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As John Carroll University’s faculty and staff begin to read, reflect on, and discuss the draft of the institution’s new strategic plan, Dr. Michael D. Johnson today shared his “Vision for John Carroll University.” The future-focused message outlines the importance of harnessing John Carroll’s academic strengths and Jesuit tradition while also differentiating the University through innovation. The backdrop of this vision is the changing higher education landscape, the evolving impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the need to build on JCU's Jesuit, liberal arts heritage while also investing in the future. A complete version of the strategic plan will be shared with the community in the coming months. 

Read President Johnson’s message here:


Vision for John Carroll University 

John Carroll University’s strategic plan for 2020-2025 comes at a critically important time in the institution’s history. The convergence of three major developments is having an unparalleled impact on the university’s ability to compete and remain financially strong: (1) the need for innovation to keep pace with changing student demand, (2) structural deficits that are not sustainable, and (3) the impacts of COVID-19.

The new strategic plan must continue to build on John Carroll’s academic strengths and Jesuit tradition, but also differentiate and position us to compete more effectively in the increasingly competitive market for higher education through innovation in its curricular and co-curricular programs. Over the course of many years, we have fallen behind peer institutions with respect to the affinity that attracts new students and tuition dollars. Tuition revenues have remained flat while costs continue to grow. The plan seeks to answer how we become more attractive to prospective students given the multitude of opportunities available to them in order to grow enrollment and revenues. The plan must be comprehensive and envision everything from our academic program priorities and administrative units, to our enrollment strategy and marketing support, to enriching our student experience beyond the classroom, to broadening our student populations and ways of delivering our educational experiences, to our technological platforms, to our community partnerships and collaborations.

While innovating, the university must simultaneously reduce its cost structure to address historical budget deficits and lay the foundation for long-term financial strength. The university is undergoing a $20 million cost restructuring that includes $15 million in longer-term cost reductions to address structural deficits and another $5 million in temporary savings for fiscal year 2020-2021 that are directly related to costs and uncertainties associated with COVID-19. With a goal to thrive and not just survive, the university must change the way it operates, generate new resources, and reallocate existing resources, all while preserving the core of our Jesuit Catholic education.

This innovation and restructuring are occurring as the world is adapting to a global pandemic. COVID-19 has created unprecedented uncertainty in our finances while fundamentally changing the way we teach and interact with our students. During the spring of 2020, the crisis required John Carroll to move from primarily face-to-face instruction to completely online delivery of courses and virtual support services. We expect there to be longer term impacts on our institution, primarily with respect to how we engage with students and their willingness to return to classroom instruction. Our historical face-to-face, on campus mode of instruction is being replaced by a hybrid approach, where some course elements are designed ahead of time and made available on demand (asynchronously), while live (synchronous) components are taught through in-person, classroom instruction that fosters active engagement between students and faculty.

The overall vision for John Carroll that has emerged from the strategic planning process is bold and highly achievable. The plan is based on research and analysis related to the current and future demand for academic programs and John Carroll’s ability to compete for students in those programs. The plan realigns our program mix to areas of enrollment and revenue growth that will differentiate John Carroll and sustain the institution going forward.

Not surprisingly, the vision starts with our commitment to academic rigor, a faith that does justice, inclusive excellence, and care for the whole person. We will continue to inspire individuals of intellect and character to learn, lead, and serve in the community and around the world. Grounded on our Jesuit heritage, we will build upon our strengths in the liberal arts to advance innovative, rigorous programs for a diverse community of students.

Leveraging our location, alumni network, and historical strengths, John Carroll will enhance its reputation through investments in curricular and co-curricular programs related to health, business, analytics, and experiential learning. Why these areas? The focus on health builds upon our strength in pre-health majors and biology in particular, business education, and proximity to world-class healthcare institutions that are among the largest employers of our graduates. John Carroll is well positioned to become a leader, regionally and nationally, in health professions and the business of healthcare. The Boler College of Business, home to three of our four largest undergraduate majors and Master of Business Administration programs, is itself well positioned to grow in both size and reputation. The growth of analytics and “big data” as an interdisciplinary focus offers John Carroll additional areas of focus in which to compete, as through the new Kramer School of Accountancy and Information Sciences. Last but not least, John Carroll will continue to provide students with a culture of care, where they experience a deep sense of belonging and thrive as engaged learners who become inspired, discerning leaders in service for and with others, as through the new Donnelly School of Service and Social Innovation.

I would like to thank the entire John Carroll community for their time and hard work in the planning process and commitment to the future of the University. It is remarkable what we accomplished this past year while continuing to deliver our first-class educational experience, serving our students outside the classroom, and rebuilding support structures, all while adapting to a global health crisis.


Onward On and go Blue Streaks! 

Michael D. Johnson, President