Despite COVID-19, Think Big Strategic Plan Moves Forward

The Office of the Provost is pleased to announce an investment in strategic initiatives to help build on CWRU’s strengths at the intersection of humanity & technology; diversify the CWRU campus and support surrounding neighborhoods; and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Original plans for the 2020 fiscal year were to align these investments in areas that included supporting interdisciplinary research activities and expanding experiential learning opportunities. But as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the campus community, and social injustices were brought to the forefront, it became clear that the plan needed to be fine-tuned and adjusted.

“As we have thought about all of our challenges—and our wins—it has become increasingly clear that the bones of our strategic plan are sound,” said Provost and Executive Vice President Ben Vinson III. “Our commitment to igniting interdisciplinarity, integrating humanity and technology, achieving social impact and shaping our agora has never rung more true, and we continue down our pathways operationally,” he said. “But as we have evaluated our new reality, we knew we needed to be more focused on our investments.” 

Financially, the pandemic resulted in an investment 20% lower than anticipated.

As a result, only a small number of campus-generated Think Big RFP and Seed ideas (16 total) were able to be funded. In making final selections, the team looked first at the ranking of the proposals, and then at alignment to current needs. 

“There is so much creativity within our campus community,” Vinson said. “We really wish we could have funded all 47 finalist proposals, but we are thrilled with this group and are very much looking forward to their implementation. These investments remain true to the plan’s original goals and intentions, but are now more attuned to our current realities,” he said.

Additional details are below.

Three Investment Areas

The following investment areas remain true to CWRU’s Think Big strategic plan, but more clearly support the needs of the campus community in its current reality.

As a reminder, strategic investments are comprised of two parts: 1) campus-based competitions for funding (Seed and RFP proposals); and 2) Provost's Priority Funding to align with needs of the deans and academic-support units. For details, please visit the 2020 Think Big Strategic Investments webpage.

  1. Build on CWRU’s strengths at the intersection of humanity & technology.
    The plan invests the majority of dollars in two areas:  1) Faculty hires in the foundational disciplines that fuel CWRU’s human/technology work; and 2) investments in the future of learning through the campus-based RFP competition. These investments will position CWRU to push boundaries, merge liberal arts and technological approaches, and to prepare students to be ethical and empathetic learners who will go out into the world and lead in this new reality.
  2. Diversify the CWRU campus and support surrounding neighborhoods.
    Pathway 3 and Pathway 4 support efforts to help move CWRU to the next stage of awakening and truly embrace what it means to be an equitable community that has a positive impact on its neighbors in Cleveland and East Cleveland. The plan invests in a wide range of activities, including eight campus-based “Seed” ideas that will help at the grassroots level take on pockets of change that need to happen.  Funds have also been directed to support both graduate student and faculty diversity initiatives on campus, including the recent program and campus review conducted by STEM diversity experts.
  3. Respond to immediate needs brought on by COVID-19.
    The COVID emergency has required that some of the strategic planning money be tapped to help the campus community. Thus, funds have been directed to meet the needs of the campus community in the area of childcare, course enhancements, and online learning to ensure that CWRU makes it through the pandemic whole.

Take Me to the 2020 Strategic Investments

Next Steps

Details on future strategic investments—and a plan for campus participation—are currently being developed and will emerge more clearly as budget impacts related to the COVID pandemic become more clear. 

In addition, our Pathway Leaders continue to meet and work on plans, metrics, and activities to further efforts not requiring investments.  Much of the Think Big work is tied to operational and structural activities, items that require an investment of thought and time that will continue to engage the campus community.  

Interested parties are encouraged to visit to see these activities, as well as visit regularly where additional details will be posted.