Strategic Plan 2023-2028
Strategic Plan 2023-2028

This plan presents goals, guidelines, and aspirations for Mars Hill University, 2023 – 2028. It is intended to support the University’s mission, reaffirmed by the University Board of Trustees in 2022. 

Mars Hill University, an academic community rooted in the Christian faith, challenges and equips students to pursue intellectual, spiritual, and personal growth through an education that is grounded in a rigorous study of the Liberal Arts, connected with the world of work, and committed to character development, to service, and to responsible citizenship in the community, the region, and the world. 

To accompany its mission statement, the university has further defined itself with a Religious Identity Statement

    • Incorporate experiential learning.  
    • Provide contexts for understanding and functioning in the diverse world we live in today.
    • Balance common experiences for students with student choice.
    • Focus on the development of transferable skills and competencies within a liberal arts framework.
    • Provide opportunities for collaborative and cross-disciplinary work and teaching for faculty.
    • Build cohorts for all our students across curricular and co-curricular groups.
    • Feature a robust discernment component.
    • Intentionally build and demonstrate avenues to public service.
    • Increase collaboration across academic programs and general education.
  1. A. Design new programs and adapt existing academic programs to effectively address the current environment of demographic challenges and changes.

    • Develop and strengthen ongoing, continuous, and intentional program review, renovation, and prioritization such that we offer the right programs, adapt, and evolve. 
    • Strengthen connections to community colleges to ensure that AA/AS transfer and early college students can complete degrees in two years. 
    • Restructure traditional and AGS academic programs to capitalize on, invest in, and evolve majors and programs in areas with projected growth. 

    B. Strengthen academic connections for all students with the Cothran Center.

    1. Develop a campus driven by the concept of Universal Design for Learning and High-Impact Practices to ensure that our pedagogy, curriculum, and support services are positioned for the success of all our students, including providing a sense of belonging. 
    2. Provide excellent academic advising for students by: 
      • Analyzing and recalibrating advisor load.
      • Recognizing high-quality of advising and quantity of advisees.
      • Ensuring success-oriented first-year advising and seamless transitions to major advising.

    • Offer Liberal Arts academic programs and general education that ensure consistency with institutional mission and student outcomes inherent to Liberal Arts education.
    • Offer traditional undergraduate academic programs of study that are consistent with current and projected student interest, focusing on programs with highest potential for inquiry, conversion, and yield, within the context of institutional mission and strengths.
    • Prioritize and invest in other pipelines that will contribute to incoming classes of 350 or more students annually, including scholarship magnets to include Robert Blackwell, Bonner, Honors, Laurel, Local Lion Promise, and Tennessee Neighbor Promise; co-curricular pipelines such as esports, musical ensembles, and dance programs.
    • Athletics pipelines consistent with student interest and NCAA Division II philosophy.
    1. Offer academic programs of study that are consistent with current and projected student interest.
    2. Offer modalities of delivery that are consistent with current and projected technology and student interest.
    3. Offer program entry points that are consistent with current and projected enrollment patterns.
    1. Minimize need gaps.
    2. Ensure competitiveness on net price.
  1. Recruit student classes that reflect the diversity of the world and workplaces they will engage.


    1. Strengthen the residential experience through programming and living spaces.
    2. Strengthen co-curricular learning through:
      • Increased involvement opportunities.
      • Resources for athletic success.
      • An exceptional first-year experience with common experiences and milestones, an emphasis on cohort, and integration of faculty in co-curricular activity.
    • Broaden opportunities for students to gain international and multicultural exposure and experiences.
    • Foster inclusive and equitable communities, paying attention to institutional sub-populations.
    • Develop curricular, co-curricular, and experiential learning opportunities in nearby communities.
    • Support the success and well-being of graduate students through appropriate resources, policies, and practices.
  2. Expand transformative co-curricular learning experiences that support personal development, active involvement, mindfulness, and meaningful processing.

    1. Strengthen the student experience through NACE core competencies, high-impact learning practices, and mentoring.
      • Embed strategies for student attainment of the NACE core competencies.
      • Strengthen professional development for faculty and staff on fostering NACE core competencies, high-impact practices, and student development.
      • Ensure that institutional messaging focuses on student success.
    2. Prepare students to thrive by providing them with a competitive advantage to launch and build careers. 
      • Engage strengths-based and growth-oriented philosophies.
      • Leverage the Cothran Center to expand experiential learning, internship, and career development opportunities that contribute to career readiness.
      • Provide institutional and federal work-study that promote skill development and meaningful experience.
    1. Foster a safe and healthy campus community. 
      • Strengthen wellness opportunities .
      • Provide mental health resources for students, faculty, and staff.
      • Develop programming to support student-athlete academic success. 
    2. Increase student retention and equitable on-time graduation.  
      • Identify and address equity gaps and barriers in programs and courses, and employ continuous improvement strategies to rectify performance gaps; maximize the utilization of LionTrax to shape intervention programming.
      • Implement principles from universal design for learning.
      • Support students’ retention, development, and well-being with academic advising, success coaching, the Cothran Center, and leadership training.
    3. Identify and support continuing students who are navigating financial challenges as part of degree completion.
      • Increase the availability and effective allocation of institutional financial aid and scholarships to maximize equity in degree completion.
      • Increase the number of “learn and earn” opportunities.
      • Expand participation in financial wellness education for all students.
      • Reduce student debt by controlling costs, providing alternatives for educational expenses, and shortening time to degree.

    • Achieve a balanced budget and a budget surplus.
    • Increase auxiliary and annual giving revenue by at least twenty-five percent.
    • Expand advancement revenue opportunities, including major gifts, a parents council, and annual gifts.
    • Align staffing with strategic priorities and achieve student-to-faculty-and-staff ratios comparable to similarly enrolled and resourced institutions.
    • Enhance student affordability by increasing funded aid opportunities.
    • Identify opportunities for environmental sustainability and associated cost savings.
    • Continue to strengthen the university’s visibility and commitment in recruitment activities to increase the applications, interviews, and hires of diverse faculty and staff. 
    • Increase faculty and staff compensation and expand non-salary benefits within levels comparable with peer institutions, considering inflation, cost of living, job descriptions. 
    • Reduce the number of software applications and manual processes to reduce redundancy.
    • Implement a consolidated payroll.
    • Conduct an annual technology survey to identify and respond to changing instructional and workplace needs.
    • Complete construction of the new Campus Center.
    • Support the design of new and adaptation of existing academic programs. 
    • Complete a master deferred maintenance and renovation plan.
    • Ensure transportation access for students to the community and region.
    • Connect students with off-campus regional outdoor recreational activities. 
    • Conduct and act upon an annual technology survey to identify gaps, trends, and changing student needs.