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SIT Strategic Plan and Vision: 2022-2026
Last updated: 6/28/2022
Preamble from the President:
In 2017, we embarked on an ambitious plan to turn SIT into one cohesive, global, values-driven higher education institution that would re-make the rules, as we have throughout our history, for international higher education.
In 2018, we embraced a new vision for the whole of World Learning/SIT to bring together education, international development, and cultural exchange, from kindergarten to old age with a global higher education institution.
Today, I look back at our progress, and look forward to the future. Since 2017, we have re-launched the Graduate Institute, developed a brand-new type of master’s degree, the Global Masters; introduced SIT’s first doctoral program; built an extensive Custom Programs unit and a formidable roster of summer study abroad; introduced virtual programming; extended our geographical reach; welcomed a new era in DEIA+, made new friends and partners across the whole of World Learning, re-built our faculty governance structures and our central administration at both World Learning and SIT; and introduced faculty rank for all. We have made these and many other changes despite the existential crisis of a global pandemic during the past two years. Our progress, as always, is the result of the extraordinary hard work and commitment of our faculty and staff. Now, we have the opportunity to build upon these achievements as we turn to the future.
I introduce to you here my vision for our future, together with a renewed mission statement, and a new four-year strategic plan. This vision builds on our work since 2017, looking to the next ten years and outlining SIT’s future as a global research-professional university* recognized nationally and globally as an innovative, values- and ideas-driven institution with a close (and historic) relationship to practice in the international arena. Over the period of the four year strategic plan, our task is to take SIT forward as the world re-opens, re-focus on our ambitions, and ensure that SIT is becoming visibly extraordinary in everything that we do. This is how we achieve maximum impact on our societies. This is how we build a more sustainable, peaceful, and just world. This vision, mission and plan are the results of a discussion and committee process begun by the SIT community prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. The mission conversation was taken forward by the re-accreditation Standard One committee. The vision and plan were drafted by the senior staff team in a spring 2022 retreat, reviewed with the Academic Affairs Committee of the World Learning Board of Trustees and presented for open comment to the SIT community. This vision, mission and strategy reflects the feedback we received throughout the process.
*We will seek ‘doctoral-professional’ university status: the Carnegie Classification definition for a university focusing on professional doctoral programs, with a moderate level of research activity.
Mission: SIT educates future scholars and professionals in diverse settings to address the most critical global issues in pursuit of a more sustainable, peaceful, and just world.
Approach: SIT fulfills its mission by offering transformative reflective learning and research experiences that prepare agents of change to work across cultures and communities for the mutual benefit of all.
Vision: SIT aspires to be a global research-professional university offering values-driven, high-impact programs and practitioner-oriented degrees through collaborative, learner-centered, experiences based on reciprocal and meaningful engagement with diverse communities.
SIT’s mission and approach are guided by core values that unite our community, inform our practices, and drive our decision-making. These values serve as both a reflection and aspiration as we strive to fulfill our mission, helping us frame who we are and who we want to be as an institution of higher education.
Community: We value active togetherness, reciprocity, and respect as the essential ingredients for sustainable community-building. With our presence and our programs, we create a global network of learners empowered to become community builders and collaborators.
Intercultural Understanding: With open minds, empathy, and courage, we facilitate understanding of and respect for the commonalities and differences between people. We do this through cultural immersion and experiential learning, which leads us to seek and create a better world.
Social Inclusion & Justice: We champion inclusion in all that we are and all that we do, from ensuring our community and our programs amplify the voices, agency, and dignity of all people to deliberately instilling the principles and practices of inclusion in all of our work. We seek a world in which individuals and communities are self-determining, interdependent, and equitable.
Sustainability: We are committed to human and environmental well-being and contributing to a better world for all living and future generations.
- One institution
- Financially thriving
- A doctoral/professional university
- A new paradigm for global higher education
Challenges and Opportunities
SIT is an ambitious institution that has always been at the forefront of experiential, mission-driven international education. We seek a future in which we thrive and innovate, contribute our thought-leadership, and enhance our reputation within the international higher education field. However, we face a series of challenges as well as new opportunities as we move into this new phase.
- The slow return to historic norms of enrollment as the world re-opens
- The impact of two to three years of financial exigency on operations
- Reliance on tuition revenues and a small endowment that makes us vulnerable to enrollment trends
- Restricted money for innovation as we grow back
- Uncertainty of future trends in study abroad and graduate studies post-pandemic and the great resignation
- The upcoming demographic cliff of college-aged U.S. residents
- Limited brand awareness despite a remarkable history as a higher education institution. We have not broken through two ‘glass ceilings’ – being a “study abroad provider” and a “best kept secret”
- Limited diversity and interculturality in our programs – our undergraduate programs are high quality but expensive for many diverse and low-income students; and the lack of an international recruitment strategy restricts the pluriversal encounters on program.
- We have a long history of curriculum and policy development that requires updating as we seek to innovate for the future
- SIT grew up and matured as a divided institution (between undergraduate and graduate programs, between geographical regions, and even between individual learning centers). We have come a long way to close these divisions, but we still have work to do
- We have considerable strengths as an institution in international education including loyal alumni in strategically vital locations, many long-serving faculty and staff, the geographical diversity of programs and learning centers, a strong sense of mission internally, and a board who believes in our future and the important role we can play in the world. We are ready to be ambitious and innovative once again
- We have a strong and specific reputation for study abroad and a nationally recognized history for the Graduate Institute
- The colleges and universities that are our primary partners are the best in the United States and often the world. They are likely to be the most resilient to the demographic cliff
- As part of a multi-faceted institution, World Learning, we have opportunities to expand and diversify our activities beyond tuition-revenue
- We have an excellent set of compliance structures and can do business in more than 40 countries
- The international higher education market is changing rapidly ‘post’-pandemic. We can use this challenge as an opportunity to enhance our niche as the primary high-quality provider of undergraduate programming abroad
- As the world re-opens, partner schools globally are interested in changing their traditional approaches to study abroad. This presents opportunities for the diversification of our program portfolio, including potential growth in custom programs (due to perceived high-risk environments); BA/MA articulation agreements with our liberal arts college partners; partnerships with international colleges (particularly U.S.-registered), first year study abroad; college prep courses; and potential global partnerships to access regional funding (e.g. European Union monies)
- We are supported by strong teams across World Learning that helped us professionally during the pandemic and now are working with us to ensure rapid recovery and the fulfillment of our overall vision
- Re-structuring of central administration during the pandemic positions us to strengthen our operations while building quality, innovation, research and thought-leadership in the academic arena
- Our long history of innovation is a strong foundation on which to build
Goal 1: One SIT @ One World Learning/SIT
Continue the process of unification and engagement across the divisions, which was begun in 2017 and 2018 to achieve improved institutional prosperity, quality of learning experience, and opportunities to expand our reach.
SIT is still in the middle of culture change to overcome historical internal divisions. Over the next four years we will continue the hard work of ensuring that culture change becomes embedded.
At World Learning/SIT, we have made some important cross-organizational connections since 2018, and during the pandemic we learned to support and rely on each other. We know that the World Learning/SIT community is committed to our shared goals. But there is still much to learn and do. In phase one, we will build and strengthen our cross-organizational relationships and learn more about each other’s programs. We will aim to introduce mentoring and engagement between our students and our practitioners. We will increase our pursuit of relevant joint funding projects and support more projects at the level of individual faculty and programs. In phase two, we will aim for joint major projects – in at least one new country and one new area of expertise.
1.1 One SIT: not uniform, but unified
1.2 One SIT @ World Learning
Goal 2: The resources to make a difference: ensure appropriate resources for present needs, the four-year strategic plan, and the longer-term vision
SIT has been through an existential challenge during the pandemic. Our job now is to re-establish our resourcing thresholds, build sufficient resources for our current and future ambitions, and finally build our endowment and diversify our revenue streams to ensure that we are resilient and not overly dependent on any one source of revenue.
In phase one, we will re-establish resources for program sites, faculty and staff salaries and benefits, professional development, SIT central administration and services, key SIT community activities, and contributions to the core shared services at World Learning/SIT. In phase two, we will ensure resourcing for innovative programming, deepening our activities, new professional and thought-leadership opportunities, and cross-organizational project development. Finally, we will aim to diversify revenue streams to promote SIT nationally, re-invest in quality and support large-scale infrastructure projects such as upgrading our student information system. Potential new funding sources will include tuition from a broader portfolio of programs, funding from external projects, and revenue from an increase of the endowment.
2.1 Re-establish resources
2.2 Ensure resourcing
2.3 Diversify revenue streams
Goal 3: Ten years to a research-professional university: quality; innovation; institutional strength; 10 years to doctoral-professional
Since its foundation in 1964, SIT has evolved from offering training certificates, to MAs, to the BA, and now the doctorate. We have expanded from social anthropology, languages, and practice-based professional studies to offer programs from humanities to STEM taught by qualified faculty with support from a highly professional staff. Our next step is to turn our Critical Global Issue program groups and faculty into ‘schools’. We are, in fact, becoming a university. We do not want to lose our uniqueness, but we also wish to be recognizable and visible within the higher education sector: a university, but on our own terms.
Part of establishing greater visibility for our unique institution is finding our own unique niche within the overall U.S. higher education system. To that end, we aim to achieve the new Carnegie Classification of ‘doctoral-professional’ university over the next ten years. We choose this category as a higher education institution that is also part of an international NGO and that seeks to emphasize the relationship between theory and practice, research and application
3.1 Academic quality and innovation (see five-year Academic Strategic Plan)
3.2 A learning university
3.3 An ‘ideas’ university: generate, elevate, showcase (see five-year Academic Strategic Plan)
3.4 Building reputation, branding, and uniqueness within a clear national and global framework
Goal 4: A student-centered university
All U.S. colleges and universities aim to be student-centered, but we face specific, ongoing challenges in achieving an excellent student-centered experience: We focus on semester-length programs at the undergraduate level, leading to intense but short-term relationships. Distanced from central offices where they may typically go for a range of support services, students tend to build and rely on those relationships rather than seeing additional help. Secondly, we have diverse experiences and learning environments that inspire students, but we must maintain consistent quality and consistency of support across all programs. Thirdly, disparate student locations make it difficult to hear student voices as a community. We must ensure that student voice is heard as a part of our conversations. Finally, we need to connect with our alumni beyond their specific program and experience to ensure that alumni are also part of the community conversation.
4.1 Student voice and engagement at every level
4.2 Student experiences that are diverse and tailored, but also consistent and distinctively SIT
4.3 The same high-quality level of student care for all
4.4 A fulfilling, engaging and useful ongoing relationship with SIT as alumni
Goal 5: Developing a new paradigm for a global university
In 1932, World Learning/SIT launched an extraordinary experiment to bridge national divides for young people by taking students to see other countries and learn across the divide. Eventually a federation of affiliated organizations was established that worked together to provide international learning experiences before ‘globalization’ or ‘internationalization’. Out of this, SIT was born. International education has come a long way, including the advent of the ‘global university’ as an institutional response to the internationalization of education. But the idea of a genuinely, geographically dispersed, global higher education institution has yet to be realized.
SIT is now positioned to become the first true university to span the globe. Our ambition is not to be a hub with satellites. We are not a collection of partnerships. We are not a U.S. university overseas. SIT is something different. We have faculty in more than 40 countries, leadership on two continents, staff working across time-zones and students learning wherever it makes sense for their studies. This is the groundwork for our new paradigm.
5.1 Continue to build our global campus to finalize a progressive example of globalization in practice
5.2 Mindfully formulate what a truly global institution can be, and brand and promulgate the model in our different communities/communities of practice
Goal 6: A values-driven university: deepening our commitment to our values
We are a values-driven institution, but how we understand and wish to implement those values has changed considerably over the past five years. Since 2017, we have spent considerable time re-examining our DEIA+ approach and building a new plan for SIT (see SIT DEI Strategic Plan). Alongside implementation of the new DEIA+ plan, we need to engage further with our other values. This plan focuses first on the DEIA+ plan, but then on the importance of creating a new plan for sustainability beyond our Vermont campus, the transfer of our traditional focus on intercultural communication into a pluriversal approach, and the construction of a model for accessibility that allows real transparency for students as well as increased accessibility when choosing an overseas program. All three will require ingenuity, leadership in the relevant sector and potentially new paradigms.
6.1 Our DEIA+ strategy (see SIT DEI Strategic Plan)
6.2 A new approach to sustainability: the opportunity for leadership within international education
6.3 Intercultural communication: formulating a new approach for a pluriversal world
implementing a model for accessibility