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CBE Strategic Plan: Draft #1

The following represents a partial first draft of the CBE Strategic Plan (dated 04.20.2020).

Part I: Values, Vision, Mission


CBE will:

  • Take on the most challenging problems facing our planet, society, region, community, institution, college, departments, centers, labs, and degree programs. 
  • Champion equitable practices in our organization, for our people, and in our teaching, research and service, recognizing the differences that make a difference.
  • Understand that conflict and tough choices are inevitable and can be productive.


A world where built environments contribute positively to:

  • Human health
  • Sustainable living in resilient communities 
  • Harmony with the biophysical world
  • Equity and social justice
  • Joy and beauty through effective design and engagement

CBE graduates who:

  • Use equitable practices to address challenging problems at many scales through applied research, design, policy-making, planning, and leadership.
  • Collaborate using interdisciplinary and intercultural skills as well as rigorous processes that track accountability and develop trust.
  • Deeply understand their disciplinary strengths and appreciate disciplinary differences of others in the built environment and related fields.

A college that attracts students, faculty, staff and partners who expect:

  • Processes and practices that are efficient and equitable, minimizing waste, advancing technology and maximizing the value of our resources.
  • Clear value and minimal friction as a collaborative partner working with related academic peers and partners in the community, agencies and private industries.
  • Consistent alignment of mission/vision/values with every day decisions made in psychologically safe environments marked by mutual trust and respect.


Context, Why We Exist

We are one of only a few colleges in the world with the combination of disciplinary expertise to advance the triple bottom-line (people, planet and profit). Our public university is a driving force in a region where technological innovation, economic growth and preservation of natural resources coexist. 


CBE serves as a magnet or beacon for those that believe collaborative interdisciplinary and equitable practices can be used to address urgent social and environmental needs affected by the built environment. CBE will be a model for education and research that integrates and enhances equity, social, and biological diversity and delight.

Part II: Planning in a Time of Pandemic

Preparations for this plan began in 2018, when a group was formed to establish a framework for the plan, and accelerated in 2019, when the CBE community gathered for a retreat, selected a set of topics, and self-organized into a set of groups tasked with creating pathways of progress for our College. Through the Winter quarter of 2020, eleven groups gathered for five months, each producing research, rationales, goals, strategies, action items, and indicators–the substance of a strategic plan. As we gathered, a virus with mortality rates estimated to be ten times greater than the seasonal flu was making its way around the world. On March 11, 2020, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was characterized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

At the time of this writing, over 2 million people in 207 countries are reported to have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 [WHO, April 17, 2020]. For the first time in the history of the US, all 50 states have declared a state of emergency. As the first city in the nation to have received a person carrying the virus, the response in Seattle and at the University of Washington has been swift. There are no known therapeutic interventions or vaccines currently available to treat or prevent infection besides intensive care facilities, such as beds with oxygen supply and ventilators. The most effective response in such a situation is to distance ourselves from one another, to simply reduce the chance of spreading the virus from person to person. This may slow the rate of infection and allow services the time to expand to the capacity necessary to care for those who succumb to the disease, as well as test the population for infection and immunity, while a vaccine is developed. On March 6, the University of Washington became the first large university in the nation to shift to online classes. CBE immediately organized a rapid response task force, to rise to the challenge and develop support for our departments and for the broader community of practice in the built environments.

By necessity, the goals, strategies, and action items in this plan comprise a roadmap through crisis, as well as a pathway for progress. To plan in a pandemic is to realize that one’s vision of the future must be infused with hope, but also fortified against disaster. The pandemic portends losses and grieving on a scale that has not been experienced in our lifetimes, and the measures we must take to protect one another from the worst of the disease have a similarly devastating effect on our economy, signaling years of scarcity rather than abundance. How we endure in these times says more of our character than any other. Planning is about the future–it lays down a path for travelers that we hope will bring us to our destination. We hope to arrive unscathed, to a better place, and to look back on choices that we made without regret. To plan in these times requires creativity and resolve, because there is no other way to build a better world. 

Part III: Themes and Categories for Goals, Strategies, Actions, and Metrics

Note: These were developed through review and sorting of output of the scenario planning and task group deliverables.

Why: Grand Challenges / Strategic Initiatives

While teaching and research in the college takes on wide-ranging issues and ideas, three thematic initiatives emerged in the strategic planning process. In our future, we want to leave open the possibility for other large college-wide initiatives to emerge. The mandate from this process suggests that the college develop and support activities in these three overarching themes: 

  • Climate Action
  • Equity and Social Justice
  • Health and Well-being

How: Methods and Principles

The college is a synecdoche of the larger university in that we have an incredibly diverse faculty who practice a broad spectrum of ways of thinking and knowing including scientists, engineers, philosophers, economists, designers, ecologists, historians, political theorists, and policy makers. And then, many of us collaborate with disciplines outside of our college to further our understanding of the phenomena of study, expand our ability to answer the questions we ask, and synthesize knowledge across disciplinary domains. In this strategic planning effort, some of these ways of thinking emerged as having a collective interest in building our reputation and knowledge around: 

  • Humanities + Histories + Futures
  • Technology + Craft
  • Design Thinking + Public Interest Design
  • Collaboration/Interdisciplinarity

With What: Systems, Processes, and Resources

Across the task groups, strategies for communication, the use of space, leveraging technology, and aligning personnel with the mission of the institution emerged as similar and aligned goals and strategies. These categories support the grand challenges and methods and principles listed above: 

  • Communication
  • Space
  • Technology
  • Personnel

Where and When: Scale and Impact

The ways we think about the impact of our work will be reflected in the idea of organizational and time scales. Some strategies may focus on our internal programs, departments, and college, while others look outward to other academic partners within and outside of our university. Still others talk about how we connect with community and industry from the local to the global scale. 

  • Within the College (degree programs, departments, college initiatives)
  • Within the University
  • Other Universities
  • Community and Industry (Local – global) 
    • Neighborhoods and communities
    • City
    • County
    • State
    • National
    • International

DRAFT UPDATED 04.20.2020