Susan Ashley, professor emerita of History and recent chair of the Department of Economics and Business, has coordinated Colorado College’s Project 2024 since Fall 2021. The effort aims to engage the campus community in determining CC’s future. In its first year, more than 560 faculty, staff, and students participated.

“Project 2024 is a bottom-up process of thinking about the future inspired by the initiative launched in 1968 at the college, which led to the establishment of the Block Plan,” says Ashley. “The goal is to give everybody a chance to participate in conversations around these two questions: How can we do what we do better? Which of six challenges experts say face higher education in the United States today, and in the near future, should CC worry about?”

Among the pressing issues facing higher education are:

  • Finances/financial model
  • Changing demographics
  • Access to higher education
  • Digital knowledge
  • Relevance of higher education
  • Institutional complacency

The pandemic wasn’t a planned subject of conversation, but Ashley says COVID haunted almost every discussion.

“We had oriented the discussions toward future possibilities, but people often talked more about the present and focused on problems. When asked about how we can do what we do better, they thought largely in terms of their personal experience. And I think that had a great deal to do with the fact that for over a year people lacked the usual opportunities for interacting with others on campus. It was as if in asking them about the future of the college, they talked about the trunk of the elephant, as if it were the entire beast,” says Ashley.

The steering committee, comprised of faculty, staff, and students, spent a block synthesizing what they’d heard. They discerned one common thread: the desire for connection and three main areas for action:

  1. learning in and beyond the classroom
  2. structures and interactions
  3. policies, programs, and norms

These, in turn, include more specific targets for attention.

Year Two begins with campus-wide discussions of the best ways to translate last year’s talks into action, keeping in mind what community most cares about, our people. While Ashley says nothing is off the table, even changing the Block Plan, the things that make Colorado College a vital institution will remain. “Some things haven’t changed in 50 years,” says Ashley. “We have a dedicated staff, a faculty who are innovative in the classroom and who relish teaching, and lively, inquisitive students.”