Strategic planning process begins with Hill Group visit


Roman Hladio

Jordan Pallitto, ’06, speaks to the Allegheny Student Government’s General Assembly on the evening of Tuesday, April 18. Pallitto is the Chief Operating Officer of The Hill Group, which is leading the strategic planning process implemented by President Ron Cole, ’87.

Allegheny College’s strategic planning process officially kicked off with representatives from The Hill Group hosting open student and faculty sessions and speaking at the Allegheny Student Government’s General Assembly on Tuesday, April 18.
“What’s the best Allegheny College we can imagine?” Chief Operating Officer of The Hill Group Jordan Pallitto, ’06, asked at GA. “What’s an Allegheny College with the deepest impact we can imagine? The best student experience we can imagine? World-class academics and everything else. We need to talk about and envision that future, and we’re going to need your help with that.”
Together, Pallitto and President Ron Cole, ’87, described to ASG what the process of the strategic planning will look like. Set to be mediated by The Hill Group, a management consulting firm based out of Pittsburgh, the strategic planning will take place primarily during the summer in three committees composed of members of the Board of Trustees, students, faculty, staff and administration. Those committees will focus on three main topics: people, defined as the student experience, enrollment and employee development; programs, both curricular and co-curricular; and places, meaning the campus; infrastructure and partnerships within the Meadville area. The committees will evaluate where the college currently stands in each of those sectors and then recommend ways in which the college should proceed.
“To be the best Allegheny, we need to understand the student experience and how to continually improve on that,” Cole said in an interview after GA. “We need to be a place where people love to work at. If we don’t have those things, then we’re not going to have a strong future.”
Cole was pleased to report that, so far, 24 students and more than 70 faculty and staff have indicated their interest in serving on the committees.
The participation of students in the strategic planning process is essential, according to Cole.
“We can’t plan a college to serve our students unless students are involved in that plan,” Cole told ASG.
The three open student sessions hosted earlier in the day were among the first steps in prioritizing student involvement. During a nearly hour-long conversation, students at the second open session dove deep to tell Hill Group representatives Sara Longo, ’11, and Andrew Brey about their multifaceted experiences with the college. Students identified many strengths of the college, including small class sizes, unique major and minor combinations, the athletic program and the perceived real-world application of what students learn. Three major weaknesses of the college that came to students’ mind were retention and recruitment rates, dining and limited engagement with the broader Meadville community.
Representatives then asked students to think about external threats to the college — things the college cannot control but must overcome to be the best version of itself. Participants highlighted increasing costs of higher education, the political environment of Meadville and the accompanying fear for some students, as well as a growing demographic cliff of fewer students nationwide enrolling in institutions of higher education.
Students at the session then proposed that the college has the opportunity to grow by expanding the Allegheny Lab for Innovation and Creativity, more effectively advertising campus events and resources the college already has, and better connecting upper-level staff with the student population.
“There were a lot of themes — I hope this makes you feel good — there were a lot of themes between what we heard here and what the staff said and what the faculty said,” Longo said at the end of the open session. “So they’re very aware of what’s going on and what needs to be addressed.”
In addition to the open student sessions, there is a Google form for students to share their thoughts about all aspects of the college with The Hill Group. Longo said the consultants working on the strategic plan will read every single response they receive through the form.
During the ASG meeting, Pallitto encouraged everyone to provide their input.
“Today’s focus groups were wonderful, but they’re not enough,” Pallitto said. “Each and every one of you and your friends and roommates have ideas that could be really impactful for the future of Allegheny, and so I’m asking if you’ll participate and be a part of the dialogue.”
The strategic plan will likely be designed to guide the college through the next three to five years and will contain action items that can be implemented in both the short- and long-term, according to Cole.
ASG President Veronica Green, ’23, asked Pallitto which areas of the college should expect budget cuts as a result of the strategic plan. Pallitto responded by saying that, while the evaluation process is not yet far along enough to answer Green’s question, trade-offs are a necessary part in becoming the best version of Allegheny possible. Cole added that the summer committees will assist with that sort of decision-making.
Notably, many of The Hill Group employees working on the strategic plan are Allegheny alumni.
“From my perspective, it brings a degree of interest and excitement about this planning process that frankly we don’t get with every client and every organization,” Pallitto said in an interview after GA. “We’re invested in this. This institution has given a lot to us, and it’s an opportunity for us to give a lot back too.”
The completed draft of the strategic plan will be available for public comment in late August or September.