The market place for higher education has become extremely competitive. This competition is driven by a number of developments including the rapid growth of for-profit colleges and universities; a buyer’s market for students; and the rapid expansion of online delivery systems.

In such a rapidly expanding market, traditional strategic planning methods have succumbed to the speed in which changes occur in higher education. True, it is still important to advance the core mission of the institution – a customary focus of traditional strategic planning exercises. However, it is becoming increasingly more important that colleges and universities advance their missions within the higher education marketplace so as to include programs and attributes that create a distinct and decisive differentiation.

Thus, while it is vital that an institution commit itself to providing a high quality liberal arts foundation for all its students, it is equally important that it offer the types of specialized programs that both the students and the economy demand.

In short, West Liberty University must seek distinction and distinctiveness in both its programming and in regard to the total student learning experience – and it must do so in an effective and efficient manner.

FOCUS 2020 seeks to further these intentions in a very systematic manner. First, the Mission Review Task Force will generate data that will seek to assess our current progress in fulfilling our mission “to provide our students with the opportunity for a high quality undergraduate graduate and professional education.” In other words, this group will determine where we are. Second, the SmartCampus Task Force will identify ineffective or inefficient practices and processes and look for ways to do them better. Third, the Student Success Task Force will focus on identifying our aspirations for our students and assess our ability to fulfill those aspirations. Thus, this group will determine how were doing in meeting the educational needs of our students. The fourth group, the Student Experience Task Force will use all of this information to identify particular attributes of the total student learning experience (“Points of Pride”) for which West Liberty University shall seek to be known, valued and admired. Similarly, the fifth group shall identify specific academic programs, program clusters or program themes (“Pillars of Distinction”) that have the greatest potential to enhance the University’s regional and national visibility, academic reputation and competitiveness.

As a result, the end product will consist of a road map that will position West Liberty University to not only face the challenges of the future, but to excel and succeed.