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Explore And Learn About The Process

What is the Student Life Strategic Compass?

The Division of Student Life at West Virginia University is a collaborative group of more than 20 unique departments and affiliates. We offer diverse services and programs to students and the community, ranging from housing to recreation to leadership development to student engagement. Given this diversity, it became evident there was a need for a division-wide, collective plan to ensure progress toward a shared destination: enhancing the WVU student experience.

In fall 2019, staff within Student Life embarked on a journey to develop a strategic compass plan to reach that destination. Leadership within the division committed to implementing a nimble, cyclical process that continually recognizes the evolving nature of higher education while remaining goal-oriented and data-informed. Recognizing the risk inherent in creating a static plan that might end up gathering dust on a shelf, a Strategic Compass planning process was used and integrated into Student Life's annual cycle of planning, assessment and gatherings. Relying on input from Student Life staff, students and on-campus partners, the Compass will inform planning, resource allocation and assessment. An insightful and accurate Strategic Compass will help the division remain an innovative and effective contributor to the mission of West Virginia University.

Explore and Learn About The Process


Identify & Explore Landmarks

Recognize the landscape of higher education today and identify landmarks that can help orient us in our journey


Take Our Bearings

Gather input from Student Life Employees, Students and Partners to identify direction and needs.


Establish Waypoints

Generate "Waypoints" that serve as strategic goals and objectives for the coming years


Journey Towards Our Shared Destination

Track Progress and Celebrate success as we achieve waypoints and identify new ones on the road ahead.

woodburn with students walking in front

northIdentify and Explore Landmarks

Landmarks are objects or features easily seen and recognized within the landscape. Familiarity with the landscape around us helps us understand our current position and identify more accurate and meaningful destinations. And the landmarks that guide our strategic process are:

employees at a conference

southTake Our Bearings

When navigating, it is necessary to continually take your bearings so that you don’t get lost. Landmarks help triangulate our position; those who are working in the field – directly with students and our communities – must identify locations and inform our route toward our destination. The more staff, students and partners we have engaged in the process, the more accurate and complete Student Life’s Strategic Compass will be.

Over 100 Student Life employees and students participated in nine Taking our Bearings sessions during February and March 2020. The sessions, facilitated by volunteers from across the Division, invited staff and students to help visualize the future of Student Life at WVU. Each session began with a brainstorming exercise in which participants listed all of the metaphorical "hats" that students wear and the corresponding services we provide.

The heart of the sessions were discussions about the future of Student Life. Participants recorded their views on the "roots" of student life and "routes" that will help the division navigate toward the future. Each group summarized the themes of their conversation into "Field Notes." A small group of volunteers sorted and coded the data using this information. 

students sitting on a lawn

eastEstablish "Waypoints"

Longer and more complex journeys progress toward an end destination that is often out of sight. The journey toward the fulfillment of Student Life’s Mission is just such an endeavor. Waypoints, or stops along the way toward the end destination, serve as smaller, concrete goals. Progress toward these waypoints is more easily tracked, accomplished and celebrated. As waypoints are reached, new waypoints are added to help define the path. Feedback from “Taking our Bearings” sessions, in conjunction with “Landmarks” were used to establish waypoints.  

Compass Waypoints are organized under Aspiration al Statements within the Four Compass Points.  Waypoints have division-wide implications and often involve coordinated efforts and committees to see them through to completion.  

employees listening to a presentation

westJourney towards our Shared Destination

Imagine that our destination is set, our group of travelers have all taken bearings and contributed to an understanding of the route we will take together, with waypoints that we will work toward along the way. As much as this journey is a collective endeavor, it is still accomplished by individuals taking separate steps. Individual units will be asked to use the Strategic Compass to inform their own planning, operations and assessment. Division-wide assessment will also be used to understand our progress. The annual calendar of Student Life will provide opportunities to revisit the Compass during the December Conference and the May Retreat.