Distinctively Wayne State University

By 2021, “Distinctively Wayne State” will result in a thriving institution known for academic and research excellence where every student has a clear pathway to success and the opportunity to flourish in a diverse, collaborative and innovative environment. Through its commitment to research and community engagement, Wayne State will continue to be recognized as a leader in Detroit’s revitalization and will grow its reputation for understanding and addressing urban challenges. 

Our Vision

Wayne State will be a pre-eminent, public, urban research university known for academic and research excellence, success across a diverse student body, and meaningful engagement in its urban community.

Our Mission

Wayne State’s mission is to create and advance knowledge, prepare a diverse student body to thrive, and positively impact local and global communities.

Our Values

While our vision and mission show where we want to go, our values guide us on the way. They cut across organizational boundaries, bind us culturally, and permeate our strategic and tactical initiatives. They are the defining traits of the Wayne State community. 

  • Collaboration: When we work together, drawing upon various talents and perspectives, we achieve better results.
  • Integrity: We keep our word, live up to our commitments and are accountable to ourselves and each other. 
  • Innovation: We are unafraid to try new things and learn by both failure and success.
  • Excellence: We strive for the highest quality outcomes in everything we do. 
  • Diversity and Inclusion: We value all people and understand that their unique experiences, talents and perspectives make us a stronger organization and better people.



Who We Are: A Historical Perspective

Wayne State University is a premier, public, urban research university located in the heart of Detroit. Founded in 1868 by five doctors who were determined to advance medicine beyond the crude care they had witnessed on the battlefields of the Civil War, Wayne State today pursues scholarship at the highest levels and serves a diverse body of nearly 28,000 students through a broad array of academic programs and high-caliber faculty and staff.

Throughout our history, we have provided students from all backgrounds access to a high-quality education, enabling them to realize their full potential and contribute to society throughout their lives. Our commitment to accessibility for qualified students of all backgrounds creates exceptional educational opportunities and enriches our communities. Our longstanding commitment to diversity and our rich, multicultural environment prepare our students for success and eventual leadership in a diverse, global society.

We are one of only six public, urban universities in the United States to have received the highest Carnegie Foundation ratings for both research intensiveness and community engagement. Since our inception, faculty and staff have provided a high-quality educational experience for hundreds of thousands of students, who have gone on to make outstanding contributions to our region and nation in every field of endeavor, including as corporate CEOs, government leaders, judges, teachers, policy makers, university presidents, astronauts, scientists, physicians, and engaged citizens. Our annual economic impact in Michigan is estimated at $2.5 billion.

Wayne State’s impact and success are evident in many ways throughout our campus and far beyond. With more than 1,000 students, we have the largest single-campus medical school in the United States, and our contributions to the medical field have been immense. About 30 percent of Michigan’s practicing physicians (and more than 40 percent in the metropolitan counties of Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb) have received all or part of their medical training at Wayne State University. We are home to the only National Institutes of Health branch not in or near the Washington, D.C., area dedicated to the study of premature birth and infant mortality. Since 2002, the Perinatology Research Branch has produced lifesaving research, cared for more than 20,000 at-risk mothers, contributed more than $350 million to Michigan’s economy, and employed more than 130 physicians, researchers, and staff members.

Since its founding, Wayne State has been inextricably linked to Detroit, a city that has been a symbol of the American Dream and a kaleidoscope of cultures, ambition, inspiration, contradictions, and challenges. Following a long period of steady and, at times, explosive growth and development, Detroit suffered through a period of urban decline unprecedented in American history. In recent years, the spirit and resilience that once made Detroit great have re-emerged in full. There is a new vision, new leadership, willing participation, growing investment, economic growth, and — most of all — palpable optimism. Though it stands at a crossroad, Detroit is poised for success — and the world is watching.

An Unwavering Commitment

Throughout Detroit’s changing fortunes, Wayne State has remained a steadfast partner, playing a leading role in the city’s recent resurgence while maintaining the university’s historical commitment to diversity, opportunity, and excellence. Opportunity is embodied in the chance for a diverse array of students from wide-ranging and underrepresented communities around the world to study with world-class faculty at a major research university and prepare for a lifetime of success. It is found in the cultural and community experiences that are unique to a Wayne State education. It is evident in the wide spectrum of academic programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels. At Wayne State, students learn from professors recognized nationally and internationally as being at the forefront of their disciplines while participating in the creation of new knowledge. Most of all, opportunity means a chance for students with desire and talent to achieve their dreams, no matter their background.

At Wayne State University, excellence is evident in the quality of our faculty, the caliber of our research, and the rigorous academic expectations of our students. It undergirds and guides our endeavors both in and out of classrooms and labs, and fuels a relentless pursuit of improvement.

Every Wayne State student has the opportunity to be valued, to learn in an environment that is focused on student success, and to be enriched not only academically but also by learning from others who are ethnically and racially diverse. Furthermore, they have the opportunity to participate in research that impacts not only Detroit but also the world. Students can learn from, and give back to, the community. They are encouraged to think outside of the box, along with how to be innovative and entrepreneurial. This is what we call the “Distinctively Wayne State University” student experience.

This experience springs from our proud heritage, and will shape our vision for the future.

Where We Stand Today

Like Detroit itself, Wayne State University stands at a crossroad. Its success as a comprehensive, diverse, public, urban research university provides a strong foundation on which to build. Its history and location provide the university with unique advantages, including a rich multicultural environment, a strong research ranking, a consistent commitment to academic excellence, a large and successful alumni base, and a location in a city whose revitalization is gaining momentum and attention. However, the university — not unlike higher education in general — faces an uncertain future characterized by increasing competition, technological upheaval, disruption to the existing higher education model, a growing demand for accountability, and economic uncertainty. To prepare for a bright future, Wayne State must prepare a plan to capitalize on its unique opportunities while managing its evolving and significant challenges.

Mapping the Future: Our Strategic Plan

All successful plans begin with the end in mind


WSU will be a pre-eminent, public, urban research university known for academic and research excellence, success across a diverse student body, and meaningful engagement in its urban community.


Wayne State’s mission is to create and advance knowledge, prepare a diverse student body to thrive, and positively impact local and global communities.




While our vision and mission provide a destination and a purpose, our values guide us in our approach to work, our expectations of performance and behavior, our assessment of results, and, most importantly, our approach to working together. Our values cut across organizational boundaries, bind us culturally, and permeate our strategic and tactical initiatives.


When we work together, drawing upon various talents and perspectives, we achieve better results. 


We are unafraid to try new things, to test, and to learn by both failure and success. We
are relentlessly curious about the evolving world and how we can do things better.

Diversity and Inclusion

We value all people and understand that their unique experiences, talents, and perspectives make us a stronger organization and better persons. We seek and are strengthened by diverse points of view. We actively recruit students, faculty, and staff from different races, ethnic groups, and backgrounds locally, regionally, and globally. We strive for an inclusive and welcoming campus for all people regardless of race, ethnicity, creed, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, or place of origin.


We keep our word. We live up to our commitments and are accountable regarding our responsibilities and to each other. Ours is a greater calling, and we do what is right for our students, each other, our community, and the quest for knowledge.

Strategic Focus Areas

During our planning, certain themes emerged:

  • The importance of focusing on student success and the critical role faculty play
  • The distinctive educational advantage that our diverse, multicultural environment provides
  • The opportunity for leadership and service, which our participation in the revitalization of Detroit provides, and the importance of aligning our service with our mission
  • The necessity of encouraging innovation and a global perspective to compete in the 21st century higher education environment
  • The key role entrepreneurship will play in Detroit’s revitalization and its synergies with an innovative culture on our campus
  • The continuous need to expand our research
  • The need for financial sustainability and operational excellence in a continually changing fiscal environment

Our discussions led us to focus our planning around seven interdependent Strategic Focus Areas, which are permeated by our values. They have served as guideposts in our planning.

Student Success


Preamble: Students are our top priority, and we provide them with the tools and experiences that they need to learn and succeed. Academic excellence, innovative pedagogies, collaborative and interdisciplinary research, career preparation, global experiences, and deep engagement in cultural diversity within a dynamic urban environment all create a “Distinctively Wayne State” student experience within the context of (1) our connection with the city of Detroit; (2) our commitment to diversity and inclusive excellence; (3) the translation of research excellence into the student experience; (4) a commitment to address urban challenges; and (5) our innovative and entrepreneurial perspectives.

Goal 1: Cultivate a Culture of Student Success

We believe that students should be treated as individuals, with their own distinctive life circumstances, attitudes, and beliefs about learning. We strive to ensure that every student feels valued and supported. We recognize the importance of supportive relationships on student learning and, ultimately, student success. These include instructional experiences in a setting where students’ needs are understood and proactive, engaged academic advising that helps students understand how to succeed in college and in their careers. Our culture also promotes the “Distinctively Wayne State” student experience, which results in our campus being a hub of wide-ranging diverse, cultural, intellectual, learning, and athletic activities. Our campus is deeply linked to our urban community.


  • Promote relationships between students and other members of the campus community who support student learning and success
  • Tailor our educational support systems to the differentiated needs of our diverse students
  • Use strength-based approaches to recognize the learning potential of all students
  • Create a "Distinctively Wayne State" experience that leverages our Detroit location, diversity, and academic and research excellence to better prepare students for success
  • Enhance the vibrant campus environment, building upon and increasing diverse cultural, intellectual, entertainment, and athletic activities
  • Increase student residential housing options, on-campus study facilities, and other infrastructure designed to enhance student success

Goal 2: Create Clear Academic Pathways That Support Progressive Student Success

By “progressive student success,” we mean that students gain knowledge and intellectual skills that build upon previous learning, apply knowledge and skills in new and challenging contexts, and progress through academic and developmental milestones, leading to timely degree attainment. We support all of our diverse students (first-time, part-time, transfers, graduate, professional, underrepresented, domestic, and international) through the creation of appropriate pathways.


  • Restructure the general education program, gateway, and first-year courses to ensure student learning outcomes and success
  • Develop clear curricular pathways and learning outcomes leading to timely degree attainment
  • Ensure the participation and accountability of advisors in assisting students with the implementation of their academic roadmaps
  • Develop curricula aligned with the “Distinctively Wayne State” student experience
  • Provide materials for each program and major combining curricular plans with institutional support mechanisms, student engagement, and co-curricular development opportunities, all leading to timely degree attainment
  • Improve and implement data-based alert systems that trigger advising interventions and other appropriate, coordinated institutional responses to risk factors identified for individual students

Goal 3: Increase Retention, Progress to Degree, and Graduation Rates for All Students

We believe that better retention, improved learning outcomes, greater academic progress, timely degree attainment, and successful career placement will result from our focus on student success and ensuring a “Distinctively Wayne State” student experience. We are committed to enabling every student to succeed and to eliminating the academic achievement gaps that too often challenge students from underrepresented populations.


  • Assess programs to determine their relevance to: (1) student success; (2) the “Distinctively Wayne State” experience; (3) 21st century workforce demands; (4) enhancing learning outcomes, retention, and graduation rates
  • Develop a “Student Success Pipeline” – an institutional monitoring practice that focuses on student retention and degree attainment, academic progress, milestone attainment, reasons for student attrition, and career placement. The Pipeline will permit monitoring by subgroups such as: college, demographic subpopulations, and key educational groupings, such as STEM.
  • Eliminate achievement gaps for underrepresented students
  • Remove course-scheduling barriers, which impede expeditious degree attainment
  • Tailor financial aid options to maximize student retention and degree attainment

Goal 4: Enhance Academic and Career Training for All Graduate Students

Graduate education requires intensive student learning in a well-defined discipline guided by close interactions with an advisor. Students in our graduate programs are also committed to generating new knowledge through original research. We are dedicated to fostering an environment in which students will be positioned for a wide variety of research and professional careers.


  • Support curricular development and innovation to ensure robust program options for graduate students
  • Establish increased communication between students and faculty to improve mentoring and guidance
  • Provide funding programs, including fellowships and scholarships, to enable student success by reducing the financial burdens
  • Expand career development resources to increase opportunities for graduate students to acquire the skills and competencies necessary for professional success

Teaching Excellence


Preamble: We will use both proven and thoughtfully innovative, evidence-based, high-impact practices, and culturally responsive and reflective pedagogies to increase levels of student engagement and learning outcomes, as well as to promote greater academic performance and achievement.

Goal 1: Enhance a Culture That Values Teaching Excellence

We value excellence in teaching throughout the university, where teaching is  fundamentally based on a series of relationships.


  • Recognize teaching excellence through awards, approval, and frequent acknowledgement (including those who teach collaboratively)
  • Transform teaching from an individual endeavor to a shared experience through faculty engagement
  • Encourage “team teaching” and “collaborative ownership” of courses
  • Increase resources to enhance teaching laboratories and facilities that enable innovative teaching practices in every school and college

Goal 2: Identify and Encourage the Adoption of Best Teaching Practices and the Improved Delivery of Learning Outcomes Campuswide Through the Use of Data

While we recognize that excellent teaching takes many forms depending on the nature of the material, the learning styles of the students, and the style of instruction, we believe that data-based decisions on these matters strengthen all teaching. Although we do not discount the importance of the instructor’s judgment as to what is best under given circumstances, wide-ranging data are proving to enhance most planning for courses, as is on-going analysis during the instructional period.


  • Use data and research to analyze and encourage the adoption of successful teaching methodologies that expedite progress to degree
  • Implement universitywide training for faculty to increase the use of data and formative and qualitative assessments in developing better pedagogies to enhance learning outcomes
  • Develop and enhance innovative, high-impact, culturally responsive, and reflective pedagogies
  • Use ongoing evaluation during the course of a semester to adjust pedagogies
  • Encourage collaborative best practices through data sharing among faculty

Goal 3: Improve the Quality of Faculty-Student Relationships Within the Classroom and Beyond

We commit to valuing time spent with students (in the classroom, lab, field, or clinical placement, or in formal and informal meetings that go beyond instruction).


  • Ensure that faculty are accessible and engaging
  • Encourage faculty to conduct small-group and individual meetings with students
  • Incentivize and assist faculty to develop innovative, collaborative, and interactive learning experiences supported by the necessary systems and processes for student success
  • Increase global student academic experiences led by faculty
  • Increase effective, proactive faculty mentoring

Goal 4: Improve Graduate Student Training and Mentoring

We recognize that the ability of graduate students to interact on a regular basis with their faculty advisors in pursuit of a research-oriented master’s or doctoral degree or during field training, practicums, or clinical instruction is extremely important. We commit to ensuring that these relationships will be strong so that these students will receive the guidance and training that will prepare them for productive careers.


  • Ensure that faculty members are accessible and deeply involved in each student’s mentoring, training, and research
  • Encourage faculty to motivate students to complete their research or training in a timely fashion
  • Develop degree or certificate programs that are responsive to the economic and business needs of the employers who hire our 



Preamble: During the next five years, we are committed to ensuring that Wayne State University becomes a world leader in discovery and knowledge application. We will increase strategic integrative research and nurture the broad ecosystem for scholarly inquiry, discovery, creativity, and knowledge application by leveraging our academic strengths, community engagement mission, and urban location. We believe that the research ecosystem is a key driver for economic growth, for revitalization in Detroit, and for addressing real-world challenges in a rapidly evolving urban environment. We further believe that engaging students at all levels enhances our research mission, as well as their participation with the university and preparation for careers.

Goal 1: Nurture and Expand the Research and Discovery Mission

While we value the multiplicity of research and creative activities produced throughout the university, we will strategically enhance our research by emphasizing thematic thrusts such as urban health challenges, recruiting appropriate faculty, ensuring the highest quality infrastructure, and diversifying our funding.


  • Prioritize areas for targeted programmatic growth and facilitate the development of self-sustaining, integrative thematic thrusts
  • Become a leader in research and development programs addressing challenges in evolving urban and multicultural environments
  • Enhance our research collaborations — for example, within the University Research Corridor — to develop more interdisciplinary, extramural partnerships
  • Ensure that the Integrative Biosciences Center becomes a global model of integrative research focusing on urban health challenges
  • Build research collaborations with local and global organizations and develop tools to facilitate community-based participatory research initiatives
  • Provide the support necessary to enhance areas of research programs

Goal 2: Develop the Infrastructure and Processes Necessary to Support Research, Knowledge Application, and Broad Programmatic Initiatives

Through the Office of Research Development, we will provide greater coordination and funding support, which will enable us to enhance the scale of our research.


  • Establish an Office of Research Development to support broad programmatic initiatives, facilitate interdisciplinary research teams, and ensure greater funding application success
  • Optimize efficient workflow processes that impact research operations
  • Maintain high-quality core facilities that serve the research mission
  • Establish strong strategic partnerships with external entities (both local and global)
  • Translate discoveries into applied knowledge for the benefit of society 

Goal 3: Grow Research-Based Revenue

We will focus on enhancing the revenue potential of our extensive research capabilities.


  • Increase overall research awards and expenditures so that they are on par with the average growth among our designated peer institutions
  • Hire faculty research groups to promote multi-investigator, large core, and center grants
  • Diversify the research funding portfolio and increase extramural research funding

Goal 4: Enhance Our “Distinctively Wayne State” Pipeline of Student Researchers

We pride ourselves on engaging not only graduate but also undergraduate students in substantive research. As the only university with both BUILD and BEST grants, we will increase opportunities for student research and participation in publications.


  • Ensure that every program provides a platform for student research within its curricula
  • Establish the President's Student Research Fellows to encourage and reward outstanding student researchers with greater recognition and stipends
  • Provide funding to encourage students to engage in enhanced research projects

Goal 5: Communicate and Expand Awareness of Excellence in Research, Discovery, and Knowledge Application

We will work to enhance the awareness of our research contributions.


  • Host scholarly forums focusing on Wayne State’s targeted programs with global participation
  • Enhance the recognition of the university’s leading researchers and scholars
  • Encourage faculty to become leaders in national and global scholarly organizations
  • Continue to publicize research success internally and externally

Diversity and Inclusion


Preamble: We strive to have an inclusive environment where diversity is valued broadly. We appreciate the ability of every person to contribute to our diversity of thought. We remain committed to improving the proportionate representation of groups that have historically suffered underrepresentation and seek to close the racial educational achievement gaps. Our rich multicultural experiences enable us to develop exportable programs and curricula, which provide leadership in a multicultural society.

Goal 1: Leverage Our Diversity to Create a Diverse and Inclusive Campus Where Every Group and Individual Feels Valued

We seek to create an inclusive environment that values and embraces the diversity of all its members. In this, we recognize the importance of: (1) recruiting and retaining students, faculty, and staff from diverse underrepresented groups;(2) celebrating the university’s many diverse populations (e.g., racial, ethnic, gender, LGBT, people with disabilities, international, and veterans); (3) promoting cultural awareness and understanding; and (4) sharing our challenges and successes with the university and wider community.


  • Celebrate and increase the understanding and appreciation of diversity and inclusion
  • Design and implement recruitment strategies that result in increased numbers of qualified and diverse underrepresented students, faculty, and staff
  • Create new and enhanced current pipelines designed to increase the recruitment of diverse underrepresented students and faculty
  • Support the enhancement or establishment of structures, events, and activities designed to promote greater multicultural and intercultural awareness, interactions, and understanding

Goal 2: Implement and Enhance Academic Programs Focused on Cultural, Language,  and Global Competencies

It is imperative that students be prepared to live in a multicultural world. We aim to leverage our diversity and commit to create academic programs that encourage multicultural and intercultural understanding, promote scholarly dialogues on diversity and inclusion, and create proven exportable models that advance diversity and inclusion.


  • Develop and enhance programs focused on understanding multiculturalism and building diversity and inclusion competencies and expertise
  • Develop and enhance programs focused on building an understanding of global cultures (such as study abroad)
  • Enhance the university’s programs focused around multicultural populations and languages so that they are nationally recognized
  • Develop programs and executive education enabling students, faculty, and industry to build global relationships and expertise
  • Create curricula and programs focused on multicultural and intercultural leadership
  • Establish the Office of Multicultural Student Success within the newly created Office of Diversity and Inclusion as a resource for gaining guidance in instilling diversity, inclusion competencies, and expertise
  • Enhance the visibility of centers and programs (e.g., the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights and Social Justice) in their efforts to stimulate a scholarly dialogue



Preamble: We commit to enabling our university to become a bustling hub of innovation, where new ideas are constantly developed into new ventures; students and faculty collaborate through TechTown Detroit to mentor community, urban, and minority entrepreneurs; and industry leaders and startup CEOs seek innovative resources. Our lively exchange of new ideas and our innovative collaboration both on and off campus will allow the translation of research and development into entrepreneurship, which will permeate our campus culture and increase the growth and vitality of the university, the city, and the region.

Goal 1: Create a Thriving Culture Where New Ideas and New Ventures Are Consistently Developed and Rewarded

We will permeate an entrepreneurial spirit throughout the university through its strategic integration into our curricula and increased collaborations with entrepreneurs, TechTown Detroit, the Anderson Engineering Ventures Institute, and other organizations promoting entrepreneurship.


  • Create a Council of Entrepreneurship to coordinate entrepreneurial activities and collaborate with the Office of Technology Commercialization and the Office of Research Development
  • Engage faculty to develop signature forums where new ideas and ventures are discussed, synergies between innovators and entrepreneurs are discovered and expanded, and which champion the university’s role as a center of innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Create measurable goals for each stakeholder group that encourage accountability, demonstrably drive entrepreneurship, and award the achievement of their goals
  • Increase opportunities for entrepreneurial and startup CEOs (including minority and urban CEOs) to contribute to the academic life of the university through lectures and seminars, executive-in-residence positions, and on advisory boards
  • Increase opportunities for corporate executives to participate in the academic life of the university
  • Become a thought leader in innovation and entrepreneurship, particularly through collaboration with organizations promoting entrepreneurship and impacting Detroit’s revitalization (including the University Research Corridor)
  • Increase the number of our students exposed to the opportunities and challenges of entrepreneurship through internships, co-op programs, and other opportunities 
  • Through TechTown Detroit; the Anderson Engineering Ventures Institute; our colleges; and other entrepreneurial, governmental, and business organizations, enhance relationships with entrepreneurs and the broader business community and create entrepreneurial courses and programs throughout the university

Goal 2: Simplify/Coordinate/Enhance the Process of Innovation and Entrepreneurship 

We will coordinate and enhance innovation and entrepreneurship by enhancing the Office of Technology Commercialization and through greater collaboration.


  • Coordinate and scale current innovation programs across the university through the Office of Technology Commercialization in collaboration with the Council of Entrepreneurship and the Office of Research Development, which are being created
  • Develop a coordinated approach to the engagement of faculty, staff, and students in the creation of a comprehensive entrepreneurship educational and training program, which will include non-degree options, opportunities for urban and minority entrepreneurs, learning delivery options, and social entrepreneurship
  • Ensure the development of entrepreneurial courses
  • Facilitate collaborations and partnerships with industry, foundations, and the venture community to drive innovation and commercialization domestically and globally
  • Ensure that university leadership takes tangible steps to remove institutional impediments to driving innovation and entrepreneurship

Community Engagement


Preamble: We encourage every faculty member, administrator, and student to participate in meaningful, sustainable, and mutually beneficial relationships with our community. We believe that experiential learning and community service are vital to our academic mission.

Goal 1: Continue to Enhance Our Leadership in the Revitalization of Detroit

By aligning our community engagement with our academic mission, we will increase our focus on developing innovative solutions to urban challenges and enhance our visibility as a thought leader.


  • Encourage and facilitate faculty and student research dedicated to solving Detroit’s and the region’s most pressing challenges (including exploring K-12 readiness) and increase funding for this research
  • Develop mission-aligned, community-based programs involving students, faculty, staff, and local residents to achieve economic growth in Detroit
  • Enhance the visibility of the Detroit Revitalization Fellows and other university programs that contribute to the revitalization of the city
  • Become a thought leader in understanding and addressing urban and regional challenges
  • Align the university’s community engagement with its academic mission
  • Collaborate with local and national media to enhance the visibility of the university’s involvement in the revitalization of the city and the region
  • Prioritize engagement with community organizations based on mission alignment and effectiveness
  • Increase the number and strength of collaboration with labor, industry, and the business community
  • Coordinate the collaboration of higher education institutions participating in the revitalization of Detroit

Goal 2: Develop Innovative, Meaningful, Sustainable, and Mutually Beneficial Community-Based Service-Learning Experiences

We will strategically enhance our community engagement through its infusion in our curricula, a greater on-campus presence of community leaders, and the encouragement of volunteerism and service-learning. We will increase the effectiveness through data-driven coordination and collaboration.


  • Integrate community service and volunteerism into the curricula and provide more opportunities for faculty, students, and staff to participate
  • Encourage all undergraduate and graduate students to engage in sustainable community service-learning experiences (which will enable them to be better prepared for their careers and instill a lifelong commitment to giving back and an appreciation of community-based knowledge and insights)
  • Establish academic programs/courses focused around Detroit and Southeast Michigan’s urban challenges (bankruptcy, urban health issues, educational preparedness, etc.)
  • Invite local community leaders and groups aligned with our mission to the university to raise awareness, host on-campus events, etc.
  • Create a coordinated system/database to track and synthesize community engagement efforts

Goal 3: Maintain and Enhance the University’s Institutional Reputation of High-Quality Community Engagement

Although the university engages in numerous activities designed to benefit the community, the lack of coordination and thematic publicity results in lackluster recognition. We will strategically participate in community engagement.


  • Provide opportunities for the president, Board of Governors, alumni, and key university officials to interact in the community and establish strong relationships with key business, civic, and community leaders
  • Assess and refocus the President's Community Advisory Group to ensure a more engaged and productive advisory relationship with the president, the vice president of government and community affairs, the chief diversity officer, and other appropriate university administrators
  • Maintain an active leadership role in addressing the challenges of the city and region and contributing to the quality of life of its citizens
  • Participate in local, state, and national dialogues addressing urban issues
  • Ensure the strategic presence of WSU representatives on relevant boards of directors, task forces, and committees of organizations and institutions, particularly those impacting the city and region
  • Participate actively in civic and community events and programs
  • Publish an annual report of the university’s community engagement activities

Financial Sustainability and Operational Excellence


Preamble: We commit to growing revenue and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of business processes in order to provide adequate resources to support the university's mission while maintaining a value-based tuition structure.

Goal 1: Increase Enrollment

We will focus on increasing our enrollment (without sacrificing our quality) and retention, which are critical to our financial sustainability.


  • Increase overall enrollment to at least 30,000, with specific goals for graduate, international, out-of-state, and spring/summer student populations
  • Increase year-to-year retention rates by three percentage points annually and the six-year graduation rate to at least 50 percent
  • Improve the reputation and level of awareness of Wayne State University

Goal 2: Develop a Culture of Philanthropy Throughout the University Community

We recognize the great potential of our thousands of students and hundreds of thousands of alumni to contribute to our financial stability.


  • Achieve the $750 million capital campaign goal, including $187.5 million in new endowment funds
  • Increase the number and amount of gifts to the endowment to surpass a half-billion dollars
  • Increase involvement of students, faculty, administrators, and alumni in philanthropy
  • Steward the investments that are made by donors

Goal 3: Diversify and Enhance Sources of Revenue

As we strive to increase our state revenue, we will also diversify our revenue sources, particularly by expanding our relationships with industry, leveraging our intellectual property, and increasing income from our auxiliary services.


  • Increase performance-based annual allocation from the State of Michigan
  • Increase revenues from training/academic non-degree programs, contracts, tech commercialization, patents, industry R&D, indirect cost recovery, and auxiliaries

Goal 4: Achieve Operational Excellence in All Processes

We will focus on increasing efficiency and productivity throughout the university.


  • Ensure that process improvements are implemented
  • Streamline university policies, procedures, and practices that impact student success as well as the overall university community
  • Improve the budgeting process and the transparency of financial reporting by implementing new tools and budget models
  • Assess the quality and return on investment of programs, initiatives, and schools/colleges
  • Review classroom and course scheduling to ensure optimal utilization of campus assets (e.g., buildings, space, capacity) and degree attainment expediency
  • Develop a culture of collaboration to eliminate organizational silos
  • Establish key metrics to assess operational excellence and benchmark against peer and best-in-class institutions

Goal 5: Ensure Environmental Sustainability

We will encourage environmentally sound practices throughout the university.


  • Promote participation in recycling throughout the university
  • Encourage all new architectural projects to comply with LEED Standards
  • Develop an environmentally friendly practices checklist to be implemented throughout the university
  • Promote sustainability throughout Wayne State University

Strategic Planning Process


For approximately one year, we engaged in a strategic planning process that involved hundreds of stakeholders. We launched the process with a thought-provoking presentation on the future of higher education, facilitated by our consultants, the Barthwell Group. Our Strategic Planning Committee — comprised of faculty, administrators, and a student representative, and co-chaired by the president’s chief of staff, the provost, the vice president for finance and business operations, and the vice president for research — met monthly to develop the basic goals, objectives, and metrics for each of the Strategic Focus Areas. Subgroups of the Strategic Planning Committee, augmented by additional faculty and staff participants, also met intermittently to continue analyzing each of the Strategic Focus Areas. Throughout our process, five focus groups representing our alumni, administrators, faculty, staff, and students met periodically to provide feedback. In addition, meetings were held with the President’s Community Advisory Group, key members of the university and the community, and a group of external stakeholders (corporate executives, policy makers, retired faculty, and administrators) to obtain their ideas about the Strategic Plan. Special retreats and briefings were held by the president with the Board of Governors.

In the final stages of the Strategic Planning Process, meetings were held with the President’s Cabinet and the Council of Deans. During a Town Hall meeting led by the president, the university community was updated regarding the Strategic Plan. Throughout the strategic planning process, the provost and the president of the Academic Senate gave briefings on the Strategic Plan to every school and college.

In addition, a strategic planning website was launched at the beginning of the process to enable input from the university community.

Overall, we believe that we have listened successfully to a wide array of university and community opinions, which have helped to shape our Strategic Plan.

Distinctively Wayne State University -- 2021


Preamble: By 2021, “Distinctively Wayne State University” will result in a thriving, bustling institution where every student has a clear pathway to academic and career success and the opportunity to flourish in a diverse, collaborative, innovative environment. Through its urban-focused research and community engagement, Wayne State will be recognized nationally and globally both as a leader in the revitalization of Detroit and in implementing innovative pedagogies that enable all students, regardless of background, to progress in a timely fashion to degree attainment.

We will accomplish this institutional transformation by focusing our Strategic Plan implementation around the following key priorities and metrics:

Key Priorities and Metrics

  • Increase the six-year graduation rate to 50 percent, improve overall retention, and grow enrollment to a minimum of 30,000 students
  • Eliminate the gaps in graduation and retention between students from underrepresented populations and students from majority populations
  • Ensure that all faculty and advisors are trained in the use of data to support our strategic goals
  • Increase research expenditures through investment, greater efficiencies, and enhancing alternative funding sources to be commensurate with leading urban research universities
  • Expand the percentage of undergraduate and graduate students involved in research
  • Increase collaboration among our colleges and schools with TechTown Detroit, the Anderson Engineering Ventures Institute, the Office of Technology Commercialization, the University Research Corridor, and governmental agencies to promote entrepreneurship, particularly among minority and urban entrepreneurs
  • Increase the number of substantive, mission-aligned community collaborations and the enhanced coordination of community engagement
  • Complete the $750 million capital campaign
  • Increase the endowment to $500 million
  • Create the Office of Multicultural Student Success, which will report to the associate provost for diversity and inclusion
  • Create the Office of Research Development
  • Create an entrepreneurship council
  • Establish a centralized community engagement database 


To ensure the efficient execution of Wayne State University’s Strategic Plan with the assistance of The Barthwell Group, tactical action plans aligned with the university’s goals and objectives have been developed by each of the university’s schools, colleges, and operational and academic units. These plans, as well as the Strategic Plan, will be reviewed annually and adjusted as necessary to reflect substantive changes in the university’s internal and external environments.


Strategic Planning Committee



Ethriam Brammer

Associate Director, Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies

Monica Brockmeyer

Associate Provost for Student Success

Joseph Dunbar

Professor and Associate Vice President for Research

Ahmad Ezzeddine

Associate Vice President for Educational Outreach and International Programs, Senior Associate to the President for Strategic Planning and Special Initiatives

Farshad Fotouhi

Dean, College of Engineering

Stephen Lanier*

Vice President for Research

Patrick Lindsey

Vice President of Government and Community Affairs

Rick Nork*1

Vice President, Finance and Business Operations, Treasurer, and Chief Financial Officer

Wayne Raskind

Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Louis Romano

Professor and President of the Academic Senate

Joseph Sawasky

Chief Information Officer and Associate Vice President, Computing and Information Technology

John Schiavone

Senior Director of Strategy and Innovation, School of Medicine

Naomi Shangle

Student, President of the Student Senate

Shijie Sheng

Professor, School of Medicine

Leslie Smith

President and CEO, TechTown Detroit

David Strauss

Dean of Students

Cheryl Waites

Dean, School of Social Work

Margaret E. Winters*

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Michael Wright*

Vice President for Marketing and Communications and Chief of Staff

Lisa Shrader

Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the President

* Co-chairs

Board of Governors



Gary S. Pollard


Paul E. Massaron

Vice Chair

Diane L. Dunaskiss


Marilyn Kelly


David A. Nicholson


Sandra Hughes O’Brien


Dana Thompson


Kim Trent


M. Roy Wilson 

ex officio

1 Mr. Nork retired in spring 2015. William Decatur has succeeded Mr. Nork as vice president, finance and business operations, treasurer, and chief financial officer and as a co-chair of the Strategic Planning Committee.

The Barthwell Group

The Barthwell Group is the Detroit-based strategic management consultant for Wayne State University’s Strategic Planning Process. A Certified Women-Owned MBE, The Barthwell Group has advised higher education institutions, Fortune 500 corporations, and the military throughout the United States.

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