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John Carroll University’s strategic plan for 2020 -2025 comes at a critically important time in the institution’s history. It follows Promise and Prominence, the plan for 2015 through 2020, which emerged from the need to focus on the currency of John Carroll University’s academic programs and Higher Learning Commission (HLC) accreditation. 

The new strategic plan builds on John Carroll's academic strengths and Jesuit tradition, but also differentiates and positions us to compete more effectively in the increasingly competitive marker for higher education through innovation in its curricular and co-curricular programs. It will also articulate how John Carroll will operate in the changed, post COVID-19 world where the higher education market is increasingly competitive in Ohio and beyond.

Work on the strategic plan for 2020-2025 began during the 2019-2020 academic year and continued through Summer 2020 with broad collaboration from campus stakeholders. The plan is comprehensive and envisions everything from academic program priorities and administrative structures, to enrollment strategy and support, to enriching the student experience beyond the classroom, to broadening student populations and ways of delivering the John Carroll educational experience.

I continue to welcome input and participation from the entire campus community and look forward to creating a vision for John Carroll that is both exciting and enduring.

Michael D. Johnson

President, John Carroll University

Pre-dating the pandemic, the urgency for change is rooted in the shifting environment for higher education in Northeast Ohio and beyond, tuition revenues that remain flat, and costs that continue to grow. In simple economic terms, higher education in the United States is a market with a relatively fixed supply of colleges and universities and declining demand. Predictable declines in college-age students are hitting Ohio particularly hard and creating significant downward pressure on the cost of education. Ohio college enrollments have declined every year since 2010 and will continue to decline for the next decade. These demographic challenges have contributed to discount rates, or de facto price cuts on tuition, that have grown by two percent per year and exceed 50 percent for all private, non-profit colleges and universities. Similar to other Catholic institutions, John Carroll’s applications from traditional Catholic feeder schools are declining and our competitive set is evolving. Students who are an excellent fit for John Carroll are choosing to apply to other Ohio-based, private institutions. For those who do apply, John Carroll competes directly with lower-cost, public institutions.

John Carroll’s first-year enrollment experiences in recent years make another reality very clear – status quo, John Carroll can attract more first-year students with a higher discount rate, or target fewer students with a lower discount rate, while net tuition revenue remains relatively constant. Neither scenario is sustainable. Colleges and universities can no longer raise revenues by simply increasing the cost of education without innovating inside and outside the classroom. John Carroll has become too dependent on revenues from traditional four-year undergraduate education and a portfolio of programs that has remained relatively unchanged.

The situation requires a strategic plan that closely examines the strengths of John Carroll’s academic programs, invests in new and existing programs that are distinctive and will grow enrollments, and evolves or sunsets programs that no longer draw significant student enrollment interest. In parallel, the University must continue to find ways to operate more efficiently, increase productivity, and continue to lower its cost structure.


Deliberations in recent months identified a long list of questions that could be addressed in the process, not all of which we control or directly impact our performance. To better define the scope of the new strategic plan, senior leadership identified 14 elements to include in a comprehensive strategic plan. They are:

  • Academic program evaluation

  • Administrative structures review 

  • Advancement and the next capital campaign

  • Branding, Marketing and Communications

  • Diversity, equity and inclusion

  • Facilities plan

  • Financial plan

  • Enrollment plan

  • Human capital plan for faculty and staff

  • Mission and vision

  • New program development

  • Strategic community partnerships

  • Student experience

  • Technology plan

These elements were then integrated to identify: (1) four key themes to guide the development of the teams that will be working on the strategy, (2) the overarching mission and vision that will guide the process as an additional theme, and (3) existing units and support structures or functions that will support the process. The themes are envisioned as the pillars of the strategy, guided by the mission and vision, and supported by units on campus.

One team revisited the language of John Carroll's mission and lead the feedback process for the proposed vision statement . Four separate teams were then tasked tasked with one of the four themes. Each team proposed possible goals, strategies to achieve those goals, and intended outcomes that have the potential to significantly move the University forward. 

Each team presented at or lead one or more campus community forum during the Fall 2019 semester. Teams used the forums to present goals, gather feedback, or conduct a goal development workshop. 

Theme 1: Overriding Mission & Vision

While John Carroll's mission is enduring, it is important to engage the University community to reaffirm the mission to assure it reflects current language, the challenges the world faces today, and the current work of the University. John Carroll's vision statement needs revisiting to capture what the University aspires to as an institution. Ed Peck, as Vice President for Mission and Identity, led the team and engage the community in addressing the following key questions: 

What should be our distinctive vision statement? 

How do we translate our mission and vision, in concert with our portfolio of academic and co-curricular programs, into our academic and institutional brand?


Theme 2: Academic Program Evaluation, Administrative Structures, and Community Partnerships

Provost and Academic Vice President Steve Herbert led the academic program evaluation working with the deans and members of the faculty. Each program was evaluated with respect to its strengths and opportunities with an eye toward developing strategies to improve the program’s appeal to students. This evaluative process was designed to be quicker and less burdensome than full academic program reviews (e.g., as part of the HLC continuous improvement). As it relates to the identification of existing capacities and interests, this team worked in tandem with the team charged with Theme 3 (see key questions below). 

Theme 3: New Program Development, Evaluation, and Delivery

Provost Herbert and President Johnson co-led the team focused on the development of new programs. Provost Herbert focused on program development while President Johnson focused on the external demand for those programs and potential funding. The team solicited short proposals from members of the community on their ideas for new program development and delivery. While the evaluation of current programs is distinct from new program development, taken together the teams addressed the following key questions:

How many and what mix of academic programs can JCU support given its size and enrollment? 

What current academic programs need to be improved or sunsetted? 

How do we evaluate our academic staffing needs while continuing to develop our current faculty? 

What programs should we create, and what new student populations should we target? 

What are the best administrative structures to support our academic program goals? 


Theme 4: Enrollment Strategy and Support

Stephanie Levenson, Vice President for Enrollment Management, led a team to develop both near-term and longer-term enrollment strategies and identify the resources needed to support them. This team included members of the senior leadership team, the Enrollment Task Force of the Board of Directors, and other members of the University community. The key questions addressed by the enrollment team were: 

How effective and efficient are our current enrollment strategy and tactics? 

What investments should we make in enrollment and supporting units to improve student yield, retention and outcomes? 


Theme 5: The Student Experience

John Carroll's ability to attract, retain, and graduate students of intellect, character, leadership, and service depends on both the academic programs offered and the University's ability to facilitate the engagement and success of students. The student experience, taken as a whole, determines whether students feel at home on campus and in the community in which we are situated. Mark McCarthy, Vice President for Student Affairs, led the team that evaluated the student experience and developed a strategy for continuous improvement. The strategy should demonstrate how John Carroll supports, challenges, and prepares students for life, including the assessment of their experiences and outcomes related to career and graduate school preparation as well as overall student satisfaction. The key questions addressed were: 

What are the main drivers of student success, in addition to their academic programs, that support students’ engagement, develop their skills and talents, and prepare them for life beyond JCU? 

Where should we invest in these drivers to improve student yield, success, retention, and outcomes?


Finally, other units on campus led by members of the SLT provided critical support through existing office structures. These support structures include but are not limited to marketing and communications, advancement, diversity and inclusion, facilities, finance, human resource management, purchasing, risk assessment, and information technology. Supporting units will also be actively engaged in the identification of alternative revenue streams, such as summer programs on campus, and operational efficiencies.  These units worked with the teams to address the following key questions: 

Are we successfully implementing our Plan for Inclusive Excellence?

As our next capital campaign is in the planning stages, what are the goals, and when should it launch? 

How can alumni and the community support our university priorities moving forward, as with respect to partnerships, career mentoring, paid internships, and support for philanthropic priorities? 

Are there additional revenue sources and/or operational efficiencies to be gained going forward? 

Mission and Vision

Under the leadership of Edward Peck, Vice President for Mission and Identity, the Mission and Vision Team first reviewed the longer version of the University Mission Statement and recommended any minor, contextual changes necessary to update this enduring statement. The team then reviewed and refined the draft vision statement provided by the President to ensure that the directional statement is expressed in a clear, compelling, and concise manner that reflects John Carroll's Jesuit Catholic mission and the four pillars of the plan. As part of their work, the team held a series of community-wide conversations to seek input and promote a shared understanding of the mission and vision statements.

In simple terms, John Carroll's mission statement is the institution's principle reason for being. As a Jesuit Catholic university, John Carroll inspires individuals to excel in learning, leadership and service in the region and in the world. As described in the Case for Change, the mission statement is, and should be, enduring. The team updated language to reflect how the world and what John Carroll does has changed, but the core mission remains unchanged.

The vision statement, in contrast, should be a directional statement of where John Carroll is headed as an institution and how it aspires to achieve its mission. For an academic institution such as John Carroll, the vision should specify particular areas of investment and distinction while recognizing that any area of study offered should continuously improve and provide an excellent student experience. The statement should also be general enough to leave room for individuals and groups to champion passions that are consistent with the mission and vision as they emerge from the strategic planning process. 

As we consider our vision statement, we are reminded to incorporate key language to keep it connected to the achievement of our mission statement, foremost that we stay grounded in our Jesuit Catholic tradition to excel in learning, leadership and service. 

Draft Vision Statement (Sept. 5, 2019)

Grounded in its Jesuit Catholic tradition, John Carroll University will build upon its strengths and innovate to educate a diverse population of undergraduate, graduate and non-traditional students to become inspired and discerning learners and leaders in service to others through their areas of study, with particular distinction in areas that include health sciences, analytics, business and service learning. In doing this, JCU will be a top-ranked regional, private university delivering excellent academic programs by an excellent faculty in an environment where students feel at home. 

Revised Vision Statement (Nov. 25, 2019)

Grounded in its Jesuit Catholic heritage, John Carroll University will:

  • Build upon its strengths in the liberal arts to advance innovative, rigorous programs for a diverse community of students,
  • Enhance its reputation as a top-ranked university of choice through distinction in health, business, analytics, and experiential learning,
  • Provide a culture of care where students experience a deep sense of belonging and thrive as engaged learners who become inspired, discerning leaders in service for and with others.

View the full Mission Statement here.

View the October 30 Community Forum presentation here.

Academic Program Evaluation, Administrative Structures, and Community Partnerships

Under the leadership of Steve Herbert, Provost and Academic Vice President, the team identified strengths, weaknesses, areas of growth, and the effective allocation of existing resources for each academic program. Using existing data and gathering qualitative and narrative information from chairs, faculty and academic staff, the team led a transparent evaluation process to identify thematic areas for inclusion in the strategic plan that build on existing strengths, identify new areas of growth consistent with John Carroll’s mission and capacities, and identify the gaps in resources and academic structures necessary to support these efforts. Particular attention was paid to areas consistent with the University’s emerging vision and to improving the overall quality and market appeal of John Carroll’s academic enterprise.

View the December 18 Community Forum presentation here.

New Program Development, Evaluation, and Delivery

Though themes 2 and 3 are distinct, they are intimately intertwined: The process of evaluating John Carroll's academic programs naturally identified new program direction opportunities and the new program development effort benefited from understanding the strengths, weaknesses and resource gaps discerned by program evaluation. Steve Herbert and Michael Johnson co-led this goal team which managed the call for potential new academic programs within the strategic planning process. The team designed and communicated a proposal process for new programs that identified the information required for the proposal submission, the criteria used to evaluate the strength of the proposal, and the methodology used to prioritize each proposal submitted.  Proposals were welcome from any sector of the university. Guided by the priorities identified in the vision statement, the team developed a prioritized list of potential new programs, identifying the market strengths that each program addresses and the gaps that must be addressed to launch a high quality and successful program. 

New Program Evaluation Rubric

View the December 18 Community Forum presentation here.

View the Team 3 Final Report here.

Enrollment Strategy and Support

Stephanie Levenson, Vice President for Enrollment, and her team looked at both short term and long term enrollment strategies over the next three to five years. In the short term, the team focused on: (1) increasing demand at the top of the enrollment funnel; (2) improved messaging of the value proposition to support increased demand and yield; (3) improved Enrollment Manager relationships and performance; and (4) leveraging merit and need based aid to meet headcount and financial goals. Given the highly competitive market with shrinking demographics for first-year student enrollment, how can John Carroll position itself to maintain enrollment? Additionally, in the long term, the team will look at opportunities in a targeted and integrated way to affect enrollment for potential new audiences, recognizing the distinctiveness of student populations including transfer students, students of color and adult learners.

View the December 18 Community Forum presentation here.

The Student Experience

Under the leadership of Mark McCarthy, Vice President for Student Affairs, the Student Experience Team evaluated the student experience with the goal of making it remarkable in terms of its focus on student engagement and success. The team reviewed existing qualitative and quantitative measures of student satisfaction and retention, conducted benchmarking on student success initiatives and processes, considered the needs and expectations of Gen Z students and emerging student populations, and determined gaps in programs and services needed to attract, retain and graduate students of intellect, character, leadership and service. Based on this assessment, the team developed a set of strategic goals aimed at improving the student experience in an effort to support, engage and prepare students for life after John Carroll. 

View the Student Experience Emerging Themes here.

View the November 6 Community Forum presentation here.

Download a PDF version of the plan.

Our Envisioned Future

John Carroll University’s promise is to develop the intellect, character, leadership, and service potential of every one of our students so that they will become the thought leaders, change agents, community builders, and ethical thinkers needed in the 21st century. To keep this promise, we must enhance the prominence of our University.

Our prominence will be achieved by aligning mission-driven initiatives with market-driven demands. John Carroll will increase its competitiveness to expand our geographic reach, enrollment, fiscal resources, partnerships, and philanthropic gifts.

We commit to the primacy of academic program quality and to curricular innovation and relevance. We will not compete on prestige or price alone. Instead, we will focus on value— providing the most exciting, challenging, holistic education available—and on values— sustaining the timeless ideals upon which this University is built.

John Carroll’s compact with its students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends is grounded in its Jesuit Catholic vision, mission, and core values. Embracing these, we will work in the next five years to achieve three goals. Each goal, as it is realized, will broaden opportunities for our students and increase their capacity to become engaged world citizens within a distinctly Ignatian framework.

  • Academic Excellence for Student Learning and Success animates the Ignatian traditions of intellectual rigor, local and global citizenship, and support for student learning and well-being.
  • Faith That Does Justice charges the University to address social challenges facing our local and global communities through the Ignatian model of reflection and action.
  • Engaged Campus Community challenges us to sustain a dynamic and collaborative workplace by embracing the Ignatian ideal of Magis, the greater good.

Our goals accomplished, we keep our promise to our students. And John Carroll students will realize their promise in the world.

Goals and Objectives

True to our heritage, reflective of our history and values, and high in aspiration, this strategic plan is also pragmatic and realistic, directed toward securing John Carroll’s future and meant to raise our reputation. It will make us stronger, not only because additional resources enrich student learning, but also because John Carroll University and its graduates are part of the Cleveland community and the national and global communities, and we are needed.

Goal 1

Academic Excellence For Student Learning And Success

John Carroll University will achieve greater regional and national recognition as a leader in liberal education and be known for developing superior critical competencies through a challenging integrative core curriculum, innovative curricular programs, and cross-campus support for student learning. Informed by Ignatian traditions of welleducated solidarity, holistic care for the person, and openness to the challenges of the world, Goal One will be achieved through these objectives:

  1. Integrative Curriculum: Implement the integrative core curriculum as a foundation for personal and professional success.
  2. Distinctive Programs: Develop and enhance distinctive undergraduate and graduate programs that attract external recognition, increase enrollment, and produce graduates who will benefit our region and beyond.
  3. Investment in Faculty: Invest in teacher-scholars to strengthen programs that enhance John Carroll University’s academic reputation.
  4. Experiential Education: Increase opportunities to engage in experiential learning programs through campus-based initiatives and local and global partnerships that prepare students for 21st century careers.
  5. Student Thriving: Increase student engagement to improve student persistence, on- time degree completion, personal growth, and professional preparation and advancement.

Goal 2

Faith That Does Justice

Rooted in the gospels and inspired by Catholic social teaching and the Jesuit tradition of being women and men for and with others, John Carroll University will be recognized for its work in faith development, interreligious dialogue, a commitment to solidarity with those who are poor and the marginalized, a curricular emphasis on social justice and global citizenship, and an operative principle of inclusive excellence. We will meet the following objectives:

  1. Jesuit Catholic Values: Deepen the University’s commitment to peace, justice, and sustainability
  2. Ignatian Pedagogy: Integrate an Ignatian Pedagogy of experience, reflection and action more fully into the student learning experience and across the broader campus community.
  3. Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue: Enable all members of the University community to explore, deepen, and share their faith or worldview in dialogue with people of all cultural and faith backgrounds.
  4. Inclusive Excellence: Improve the diversity of the faculty, staff, and student body and promote a culture of inclusive excellence.

Goal 3

Engaged Campus Community

John Carroll will nurture a dynamic, collaborative and future-oriented institutional culture predicated on student, faculty, staff and alumni engagement to achieve operational excellence and competitiveness. Building on the Ignatian ideal of Magis, the greater good, we will achieve the following objectives:

  1. Individual Well-Being: Advance the well-being of all full-time and part-time faculty and staff through enhanced work-life policies, communitybuilding, and professional development.
  2. Integrated Planning: Create, support, and sustain an integrated planning and budgeting process that aligns institutional resources with strategic priorities.
  3. Continuous Improvement: Advance a culture of mission-centered and data-informed decision making for institutional improvement.
  4. Enhanced Technology: Improve strategic use of technology to ensure excellence in all academic and administrative processes.
  5. Improved Collaboration: Establish dynamic organizational and governance structures, collaborative leadership, enhanced communication, and decision-making across all stakeholders of the University.
  6. Strategic Alliances: Pursue strategic alliances with local and global partners to enhance the University’s reputation in the region and the world.

Feedback from all stakeholders in the campus community is welcome through the strategic planning process. Please submit your comments here.