Strategic Plan

Goal 1: Christian Faith, Learning, and Social Responsibility

Since its inception, Gardner-Webb University’s educational mission has been profoundly shaped by a commitment to the Christian faith and its Baptist heritage. Over the years a distinctive approach has emerged to teaching and learning that fosters a personal faith in Jesus Christ given expression, at least in part, through a commitment to service to a broken world. Gardner-Webb University will advance this commitment by preparing its faculty and professional staff to engage faith with learning more effectively. Students, faculty and staff will participate in programmatic initiatives intended to foster character, promote social responsibility and proclaim the love of Christ to a hurting world.


  1. Design and implement opportunities for faculty and professional staff development which will focus on the engagement of Christian faith with learning and social responsibility.
  2. Develop a Student Service Initiative in which Traditional Undergraduate students can experience an annual thematic service learning or community engagement opportunity (locally or globally) which nurtures character and promotes social responsibility.
  3. Develop sustainable community partnerships which will model community engagement and provide student opportunities for Objective 2 above.
  4. Develop a Church Relations Council to support the engagement of Christian faith, learning and social responsibility and to enhance communication and collaboration with the Office of Christian Life and Service, School of Divinity, Department of Religious Studies and Philosophy, Office of Church Relations, denominational partners and local congregations.
  5. Examine purchasing and facilities policies annually to look for ways to increase socially responsible and environmentally friendly purchasing practices and policy development.
  6. Pursue an endowment for the Center for Christian Ethics and Social Responsibility to support the work of the Center.

Goal 2: Career-Readiness

Gardner-Webb University is well-positioned to make a more effective connection between a solid educational experience and the broad array of skills, competency and knowledge that are necessary to succeed in the marketplace of careers. The University will commit to a bold vision of student career-readiness through the “Professional Readiness Pledge” which rests upon a comprehensive program spanning a student’s entire undergraduate career. The program will emphasize the essential skills of critical-thinking, problem-solving, and the ability to think broadly and deeply about complex issues, all of which emerge from the richness of a liberal arts education. The University will expand the scope of its Center for Career Development by providing a greater emphasis on the most basic and practical skills needed for an effective job-search and by expanding opportunities for experiential learning. (Experiential learning includes, but is not limited to, internships, studies abroad, field trips, research experience, community-based research, field research, and service learning projects.) The University will also develop systems to collect and share better and more refined data on alumni career paths.


  1. Create and implement a comprehensive professional readiness program, to include career education and preparation components that would be fully integrated into the undergraduate student experience.
  2. Develop and implement an experiential education component available to all undergraduates as a component of the Professional Readiness Pledge.
  3. Collect First Destination data (e.g., gainful employment, graduate study, etc.) from bachelor degree graduates annually and make the information publically available.
  4. Develop a network of partnerships with employers to accommodate students’ needs for networking, professional-readiness, experiential learning, and potential employment opportunities.
  5. Include within the University’s marketing plan clear message points regarding the work of the Center for Career Development and the Professional Readiness Pledge.
  6. The University will promote and pilot a program to provide release time to designated faculty members who will dedicate their time to more effectively empower students for job placements, acceptance to graduate and professional programs, scholarships and awards, as well as world-changing service at the highest levels of impact. If successful, the model will form the basis for a future endowed program of Student Success Mentors.

Goal 3: Intellectual Vitality

In a national climate where some have questioned the real value of a college education, it is incumbent upon the University not only to provide students with an environment that nurtures genuine intellectual vitality, but to demonstrate the extent to which Gardner-Webb students are achieving their educational goals. With its strong emphasis on the liberal arts and active learning, Gardner-Webb has established a long tradition of equipping students with the skills of critical thinking, intellectual curiosity, problem-solving, and broadly-informed perspectives that provide a foundation for success regardless of the chosen profession. The University commits itself to strengthening the key components that promote the intellectual vitality of our students, including the promotion of student engagement, attracting nationally recognized faculty, increasing opportunities for international travel and cross-cultural experiences, a renewed focus on academic rigor, the promotion of 21st century teaching and learning strategies in the classroom, and the assessment of student learning.

The intellectual vitality of the campus is also supported by a vibrant program of student development, which promotes community building, leadership development, and community engagement.


  1. In order to better communicate to the wider public the extent to which Gardner-Webb students achieve learning goals and demonstrate achievement, the University will expand and enrich its public disclosure of key assessment data, including documented student learning outcomes, placement information and student satisfaction data.
  2. Develop a comprehensive plan for faculty enrichment in pedagogy and student learning assessment through the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.
  3. Develop and implement a mentorship program for new members of the faculty, in order to promote the professional development of new faculty and facilitate orientation to Gardner-Webb culture and ethos.
  4. Identify, develop, and initiate new programs consistent with the University’s mission and identity in conjunction with a review and evaluation of existing programs.
  5. Expand opportunities for student engagement and experiential learning through a renewed emphasis on international and cross cultural study opportunities, undergraduate research, interdisciplinary teaching and learning, and supplemental instruction and tutoring for at-risk students.
  6. Develop and implement a plan to strengthen partnerships between the Academic and Student Development areas for the purpose of advancing student learning and success.
  7. Increase the competitiveness of faculty salaries to attract exceptionally qualified candidates and retain outstanding faculty. Average salaries for all ranks will improve in comparison to other North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities at every rank. The University will also strive to maintain its highly competitive benefits package.
  8. Provide a program of support and development to part-time instructors to aid their efforts toward continuous improvement and pedagogical excellence.
  9. Annually review the number of full-time teaching faculty in each program to ensure capacity to support the mission of the institution and to ensure the quality of each academic program.

Goal 4: Value and Affordability

Enrollment management and marketing efforts must consistently promote the dual message that Gardner-Webb University offers high-quality educational value for a reasonable investment.  The real cost of higher education has become a serious challenge for many families, and the value that our University offers in the marketplace of higher education is not easily understood. It is essential that we articulate our core values and institutional brand pillars within a comprehensive, persistent marketing effort that is consistently and adequately funded.  Moreover, the amount of financial support for students must align with our overall enrollment goals.


  1. Develop a strategic financial plan for long-term sustainability that includes appropriate enrollment targets, a comprehensive fundraising and endowment growth plan, and a clear focus on controlling expenses and realizing operational efficiencies.
  2. Increase endowed scholarship funds to help students who would benefit from a Gardner-Webb education, but might not be able to afford the investment without additional support.
  3. Develop long-term tuition discount and revenue targets that ensure sufficient revenue while not placing financial burdens on students.
  4. Develop enhanced, earlier communications and educational efforts to help families have easy access to, and have a better understanding about available financial resources, resulting in an educational financial plan that is clearly understood, including student loans as part of the investment students and families make.
  5. Confirm Gardner-Webb’s value with both specific success stories and employment and graduate school placement information that make a compelling case for investing in a Gardner-Webb education. (slight language revision)

Goal 5: Online Education

For nearly two decades, Gardner-Webb University has been providing credit-bearing learning experiences through the online medium, particularly through the Graduate School and the Degree Completion Program. With the rapid evolution of educational technology and the increasing demand for alternative modes of delivery, the University will build on what has been learned to enhance the quality and expand the reach of its online programs. The University will provide its faculty with advanced training in online pedagogy and technology with certifications for those who attain levels of excellence. The University will implement comprehensive sets of standards for the design and delivery of online courses, for academic support and student services in the online learning environment, and for assessment of online teaching and learning in order to ensure the quality and consistency of the educational experience for all online students. And because the Gardner-Webb experience is deeply rooted in the context of Christian community, the University will also take steps to cultivate the integration of faith and learning in the online environment.


  1. Design and implement an “online-faculty development plan” in partnership with the GWU Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), in order to provide quality instruction and support as well as tangible incentives to faculty to pursue development opportunities.
  2. Adopt the nationally recognized Quality Matters™ (QM) standards for excellence in course design for all online courses and identify and adopt similarly recognized standards for course delivery, student support, and assessment in the online learning environment.
  3. Review, evaluate, and enhance as needed the current technology infrastructure to ensure its capacity to meet the needs of online students and faculty.
  4. Design and implement a comprehensive marketing and recruitment plan that includes all online programs.
  5. Develop Faith-and-Learning components for each program that are consistent with the mission and identity of the University and appropriate to the discipline.  
  6. Identify, develop, and initiate new online programs consistent with the University’s mission and identity.
  7. Study the feasibility of offering a fully online undergraduate degree program with the same academic rigor and integrity which characterizes the traditional on-campus program.

Goal 6: Athletic Integrity and Competitiveness

Intercollegiate athletics nationally stands at a critical crossroads. Decisions made in the next few years at Gardner-Webb and NCAA Division I schools across the country will determine whether athletic programs will maintain integrity and viability consistent with the educational missions of the supporting institutions. Gardner-Webb is committed to the ideal of the student-athlete, for whom competitive excellence is simply one component of a total educational process geared toward the student’s overall formation as an educated citizen. Gardner-Webb remains firmly committed to academic integrity across the campus and recognizes its special importance in the context of the student-athlete. Departmental administrative vigilance will continue to ensure compliance with all NCAA Division I regulations. Additionally, the Athletics Department administration is committed to a continuous assessment of internal controls ensuring that athletic competitiveness will never compromise academic rigor and integrity.

The future of Gardner-Webb’s athletic programs depends on the ability to attract exceptionally talented student-athletes to campus in an increasingly competitive recruitment environment. Consequently, the University also commits itself to include within the allocation of its limited resources, projects that will enhance athletic facilities and support athletic teams, including the upgrading of existing facilities to meet NCAA Division I requirements. In all endeavors, Gardner-Webb is committed to being a competitive member of the Big South Conference, contributing to the overall success and positive perception of the conference as a whole.


  1. Continually evaluate athletic budgets (operating and scholarship), making improvements when necessary to maintain these budgets at the conference average in the sports being compared.
  2. Review, assess and evaluate academic support and standards for student athletes to help ensure academic integrity and affirm the rigor of academic programs.
  3. The University will develop a set of measures to regularly assess cost and benefits of its athletic programs including both their promotional and educational value as well as their contribution to school spirit and good will within the larger community of University alumni and supporters

Goal 7: Infrastructure and Learning Environment

Each of these goals will require the support of a strong infrastructure. An attractive and well-equipped campus, a strong library with dedicated faculty librarians, a qualified and competent support staff across campus, and reliable systems of technology are all necessary for the University to flourish and grow. Careful attention will need to be given to hiring the right professionals to help fill the many roles which support student-learning. The University will retain professionals who understand the unique brand of student-centered community that is Gardner-Webb. The University will give careful attention to its campus facilities, making additions and upgrades where needed. A new performing arts center will be a top priority of the University’s fund-raising efforts. And the University will maintain and improve the critically important technology infrastructure which promotes wireless internet access across campus and the ever-expanding demands of educational technology.


  1. Maintain and enhance as applicable, a state-of-the-art technology infrastructure designed to promote and support an on-campus and online learning environment. Assessment of the infrastructure will take into account the physical network design, enterprise systems, applications and software, hardware, training and support.
  2. Update the master plan for facilities and construction in light of new goals for program development and enrollment growth. Currently priorities for major facility additions include:
    1. Fine Arts Center
    2. Natatorium that adequately houses the men’s and women’s swimming programs, and that includes a diving well, coaches’ offices and locker rooms for both programs.
    3. Renovation of Hamrick Fieldhouse that provides adequate locker facilities, showers and restrooms for soccer, track and cross country, women’s lacrosse, and visiting opponents for these sports and football.
    4. Continuation of the University’s comprehensive upgrade of physical accessibility enhancements across campus.
  3. Periodically evaluate existing laboratory facilities including computer labs, language labs, and science labs for appropriate enhancements, upgrades and expansion.
  4. Create a wellness campus culture by establishing a Wellness Advisory Council and implementing a variety of wellness initiatives.
  5. In order to attract the most highly qualified support personnel, the University will increase the competitiveness of salaries for its non-faculty workforce.
  6. The President in collaboration with the Board of Trustees will develop and implement a training program to better prepare individual trustees to guide the University through the strategic challenges of the 21st