Aquinas College Strategic Plan


St. Thomas Aquinas statueAquinas College is called toward excellence in intersecting our Dominican and Catholic heritage with the educational needs of the students and communities we serve. The AQ 2030 Plan identifies the main strategic goals for the coming decade and specifies the student-focused and data-driven initiatives to be undertaken during 2020-2023 in support of that end. It is founded upon the fundamental principles that make an Aquinas College education valuable and distinctive and draws from the College’s identity and heritage. The plan recognizes existing official College statements of mission and values and the changing nature of the higher-education environment in which Aquinas College operates. It also invites collaboration and seeks to include voices from the campus community.


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Aquinas College Seal


Aquinas College, an inclusive educational community rooted in the Catholic and Dominican tradition, provides a liberal arts education with a global perspective, emphasizes career preparation focused on leadership and service to others, and fosters a commitment to lifelong learning dedicated to the pursuit of truth and the common good.


Aquinas College will be regarded among the premier Catholic colleges in the Midwest, recognized for its excellence in preparing the whole person to lead a life of purpose and success in service to a just and sustainable world.

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Students have always been at the center of what we do at Aquinas College, and our main work is to prepare them through post-secondary higher education to lead meaningful and impactful lives. The education we offer is distinctive because it is informed by our Catholic identity and our Dominican heritage and is especially shaped by the values and history of the Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids.

professor in front of classroomEarly Dominican convents formed schools open to clerics and the public, and the Order of Preachers’ first General Chapter in 1220 required that each new priory maintain a convent school. Soon thereafter, Dominicans became highly influential at the major medieval universities in Europe, including the University of Bologna and the University of Paris, where St. Thomas Aquinas did much of his work. The Grand Dictionnaire Universel du XIXe Siècle called St. Dominic “the first minister of public instruction in modern Europe.” In his 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia entry, Pirerre Mandonnet, O.P., S.T.D, noted the Order of Preachers were the first instituted by the Church with an academic mission. Our educational mission and philosophies flow directly from this heritage, and we are proud to be a teaching and learning institution in this distinguished tradition. 



Aquinas College is dedicated to helping all those who participate in our higher-education community in search of improving their lives. The distinctive educational experience we offer is deliberately guided by four major principles:


The fullness of the human person is at the center of all the work we do at Aquinas College. Ex Corde Ecclesiae calls for “the entire educative process (to) be directed towards the whole development of the person.” Moral, ethical and spiritual development is an inherent part of this work. We believe the best way to accomplish this is through broad liberal arts multidisciplinary preparation, drawing upon the humanities, the natural sciences and social sciences, even as one concentrates on a single academic discipline.


The U.S. Conference of Bishops states in The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers that “work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation.” In light of that perspective, our students are invited to consider their lives’ journeys and work to have true purpose and meaning for themselves and for others. We believe that whatever one does professionally, however one’s talents are invested, should be understood in the context of the value that we bring to the communities in which we live.


Our namesake, St. Thomas Aquinas, reminds us of the difference between enjoyment and true happiness; the former is about worldly satisfaction, but it is the latter that makes for a genuinely successful life. Aquinas College unabashedly prepares students to thrive in a world characterized by modern market economies, and we value the personal fulfillment, comfort and security that financial accomplishment can provide. We emphasize that leading a genuinely good life is not blind pursuit of increased personal consumption or acquisition of ever more wealth. We call our students to a deeper understanding that success cannot be defined solely by professional or economic attainment, but must also include continued spiritual and personal growth, commitment to lifelong learning and the joy of regular self-giving acts to and with others.


2 people working in community gardenAquinas College is a teaching and learning community in which all are called to seek Truth in pursuit of the common good. We exemplify and cultivate among our students respect for every human being and for all of God’s creation with emphasis on bringing one’s own gifts to bear on their behalf. Proactive service to others and to sustaining the health of all of creation is valued as an essential element of daily life. Service is one of the four pillars of Dominican life along with study, community and prayer.


Several statements that have been previously promulgated by Aquinas College have been influential in the development of the AQ 2030 Plan and the 2020-2023 Action Plan and have been long posted on the College’s website:


Aquinas College is rooted in the Dominican traditions of prayer, study, community and service, combined with a deep respect for truth, honesty and integrity. In this spirit, we strive to create an environment in which integrity is prized and practiced. We expect all community members to uphold these values through honesty, fairness and respect for others.


Aquinas College is committed to equality. This statement of the College speaks to this commitment as do our history and heritage. We believe that diversity is a blessing, which brings a richness of perspectives to our intellectual, cultural, social and spiritual life. All members of our community – faculty, staff and students – will demonstrate respect for each other regardless of our differences. All of us will be sensitive in our actions, words and deeds. We will demonstrate these sensitivities in our classrooms, curricula, offices, meeting places and living environments. We will maintain the diversity of our Board of Trustees, faculty, student body and staff and appreciate the different gifts each brings to this community regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion or disability.


It is the policy of Aquinas College that no person on the basis of race, color, religion, ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status or disability shall be discriminated against, excluded from participation or employment in, or be otherwise subjected to discrimination under any program or activity for which Aquinas College is responsible.


Peter Wege’s principles of Economicology are intertwined with the mission and vision of Aquinas College. Creating a balance between our ecology and the economy is necessary to create a just and sustainable world for the common good. Aquinas College seeks to apply these core principles in a living-lab setting, developing students who are agents of change and setting a global standard of lasting educational change.

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Our Mission Statement calls us to harmonize a variety of seemingly conflicting elements by understanding that there is no inherent inconsistency among them. We are called to make a community that combines all elements of God’s creation into an organic and coherent whole. We contend that a liberal arts education, a global perspective and lifelong learning are complementary to outstanding career preparation, and our commitment to a diverse and inclusive college community is fully consistent with our Dominican and Catholic identity.


Our profound respect for the dignity of all humans, along with our emphasis on the education of the whole person, aligns with increasing marketplace attention to the quality of the student’s higher-education experience. We do so to successfully attract and retain the students we need to flourish. Our goal is to ensure that all Aquinas College students are satisfied with the totality of their association with Aquinas College. In particular, we emphasize to all of our students the value to them personally of maintaining a primarily undergraduate residential campus as the core of our work.


Our students and their families make enormous sacrifices, financial and otherwise, to be a part of the Aquinas College community. We are deeply obligated to be the best stewards possible of the resources with which we are entrusted. This requires that the organization that is Aquinas College functions ethically and with integrity in accordance with efficient and collaborative operational practices. We are a mission-based not-for-profit entity, but we recognize that our ability to meet that mission depends upon good leadership and responsible decision making in the stewardship of our financial and other resources.

The AQ 2030 Plan has the realization of five primary strategic outcomes over the coming decade as its objective. The College will track and present in a dashboard model Key Performance Indicators in support of the strategic outcomes.

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OUTCOME 1: Aquinas College will be a leader in the manifestation of Dominican values in a diverse and inclusive Catholic institution of higher education.

OUTCOME 2: Aquinas College will be regarded as a high-value educational experience.

OUTCOME 3: Aquinas College will offer well-curated academic programs that are regarded as high-quality and relevant for the 21st century for traditional and post-traditional undergraduate and graduate students.

OUTCOME 4: Aquinas College will provide an appropriate and outstandingly satisfying overall experience for all of its students.

OUTCOME 5: Aquinas College will be a robust and financially secure organization.

Each of the 2030 outcomes specified above is supported by a number of specific goals for 2030 and specific actions toward those goals to be completed before 2023. Progress will be measured according to a variety of milestones within each of the five objectives.

"Outcome 1"

Aquinas College will be a leader in the manifestation of Dominican values in a diverse and inclusive Catholic institution of higher education.


G1.1 Every graduate of an Aquinas College program will know and understand the appropriate relevant elements of our Dominican identity and the Catholic intellectual tradition.

G1.2 Every faculty member, staff member and Aquinas College Trustee will understand and support the Aquinas College Mission, Integrity, Non-Discrimination and Sustainability statements.

G1.3 The Aquinas College student body, faculty and staff will reflect the diversity of West Michigan.

"Outcome 2"

Aquinas College will be regarded as a high-value educational experience.


G2.1 An Aquinas College education will be financially accessible for students and minimize the debt burdens of our graduates.

G2.2 Aquinas College’s branding, marketing and external and internal communication practices will be of outstanding quality and efficacy.

G2.3 Aquinas College alumni will demonstrate engagement and satisfaction with the status of the College.

"Outcome 3"

Aquinas College will offer well-curated academic programs that are regarded as high-quality and relevant for the 21st century for traditional and post-traditional undergraduate and graduate students.


G3.1 Maximize the impact of the science facility investment.

G3.2 Create a distinctive and thriving School of Business.

G3.3 Invest in academic programs with the greatest student impact.

G3.4 Maintain robust post-traditional student programs for undergraduate degree completion, master’s degrees and select non-degree education.

G3.5 Create an appropriate common experience based on the Aquinas College mission across all traditional undergraduate students and for all post-traditional students.

"Outcome 4"

Aquinas College will provide an appropriate and outstandingly satisfying overall experience for all of its students.


G4.1 Aquinas College will be a leader among small Catholic colleges for the design and assessment of co-curricular learning outcomes that ensure mission congruence.

G4.2 The College’s physical infrastructure will be designed to provide an outstanding student experience and to reflect the College’s mission.

G4.3 Aquinas College students will regard their experience as outstanding.

G4.4 Aquinas College will be a safe community for all of our faculty, staff, students and guests.

"Outcome 5"

Aquinas College will be a robust and financially secure organization.


G5.1 Aquinas College will attract and retain the headcount, quality and diversity of student body required to successfully fulfill our mission and goals.

G5.2 The Aquinas College Advancement efforts will provide the financial, alumni and community support required to meet the College’s mission and goals.

G5.3 Current-year and projected future budgets will be balanced while building an appropriate reserve fund and growing the College’s endowment.

G5.4 Aquinas College will appropriately invest in the compensation and professional development of the faculty and staff needed to meet its goals.

G5.5 Aquinas College will maintain appropriate systems and procedures for financial, risk management and operations monitoring and reporting.