FOCUS 2011: Strengthening JWU

Johnson & Wales University’s strategic plan, FOCUS 2011, represented a dramatic shift in direction: it sought to be a better, not bigger, university.

Paving the Way for FOCUS
JWU purposefully grew to its current size through the development and implementation of a series of 5-year strategic plans, beginning with the launch of Vision 1994 in 1988-89. The essential goal of each of these plans was to strengthen the university and secure its future through growth and expansion and by the development of a distinctive identity.

JWU Focus 2011 logo

The 17 year span between the launch of the first plan and FOCUS 2011 saw significant growth at JWU, including:

  • jump in enrollment from 7,752 to 16,561
  • the university’s annual budget increased from $72 million to $249 million
  • endowment grew from $9 million to $201 million

While these efforts resulted in a large and fiscally strong university, it became increasingly clear that the strategic trajectory aimed at expansion and growth could not be sustained. The university faced several interrelated strategic challenges to ensure a continued secure institutional future.

Setting New Strategic Goals
At the start of FOCUS 2011, the university took a hard look at improving the following key factors: the student experience, student selectivity and affordability, as well as the ability to prepare students to launch their careers.

To meet these challenges, JWU needed to build structures, mechanisms and the organizational capacity to fulfill these new strategic goals — including an enhanced capacity to develop human resources. The strategic goals of FOCUS 2011 were measured through improved retention and graduation rates, as well as other quantitative and qualitative measures, including:

  • strengthened academic and student experience
  • increased academic governance
  • sharpened admissions standards
  • increased emphasis on affordability

Summing Up the Success of FOCUS 2011
FOCUS 2011: Strengthening our University (450K PDF) summarizes the great success JWU has enjoyed in implementing the plan. In short, today JWU is a much stronger university than it was 5 years ago. The university is more selective, more affordable, offers programming of higher academic quality, and affords its students an environment more conducive to academic success and personal growth. Further, the university strengthened its foundation, and enhanced its human, physical and financial capital.

Perhaps the most important success enjoyed through FOCUS 2011 has been a change in the university’s culture. The community has fully embraced the aspirations implicit in FOCUS 2011 and, as a result, the university’s narrative has changed from one which emphasized growth to one that stresses the importance of quality.

Implicit in this new narrative, however, is the understanding that FOCUS 2011 was only a beginning. Through successive strategic plans, JWU will continue to enhance its capacity to offer high-quality academic programming that prepares graduates for long-term professional and personal success.