Reaching Beyond the Now

Strategic Planning Will Bring Mount Mary to a New and Different Place

By Mount Mary University

Posted on November 16, 2018

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By Christine Pharr, President of Mount Mary University

True leadership comes from vision. And I believe vision-setting is a community process. As Mount Mary enters the last year of the 2016-2019 strategic plan, it is time to consider our way forward into the future.

Because I care deeply about this process and your role as an alumna and lifelong friend, I’d like to explain why this matters to those of us who value Mount Mary’s agility in providing an education that is responsive to our modern needs, yet timeless in values.

To start with, let’s define what it means for a plan to be strategic: This type of planning must distinguish between good ideas, operational initiatives, tactics and truly strategic initiatives. In my view, these initiatives must differentiate Mount Mary from the many higher education competitors in the Milwaukee area.

During this stage of gazing into the blue sky of the future, our ideas represent dreams and wishes that may — or may not— ever be realized: a renovated theater for the fashion program, an opportunity to have your ashes entombed on the outside walls of the building, an intergenerational residence hall for students, single mothers with children and School Sisters of Notre Dame, and tuition relief.

The sense of care for our students was strong during these sessions, as proposals for additional student support abounded. The task before the strategic planning committee will now be to meet and assemble this information into meaningful focus areas.

Holding the future of the college in our hands is no small task and yet I cannot imagine being in a more innovative and people-focused institution than Mount Mary as we envision a future that develops bright, bold, courageous women who will carry forward our mission.



The strategic planning process kicked off on  August 21 at the All-University Workshop with fireside chats facilitated by Doug Dietz, a design thinking expert and “chief innovation architect” at GE Healthcare. Small groups of parents, students and employees presented their perspectives on their Mount Mary experience. The lighthearted tone continued as all the workshop participants were given top-secret spy envelopes to brainstorm ideas around academic programs; technology trends; wellness; co-curricular programs; partnerships and collaboration; research/innovation; and preparing women for the world of work.

At the end of the day, each small group of participants presented their best ideas in a modified “Shark Tank” presentation to the shark panelists that included Doug Dietz, Karen Friedlen, vice president for academic and student affairs and Christine Pharr, president.


The second strategic planning session took place at a Board of Trustees retreat on Sept. 6 and 7. Participants included board members, President’s Council, alumnae, community members and a few MMU faculty and staff. Susan Marshall, a long-time strategic facilitator with extensive experience, facilitated this session.


The task before the strategic planning committee will now be to meet and assemble this information into meaningful focus areas with subcategories and tactics under each. This work should be completed by November, when it will go back to stakeholders for further review and input.


In the spring semester, the strategic planning committee will continue to revise the strategic plan, taking into account additional input from stakeholders. A finalized version of the strategic plan will be presented to President Pharr by the end of May, and she will then present the strategic plan to the Mount Mary Board of Trustees. The finalized plan will begin to be implemented in fall 2019.

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