Strategic Planning

The Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities looks at where we’ve been and where we’re going through a strategic planning process. Our strategic direction plans build upon our core mission, provide a framework to align our activities to effectively support our member institutions, and shape the direction of our future.

Strategic Direction Plan, 2021–2026

As the organization of choice for urban and metropolitan universities, this three-year plan builds upon CUMU’s existing strengths, while incorporating adaptations necessary to support the changing needs of our students, institutions, and cities. During a time of increased resource constraints for higher education, it will be essential that CUMU not only remain affordable but accessible. To accomplish this, all members will need to step up as contributors, conveners, participants, and champions.

The following commitments guide this strategic plan and are incorporated across and within each priority:

  1. Centering anti-racism, equity, and inclusion
  2. Driving innovation
  3. Deepening engagement and partnerships


Read the complete version of CUMU’s Strategic Direction Plan, 2021–2026.


Over the next three years, we will continue to move our research agenda forward to generate new knowledge and effective practice, which focuses on measurable outcomes and impact.

  • Formalize CUMU’s research fellowship program and create new opportunities for faculty on sabbatical, graduate students, and urban research centers
  • Build the capacity of scholar administrators/practitioners by championing their work through the Barbara A. Holland Award Scholar-Administrator, professional development, and programming
  • Explore new collaborative relationships with urban-based associations (particularly those that do not explicitly focus on higher education) that can lead to shared research projects
  • Secure new funding from philanthropic organizations committed to addressing urban and metropolitan challenges through research and practice
  • Explore creating new research networks with identified external funding, based on relevant issue areas
  • Increase awareness and utilization of Metropolitan Universities journal


On local, state, national, and global levels, CUMU will raise awareness of the urban advantage in order to garner the support of key partners and organizations

  • Expand action summit (in-person or virtual) format to facilitate the learning, dissemination, and implementation of innovative practices. These summits would be member-driven and hosted.
  • Integrate policy makers and policy making content into virtual and in-person programming to foster new initiatives and understanding that address the needs of CUMU members and our communities
  • Create a sustainable virtual programming plan
  • Expand president-to-president programming to include experiences and events exclusively for CUMU member presidents and chancellors (in-person and virtual)
  • Refine the annual in-person conference with a deeper focus on networking and the local context to learn about the unique partnerships and issues in that region
  • Develop the next phase for the Anchor Learning Network, in collaboration with The Democracy Collaborative, to continue supporting the institutions doing this work


As we look forward, CUMU seeks to deepen engagement within existing member institutions in order to maximize benefits for each institution.

  • Launch CUMU huddles, peer-to-peer mentoring opportunities for members to connect and develop professionally, based on criteria such as interest, role, region or institution type
  • Establish a mentoring program for new members that fosters participation in CUMU initiatives and creates connections across the network
  • Expand connections and relationships with policy makers at the national level
  • Implement a new customer relationship management (CRM) system to better manage member data, enhance targeted marketing and alignment across our membership
  • Leverage new media and digital communications strategies to enhance the visibility of CUMU to funders, prospective members, and individuals within existing CUMU members
  • Grow total membership by 10% (to 113 members), with a particular focus on minority-serving institutions, community colleges, and universities based in Canada and Mexico

In 2018, CUMU leadership mapped and initiated a strategic action plan to be implemented through 2021. During that time, CUMU welcomed new members, facilitated dialogues to enhance member engagement, and forged new partnerships with leading higher education associations. Key outcomes:

In 2014, CUMU leadership mapped and initiated a strategic action plan to be implemented through 2017. During that time, CUMU welcomed new members, facilitated dialogues to enhance member engagement, and forged new partnerships with leading higher education associations. Key outcomes:

  • A redesigned was launched in spring 2017, elevating our core work and initiatives in a modern way.
  • Metropolitan Universities journal was transformed from a print publication to an online journal. Since going digital in April 2016, over 11,000 users have logged over 61,000 page views, furthering the reach of current and past issues.
  • Management and support of the CUMU Annual Conference was redefined to fit the needs of high responses and sold-out spaces with new presentation styles for extended dialogues.