By Ben Weyman
Listen to this story at the bottom of this page.
At the end of January, York College President Pamela Gunter-Smith, PhD, sent out a document outlining her second five-year plan for the school, titled Strategic Plan 2.0. This plan can be split into five parts:
- York College will become a national leader in experiential learning
- York College will continue to grow enrollment and retain current students
- York College will empower students for personal and professional success
- York College graduates will leave YCP with sufficient experience
- York College will ensure organizational resiliency
Each part has four to six subheadings that further detail what exactly the school’s goals are and how they hope to achieve them. The purpose of this article is to break down each part and outline just how it affects YCP students and faculty.
It is worth noting that the verbiage in the plan is extremely vague, so much of it is left up to interpretation.
1, York College will become a national leader in experiential learning
This point is fairly straightforward – the ensuing subpoints detail how the school is going to invest in programs that offer students real-world experiences as well as increasing YCP’s national ranking in those fields.
In a town hall earlier this semester, Gunter-Smith used project-based learning (PBL) courses as an example of experiential learning. The school is currently partnered with the Yorktowne Hotel, offering PBL courses in the hospitality and communications majors.
“Experiential learning will be, even more, a hallmark of York College,” the president said at the aforementioned town hall. “We’re trying to make experiential learning available to all students here at the college.”
It’s important to note that experiential learning is different from things like internships and nursing clinicals/ experiential learning courses are very much meant to be courses where students meet in a classroom, then take that knowledge and apply it to real-world situations. For example, the mass communications PBL in collaboration with the Yorktowne Hotel has students creating social media content for the Yorktowne using their knowledge learned in the classroom.
2, York College will continue to grow enrollment and retain current students
Enrollment has decreased nationwide since the beginning of the pandemic two years ago, and YCP did not escape that trend. Enrollment is down greatly since the 2019-20 academic year, so much so that the president has made it a priority to drive enrollment back up in the near future.
The plan is to identify a realistic prospective student base, create pipelines to attract them to YCP early, and then improve on-campus resources and facilities in order to retain those students.
“How do we develop a pipeline of students that want to come to York College?” the president asked. The answer is not so simple.
“Enrollment countrywide is down, and the enrollment cliff is coming,” Joshua Landau, PhD, said during a recent appearance in The Spartan class. Landau is the school’s Associate Provost for Student Success. “The number of available students is going to go down drastically. What do you do?”
In 2016, YCP enrollment was just under 5,000 students – now, that number is down to 3,750, according to U.S. News.
Part of the plan is to improve on-campus facilities such as dorms and facilities. Landau says that the school has been in contact with several architects, but there is no timeline on the table just yet.
The school is also planning on creating new programs for adult learners and promises to “develop the infrastructure and programs to support them.”
Of course, doing all of these things requires money, but Gunter-Smith says that the school is trying to find ways to keep tuition affordable for all students.
3, York College will empower students for personal and professional success
This is perhaps the most straightforward point, as there are only three subheadings beneath it. The first details how the school wishes to become more accessible to students whose first language is not English. The second outlines a desire to improve recreation and mental health resources on campus. The third talks about establishing an orientation system that spans an entire college career rather than one semester during freshman year.
“We are doing things to enhance our Office of Career Development,” Gunter-Smith said. “By the time you leave here, you’ll have all of that [career plans] planned out.”
This part of the plan seems closely tied to the next part, which is:
4, York College graduates will leave YCP with sufficient experience
Gunter-Smith emphasized her desire for students to leave YCP with sufficient, applicable real-world experience. This can come through the PBL classes mentioned above, but she had other ideas as well.
The only points here that have not been mentioned before somewhere in this plan are a) The desire to expand internships and co-ops across all majors and b) Engage alumni to promote the professional growth of YCP students. Rick Satterlee, PhD, York College’s first Dean of Student Development and Campus Life, spoke about this at the first of two town halls earlier this year.
“We have a vast alumni base that we’re not tapping into,” Satterlee said. “Beyond that, we’re interested in vertical curriculum development … it takes commitment to have a successful outcome.”
The revamp of the career center is underway, according to school leadership, but the amount of changes is currently unknown.
5, York College will ensure organizational resiliency
The final point of the strategic plan outlines front-of-house changes, such as investing in the workforce, fostering shared-governance between staff and leadership, establishing financial equilibrium, re-evaluating land use, and other behind-the-scenes changes.
The Spartan published a piece last semester about faculty dissatisfaction toward the school’s leadership, and it is now apparent that the school is taking those concerns into account. Much of this point is about reestablishing the trust between faculty and board and cultivating a more positive work environment.
This point is not going to impact students on a micro level. But what about the rest of the plan?
Well, if you are a junior or older, the chances of you seeing any of these changes implemented before you graduate are pretty slim.
Despite its vague language, this plan is audacious. There are several departmental overhauls planned, as well as building renovations and other large projects. These things do not happen overnight- they take a lot of time, money, and manpower, and the school did not have a timeline for any of these proposals at the time of their introduction.
For the underclassmen, it is possible that you see some minor changes in the next year or two. Some of the smaller changes, like the land reevaluation and the opening of the Knowledge Park, are things that you could see in the near future.
Accomplishing all of the things in the Strategic Plan 2.0 in the next five years is optimistic, to say the least. Regardless, the president and the provost are passionate about this project and seem ready to devote themselves to see everything through.
Because this is just the second plan in the president’s nine-year tenure, it is still unclear whether or not the school is going to continue reassessing every five years. Some schools practice the five-year plan method – while others reassess as needed – we will have to wait to see which camp York falls into.
Either way, York College seems to have a clear direction forward.
“Our job is to put you in a position to be successful,” Landau said. “Our whole focus is that you’re still here and that we get you the educational experience that you wanted when you joined York College.”
Ben Weyman is a senior majoring in mass communication.
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