Building Berklee’s Future

By David Mash ’76, Senior Vice President for Innovation Strategy and Technology

Berklee’s mission is to educate, train, and develop students to excel in music as a career. Our mission defines us and announces our purpose to the world. The college’s mission statement was last reviewed in 2006, and its entirety may be found on Berklee’s website at www.berklee.edu/about/mission-and-philosophy.

Beginning in 1995, Berklee adopted a process of strategic planning using five-year cycles. Strategic plans are actions an institution will take to achieve its mission. During our second strategic plan (Berklee version 2.0) between 2000 and 2005, President Lee Eliot Berk announced his retirement, and thought that because of the seven-year average tenure for college presidents, we should have a planning horizon longer than five years, and that five years was perhaps too long for a strategic plan, as things were changing so fast.

With the transition from President Berk to current President Roger H. Brown, in 2005 Berklee adopted a planning timeframe employing 10-year vision statements, with three three-year strategic plans, followed by a year of planning a new vision. A vision statement looks forward and says where we want to be in the future, but not necessarily how we’ll get there. That’s done through strategic plans with initiatives to move toward realization of the vision and achieving the mission. Our first vision statement was called “Vision for Berklee in 2015.” It provided a guidepost for developing our strategic plans. Our board of trustees has just adopted our new vision statement, “A Vision for Berklee in 2025.”

In March 2013, the executive committee of the board of trustees crafted a committee structure to manage the vision planning process with a vision task force to oversee the process. Chaired by trustee Rusty Williams, the task force included trustees Sara Lawrence Lightfoot and Carmichael Roberts, and Contemporary Writing and Production Department chair Matthew Nichol. I served as the liaison to the college community. Trustee teams explored five key themes identified by the board as important topics:

  1. careers,
  2. alumni engagement,
  3. program innovation,
  4. brand identity,
  5. affordability and access.

Between June 2013 and March of 2014, these committees explored the topics, then made presentations at the board of trustees meetings, culminating in a two-day board retreat in June 2014, which focused on planning for the future. Meanwhile, I led the college community though its own planning process. In June 2013, the board met with the Academic Leadership Council to kick off this process of envisioning the institution in 2025.

Between September of 2013 and September of 2014, the Berklee community held countless department, divisional, and area meetings to discuss Berklee’s future. Meetings were also held with students, alumni, parents, and donors to collect as much information as possible for the planning process. Next, the Vision Task Force set out to review the more than 300 ideas collected to determine themes that should be present in the new vision, and began the drafting process.

The first draft of “Vision for Berklee in 2025” was presented to the board in October 2014, and then to the college community via the Web and open town meetings. By February 2015, the vision statement had gone through four revisions, each with public review, and on May 8, 2015, the board voted unanimously to adopt the sixth draft as the new, official vision statement. It’s available at www.berklee.edu/planning-for-berklees-future.

Since then, we have distilled all input collected during the vision process into 20 strategic initiatives that can help us achieve this new vision. These initiatives will form the basis for crafting the next three-year strategic plan. This planning process is now underway, and we hope to have a new plan that we will embark on in June 2016.

“The best way to predict the future, is to build it,” according to visionary technologist Alan Kay. And that’s just what Berklee is doing with its Vision for Berklee in 2025—we are building our future.