This story appeared in the April edition of The GēDUNK, Grove City College’s alumni magazine. Read it online here.
The key to understanding where Grove City College is going is in the title of a new five-year strategic plan approved late last year by the Board of Trustees: From Strength to Strength: Timeless Values and Historic Opportunities.
“They go from strength to strength,” the psalmist writes of pilgrims, “till each appears before God in Zion.” Their strength is recognizing God’s gracious provision and having faith in the abundancy of his goodness. Grove City College’s leaders share that faith and relied on it as they worked on the roadmap that will guide the College as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2026.
“That’s where we get this idea from – ‘strength to strength’ – and we tie ourselves to the values that we’ve always cherished and to the exciting opportunities that lie ahead now,” College President Paul J. McNulty ’80 said, referencing the mission, vision, and values statements that accompany the new plan. (See page 30) “We’ve been greatly blessed, and we want to go to
a higher level – to a better spot even than where we are – in our mission and in serving our students.
Strategic planning is relatively new to Grove City College – this is only the fourth plan approved by Trustees – but it is now seen as essential as both an aspirational and operational document, McNulty said. “There’s an expression that if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. The importance of a strategic plan is to stop and think: Where do you want to go as a school? Who do we want to be?”
To answer those questions, Grove City College assembled a committee of Trustees, administrators, faculty, staff, and alumni to examine current trends in higher education and the College’s baseline educational, spiritual, operational, residential, and financial positions.
Most colleges and universities are facing a common demographic and social reality right now. There are fewer traditional college-age students, and they want greater value and more flexibility, often through technology, when it comes to higher education. The College has succeeded in
this environment by providing conviction, consistency, and a highly personalized education in the pursuit of truth. But, as Board Chair Edward D. Breen ’78 noted, “past success does not necessarily guarantee future success.”
Committed to the College’s vision, mission, and values, the planners agreed on a few points: Grove City College needs to be nationally competitive, offer programs that students want – and society needs – and provide an exceptional value. Board Vice Chair Craig W. Jones ’74 led the effort.
After more than a year of work they conceived a plan that leverages the College’s strengths – excellent academics, a Christ-centered community, financial discipline, responsible stewardship, and bold thought leadership – to create opportunities to better serve students and position the College for its next century and a half.
The outline for the future includes dozens of objectives and tactics to meet the plan’s five main goals, which include new academic programs, physical plant upgrades, enhanced faith formation and community cultivation opportunities, raising the College’s national profile and optimizing financial management and fundraising efforts to support students and maintain the College’s independence.
On the academic side, the plan calls for new interdisciplinary majors and minors to meet prospective student demand, including health sciences and new engineering programs. New graduate degrees and a review and restructuring of academic departments that is expected to result in new “schools,” including a school of business incorporating accounting, finance, management, marketing, and entrepreneurship,
is also proposed. The plan also notes the need for a review of the core humanities curriculum, which is already underway, and technological improvements to serve new learning modalities.
The plan’s specific call to overhaul the Rockwell Hall of Science is noteworthy. The College’s first academic building – it dates to 1931
– is overdue for a renovation and the STEM students it serves need more space. Plans on the table include a complete renovation of Rockwell and new construction to link it with STEM Hall and create new lab and workshop space.
To strengthen community life, the plan calls for enhanced Christian formation opportunities. Changes to the Chapel program have already begun (see page 6) and enhanced discipleship, mission, and community service options are being developed. Support for international, multicultural, and minority students, rooted in biblical visions of unity, is a priority, as is addressing the need to renovate MAP café, improve housing – specifically Hopeman, Lincoln, and Ketler halls – and create more space for sports and fitness as the College’s growing athletic program puts pressure on the Physical Learning Center and Phillips Field House.
Enrollment, achieving and maintaining it, is critical, according to the plan. The College needs a reliable number of students and a reliable “pipeline” to maintain sustainable funding for everything
that’s planned. Part of the process is determining the optimal student population and providing students who appreciate the College’s distinctives with the support they need to attend. The plan calls for developing the resources to provide at least 50% of unmet financial aid need through endowed scholarships.
The plan also focuses on expanding the College’s national influence through thought leadership and service to the common good. Two major existing avenues for this are The Institute for Faith & Freedom and the Project on Rural Ministry. IFF holds events, hosts speakers, and provides a steady stream of commentary from faculty, affiliated scholars, and alumni to advance the “faith and freedom” ethos and the plan sees an expanded role for the conservative think tank to advance this goal. The PRM, a Lily Foundation grant-funded effort, uses the College’s resources and talent to assist a group of 30 rural pastors in Appalachian, Rust Belt, and agricultural communities in the region.
Stewardship is critical to ensuring the College has a sustainable financial future and the plan calls for improved processes, practices, and tools to better manage operational, financial, and fiscal resources and an increase in private contributions to support and sustain strategic priorities, including achieving the plan’s goals.
One strength that runs throughout the plan is the alumni community and, in many ways, the success of From Strength to Strength depends on its support. “Our alums are tremendous resource for us, and we’re excited about how they can be even more involved in helping our students and we’re looking at some new ways of engaging them,” McNulty said.
The plan identifies ways that the College is hoping to leverage the alumni network, from identifying and recruiting prospective students to helping graduates achieve their professional ambitions and developing partnerships with business, industry, and organizations to advance the College’s goals.
On the admissions front, alumni are an invaluable asset. Studies have confirmed that most students who enroll have a personal connection to an alumnus and that that relationship played a role in their college choice. The plan calls for expanding the role of the existing alumni and family network to talk about the College and help recruit prospective students and attract students from around the country.
The plan also looks to alumni to help expand the College’s role in providing national thought leadership. It calls for building stronger institutional bonds with – and promoting the work of – alumni thought leaders who are strongly aligned with the College’s vision and values and those working with like-minded institutions and organizations.
Alumni will also surely play a key role in helping Grove City College turn the five-year plan into a reality with their generous support. From Strength to Strength includes new construction, major renovations, financial aid goals, new and expanded academic programs, and community service and outreach initiatives that will serve the College for generations – and cost millions.
To finance the plan, the College will be embarking on a capital campaign that will dwarf previous fundraising efforts. While the plan includes increasing financial contributions from non-alumni donors and other untapped sources, the College will also be looking for support from those who know the value of a transformational Grove City College education and understand how important it is to ensure that it remains available and affordable for students now and in the decades ahead.
With the plan in place, McNulty sees the College at a pivotal – perhaps providential – moment. “In the history of the College, we’ve never quite had a moment like this. We have a lot in view, and we have a lot of excitement about being able to accomplish it. We have our plan laid out and we have a major campaign being organized to fund that plan. This is a big time for Grove City College.”