2019-2024 Strategic Plan
Morgridge College of Education


By advancing systemic solutions to complex societal challenges


The goal of the Morgridge College of Education, simply put, is to improve the lives of others who have been marginalized because of race, ethnicity, culture, economic position, geography and ability. Increasingly complex societal issues such as the mental health crisis, educational achievement gaps and intergenerational poverty cannot be addressed effectively from one angle and call for new approaches to problem solving. Developing and scaling effective solutions to these challenges requires breaking down organizational and information silos in disciplines and systems and actively partnering with the people most affected by problems.

The Morgridge College of Education’s experts across the spectrum of learning, wellness, data, information and human development are unified by a deep commitment to social change and community through engaged scholarship, research and action. Our assets position the College to develop interdisciplinary and systemic solutions to complex challenges, thus ensuring that those solutions reach marginalized populations.

DU IMPACT 2025 poses the question, “What is the shape of knowledge in the 21st century, and how will our scholarship, practices of teaching and learning, and our institutional structures support it?”

Our response? Be an incubator of innovation demonstrating how a college can advance knowledge creation for the 21st century. 

The College of Education traces its roots back to the 1890s when teacher preparation was its primary focus. Today, in addition to teacher preparation, the College has expanded to offer master’s and doctoral degrees in the disciplines across the spectrum of education, wellness, data, information and human development. Our 2013-2018 strategic plan focused on building our strength across these disciplines in applied research and learning, teacher scholars and accreditations while enhancing the regional and national reputation of the college. We added additional centers, academic offerings, technologies and partnerships. The recent addition of the Center for Rural School Health & Education (CRSHE), the Positive Early Learning Experiences (PELE) Center, and ECHO-DU are three examples.

In the fall of 2017, the Morgridge College of Education embarked on a yearlong process to develop our 2019-2024 strategic plan. After gathering diverse perspectives and advice from students, faculty, staff, alumni and donors, a strategic planning committee composed of faculty and staff set out to define a clear, inspiring, and externally relevant plan with goals that were both actionable and feasible. As a result of this inclusive and rigorous process, we learned much about our strengths, challenges and opportunities and about what we wish to achieve in the next five years.

The College’s strengths include our unifying commitment to social change and community-relevant action as well as existing research and projects that cross disciplines and integrate systems. These strengths, combined with our nationally recognized experts, position the Morgridge College of Education to lead the way among our peers and establish a new standard for the way that we create solutions to complex systemic challenges and ensure that they improve the lives of the people who are most affected by the challenge. Three tenets below, established in our 2019-2024 strategic plan, will focus our efforts, inform action items and guide investments in the next five years.

Form action-oriented teams focused on complex challenges identified by the community.

We will partner intentionally and deeply with our community to identify their priorities. By aligning our collective expertise, skills and interests with these priorities, we will identify the complex societal challenges and opportunities that offer the greatest potential for impact. We will then form Think & Action Collaboratives, solutions-oriented teams composed of faculty, community partners, students, staff and alumni that will facilitate multi-directional learning and ensure that our priorities are relevant to those we serve.

Work across disciplines and systems to generate knowledge and create solutions.

Our Think & Action Collaboratives will be intentionally interdisciplinary to address complex, systemic problems. For example, we know that education and social class continue to be highly correlated, and that individuals with a college education are likely to experience health and economic mobility. In tackling these kinds of issues, sectors such as education, health, policymakers and business have tended to operate in isolation from each other. We will create a highly collaborative, interdisciplinary approach so that the key players are working together to create meaningful change.

Advance a culture that promotes the creation and scaling of solutions to improve the lives of marginalized communities.

In order to bring solutions to scale and enhance our impact, we will focus on:

  • Maintaining trusting and reciprocal community relationships throughout our work from identification of priorities, to developing solutions, to implementation.
  • Embracing technological innovations that increase our reach, improve our evaluation and decrease expenses.
  • Creating a pipeline of students who are skilled in working across disciplines and systems.

Collectively these tenets will create a college-wide standard that will directly advance our primary goal of improving the lives of all people. Over the next five years, we will extend the impact of fields where we already excel, elevate areas with momentum where our expertise crosses disciplinary boundaries, and identify new areas of priority with our community partners. Some examples of areas where we have existing locally and nationally recognized strengths that we will elevate include:

  • Advance equal opportunities for differently-abled children: Faculty and staff across the College have nationally recognized expertise in inclusionary practices and interventions for children with developmental differences. They come from backgrounds in medicine, early childhood education, special education, psychology and social work, and they work across these systems to address the individual needs of children and families, improve educational environments and advance policy solutions on a local and national scale.
  • Maintain thriving communities with thriving schools: The quality of a school can have a profound impact on safety, housing prices and economic development in the surrounding community. Faculty in education and business partner with our students to lead failing schools through rapid transformations by using design thinking principles from the technology sector to engage the whole community in the success of the school. This work has attracted investments from national foundations as we scale our model to other universities across the country.
  • Support happy, healthy children and families in rural communities: The limited resources in rural communities affect health and education outcomes. Faculty work directly with high-need rural and frontier communities by listening to their voices and honoring their priorities, values and culture. Through long-term and collaborative partnerships, faculty have spearheaded comprehensive health and wellness planning and implementation in schools. Efforts are currently underway to improve the social-emotional health for students, teachers and service providers.
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