Phase 3 Recap

The Think Big Team brought the 33 concepts from Phase 2 to the University community through six Design Sessions, held April 11-25 at the Bernhard Center, Fetzer Center, Trimpe Multicultural Center, Floyd Hall, and Grand Rapids campus. They were held at a variety of times of day, including evenings, and on a variety of days of the week.

Over the same time period, the team gathered groups of current students across campus.

By the end of Phase 3, approximately 1,100 members of the WMU community had been engaged in the process. They included faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors, business leaders, and the local community. Approximately half of the participants to date were students.

In the design sessions, participants were broken into teams and taken through a series of design exercises that challenged them to think about the 33 concepts as a collective whole. Teams chose a limited number of outcomes, delivery mechanisms, and enacted behaviors and formed them into a coherent whole.

Students were asked to do the same for the outcomes and delivery mechanisms.

Phase results

The Design Sessions and student groups resulted in a clear indication of the most compelling ideas. Those that were most compelling were:

Education Outcomes

Tier 1

  • Graduates have grit: stamina, passion and perseverance, in pursuit of long-term goals.
  • Graduates have integrated their degree, passion/purpose, and goals.

Tier 2

  • Graduates possess demonstrated proficiency in employer-desired skills.
  • Graduates possess a portfolio of experiences that combines a university education with professional skills.

Delivery Mechanisms

Tier 1

  • Integrative Planning: We will disrupt the sequential nature of college and career by helping students plan in a non-linear manner in three spheres: the individual, the profession, and the community.
  • Emerging Paths to Success: We will set ourselves apart by embracing—instead of limiting—emerging student paths, without compromising completion.

Tier 2

  • Career from Day 1: Every student has the opportunity to have a resume-building experience, every year, resulting in demonstrated success that provides evidence of competencies and skills.
  • The Wellness Foundation: We will claim a new purpose for higher education in society–wellness. Career success and wellness are inextricably linked. Wellness combines with a strong mind and becomes central to our purpose.

Enacted Behaviors

  • Openness: Open, honest and thoughtful communication. Concerns and celebrations alike are brought into the open. Internal communication will be much more robust.
  • Collaborative Risk Taking: We need new bold, provocative, disruptive ideas and implementation. We need to take risks together. Let’s create space where calculated risk-taking is safe and encouraged.
  • Accountability: We are all accountable for the future of WMU and the enactment of the final vision of Think Big. We are each accountable for our own voice and being aware of what’s happening.We are mission-focused.
  • Action: Do it. Iterate. Bring good ideas out into the world as pilots to test and then improve over time. Shy away from perfecting ideas that take too long to enact.
  • Teamwork: We will honor teamwork and look for ways to partner and support each other. This will build on our trust.


Phase Recap: 4