President talks with staff about strategic planning

Lawrence urges staffers to give their input at meetings on plan in October

Photo/Charles A. Radin

President Lawrence discussed strategic planning and other subjects at Levin Ballroom meeting.

Margo Sweet with Ivette, the development office mascot.

Judy Hanley of the Sociology Department

President Fred Lawrence is strongly urging members of the Brandeis staff to participate in an upcoming series of meetings on the strategic plan that the university is developing.

At his annual meeting with the staff on Wednesday, Lawrence reported on the status of the plan, which is being drafted through the Office of the provost, and the timetable for completing it.

Lawrence said that input from diverse task forces that worked over the summer is now being used to create a framework for the plan, which will express a vision for the future of the university and specific strategies for achieving that vision.

The framework will be presented to the community on Oct. 10. According to Provost Steve A.N. Goldstein ’78, it will include “thoughts on initiatives that the Strategic Planning Steering Committee believes could most effectively animate the evolution of the institution over the next five years and empower the next capital campaign.”

Input from all the university’s constituencies will be solicited in October, after which the plan that will be finalized for submission to the Board of Trustees in January, Lawrence said.

At the beginning of the meeting, which drew hundreds of staff members to Levin Ballroom and was live streamed for those who could not attend in person, the president remembered development department staff member Margo Sweet, 66, who passed away Sept. 8.

Sweet, who worked most of her life in either public service or education, was widely known and well-liked by those who worked in or visited the administrative offices of the university in Bernstein-Marcus. Prior to coming to Brandeis, she worked at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria.  

“If you wrote Margo Sweet’s job description, it wouldn’t come close to including all the things she did,” Lawrence said, adding that staffers like Sweet “in so many ways are the port of entry for students here. Nobody writes in your job description that you should be a smiling face” for someone who is confused or hurting.

“We miss her terribly,” Lawrence said, asking for a moment of silence in Sweet’s memory. “We feel her with us right now.”

Also at the meeting, he announced that the university would once again would be on holiday between Christmas and New Year’s, drawing robust applause from the assembled staff.

In the discussion of the strategic plan, Lawrence said that addressing the challenges of the future will not cause Brandeis to alter its character as a small school with an intimate environment where the focus is on producing graduates who are “caring people, engaged people, involved citizens.”

He said the strategic plan will focus on “where are our unusual strengths and how can we leverage those better?”

The planning process provides “an opportunity to reach out even more broadly, to expand the base we have, to reach out and engage alumni,” Lawrence told the staff members. “You all are the backbone for making that happen.”

The president talked with staff members and answered questions on a wide variety of subjects, including his new residence in the redeveloped Watch Factory building near campus.

Judy Hanley, a 25-year Brandeis employee, told Lawrence that as a lifelong townie, 25-year employee of Brandeis and mother of an alumnus she was “extremely pleased” with the move. “It is a real plus for town-gown relations,” Hanley said.

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