Wartburg College has launched a new constituent engagement initiative that will explore targeted opportunities and shape priorities in the final three years of the college’s strategic plan.

The Board of Regents approved Focus on the Future during its October 2016 meeting. Since then, college administrators have identified internal and external leaders to co-chair seven task forces, which will explore new strategic opportunities for the school.

More than 150 task force members will meet for the first time Feb. 17 in conjunction with the Board of Regents meeting on campus.

“As our successful Transforming Tomorrow campaign draws to a close, we are turning our attention, once again, to the future,” said Darrel Colson, Wartburg president. “Keeping in mind the first goal of our strategic plan, to expand deep and integrative learning in the liberal arts tradition, we will identify and clarify the next investments we are going to make, the investments for the future.”

Sara Tomson-Hooper, a 1989 Wartburg graduate, Board of Regents member and executive with Habitat for Humanity in Atlanta, and Todd Reiher, Wartburg professor of psychology, will serve as co-chairs for Focus on the Future. Lia Kampman, Wartburg’s associate director of institutional advancement, and Janeen Stewart, executive administrator for the President’s Office at Wartburg, will serve as co-directors.

“The level of constituent engagement designed in the initiative provides a strategic opportunity to draw on the knowledge and expertise of a vast array of multidisciplinary professionals,” said Tomson-Hooper. “The work together over the upcoming months will result in strengthening Wartburg’s existing programs; prioritizing expansion into new areas; and, developing new interdisciplinary approaches and solutions for addressing today’s ever-evolving challenges.”

Areas of focus will include:

  • Academic innovation, with task forces on engineering science, health sciences and interdisciplinary programs.
  • Student success, with task forces on living and learning environment, and student recruitment, support, engagement and satisfaction.
  • Expanding our reach, with task forces on experiential learning and entrepreneurial endeavors, and regional partnerships.

  • “The range of topics that the focus groups are going to examine tell us one thing very clearly: opportunities abound. The future belongs to those who can be bold and innovative, as our own vision statement says that we will be,” Colson said.

    Each task force will be chaired by one faculty or staff member and one external constituent with expertise in that area. Additionally, the task forces will include a mix of faculty, staff, Board of Regents members and external constiuents.

    Task force co-chairs include:

  • Engineering science: Gary Hoover, retired engineer and board member, and Dan Black, Wartburg’s Gary and Donna Hoover Distinguished Professor in Engineering Science.
  • Health sciences: William Wessels, chief medical officer for Aspirus Wausau Hospital, and Ed Westen, Wartburg associate professor of biology.
  • Interdisciplinary programs: Amy Chamley, preschool director in Illinois and board member, and David McCullough, Wartburg professor of biology.
  • Living and learning environment: Vern Klobassa, director of communication and training for student affairs at the University of St. Thomas, and Cassie Hales, Wartburg’s director of residential life.
  • Student recruitment, support, engagement and satisfaction: Jim and Renae Buchheim, vice president of communications at American Family Insurance and senior marketing consultant at UW Health in Wisconsin, respectively, and Derek Solheim, Wartburg’s Pathways Center director.
  • Experiential learning and entrepreneurial endeavors: Jeff Plagge, president and CEO of Northwest Financial Corp. in Arnolds Park, and Bill Withers, Wartburg professor of journalism and communication.
  • Regional partnerships: Greg Schmitz, an education, training, finance and health care specialist in Waterloo, and Kristin Teig Torres, Wartburg’s director of community engagement.

  • Task force recommendations will be finalized in September, with recommendations presented to the Board of Regents in October.

    “I’m prepared, as is the board, to invest in the future; I want to get to it,” Colson said.