On the Horizon of Change
Participants at Phi Kappa Phi’s strategic planning
retreat, held last fall at a Baton Rouge hotel a few
miles from Society headquarters, brainstormed ideas
individually, in groups, and en masse and then taped
possibilities onto walls of the meeting room for further
contemplation and discussion.
task force met in February and presented its suggestions to the board at its March meeting. While
the strategic plan is still a work in progress, the
board’s discussions included frequent reference
to the themes that emerged from the October retreat. You will begin to see some of those take
shape in coming months as we launch a new
website, announce plans for the 2014 convention,
and welcome new chapters while developing action plans to strengthen existing chapters. Our
mission — commitment to excellence — remains
central to who we are and whatever we do, but
now with an added emphasis on innovation and
thinking outside the box.
What do you think of when you consider the
future of Phi Kappa Phi? Whether you’re a new
initiate or a life member, we value your commit-
ment to the mission of recognizing academic ex-
cellence in all fields of higher education
and engaging the community of scholars
in service to others. And perhaps that
seems enough, as it has been for the past
116 years, but higher education is chang-
ing, and we need to change with it.
And so we dream — at least I do —
about what might be possible. Could
Phi Kappa Phi award even more in fel-
lowships and grants? Could we add a
category of award, perhaps dissertation
support? Could we find a way to recog-
nize academic excellence in member
institutions as well as in our members?
“The future belongs to those who give
the next generation reason for hope,”
wrote the 20th-century French Jesuit phi-
losopher Teilhard de Chardin. We used
this quote in our annual appeal last De-
cember as his words speak so clearly to the
most visible initiative of Phi Kappa Phi, our
awards programs. By means of the $500,000 the
Society awards annually — to 270 individuals
in 2012 — we tangibly extend the love of learn-
ing that is our motto. Teilhard’s words prompt
us to look beyond ourselves to a distant hori-
zon, or even a not-so-distant one, and to con-
template what we might do to make it better for
those behind us.
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s oft-quoted phrase,
“I have a dream …” has served as a powerful vision, not only for his own beloved community
but for all Americans. His words offer hope, but
they also convey an obligation to do more with
what we have, whether individuals, community,
or honor society.
And Hurston would concur, as she considers
the horizon, “The dream is the truth.”
By Mary Todd
In one of my favorite books, Their Eyes Were Watching God, author
Zora Neale Hurston uses the
metaphor of the horizon in
introducing her readers to
her story and her storyteller, Janie, whose
life was a quest to go to the horizon and
back. As a child Janie could only look to the
horizon she saw from her beloved pear tree,
but her world opened up as she left home to
“find out about livin’.”
A common business metaphor currently
invokes horizon thinking, which involves
imagining a desirable future and then devel-
oping strategies to achieve it. The process
depends on input about what the future
should look like, gathered from various constitu-
encies or stakeholders.
At the strategic planning retreat that board
members, committee chairs and senior staff participated in last October, we engaged in horizon
thinking under the facilitation of Patrick
Sanaghan, author of Collaborative Strategic Planning in Higher Education (NACUBO, 2009). Using
a model he calls the future timeline, the group
produced an amazing number of innovative and
creative ideas — the huge pile of poster-sized wall
charts we carried back to headquarters amounted
to 20 pages of data when typed up!
To make sense of all that data and the process
that produced it has required a means of sorting, ordering and prioritizing. In the end, the
primary themes that emerged had to do with
• Identity, specifically a strong desire for Phi
Kappa Phi to become a more prominent voice in
Consultant Pat Sanaghan led the Society’s strategic planning retreat.
Rick Shale, Society vice president for chapter relations
the national conversation on higher education.
• Members, not only to increase the number of
students who accept the invitation to join and to
retain them after their first year, but also to better
engage our alumni membership (that’s all of you!).
• Chapters, to pursue a goal of helping all
chapters become healthy while developing a
strategy of targeted growth of new chapters.
• Resources, to tie the budget to mission
I have a bumper sticker in my office that reads
everythingconnectstoeverything, and indeed, I see a
strong interrelatedness among the themes that
emerged from the planning retreat. They present
us, not only board and staff, but members everywhere, with an exciting challenge that could lead
to a transformative moment in Society history.
The horizon looks very different than it has.
So what’s next? A follow-up strategic planning