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About . Strategic Plan 

Strategic Plan 2020-2027

Erykah Townsend is holding and placing a piece of work in Reinberger Gallery.

In 2019, the Cleveland Institute of Art began the task of charting the course for the College’s next few years. Under the leadership of then-president Grafton Nunes, and while I served as Vice President of Academic Affairs + Chief Academic Officer, we engaged Strategy Design Partners LLC to guide us as we met one on one, in small groups and in town hall meetings with all our stakeholders: students, faculty, staff, alumni, members of the CIA Board of Directors, donors and cultural partners in Northeast Ohio. 

Together, our community worked to refine CIA’s mission, vision and values. We identified goals that honor both the 140-year legacy of our institution and the urgent call to be progressive and relevant in the 21st century. 

The result of this process was a new strategic plan, approved by the Board of Directors in March 2020—just as the COVID-19 pandemic began its assault on the United States. Soon after, George Floyd died at the hands of police, touching off a nationwide call for true reform and racial equity.

The effects of those momentous events have remained with us. We’ve risen to meet their challenges but acknowledge the seismic shifts in today’s higher education landscape. As we navigated those changes, we were afforded a chance to revisit our plan with fresh eyes and in the context of our changed world. 

Was our initial strategic plan still relevant? Absolutely. But could it also benefit from the wisdom gained in recent years? We believed so. After all, the best strategic plans are living documents, not stale tomes collecting dust.

Embraced in this updated strategic plan is CIA’s deepened responsibility to focus more intentionally on racial equity, both internally and externally. We also leverage the changes in leadership across all levels of the President’s Cabinet to bring forth new ideas and priorities. As a result, our refreshed strategic plan provides guiding direction while allowing us to evolve in response to challenges and serendipitous opportunities. It also effectively positions us to anticipate changes ahead. 

I hope that as you read the plan, you get a taste of the inspiration and enthusiasm experienced by those of us who had the privilege of working on this project together and are excited about our College’s bright future. 

Kathryn Heidemann
President + CEO

A student is sitting in their design studio. They are talking with a graphic design faculty member.


Artists and designershave pursued their creative and innovative passions at the Cleveland Institute of Art since 1882. They’ve used their studios to immerse themselves in ideas and give form and function to their creative purpose. They’ve embraced traditional approaches and new technologies to explore possibilities and push their creative limits. And, they’ve enjoyed the camaraderie of a tight-knit community to create friendships and foster creative collaborations. For decades, CIA has been the launching ground for creative careers in Cleveland and beyond. During that time, the College’s alumni have served the communities they call home and contributed to local, state and national economies. 

With the completion of this strategic plan, CIA honors its proud history with a clear vision for the future and an understanding of the steps that will take us there: focusing on academic excellence, practicing inclusivity, nurturing a culture of belonging and student success, embracing technological transformation, and bolstering the College’s role in creative placemaking and community reinvestment through art and design education. The CIA community of students, alumni, faculty and staff is strong, and this strategicplan helps ensure the College will continue to take responsibility for developing an environment that’s rich with success and accessible to all. 

A glass student is sitting and using a tourch to heat up glass.

Goal Areas + Key Initiatives

Goal 1: Cultivate Creative Leaders

To prepare leaders in art and design for a changing world by delivering a comprehensive curriculum, upholding educator excellence, fostering practical experiences that feed future careers and supporting holistically all students. 

Key Initiatives

Reinforce and evolve our comprehensive curriculum to provide students with a platform to become leaders: material to digital practices, critical thinking, intellectual inquiry, entrepreneurship and equitability. 

Launch new initiatives/programs: Explore and propose new undergraduate or graduate programs, using a standardized feasibility process factoring in market data, financial consideration and mission alignment.

Support the whole student by teaching life skills, enhancing support for the increasingly complex needs of today’s students, and removing barriers that impede student success.

Invest in a teaching and learning initiative to support faculty and serve as a resource and catalyst for innovative advancements in faculty pedagogy and inclusive teaching. 

Create an interdisciplinary hub for technology and innovation that fosters connectivity between CIA, industry and community. 

Goal 2: Advance Our College

To secure the future of our college of art and design by attracting and retaining more students who reflect our diverse society, garnering greater financial investment, fostering operational excellence and achieving a healthy workplace culture.

Key Initiatives

Prioritize equity and inclusion to ensure our environment is welcoming for all. Continue to adopt policies and procedures that reinforce our values, instill belonging, champion diversity and build an inclusive community.

Increase enrollment through new student recruitment and retention, aligning mission and net revenue to achieve a sustainable, fiscally responsible and student-centered enrollment plan.

Launch a $35 million comprehensive campaign to support the College’s transformation in student access and success, teaching and learning, technology and innovation, campus, and community.

Expand access to pathways to an education at CIA through engaging in relationships with educational partners.

Unify the College’s marketing initiatives to clearly articulate our value proposition and brand promise.

Goal 3: Strengthening Our Community

To serve as the cultural anchor and instigator that affirms the value of art and design in our communities by collaboratively engaging people in the positive growth of our region and the vital role our institution has in shaping it. 

Key Initiatives

Expand CIA’s impact in the community by partnering with organizations and institutions throughout Cleveland and the region to infuse art and design into the public realm.

Align our work with community and cross-sector partners and leverage our impact on the regional creative economy.

Bridge community access to CIA and further creative placemaking initiatives in the City of Cleveland and beyond.

Celebrate and engage CIA’s vast network of alumni to build a lifelong creative community and support the next generation of leaders.

How We Got Here

In summer 2019, CIA engaged Strategy Design Partners to facilitate an institution-wide process to outline the priorities for the College’s future. CIA’s Strategic Planning Committee, including representatives from the Board of Directors and administration, met monthly. 

Over the next five months, Strategy Design Partners interviewed more than 500 members of the CIA community, including faculty, staff, students, parents of students, funders, alumni, partners and supporters. At a daylong retreat in November 2019, faculty, staff and Board members explored issues critical to the College’s growth as an institution. Throughout the year, the College hosted three town hall meetings for faculty and staff.

Using the data and perspectives collected during this research phase, the Strategic Planning Committee worked with SDP to develop the mission, vision and values. These were approved by the Board of Directors in March 2020. In addition, the College identified the three aforementioned overarching goals to guide us.

  • Cultivate creative leaders
  • Advance our college
  • Strengthen our community

The Strategic Planning Committee and SDP then developed a supplemental management action plan with tactics and metrics to support the key initiatives of the strategic plan, resulting in a “living” document that contains priorities and timelines that can be refined as progress is made. Over the next several years, the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors will work alongside faculty and staff to follow through on the plans set out through this exhaustive and rewarding process. 

In spring 2023, which marks the approximate halfway point in the original plan, President + CEO Kathryn J. Heidemann worked with all members of Cabinet (consisting of the senior management team as well as Faculty Senate and Staff Council leadership) and the Executive Committee of the Board to re-engage with SDP for a “strategy refresh” process. Together, they assessed current progress on the plan, refined priorities based on the shifting higher education landscape, and reframed priorities and goals for the future. 

The College wants to thank students, faculty, staff, the Board of Directors, alumni, community partners, donors and other key stakeholders who’ve participated in this process. Special thanks goes to President Emeritus Grafton Nunes, who through his leadership, shepherded this important process and implemented the initial plan in partnership with the Strategic Planning Committee (2019–20). 

For more information:

Office of the President
216.421.7410 | Contact

Strategic Planning Committee

Mat Felthousen
Cynthia Prior Gascoigne
Kathryn Heidemann
Don Insul
Julie Melvin
Malou Monago
Grafton Nunes
Laura Ospanik
Michael Port
Scott Richardson
Michael Schwartz
Rob Siewert
Mark Smith
Janet Spreen
Jonathan Wehner
Al Zvosec

Thank you for your participation

Board of Directors
Community stakeholders

Strategy Design Partners
David Fitz
Virginia Houston
Brant Duda
Neil Hoffman, Consultant