A Collaborative Approach to COVID-19 Planning at a Regional Public University


  • Jeffrey J. Malanson Purdue University Fort Wayne




scenario planning, COVID-19, strategic planning, regional university, public university


As Purdue University Fort Wayne (PFW), a regional public university in northeast Indiana, completed the spring 2020 semester fully remote due to COVID-19, university leadership had to determine if there was a path to safely reopening campus and maintaining a low-risk environment for in-person instruction and work for the 2020-21 academic year. To make this determination, PFW engaged in a three-week scenario planning process in which we assembled 22 task forces composed of 140 faculty and staff, approximately 13.5% of the university’s full-time employees, to identify the challenges and opportunities associated with eight scenarios for how the 2020-21 academic year could play out. Reports and recommendations from the scenario planning process have informed all aspects of the university’s COVID-19 planning, implementation, and communication. This paper examines how a highly collaborative planning process, informed by PFW’s recently completed strategic planning process, created broad engagement with and awareness of the university’s planning efforts, demonstrated the value placed on faculty and staff expertise and input, and helped to build long-term buy-in and trust. This approach also informed PFW’s planning processes for the 2021-22 academic year, which emphasized leveraging our COVID-19 experiences to build a better normal for the university.

Author Biography

Jeffrey J. Malanson, Purdue University Fort Wayne

Jeffrey J. Malanson, Ph.D., is Director of Strategic Planning and the Office of Academic Innovation, as well as associate professor of history, at Purdue University Fort Wayne. Since June 2020 he has served as PFW's COVID-19 point of contact. He also currently serves as chair of the Northeast Indiana Colleges and Universities Network.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (July, 2021). Guidance for Institutions of Higher Education. COVID-19. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/colleges-universities/considerations.html

Purdue University Fort Wayne. (2020). Empowering Transformation: Strategic Plan 2020-25. Strategic Plan and Implementation. https://www.pfw.edu/strategic-plan/documents/PFW-CHAN-Strategic-Plan-Trustee-Mtg-Booklet-508-DIGITALv2.pdf