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Inside the Strategic Journey of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at the University of Denver

by | Feb 25, 2020 | Discoveries

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My journey with the College of Arts, Humanities, & Social Sciences at the University of Denver began in the middle of winter – and in the middle of a strategic planning process – in early 2017. I’d just wrapped up Forward. Faster. Strategic Plan 2022  for the Ritchie School of Engineering & Computer Science at DU. My walk across campus took me from artificial intelligence and robotics to Judaic Studies and theatre. 

The Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences Dean, Daniel McIntosh, was leading a faculty-driven process when he discovered a significant challenge. While the college was adept at assessing its strengths and weaknesses, they found it difficult to:

  • objectively scan the world beyond campus;
  • consider trends outside their fields; and
  • frame their plan as an inspiring call-to-action for external partners, funders, and community members. 

“I kept thinking about what needed to change so we could be the best versions ofourselves. We have amazing students, faculty, and staff here,” noted Dean McIntosh. “We didn’t really know how good it was in the aggregate. I’d seen the quality across multiple departments. I wanted to take that quality and turbocharge it.”

Though the dean had the 20,000-foot view that spanned the university, he knew they needed a partner with a 30,000-foot view across the community and a knack for strategic storytelling. He was right; they had a SWOT Analysis that focused internally and a lengthy plan that didn’t inspire. 

Together, Dean McIntosh and I created an iterative process that gathered data, listened with empathy, tested language, generated novel ideas, and aligned faculty and staff. In less than a year, we went from stalled to energized and from status quo to new imaginings.

The result? A commitment to transform a liberal and creative arts education. 

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