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2022-2025

Reigniting our Strategic Directions

At the intersection of the Chicago Center’s strategic priorities and opportunities for outstanding academic growth comes the drive to move the Chicago Center forward. We're meeting the challenges facing higher education and putting our unique positioning and competitive advantages to work, strengthening our reputation as we move into the future.

 

The Chicago Center prepares the next generation of social champions with the experiences and skill sets to regularly question what’s around them, apply skills, and create change in communities across the globe.

Our approach to experiential learning uses the power of place and community voices through our First Voice Pedagogy to extend the traditional classroom in Chicago. This pedagogical approach is woven throughout this plan.

The Chicago Center embarked upon the strategic planning process in spring 2022 after more than 15 years since the last strategic plan had been developed. Initial input from Chicago Center's internal leadership members and from a board of directors strategy retreat informed early drafts of this plan.

 

Over the course of this planning process, the Chicago Center's executive director solicited additional feedback with campus liaisons, department chairs, and faculty members are affiliated college, an alumni survey (include 25+ responses), individual and group conversations. Externally focused scans also included research and readings as well as reviews of other institutional and organizational strategic plans. The result is an ambitious plan that orients us toward the future, while keeping true to our core principles — and to the academic mission of the Chicago Center.

 

We have the opportunity to build on what we do well and meet the needs of our students and community by focusing on these four strategic priorities.

Core Priorities

The 2022 Strategic Planning Process identified four core priorities that comprise this strategic plan: Experiential Education, Academic Initiatives, Administrative Advancement, and Alumni Engagement.

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Priority I. Experiential Learning

Transformational learning is hard, joyful, threatening, eye-opening, and identity-driven. Few can manage this transformation alone. To thrive, all learners need consistent support and guidance at the point of need, throughout their learning journey. Through scaffolded support and guidance, students will learn to identify and connect their existing experience with new contexts and learning, thereby building contextual agility and competence.

The objectives in this priority area enable the Chicago Center to continue providing robust academic, personal, and professional development for our students through an experiential learning and living environment. We affirm our approach to place-based, experiential education for college students and other participants. This priority builds upon the Chicago Center’s history and active role in using the power of place and people in education.

Power of learning

OBJECTIVE 1 We will leverage and build upon our location and connections to create greater opportunities for experiential learning as a hallmark of professional formation for our students. We will maximize opportunities to include in students’ experiences real-world problems from organizations and industries central to Chicago’s community, social, and economic landscape. Strategies include:

1.1 - Establish a database of existing internship and placement partners, community relationships, alumni industries, and other organizational connections.

1.2 - Develop outreach and stewardship plans to reaffirm relationships with internship and placement partners and establish new partnerships that lead to increased internship opportunities and placements for our programs that match the student demand.

Skills of the Future

OBJECTIVE 2 We will align our programs with the skills and competencies that our students and alumni will apply to address the pressing concerns and problems of our communities and the world. Strategies include:

2.1 - Convene a taskforce with a mix of campus partners and liaisons to define the skills and competencies required of future students and support their career readiness through high-impact experiences.

2.2 - Integrate professional learning across Chicago Center academic programs that enhances knowledge of leadership, self-awareness, and professional development.

2.3 - Establish a student mental health taskforce to address changing student mental health needs and prepare the Chicago Center for a dynamic future.

 
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Priority ii. ACADEMIC INITIATIVES

Students come to the Chicago Center with a rich and diverse background of experiences, and all have had a wealth of experience related to their futures across different dimensions of growth. We will continue to imagine new ways to contribute to students’ growth and professional development.

LEARNING ASSESSMENT

OBJECTIVE 1 We will define the needs of our students so that we fulfill our mission. Strategies include:

1.1 - Develop assessment tools to capture student learning before, during, and after their time at the Chicago Center, and effective means to report on intellectual and professional development of students and alumni

1.2 - Expand our emphasis on professional development to better align our curriculum with the needs of today’s global citizens.

NEW ACADEMIC pROGRAMS

OBJECTIVE 2 We will develop a new program for students interested in public policy, nonprofits, government, and social service agencies. Strategies include:

2.1 - Revitalize the Urban Internship Program to meet the needs of today’s students.

2.2 - Launch a public policy and advocacy internship program and connect students to internships and employment opportunities in public policy, advocacy, and organizing, which may include areas around public health, education, transportation, and the environment.

2.3 - Launch a continuing education program and leadership development program for emerging leaders in Chicago.

LEARNCHICAGO

OBJECTIVE 3 We will develop a new program for students interested in public policy, nonprofits, government, and social service agencies. Strategies include:

3.1 - Deepen existing faculty relationships and strengthen collaborations with department faculty as well as develop relationships with new academic partners.

Launch a public policy and advocacy internship program and connect students to internships and employment opportunities in public policy, advocacy, and organizing, which may include areas around public health, education, transportation, and the environment.

3.2 - Create additional programming to address the changing needs and interests of undergraduate students and faculty.

3.3 - Explore opportunities to grow the LearnChicago program outside of traditional academic relationships.

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Priority iii. ADMINISTRATIVE ADVANCEMENT

The objectives in this area will enable the Chicago Center’s administrative functioning to be student-centered, responsive, and barrier-free for our staff, instructors, students, and campus partners.

IMPROVED DIGITAL EXPERIENCE

OBJECTIVE 1 We will implement a customer relationship management (CRM) system to better track, access, and store constituent information by the end of 2022.

NEW PROGRAM EVALUATION

OBJECTIVE 2 We will develop a process that supports new initiatives and programs that align with the Chicago Center's mission, vision, and purpose.

PARTNERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

OBJECTIVE 3 As the landscape for higher education and off-campus study become more competitive, we will actively pursue partnerships that maximize exposure and revenue opportunities. Strategies include:

3.1 - Identify and create new sources of revenue aligned with the strategic plan that ensure the Chicago Center’s viability, while leveraging innovative partnerships to create new revenue streams to address the rising cost of education

FINANCIAL SUSTAINABILITY

OBJECTIVE 4 Establish a long-term financial plan to diversify revenue sources and grow philanthropic support. Strategies include:

4.1 - Launch a reserve fund to provide greater stability to the financial health of the organization.

4.2 - Establish new philanthropic partnerships to invest in the Chicago Center. 

4.3 - Develop a plan to strategically grow the LearnChicago program.

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Priority iv. alumni engagement

We will engage and leverage the Chicago Center alumni network to increase investment in our students, their future, and the Chicago Center. In three years, Chicago Center alumni will know about opportunities to engage with CCULC, build relationships with students and other alumni, and financially contribute to the wellbeing of the organization.

identify and connect with alumni

OBJECTIVE 1 We will increase efforts to identify and connect with alumni locally and regionally. Strategies include:

1.1 - Engage at least 500 unique Chicago Center alumni by the end of this plan.

1.2 - Host five alumni-specific annual events in at least three geographic regions.

grow alumni engagement

OBJECTIVE 2 We will expand opportunities for alumni engagement through Alumni Ambassador program and launch of an Alumni Board by FY25. Strategies include:

2.1 - Launch an alumni mentorship program and integrate the program into the student and academic programs.

2.2 - By FY25, launch the Alumni Board of 10-15 alumni volunteers and empower the group to host regular, volunteer-driven programming that promotes lifelong learning, social and professional development.

integrate alumni into programs

OBJECTIVE 3 We will develop a communications plan and programs that support a culture of engaged alumni while students attend the Chicago Center. Strategies include:

3.1 - Integrate alumni into academic programs throughout the semester. 

3.2 - Work with Marketing & Communications to create an annual report featuring alumni initiatives and alumni stories

measure alumni impact

OBJECTIVE 4 Measure the impact that engaged alumni have on advancing the mission of the Chicago Center, particularly the impact of engagement on giving. Strategies include:

4.1 - Develop framework to track and measure alumni engagement.

4.2 - Use alumni surveys and other tools for feedback to improve the alumni experience and program offerings