Phase 1 Recap

The Think Big team hosted six town hall design sessions across campus. They were held from November 28, 2018 to February 22, 2019 at a variety of times and locations including Bernhard Center, Trimpe Multicultural Center, and Floyd Hall. In addition, a retreat and regular meetings were conducted with Integrated Leadership, a collaborative team of President’s Cabinet and Provost’s Council.

Town Hall attendees were asked to articulate what they think is working well at WMU, or with college in general, and what is not. They discussed how WMU can provide more value for the investment.

Small teams were then asked to sort their individual thoughts into common themes. They then transformed their individual thoughts into collective big ideas. The goal of the town halls was to generate as many big ideas as possible.

Town Hall results

The Town Halls and online submission option resulted in 141 Big Ideas. The Think Big team distilled the ideas by identifying commonalities and removing duplicates, resulting in100 discreet Big Ideas, 30 features, and 30 benefits. They can be found here:

Original, Raw Concepts

Integrated leadership results

The Integrated Leadership Team took on two tasks: design constraints and developing a guiding point of view.

Design Constraints

First, the team identified design constraints. These are the criteria that must be achieved to consider the big idea a success. Our Big Idea must be:

  • 1. Future-oriented and distinctive.
  • 2. Simple, believable, and easy to share.
  • 3. Inclusive—everyone matters.
  • 4. Student-focused.
  • 5. It must not be constrained by current practice.

Our Point of View

Second, the Integrated Leadership team conducted individual empathy interviews with students, alumni, faculty, and employers. The purpose of these conversations was to develop a deeper understanding of the needs and desires of key stakeholders. The team then came together, compared notes, and developed the following empathy-based point of view, with emphasis on the first two:

  • Students need a degree that has unquestionable and easily identified value that exceeds their investment of time and money because they come to campus overwhelmed by the cost of education and unconvinced it will pay off.
  • Students need a community where they belong, where they feel success and failure are part of learning, where they learn how to connect with others, and where they have room to maneuver as they learn more about their interests, because our teens and college students are facing a mental health crisis. They are anxious and depressed because of disconnection and uncertainty about their future.
  • Students need transformative applied learning, or hands-on experience because a degree gets the interview, but demonstrated success gets the job.
  • WMU must draw the outside in. Employers and communities need to feel they are part of the university community and contribute to the success of our students because the speed of change will create challenges that require accelerated discoveries, create challenges we can’t yet define, and require the most talented workforce the world has ever seen.
  • Donors, alumni, research funders, and the community need to feel that WMU is moving the world forward because WMU can help them make their mark and solve problems.
  • Students need a diverse community because they need to learn about themselves and those different from them in order to succeed in an increasingly diverse and international world.


Phase 2 Recap