Students work at easels in an art studio.

Thematic Priorities

This plan highlights five thematic priorities: Transforming Education, Enhancing Health, Stewarding Our Planet’s Resources, Advancing the Arts and Humanities, and Empowering Through Digital Innovation.

These strategic areas of focus embody existing and emerging strengths and opportunities identified during Penn State’s planning process. Each represents a breadth and depth of expertise and interest across multiple Penn State units where the University is well positioned (with continued commitment and strategic investment of resources) for profound and measurable contributions. The themes intersect with unit plans and pull from the human capital, infrastructure, and programs they represent. By focusing on synergistic energy and resources they will enable a previously unimagined Penn State impact.

These areas of focus are not intended to exclude or minimize the importance of the University’s many other endeavors and enterprises, including fundamental and applied research across a variety of disciplines, which remain at the core of our enterprise. Rather, they are areas of opportunity that we believe merit more attention and investment in the near term. They do not replace or diminish the importance of and investment in any other institutional priorities.

The thematic priorities are visionary, not prescriptive. A strategic plan for an academic institution must serve as a consensus-driven beacon for future directions, but without the rigidity that can stifle innovation and the emergence of new and unimagined opportunities. In this plan, that vision is impact, and these themes provide paths to achieving it in selected areas where Penn State has expertise and assets. Interwoven with them are the foundations, which provide a scaffold upon which they rest and a common framework for implementation.

Further, to advance Penn State’s mission and vision for the next decade and beyond, the University is committed to empowering resilience as a unifying concept. Leveraging Our Commitment to Impact, Penn State is uniquely able to help individuals, our University community, and our society to respond effectively to adversity and, even more impactfully, to “bounce forward,” creating new solutions in response to complex challenges of the 21st Century. This unifying concept shapes the thematic priorities and supporting elements and is further guided by the foundations that drive all the work of the University.

Universities must be agents of social adaptation and transformation, developing critically engaged citizens whose endeavors will support the public good, now and into the future. Penn State has the breadth, depth, and reach to empower resilient solutions across the full range of contemporary challenges, including addressing economic and social inequalities and injustices, promoting healthcare affordability, ensuring global food security and sustainable energy transitions, and combating climate change. Penn State welcomes this higher calling, ensuring that institutions of higher learning will continue to play pivotal roles in driving personal and societal resilience.

Our land-grant mission, uniting our teaching, research, and service activities, provides an unrivaled platform for empowering resilient solutions. By tapping into these strengths across the University to address resilience challenges, Penn State will facilitate new partnerships and foster new communities of learning and adaptation, helping individuals and communities everywhere be more resilient. Our ultimate goal is to empower our students, faculty, staff, and community to fearlessly and confidently innovate new solutions to challenges of the Anthropocene, ensuring a sustainable future for us all.