Pacific Lutheran University

Strategic Planning

Allan Belton, President, Pacific Lutheran University

Allan Belton, President

A PLU education—distinguished for its seamless integration of the liberal arts, professional studies, and civic engagement—has never been more valuable or more relevant than it is today. At PLU, we challenge our students academically, immerse them in a culture of service and leadership in Lutheran higher ed, and foster an inclusive community of care. This strategic plan will serve as the framework for a five-year, campus-wide effort to strengthen and enhance the academic experience and learning opportunities we provide, and to further fortify our institutional commitment to diversity, justice, and sustainability. This plan is a mission, not a mandate—an invitation, not a summons. This plan is a call for us to grow together and a green light to innovate.

Because the world needs more Lutes.

Core Values

and Mission

From its founding in 1890, Pacific Lutheran University has been an on-going collaboration of dedicated teacher-scholars, professional staff, and willing stakeholders convinced that an education that deepens students’ understanding, expands their horizons of imagination, and increases their range of freedom and opportunity, changes the world. That conviction, bequeathed by the institution’s Lutheran heritage, impels the university to educate in a way that contributes to the success of all students and openly embraces the world in all its complexity. We accompany students as they come to imagine more and better possibilities for themselves and their world. We mentor students as they explore and develop expertise in disciplines and professional fields. We connect students to opportunities and networks to advance their flourishing and that of all their neighbors.

Hence, our mission:

“Pacific Lutheran University seeks to educate students for lives of thoughtful inquiry, service, leadership and care—for other people, for their communities, and for the earth.”

PLU strives to fulfill our mission through the following:

A Challenging Academic Experience
At Pacific Lutheran University, a challenging academic experience is expressed primarily through the undergraduate and graduate academic programs. The core curriculum, complemented by a strong array of disciplinary and interdisciplinary programs, provides students with an academic experience that is both rigorous and flexible, creating a foundation for their lifelong vocations and career possibilities.

A Culture of Service and Leadership
At Pacific Lutheran University, we recognize that part of our vocational identity is grounded in our civic commitments and relationship with our community. This is not simply an interesting idea but a way of understanding and actually living out one’s life, one’s calling, at PLU.

A Community of Care
At Pacific Lutheran University, our mission calls for members of the community to assume the important responsibility to care for themselves and others, recognizing the interconnectedness of care for people, their communities and the earth.

Over the next five years, the university will strengthen and enhance all of these dimensions of the experience it offers students and, in doing so, extend its mission further into the Pacific Northwest and the world.


Pacific Lutheran University aims to deepen our commitment to being an inclusive, rigorous and innovative university in the Lutheran tradition by providing access to a transformative, lifelong and distinctively purposeful education. As a distinguished, learning-centered university that integrates the liberal arts and professional studies, PLU will thrive by continuing to educate graduates who exemplify ethical character, care for others, global perspectives and thoughtful service to the common good.

Vision Narrative

We will pursue continuous structural, programmatic and curricular innovation as an intrinsic and essential aspect of how we realize and sustain our mission. We seek innovation that will build on our strengths, increase student opportunities, expand access to a transformative education, and further enhance our standing as both rigorous and relevant.

Pathways of distinction
We will continue our commitment to previously established pathways to distinction, purposeful learning and global education — and will expand upon student-faculty research to be restated as faculty-student mentoring. Faculty-student mentoring includes direct mentoring, project work and experiential learning in addition to faculty-student research.

Undergraduate programs
We will actively work to stabilize undergraduate enrollment as called for in the strategic enrollment management plan while remaining fully committed to education excellence. Through innovative approaches to financial-aid strategies and program offerings, PLU will achieve admissions goals, student academic quality and a demographic profile reflective of the community we serve. We will continue to offer general education curriculum that is at once rigorous, adaptive, grounded in the liberal arts and reflective of the tenets of Lutheran higher education.

Graduate and continuing education
We will achieve enrollment growth within graduate and continuing education through increased capacity of existing programs and the addition of new graduate and continuing education programs. Increased capacity will be achieved through innovative changes in scope and modality of existing programs. Expansion of programs will align mission-driven strengths with regional demands for post-baccalaureate degrees and certifications.

Student life and success
We recognize that co-curricular experiences are critical to engaging learning fully and also to developing a sense of belonging and community. We will prioritize and invest in equitable access to those experiences that we understand have a direct impact on student outcomes including, but not limited to, learning communities, all forms of experiential learning and alumni-student mentoring. Because we know that co-curricular contexts also matter to well-being, we will continue to make visible progress on upgrading our facilities with particular attention to our residential core, third spaces and facilities that promote wellness.

Diversity, Justice & Sustainability
We believe that diversity is intrinsic to the vitality of learning, resilience and growth. Accordingly, at every level of the university, we will act upon the fact that diversity and inclusion efforts must address and account for all differences born out of power and oppression; be responsive to how intersections and context impact how power is experienced; and collectively reimagine models and practices to create inclusive environments where all members of the PLU community can learn, live, work and — most importantly — thrive. We reaffirm the inseparable interrelationships between environmental, economic and ethical principles that call on all individuals and communities to ensure that our present way of life does not degrade that of future generations, but leaves the world a better place for all. We will continue to innovate on all matters of sustainability in academics, built environment and culture at PLU.

Goals and

Strategic Objectives

To accomplish this vision, the strategic plan is organized around four overarching themes and corresponding goals: identity and messaging, environment and well-being, innovation and change, and resources and stewardship.

Identity and messaging

Effectively communicate PLU’s distinguishing educational advantage to diverse internal and external audiences, with particular focus on potential students and their families.

Objectives & Key Action Steps

  1. Articulate and demonstrate PLU’s identity and distinguishing educational advantage, including consideration of value proposition.
    1. Develop a concise description of the characteristics of a PLU education, both graduate and undergraduate, that articulates our distinguishing advantage and value proposition.
    2. Incorporate PLU’s identity, its mission and the characteristics of the education it provides into faculty and staff orientations, professional development opportunities and student development programs.
    3. Implement pricing and financial aid recommendations called for in the Strategic Enrollment Management Plan.
  2. Develop an institution-wide messaging strategy that is customizable within defined dimensions for the college, its divisions and professional schools.
    1. Complete an assessment of current brand and marketing efforts with the help of outside expertise to identify strengths and growth opportunities, and to prioritize strategy.
    2. Develop a comprehensive marketing plan that effectively communicates the characteristics, outcomes and value of a PLU education to key audiences.
    3. Increase the range and quality of information available on student outcomes and other types of accomplishment data that will contribute to making a strong, evidence-based case for a PLU education.

Environment and well-being

Continue to develop as a learning, living and working community that effectively welcomes, challenges and supports the success and well-being of all students, faculty and staff.

Objectives & Key Action Steps

  1. Provide a coordinated approach to well-being for students, faculty and staff.
    1. Expand the wellness program for students, faculty and staff, focusing on physical, personal, social, mental and work-life health.
    2. Reimagine lower campus including, but not limited to, the creation of a comprehensive wellness facility for students, faculty and staff.
  2. Meaningfully integrate DJS into every facet and at every level of PLU as central to our distinguishing educational advantage and in order for our institution to fulfill its mission.
    1. Create a deeper, consistent and more widely shared understanding of diversity, justice and sustainability at PLU and how these commitments interact and align with the values of Lutheran Higher Education
    2. Develop a strategic plan that articulates, in part, how achieving the institution’s diversity and inclusion goals are essential to students’ retention, academic success, development as human beings and preparation for work, life, further education, service and citizenship upon their graduation.
    3. Develop a collective definition and aligned strategic priorities for sustainability at PLU.

Innovation and change

Create a culture of continuous innovation and establish effective change management processes to ensure that all aspects of the university’s business model remain nimble and adaptive to student needs and market demands.

Objectives & Key Action Steps

  1. Establish a platform of processes and authorities necessary to work within and push existing governance systems to generate and implement concepts for transformative revenue generation and efficiency.
    1. Create a Presidential Commission for Innovation and Change to generate, source and implement approved concepts for academic, non-academic, programmatic and structural innovation and change.
    2. Create a strategic plan for technology that reflects the needs of the institution now and into the future
    3. Update the campus master plan to prioritize construction and maintenance of facilities in support of changing demographics, programmatic priorities, access and sustainability.
  2. Increase the reach of PLU’s academic programs through expansion or re-envisioning degree and non-degree offerings that extend PLU’s mission and drive increased enrollment.
    1. Conduct a comprehensive market demand analysis to determine where PLU should expand, reimagine or rebrand its academic portfolio in order to achieve the enrollment and revenue objectives outlined in the SEM plan.
    2. Create and launch 3-5 new academic programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level by 2023 in order to maintain undergraduate enrollment, grow graduate enrollment by 100 students and achieve a sustainable number of international students.
    3. Expand PLU’s reach to a broader population of students through expansion or creation of new blended and online programs where appropriate.
  3. Establish PLU as the premier private university in the Northwest for preparing students for vocations in health professions — building on institutional strengths in Lutheran higher education, the liberal arts and sciences, and diversity, justice, and sustainability that will drive enrollment and respond to market demands — by expanding offerings in undergraduate, graduate and continuing ed programs and investing in facilities and other resources for programs as needed to meet the challenges facing public health, both locally and globally.
    1. Complete the design and construction of additional nursing classroom space, skills lab, and simulation facilities at the former Garfield Book Company by Fall 2020.
    2. Review and define the portfolio of programs connected to individual, community, and global health against market demands and create a plan for the development of new or expanded programs within and across disciplines.
    3. Determine the appropriate academic, operating, and enrollment management structure to support expansion and brand awareness of health professions preparation at PLU.

Resources and stewardship

Align, grow and steward fiscal resources to invest in academic and co-curricular programs, facilities, technology and human resources, so that we might fully realize the university’s mission of care.

Objectives & Key Action Steps

  1. Review scope of work and tasks across all roles and areas of responsibility in order to determine what work can be eliminated, achieved differently or prioritized differently.
    1. Develop an impartial and data-informed process by which the university will undertake a systematic and collaborative review and prioritization of programs and resources.
    2. Review operating procedures across units to identify potential strategic investments that could lead to more efficient operations and savings.
    3. Expand the use of software to automate some processes and accomplish work more effectively.
  2. Plan and initiate a sustainable campaign cycle, driven by university strategic planning, that generates mission-critical opportunities for investment and engagement, builds collaborative partnerships for impact and accomplishes campaign goals in an ongoing manner.
    1. Build campaign readiness through targeted relationship development and conduct feasibility testing of strategic priorities with key funding partners and prospective foliodonors.
    2. Fully implement the recommendations of the pre-campaign audit to build staff capacity, resources and systems for campaign success.
    3. Strengthen campaign capacity and reach through volunteer leadership engagement connected to specific strategic campaign priorities and coordinated with university governance.
    4. Broaden the reach and impact of constituent engagement programs, specifically connected to the Office of Alumni and Student Connections, creating mutually beneficial connections that enhance student and alumni experience and success, and supporting a sustainable campaign cycle.
    5. Develop the Office of Sponsored Programs to more robustly partner with faculty and staff to identify grant-funded opportunities, build funding partnerships, growing investment in mission-critical programs and strengthening the management of grant investments.
  3. Attract and retain exceptional faculty and staff, drive innovation and develop leadership through a competitive and comprehensive total rewards program.
    1. Complete a comprehensive peer review of PLU salaries by job title and/or description.
    2. Complete a comprehensive review of non-salary benefits including peer comparisons.
    3. In conjunction with the cumulative work of the strategic plan, establish a multi-year plan with annual goals for achieving total compensation parity for all roles.


Statements & Plans

Academic Identity Statement
Diversity & Inclusion
Innovation & Change
Strategic Enrollment Management