Founded in 1865, Lehigh University is ranked among the nation’s best research universities. In 2022, Lehigh University established its Office of Strategic Planning and Initiatives, kicking off a process to develop a 10 year roadmap for the future. Under the leadership of its new president, the university embarked on a comprehensive strategic planning process, aiming to chart a course for innovation and progress through 2033. Patricia Mann, a veteran at Lehigh for over two decades, spearheaded the effort and was joined by Vice President for Strategic Planning and Initiatives Chris Cook to form this newsly established office.


Before the new Office of Strategic Planning and Initiatives began creating the ten-year strategic plan, they recognized a need for a platform to facilitate open dialogue and idea generation from students, faculty, and staff. “The consolidation of all that original planning being in one place for us as opposed to randomly stored documents and files,” says Ilena Key, Chief Technology Officer at Lehigh University. “That directly enabled us to provide a single interface for data collection.” IdeaScale emerged as the ideal solution, offering a versatile framework to harness the collective intelligence of the campus community.


Under the guidance of Chris Cook and Ilena Key, Lehigh University began to use IdeaScale to gather insights across campus during the Strategic Planning process. They launched their IdeaScale community, called “Our Future, Our Lehigh”. Through IdeaScale, Lehigh engaged stakeholders in reflective discussions, paving the way for a more transparent and inclusive approach to strategic planning. Over the course of a year, dedicated working groups, each focused on key pillars, utilized IdeaScale to solicit feedback, refine ideas, and foster meaningful dialogue.


Virtually all campaigns conducted on the platform garnered significant engagement, generating a wealth of ideas and insights. The platform’s intuitive dashboarding capabilities empowered administrators to track participation metrics and extract actionable insights. Through 105 sessions, faculty, staff, and students actively participated in the planning process. With an impressive turnout of 2,444 unique individuals, the sessions generated 383 ideas, 1,040 comments, and a total of 4,859 votes.

In June 2023, Lehigh University unveiled its visionary strategic plan, aptly named “Inspiring the Future Makers.” This strategic plan outlines three overarching goals, “Make it new, make a difference, and make it together,” which are broken down into six key initiatives and four foundational initiatives.

Key initiatives include:

-Redefine a deeply interdisciplinary education

-Invest in strategic interdisciplinary research

-Lead in educational innovation

-Transform Mountaintop campus

-Enhance the shared Bethlehem experience

-Cultivate lifelong Lehigh

Foundational initiatives include:

-A Lehigh for everyone

-An expanded and strengthened research environment

-An organization of the future

-Decision making informed by qualitative and quantitative data and analysis.

To capture a wider perspective, a survey was conducted reaching 76,000 members of the Lehigh community, including alumni and families, to understand which initiatives resonated most strongly. Lehigh then leveraged IdeaScale to establish a continuous feedback loop, ensuring ongoing input from faculty, staff, students, and alumni.

The plan, shaped by insights gathered through IdeaScale, embodies Lehigh’s commitment to innovation, excellence, and community engagement. Nearly a year after its launch, Patricia Mann reflected, saying IdeaScale played a pivotal role in laying the foundation for the strategic plan, empowering the leadership team to make informed decisions and prioritize initiatives aligned with the aspirations of the campus community.

Conclusion Lehigh University’s partnership with IdeaScale exemplifies the transformative power of collaboration and innovation in higher education. Through strategic planning facilitated by IdeaScale, Lehigh has not only charted a course for its future but also fostered a culture of inclusivity and engagement. Utilizing IdeaScale’s opportunities for continuous feedback loops, Lehigh remains agile and responsive in a rapidly evolving higher education landscape.

To learn more about Lehigh’s Strategic Plan, visit the “Inspiring the Future Makers” site.

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