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About . Strategic Plan 

2020-25 Strategic Plan

In 2019, the Cleveland Institute of Art began the task of charting the course for the College’s next five years. 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 138-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 equality.

Had 2020 unfolded differently, we would have released our strategic plan in the second quarter of the year. Yet in having to turn our attention toward managing the impact of these watershed events on our school and community, we were afforded a chance to revisit our plan with fresh eyes and in the context of our changed world.

Was it still relevant? More than ever.

I hope that as you read through 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.

Kathryn Heidemann
President + CEO


Cleveland Institute of Art is a community anchor, and has served as the hub of art and design education in Cleveland since 1882. CIA’s faculty and staff create space for students to learn and practice across a wide variety of art and design disciplines. Each year, CIA students graduate with the creative, critical thinking and leadership skills they need for achieving success in their chosen career paths.

The landscape of higher education is changing in the United States. In fall 2019, there were 250,000 fewer students enrolled in college than the previous year. In the past eight years, college enrollment has plummeted 11 percent. The decline has been especially painful for small private colleges. Some of these schools have closed. Some will close.

Others will survive and thrive, and CIA will be one of them.

CIA’s 138-year legacy is matched by few of its peers. Now, with the completion of this five-year strategic plan, the College honors that history with a clear vision for the future and an understanding of the steps that will take us there.


In summer 2019, CIA engaged Strategy Design Partners (SDP) to facilitate an institution-wide process to outline the priorities for the school’s future.

CIA’s Strategic Planning Committee, including representatives from the Board of Directors and administration, met monthly.

Over the next five months, SDP 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 three overarching goals to guide us:

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

The Strategic Planning Committee and SDP then developed an action plan with goals—a living document that will contain priorities and timelines and be refined as we make progress. Over the next five years, the Board of Directors Executive Committee will work alongside faculty and staff to follow through on the plans set out through this exhaustive and rewarding process.

Goal Areas + Key Initiatives

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, equitability

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

Support the whole student by teaching life skills and enhancing support for the emotional needs of students

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

advance our college

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

Key Initiatives

Increase enrollment to 800 (eventually 1,000)

  • Attracting students (admission) is a college-wide priority
  • Increase number of transfer students from two-year colleges

Raise $10 million toward $50 million goal

Develop and project a strong internal brand through aggressive marketing and public relations campaigns

  • Target students in competitor/drive-to markets, raise national profile by building relationships with niche art and design publications and improve our social media and other channels of communication
  • Change marketing messaging from CIA-centric to student-centric

Improve the visitor experience to be more welcoming to students, parents and other visitors by

  • Making access easier into the building at all entry points
  • Welcoming people when they enter (a simple “Hello. How are you? Welcome to CIA!”) at any door
  • Improving signage throughout the building
  • Overhauling the student tour format

Prioritize equity and inclusion and sustainability and adopt policies and procedures that reinforce our values

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 campus into the community by leveraging the community’s assets and partnering with organizations and institutions throughout Cleveland and the region to infuse art into the public realm

Establish a strategic initiative task force that examines the everchanging context and landscape of higher education

Celebrate CIA’s alumni through their involvement in building the next generation of leaders

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