they are available to engage, enabling a truly open dialogue on the strategic direction of the University.

Key stakeholders for the strategic planning process include theme co-captains; faculty and staff working groups; through-line content champions; faculty, staff, students, and other key stakeholders; and an advisory council comprising deans, the faculty senate, vice presidents, and senior leaders, as well as the president, provost, and vice president of strategic planning and initiatives. Four conversation themes will drive the fall ideation phase, with the through-line values and initiatives informing the shape of the emerging ideas.

Beginning with forums early in the fall semester, the Lehigh community has access to a robust Idea Portal for real-time and asynchronous engagement. Weekly wrap-up messages and an event dashboard provide frequent reminders of what is happening and how you can stay connected to the planning process. It is Our Future, Our Lehigh!

Before formally launching the strategic planning process in fall of 2022, President Joseph Helble requested a study of the progress achieved as part of the 2009 plan to identify any lessons learned and inform our future efforts. Called Phase 0, this effort was conducted largely by members of Lehigh faculty and staff who were involved in the 2009 plan. The full report is available here.

Four themes were identified with community input over the spring and summer of 2022:

Four working groups are charged with exploring the themes throughout the fall semester, including convening stakeholders, engaging the Lehigh community through various events and engagement opportunities, and providing updates to the Lehigh community. 

Working group roles are designed to reduce time and administrative burden across the team members: 

  • Co-Captains (2) - conveners, leaders, content experts, serve as part of the Advisory Council (meets bi-weekly), engage stakeholders and ensure broad campus involvement in the topical area. 
  • Goalkeeper (1) - content expert, project manager, note taker/scribe, coordinate weekly wrap-ups 
  • Members (3-4) - content expert or affiliate and participant in project work and engaging stakeholders 
  • The Office of Strategic Planning and Initiatives will be ex-officio members of each working group and support logistic and administrative details, post weekly wrap-up notes, and support goalkeepers and captains

Through-lines are values and initiatives that are already underway, which must inform the ideas that emerge from the work of the theme working groups. Strategic initiatives will be more successful if the planning and insights include the values therin. 

Through-lines include:

  • Diversity & Inclusion
  • (Environmental & Fiscal) Sustainability
  • Operational Excellence
  • Place
  • Global

Through-line champions are content experts and serve as advocates, ensuring those values are infused in the emerging key initiatives. Read more >

Members of the Lehigh senior leadership will be joined by the co-captains and goalkeepers for the themes as well as the through-line champions every other week throughout the fall semester to hear the progress and provide feedback on the emerging ideas. Towards the end of the process, the Advisory Council will make recommendations regarding priorities and strategic initiatives for implementation.

Questions and Answers

Read answers to questions about the strategic planning process.

Lehigh’s last comprehensive strategic planning process was completed in 2009. Much has changed in the world and in our community in the decade since then. Much has also changed in the landscape of higher education. This strategic planning effort will help shape our course over the next decade, identifying areas critical to our research and educational mission where Lehigh can innovate and be a leader, building on our unique strengths. The plan will be dynamic and, importantly, capable of evolving, as well as open to encourage new ideas beyond the discrete strategic planning period; however, the conversations the Lehigh community has now will provide critical context building for our future work and discussions.

Our Future, Our Lehigh, is the phase of the planning process where ideas are generated and insights are gathered. This open dialogue is occurring in the fall of 2022, when members of the Lehigh community will provide their input and shape the direction of the eventual strategic initiatives identified in the plan. After synthesizing inputs from the Lehigh community and assessing outcomes in the winter of 2023, the reports and plans will be finalized in the spring of 2023. The final plan will be released in the summer of 2023, with implementation beginning in the fall of 2023.

The Lehigh community will be active participants throughout Our Future, Our Lehigh, including through a variety of targeted meetings, in-person forums, an online Idea Portal and through the engagement led by working groups that are diving deeper into four themes of focus—Education With Purpose, Lehigh User Experience (LUX), Research for Impact, and Smart Growth.

Through-lines are values and initiatives that are already underway, which must inform and support the ideas that emerge from the work of the four themes/working groups. Through-line champions were identified to ensure that these critical lenses are carried through each theme and the entire strategic planning process. 

An advisory council comprising members of the Lehigh senior leadership will be joined by representation from the working groups as well as the through-line champions every other week throughout the fall semester to hear the progress and provide feedback on the emerging ideas. Towards the end of the process, the Advisory Council will make recommendations to Lehigh leadership regarding priorities and strategic initiatives for implementation. 

A small group of faculty and staff is participating in each working group. As mentioned above, working groups are just one component of the broader engagement effort. The working group charge includes engaging with all constituencies, so members of the Lehigh community will have opportunities to interact with the working groups and thus a role in shaping those discussions.

The strategic planning process and the subsequent implementation of a plan is a years-long process. Students, faculty, staff, Lehigh families, alumni, the local community, South Bethlehem and regional stakeholders, and many others are important to this effort. The forum of engagement will be tailored and will appropriately look different depending on the context and stakeholder, and all of these perspectives are critically important to the strategic planning process.

In April and May of 2022, 64 members of the Lehigh community participated in 8 ideation sessions discussing Lehigh’s future. This work led to in excess of 300 ideas, which evolved into 5 thematic areas. In the summer of 2022, 12 subsequent sessions were held with 95 community members from across campus to introduce and refine the eventual four themes and the charge for the working groups. 

Yes. President Helble assembled a working group of faculty and staff, including many who participated in Lehigh’s prior strategic planning process, to analyze our progress toward goals set forth in the original 2009 plan. The group published a Phase 0 executive summary and full report (Lehigh credentials required) summarizing their findings. Members of the Lehigh community were then invited to provide insights and suggestions on these findings, which were published in an addendum of the final report.

Our current strategic planning process will: 

  • Incorporate our existing mission, vision (2016) and value (2007) statements. 
  • Be an opportunity to collectively reflect the heritage of Lehigh and agree on a path forward for our institution—what we do and how we differentiate ourselves
  • Be both aspirational and operational with a pragmatic path to achieve our goals.
  • Be targeted, specific and concise, and take into account the context and constraints within which we operate. 
  • Be measurable and effectively implemented, monitored and reviewed so that we can determine where changes may be needed.

Our current strategic planning process will not:

  • Signal a stop to planning or creating opportunities in individual areas
  • Be driven by one goal, nor will it be about trying to form a plan that is all things to all people. 
  • Be ‘left on the shelf.’