The Associated Colleges of the South (ACS) was incorporated in 1991 to enable our sixteen distinguished liberal arts colleges and universities to enhance their academic programs and strengthen their administrative operations. Our members share a firm commitment to excellence, offering rigorous academic programs that prepare students for lifelong intellectual growth, good citizenship, and personal and professional success.

As ACS celebrates twenty-five years of leadership in American higher education, this strategic plan reemphasizes our collaborative mission while articulating three vital goals for the coming years: build individual and institutional capacity; foster long-term financial stability; and further diversity and inclusion within our institutions. Not all ACS institutions are required to engage in any given strategy. It may take only a few institutions in order for a strategy or tactic to move forward.

This entire strategic plan is intended to serve as a living document. We fully expect to add and subtract tactics over time. All proposed edits and amendments should be submitted to the ACS president, who will present them to the Drafting Committee and then the ACS Board for approval.

 

Mission: The Associated Colleges of the South seeks to champion and enhance residential liberal arts education through collaborative projects among its sixteen member institutions.

Goals:

I. Professional Growth and Institutional Capacity Building: Strengthen member institutions by providing opportunities and resources to 1) advance the frontiers of knowledge and creativity, enrich individual and institutional teaching and learning, and disseminate new knowledge and pedagogical innovations; 2) enhance campus leadership and governance; and 3) expand and improve co-curricular and administrative services.

II. Diversity and Inclusion: Support member institutions in their collective and individual efforts to advance diversity and inclusion on their campuses and in their communities.

III. Sustainable Financial Model: Support member institutions in their efforts to contain and cut costs as well as generate revenue.


I. Professional Growth and Institutional Capacity Building

Strengthen member institutions by providing opportunities and resources to 1) advance the frontiers of knowledge and creativity, enrich individual and institutional teaching and learning, and disseminate new knowledge and pedagogical innovations; 2) enhance campus leadership and governance; and 3) expand and improve co-curricular and administrative services.

StrategiesTactic 1Tactic 2Tactic 3Tactic 4Tactic 5
A. Advance teaching, learning, research, scholarship, and creative works throughout the professional life cycle of faculty by providing opportunities to engage with evolving best and promising practices.Buttress ACS Teaching and Learning Workshop and faculty advancement grant opportunities.Provide a website and workshop training for best practices in the assessment of academic programs and general education programs.Develop and support faculty development opportunities targeted to mid-career faculty members, aimed at scholarship and/or teaching. Support and coordinate existing campus centers for teaching and learning.Consider developing an Atlanta Center focused on teaching and learning, diversity, and other educational opportunities.
B. Expand curricular offerings, and support faculty through cross-institutional collaboration.Explore more inter-campus classroom collaborations nurtured by technology. Develop a pilot to investigate the usefulness of virtual departments among some or all of the sixteen colleges. Start with a single discipline.Provide opportunities for faculty in particular disciplines or sub-disciplines to meet, share their experiences, and build collaborations. Offer mini-grants for collaborative projects.
C. Arrange visits and exchanges for the purpose of expanding research opportunities, applying innovative pedagogy, sharing best practices, and promoting faculty diversity.Explore semester and year-long 1:1 faculty and student exchanges.Explore providing teaching and research space as sabbatical opportunities across ACS. Consider the Big 12 faculty exchange as a possible model.Coordinate cross-campus senior staff visits for sharing best practices.
D. Expand opportunities for students. Share international and domestic study-away programs to a) capitalize on distinctive locations, b) reduce redundancy, c) expand the range of opportunities, d) engage intellectually with students and faculty from a wide range of institutions, and e) expand the locations and pedagogies. Establish a clearinghouse of experiential learning opportunities across the sixteen campuses.Consider cooperative summer and mid-year programs.Make distinctive academic programs known and available to all students throughout ACS.Promote 5 th year graduate programs available at ACS institutions.
E. Learn and share best practices and expand co-curricular and administrative services for students.Facilitate inter-institutional communications.Research and establish programs to support the creation of living/ learning communities, residence hall programming, alcohol awareness training, and sexual assault prevention.Support and develop collaborations for campus writing centers, advising, and career planning centers.
F. Develop new pedagogical strategies, new areas of the curriculum, and support for an increasingly diverse student and faculty population.Arrange and fund workshops on changing demographics (domestic and international) and resulting curricular needs.Ask the Teaching and Learning Workshop to incorporate pedagogical innovations related to changing demographics.Establish collaborative assessment methods and initiatives, especially as regards, critical thinking, online instruction and innovative pedagogy. Build resources to support inclusive pedagogy.Develop faculty workshops and learning communities geared toward enhancing our members’ excellence through diversity.
G. Provide leadership development.Provide educational opportunities for faculty, staff, administration and Board of Trustees on key issues facing higher education (shared governance, finances, department chair training, etc.)Create and implement administrative training on best practices and programs for cost containment.Develop training pilots on Title IX, contracts, and immigration issues.Facilitate career development, placement, and succession planning – both intra and inter-campus.Create a faculty workshop on the context and current conditions of higher education.

 

II. Diversity and Inclusion

Support member institutions in their collective and individual efforts to advance diversity and inclusion on their campuses in their communities.

StrategiesTactic 1Tactic 2Tactic 3Tactic 4Tactic 5
A. Define diversity and the outcomes we are looking for at ACS, especially as they apply to today’s world (to include international students, staff and faculty, and undocumented students). Convene a diversity summit that includes representatives from all ACS campuses and outside experts to expand upon all of the ideas contained within this document.Define diversity in a way that represents and advances all of our member institutions. Distinguish between qualitative and quantitative results, particularly in terms of how diversity and inclusion improves the quality of education for all students. Develop ways to measure, assess, and disseminate meaningful attainments in diversity and inclusion. What does success look like? Among variables to be included are faculty/staff/student satisfaction, recruitment, and retention. Explore the possibility of an ACS fund to support diversity initiatives and consider hiring an ACS Diversity Officer.
B. Develop ACS public statement on diversity and racial justice.Reconvene the ACS Diversity Planning Committee so as to solicit their input on this and all other diversity strategies.ACS President will work in conjunction with the Board to devise a bold yet appropriate public statement.
C. Develop initiatives and programs geared toward increasing Hispanic and other immigrant communities on our campuses. Engage enrollment officers on this issue, starting with their meeting February 26-27 in Atlanta.Identify leadership within ACS on this strategy and facilitate sharing of best practices. Explore ways to collaborate on engaging and recruiting these students and providing support to them on our campuses.
D. Increase faculty and staff diversity and inclusion.Consider development of a faculty exchange program amongst ACS colleges to advance the causes of diversity and inclusion. Use faculty post-doctoral fellows and collaboration in advertising and recruitment to diversify the faculty. Develop diversity training for search committees that can be shared across campuses – e.g. workshops on implicit bias, resume reading and other related topics. Develop partnerships with HBCUs (both in- and out- of the ACS) to establish research and teaching collaborations.
E. Collaborate on the recruitment, support, and retention of international students.Engage enrollment officers on this issue, starting with their meeting February 26-27 in Atlanta.Engage student life and academic affairs offices in conversations regarding international student support.

III. Sustainable Financial Model

Support member institutions in their collaborative and individual efforts to contain and cut costs and generate revenue.

StrategiesTactic 1Tactic 2Tactic 3Tactic 4Tactic 5
A. Develop, gather, disseminate, and monitor best practices with regard to cost containment strategies. Create a repository of benchmark activity.Explore the use of SACUBO benchmarking tools for this purpose.Develop space on the ACS website where interest groups can share information and resources (e.g. libraries, IT, Title IX, international programs, career services and academic departments).Initiate college finance training/workshops for new academic and administrative officers (director and above) and Board members.
B. Benchmark staffing at all member institutions.Consult Great Lakes Colleges Association model in establishing ACS practices.Seek feedback from ACS Human Resource Officers who may already be doing this.
C. Consolidate professional services.Consider consolidating some legal services – either in terms of an ACS Counsel or through joint ACS engagement.Explore the use of a consortium-wide procurement process.Explore the possibility of consolidating some IT functions and using consortium for better IT pricing.Explore the possibility of consolidating HR function for things such as health insurance and retirement plan audit.Conduct a feasibility study for the sharing of library and IT services.
D. Create joint enrollment initiatives.Develop an ACS-wide liberal arts branding campaign, including an aggressive ACS admissions and marketing effort.Create joint actions to expand domestic applicant base. Create joint recruitment initiative to attract international applicants.