By: Asia A. Black
The Lincoln University’s 2013-2018 strategic plan is making decent progress. The 2013-2018 strategic plan is sets a direction for the university to go within the next five years.
The plan focuses on five goals (which is more realistic compared to the previous strategic plan’s 13 goals) to improve The Lincoln University in every way possible. This strategic plan was built over an intense planning process.
“It is unlike any process that has probably ever been used by any institution except those where I have served,” said Robert Jennings, The Lincoln University President.
56 managers were carried away for a two-day retreat where those individuals talked about who Lincoln University is as an institution that they would like to be, and why. Originally, they framed a series of nine goals and objectives.
After the manager’s discussions, Jennings took everyone who works at the university on a one-day retreat in groups of 40 people over 11 days. Within that time span, he learned their reactions on what the managers of the university had came up with.
The faculty and staff then broke down the nine goals and stated what they did and did not agree with, ultimately coming up with the five goals that are in the current strategic plan.
“It was a very inclusive process. I held several listening posts. I meant with groups of students on campus, particularly the student government leaders and student leaders, I meant with people in the community, and I meant with groups of alumni,” said Jennings.
Goal number one deals with “recruit and retain students with high potential and strong academic achievements”. The current freshman class of 2017 has already shown an improvement. The current freshman class overall SAT average was 31 points higher then the previous class, and their grade point average was 12 points higher then the previous class.
“We are moving in that direction for every class that we bring in from this point forward,” said Jennings.
Increasing the amount of transfer students is also featured within goal number one. In the 28 months that President Jennings has been with The Lincoln University he has signed 15 articulation agreements with community colleges in N.J., Del., Md., Pa, and Washington D.C.
“I am hopeful of the fact that the recruitment efforts that we have underway at those schools right now via the deans the department heads and the athletic people that we are encouraging those young people to transfer from those schools at the end of receiving their associates degree right into the university,” said Jennings.
Retention of students is also a major factor within any university’s success. In The Lincoln University’s case, they plan to increase retention by 3-5% annually. 3-5% isn’t incredibly impressive, but the university decided to pick a lower retention amount.
The university does not have any control over a number of factors for why students do not stay at The Lincoln University.
“We don’t have any control over the fact that students will stop out because they do not have the money, which is what most of our students do, and never return because they get a job and the job starts bringing in the kind of money that they feel that they want and need, and they just don’t come back to us, but they may end up going to another school,” said Jennings.
The university did not want to put up a goal so high that they couldn’t reach it. They wanted to be realistic.
However, it might also be aggressive. According to Jennings 64 percent of the students at this university are the first in their families to attend college, and about 57 percent of students come from single-parent households that have incomes less than $45,000 a year for a family of four.
When looking at retention there is a few things that the university does. There are more than four different tutorial programs operating on this campus. Bringing students to Lincoln is also on the forefront of the plan.
Besides giving tours to prospective students, prospective students are now able to go online and apply for admission.
“We know that it is working because we just brought it up about two months ago, and in two months we’ve already had 118 students apply for admission into the university,” said Jennings.
The president was appalled to find out that online applications were not available to submit upon his arrival. Another thing being done to increase the number of incoming students, and eliminate the lack university marketing, is the master public relations campaign.
“Before I got here we had not been advertising on billboards, we had done very limited radio advertisement, and we weren’t really doing a lot in the newspaper, but since I’ve been here we’ve expended already more then $100,000 on those mediums alone,” said Jennings.
However, the advertisements do not stop there. Very soon the university will be spending $300,000 on billboards, advertisements, and magazines. An additional three recruiters have been added to the recruitment staff in the last six months. The Lincoln University Coatesville campus has also gained a recruiter for that particular area as well.
Goal number two includes “enhancing, expanding, and strengthening the University’s academic programs and services”.
About 15 months ago, there was a comprehensive review of all academic undergraduate level programs. As a result of that, the university reduced down from 18 departments to 14 departments. Some programs were consolidated, some programs were eliminated, and other programs were added.
The new programs that have surfaced are the nursing program, a masters program in leadership and sustainability, a masters program in human services delivery, and five certificate programs that will be offered online.
International ties are also something the university is currently trying to build. In order to do that the university must identify what schools or countries have the strengths or areas that complement programs that we currently offer, or thinking of offering.
President Jennings has reached out to governments or schools in Africa, Ireland, and has future plans of branching out to China. Currently, we have 21 Nigerian students on campus from Bayelsa State, Nigeria attending classes here at The Lincoln University, and their tuition was paid in full by their government.
Goal number three is “Foster a learner-centered environment that inspires teaching, learning, research, and service”.
The first historically black college wants to make sure the environment is centered on the students, and the make sure the environment is learner friendly.
In three different dormitories the university has created academic communities. One of which is centered on the health professions, one is around science and technology, and the last one is centered on the arts.
“We believe that a learning centered environment is one where people who have a like or common interest will continue to communicate with each other, talk about what’s happening in their discipline or their field, and as a result it will enhance their learning both inside and outside of the classroom,” said Jennings.
For example, Lorraine Hansberry Hall is a female freshman dormitory. Each floor is to be considered an academic community. Students were placed on each floor depending on their major so that they are able to easily converse with one another.
Goal number four looks into the school’s groundwork. “Strengthen the institution’s infrastructure”.
Throughout the years, the university has been through a lot of construction. The goal specifically states what they plan on renovating and building up. The president of the university was able to give solid dates on when some of the things on the list will begin.
Azikiwe Nkrumah Hall (the building that houses public safety) is scheduled to be rebuilt and ready for use by November of 2016. The plans have already been reviewed and approved.
“It’s going to be a gorgeous building unlike anything that we have on the campus. It’s going to really show off well as Baltimore Pike as well, and It’s going to be a great entrance way as you come onto the campus,” said Jennings.
Academic building John Miller Dickey Hall is ready to go to bid. It is planned to start bidding by Friday, April 18. The bidding will probably run for about three weeks. Construction is scheduled to start by July 1, and it will be under construction for 17 weeks.
The university plans to completely gut out Dickey Hall and renovate the inside, but it will look the same on the outside.
Wi-Fi has also been a complaint within the dormitories on campus. The strategic plan states that Wi-Fi is to be implemented in every building by 2018 at the very latest. All buildings except three have been supplied with Wi-Fi. By the summer time the university hopes to implement Wi-Fi in every building on campus.
The final go of the plan is to “operate as the public square of Southern Chester County and the Delaware Valley”.
President Jennings is known communities near the university. He is trying to get the university more merged into the counties and states that are “right in our back door”. He believes we should have stronger bonds with these counties and states just because of the close proximity to the university.
“I have sort of been doing anything and everything that I possibly can to invite groups in, to make certain that those who have asked me to serve on their boards. I currently serve on four boards, where I think the people of the right influence are there, who can help us to kind of get what we need for the university in a number of respects [both programmatically as well as fiscally],” said Jennings.
However, the president cannot serve everyone. In an instance when the president cannot serve on a board in outside communities he relies on his faculty (like Carl F. Walton, Vice President of Student Affairs, and Eric Webb, Director of Public Relations) to take on the jobs.
“I don’t have to do everything. I can’t do everything. In fact, its not good if I do everything because the day will come that one day I’ll be gone and as a result those people who are here need to continue to serve so they that can keep that presence of our university in the outside communities.
Many of the groups and communities that have been invited on the campus to utilize the facilities have taken advantage of the invite.
In order to successfully complete the strategic plan the president must also have a great relationship with the faculty, staff, and students. He cannot do it alone. He would venture to say that his bond with the faculty is as strong as it can be.
There are sometimes issues among a unionized faculty and an administration, but in this case Jennings says that the faculty feels as though he is on their good side.
The faculty union presented Jennings with a $2500 check (last year) to demonstrate that they like a lot of the things that he is doing. According to Jennings they wanted to go on record reporting to him that they are one his team, and they are all in this together.
Jennings went on to talk about how he always has an open ear with the faculty and the students. If anyone involved in the university has a complaint, suggestion, or request he is willing to listen and consider his or her request, or explain why his or her comment cannot be implemented.
Jennings was brought initially into The Lincoln University to help fix its financial issues.
According to Kimberly Lloyd, Board of Trustees officer (Class of 1994) there was a 3 million dollar deficit. The majority of that was not due to long standing operations, but the Board of Trustees passed a policy in 2010 to strengthen The Lincoln University’s academic requirements for admittance. Thus a $2.7 million dollar deficit was put on the books due to enrollment decreasing.
Currently, there is a reserve, a balanced budget, and the year will end in a balanced budget as well according to the university’s president.
“All of this has been cleaned up,” said Jennings.
Although the strategic plan is nowhere near completed, it is only one year into it, and is making strides to be completed within the given time frame.
After talking to a few Lincoln University students, many of them were not aware of what the strategic plan included, or even where it could be found. More information on the strategic plan can be found on the university’s website. Click here.