Listening session gathers community input for 5 year plan

In order to come up with a suitable long-term plan for St. John’s University, the Strategic Priorities Working Group (SPWG) recently held listening sessions to gather input from students, faculty and staff.

The sessions were held Nov. 20 on the Queens campus and Nov. 21 on the Manhattan and Staten Island campuses. Hundreds of people attended these listening sessions and the sessions exceeded all expectations, according to co-chair and law school dean Michael Simons.

“We are here, we assure you, to listen,” said Simons. “Our job is to come up with a list of 20 action items for next year.”

Facilitator Sharon McDade broke up the large audience into smaller groups of about four to five people for a collective brainstorming activity. Each group member wrote down their personal input, then brainstormed in the group for ideas that fit within each of the priorities laid out by the working group.

New University President Dr. Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw laid out four priorities in his investiture speech.

Reviewing them, Simons said, “Our priorities are ensuring student success, recognizing and retaining the best faculty, administrators and staff, enhancing our teaching and learning environments and expanding our global and community partnerships.”

After 40 minutes of brainstorming, each group shared what they thought was their best collaborative idea.

“Expand the space for our students to study,” said one group.

“Create more degree programs designed for job placement,” said another.

One of the groups suggested having Fridays off during the summer, and there was loud applause from the faculty and staff within the crowd.

Most of the ideas were centered on enhancing student learning. There were trends in expanding and developing the library, mentorship programs for first-year students and bettering the reputation of St. John’s in order to draw in the best students from across the country.

“There are some issues that definitely need to be fixed,” said graduate student Alana Coulum.

Each group recorded its ideas on sheets of paper to be collected. The working group will review the ideas, come up with a list of action items and return in the spring to receive input on the five-year plan draft.

“This is the first time that St. John’s has had this big of an initiative [for community input],” said Jorge Rodriguez, associate vice president of the Office of Student Financial Services and SPWG member.

“From student success to going more global, the community has to let the president know… This is the charge of our committee,” Rodriguez said.

Yuxiang Liu of the Department of Institutional Research said, “The University is mainly for the students. We put their ideas into the next five-year plan.”

Although Dr. Gempesaw did not attend the meeting, the SPWG will compile the ideas from the listening session into one cohesive list and present them to the president.

If you want to contribute to the plan for St. John’s future, look out for the listening sessions during the spring semester and a possible suggestion form on the St. John’s website.