Strategizing the Plan

In Fall 2020, Issue, News by Sarah Moss

Where is Dordt University going, and how are we living out our mission and vision? That’s what a strategic plan represents, says Dr. Leah Zuidema, vice president for academic affairs. “Our strategic plan gives us a direction to aim for,” says Zuidema. “It is meant to be aspirational—to stretch us beyond where we are now.”

“With the strategic plan, we are planning for a variety of scenarios that may come to pass in the future, to continue to make Dordt vibrant and relevant into the future,” says President Erik Hoekstra.

Strategic plans must be revisited regularly, and in developing the latest version, Zuidema and Vice President for Enrollment and Marketing Brandon Huisman (’10) invited all Dordt employees—more than 500 people—to fill out surveys and take part in discussion groups that focused on what should be included in the strategic plan. “We had great participation. Some of the discussion groups had upwards of 90 people in the room. I hope that through this process, faculty and staff have developed a sense of ownership in the plan,” says Huisman.

What stood out to Zuidema was how much the first strategic theme, “develop effective kingdom citizens,” meant to the Dordt community. “People have taken it as something of a rallying cry. It helps to further explain what it is from our mission that we do when we’re equipping. When you talk about ‘kingdom,’ you recognize that you have a king, but you’re also in a kingdom—you’re in relationship with other people. We use the idea of ‘citizens,’ but there’s a responsibility that comes with citizenship,” she says. “Not every group of Christians talks about the notion of ‘kingdom,’ and it’s unique language that resonates with our community.”

The alumni council, student government, and board of trustees gave their input into the direction of the strategic plan as well. “The work of the board of trustees and its strategic planning committee is to formulate and approve strategic plans and initiatives that guide the direction of Dordt University to fulfill its mission,” says Michael TenHaken, a board of trustee member. The committee reviewed the effectiveness of the previous strategic plan, evaluated the input from several institutional surveys and feedback sessions that were conducted by the administration, and provided direction on the strategic themes they believed were necessary and could be reasonably achieved over the next five years.

Grounded in Dordt’s mission and The Task and Framework of Dordt University, the new strategic plan is comprised of six themes, including the verbs that begin each theme. “We chose those verbs very carefully,” recalls Zuidema. “They had to be right.”

Dordt has had a strategic plan for years, but it has always been kept internal. This iteration of the strategic plan, which was approved by the board of trustees in April 2020, is going public. “The strategic plan is our guide to Dordt’s best future, and it’s important for Dordt to share this with our alumni, current students, donors, and friends of the university,” says Huisman. “It gives us common language for understanding where Dordt is headed.”

“When we hire new employees, I want them to know what Dordt is trying to accomplish in the future. I want new students to know where we are headed as an institution, so they can choose to join us and participate in that,” says Hoekstra. “The strategic plan helps us to do that.”

To learn more about Dordt’s strategic plan, visit dordt.edu/strategic.