In the spring of 2012, the faculty, staff, trustees, administrators and students of Freed-Hardeman University convened for several days to develop a strategic plan for the university. The charge was to build on the heritage of Freed-Hardeman University and chart the course for the future.
“We have an opportunity to become the university of choice for members of churches of Christ,” said Wiley. “Our focus is simple: build the best undergraduate program for those associated with churches of Christ.”
What that means, according to Wiley, is Freed-Hardeman will continue to create academic programs that are in demand and create them quickly. It means that the best and brightest faculty will be employed by Freed-Hardeman. It means resources will be directed at creating an academic environment and university experience that is second to none.
The strategic plan began with four priorities that were developed by the board. Those priorities focus on improving recruiting, academics, non-traditional programs and the overall financial position of the university.
“We made the decision to stay focused on the young people of the church,” said Brett Pharr, chairman of the board of trustees. “The board convened and we discussed at length what the future holds for Freed-Hardeman University. We believe our future, as with the church, lies in the lives of our youth. Freed-Hardeman University will be dedicated to providing the best academic environment for those associated with the churches of Christ. We will stay true to our core values, we will stay true to God’s word and we will stay true to our mission, to provide every Freed-Hardeman student an education permeated with Christian values and faith of our prestigous heritage.”
From these priorities, more than 150 faculty, staff, administrators and board members met to create the Freed-Hardeman University Strategic Plan. Through hours of meeting, four strategic goals were created. Each area of the university was then asked to produce specific goals for its area. The strategic plan can be seen at www.fhu.edu/strategic plan.
As of this fall, several items of the seven-year plan are taking shape. In August, FHU opened the Anderson Science Center (read more on page 8), a state-of-the-art facility that is home to most of the university science classes and their renowned undergraduate research facility. The admissions staff has completely revamped the way they recruit students. The pricing structure for Freed-Hardeman University has been simplified to one simple price with no fee structure. The alumni relations office has implemented an alumni-in-residence program that creates traditions and experiences that are so important to maintaining and enhancing fundraising for the future of FHU. The university has also appointed Jesse Robertson, dean of graduate studies and outreach, to work with all of the graduate directors, faculty and deans to improve the university’s offerings and to increase enrollment in graduate, off-campus and nontraditional programs.
One of the most significant initiatives that came about as a result of the strategic plan was a focus on transformative learning. The Vice President for Academics and Enrollment Management, Dr. C.J. Vires, recently appointed a working group focused on transforming the undergraduate academic experience. That translates into a completely different approach to teaching and learning according to the chair of the working group, Dr. LeAnn Self-Davis, dean of the School of Sciences and Mathematics.
“New facilities are great, but it’s what happens in those facilities that defines a university,” said Dr. Self-Davis. “We want to create a learning environment unlike any other. What that means is creating an environment where our students live in the classroom and not sit in the classroom. In future classrooms at FHU, you may be knee deep in a turtle pond doing research or you may be face-to-face with real patients at area hospitals. It may be our students find their classroom has no walls, no desks, no screens, only real-life, hands-on, service-oriented, Christ-centered, academically-engaged, rigorous training that is unlike any other place in the world.”
While that seems like a difficult task, it is one the university is excited about pursuing. The overall work group is divided into three subgroups comprised of almost 30 of the best and brightest faculty on campus.
“I think for a few there is a perception that because of our affiliation with the church or because of our size that our academics may be sub-par,” Vires said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Because of our size and our location, we are able to put students with faculty members where they can receive one-on-one, hands-on experience in the field or classroom. Our new learning environment will further distinguish Freed-Hardeman, a distinction that will be obvious to our prospective students. Our size and location coupled with our first-class, Christian faculty as some of our greatest assets and allow us to be a campus where we provide each student with a unique amount of care and attention. I believe that to be one of our greatest strengths.”
Celebrating the Future
In 2019, Freed-Hardeman University will celebrate 150 years of academic excellence in West Tennessee. As the university approaches this historic date, the board of trustees has drawn a clear path toward creating a university with deep roots in the churches of Christ while expanding and promoting the academic reach of the institution.
“Make no mistake, we are a university that is associated with the churches of Christ,” said Wiley. “We will continue to embrace that relationship by educating Christian leaders, preachers, missionaries, doctors, business professionals, scientists…every discipline by infusing the word of God into every classroom, every aspect of the university.” We look forward to that future.
Strategic Plan 2012-19
To achieve its vision, Freed-Hardeman University will focus resources and efforts necessary to enhance four institutional priorities.
Institutional Priority #1:
Substantially improve recruiting and marketing
Freed-Hardeman University will develop and execute a plan to substantially improve recruiting and marketing activities with an emphasis on peer-level execution capability and targeted messages emphasizing our natural and intended areas of strength. Consistent with this priority, Freed-Hardeman University will develop a comprehensive and targeted brand and purpose.
Institutional Priority #2:
Continuously improve academic offerings
Freed-Hardeman University will create a permanent, rational process to evaluate academic offerings and eliminate programs that have low student demand, are financially inefficient, and/or are not productive in terms of credit hours and graduates. Eliminated programs will be replaced with higher-yielding, market-driven programs.
Institutional Priority #3:
Develop non-traditional academic programs
Freed-Hardeman University will explore and recommend possible non-traditional programs for the primary purpose of bringing profit back to the Henderson campus to support the University’s core purpose (residential undergraduates). Freed-Hardeman remains committed to a greater than 75 percent member of the church of Christ ratio among traditional on-campus undergraduates. No such expectation exists for any non-traditional or graduate program.
Institutional Priority #4:
Improve the financial position of the University
Freed-Hardeman University will develop a five-year financial plan consistent with achieving the Strategic Plan that seeks to enhance the endowment and strengthen the financial position of the university. Fiscal responsibility ensures the future sustainability of the institution and reduce the need for external lines of credit.
OUR STRATEGIC GOALS
Four strategic goals further focus institutional efforts to enhance the University’s priorities and to achieve its vision.
Strategic Goal #1 Freed-Hardeman University will reinforce the benefit of an FHU education through clear articulation of our vision and execution of our mission.
Strategic Goal #2 Freed-Hardeman University will be a dynamic, growing community of Christian scholars who are actively engaged in thinking, doing, and learning.
Strategic Goal #3 Freed-Hardeman University will optimize the use of our current resources and develop new ones to realize our vision.
Strategic Goal #4 Freed-Hardeman University will further develop and enhance relationships that benefit the University and its constituents.
The Freed-Hardeman community has a shared responsibility to ensure the success of Strategic Plan 2012-19. Accordingly, each of the University’s eight functional divisions has developed a plan that aligns with the University’s strategic goals and further ensures the University’s priorities are enhanced and its vision is achieved.