Butler University President Jim Danko and his team have created their Shared Strategic Vision—a list of goals for the university.
Danko said he will use the vision as a “future rendering of what this campus could look like” when he is out fundraising, whether he is in the community or across the country.
“I want to find a way, especially on the academic side, to assure that everyone is thinking progressively about how Butler has to change or adapt to the evolution that’s going on in higher education,” Danko said.
The Shared Strategic Vision is a list of 10 goals that have been laid down while envisioning Butler’s future.
The list includes expanding the undergraduate program, increasing emphasis on research, pursuing innovation and growing the endowment in the next 15 years.
“We need to get our faculty to also think on how what is happening out there applies to Butler,” Danko said.
Chief of Staff Ben Hunter said Danko addressed Staff Assembly and said his first year was used imagining the possibilities for the university. He’s been exploring the possibilities, and now Butler is laying out the groundwork to achieve those possibilities.
“Athletics has been great for this institution, but it all comes down to the quality of academics and your degree,” Hunter said. “I don’t think Butler is getting ahead of itself. I think Butler has to explore every option to become a leader in the changing world of education.”
Hunter said the administration is looking at enrollment and what the market would bear, capacity and what the infrastructure to hold students is, and updating Butler’s overall master plan.
Tom Weede, vice president of enrollment management, said he sees the perfect enrollment for Butler at 5,000 but only after students can be comfortably housed.
“It’s just difficult for us to grow in class size and total enrollment,” Weede said. “My goal will be to lead discussions in what growth is right for this institution.”
Danko said he does not see the university growing to a student body between 4,500 and 4,700 undergraduates.
“We know that you don’t shrink your way to greatness,” Danko said. “We want to get bigger, but we don’t want to go crazy.”
Part of the process includes a visit from contractors who can determine what capacity the university can handle.
Both Weede and Hunter said the future of higher education is uncertain with classes moving online. They want Butler to have quality online courses that hold a valued degree.
“There are a lot of folks wanting to make your degree more valuable,” Hunter said. “It’s more than just athletics. We want academics as our national reputation.”
Danko said he is focusing efforts on pursuing online courses along with improving the quality of life on campus.
There are between 16 and 20 online courses “somewhere in the creation process,” he said.
“We wanted to allow the faculty members to start thinking about what they would want to do in the classroom without thinking of what resources we have,” Danko said. “We want to just see what ideas they have so we know what we could look to do.”
Ideas could be funded in part by gifts like the recent $1 million donation from the Melvin Simon Family Enterprises Trust.
Danko eventually wants to create a pool of money to put toward technology in the classrooms.
“You can’t get people down this path and have them excited about something and then say, ‘Never mind, there are no resources for this,’” Danko said.
Hunter said the next few years will be crucial for Butler and the growth that it hopes to achieve.
“I think it is an exciting time at Butler,” Hunter said. “I think the current graduates in two or three years can look back and say, ‘Wow, that’s a different school.’”
Hunter and Danko said the strategic vision is not the absolute plan. It is just a vision that will shape Butler’s plan for the future.
“It is hard to tell exactly where we will be in 10 years,” Hunter said. “But I know Butler is positioning itself to be in a better place and to make the changes as they come to improve our higher education.”
—Additional reporting by