Mission & Strategic Vision of Finlandia University

Finlandia is a learning community dedicated to academic excellence, spiritual growth, and service.

As we imagine and plan for Finlandia University’s 125th birthday in 2021, we draw upon the courage and imagination of those who have loved and led this learning community for well over a century. Our first thoughts are of gratitude and praise for those who have gone before and served so unselfishly—often in the midst of great adversity—her educational mission. We today, lead both humbled and inspired by their deep commitments and perseverance.

Our visioning activities over the past two years and more have reaffirmed that Finlandia’s best self lies within. Plan 2021 does not so much seek to import strategic novelty as it does stir us to deeper and more deliberate expressions of our best self.

Plan 2021 represents, therefore, a more precise articulation, a more disciplined application, and a more rigorous assessment of our shared values and commitments. When such is achieved, our envisioned future becomes that singular lens through which we view the entirety of our life together. It becomes our reason for being. It defines us, unites us, inspires us and, ultimately sets us apart.

In 1946, at Suomi College’s 50th anniversary celebration, President V.J. Nikander commented, “Now … Suomi faces a future which contains more than the usual number of uncertainties … the need for a view to Suomi’s place as an American educational institution is urgent … Suomi must set her sights high.” President Nikander’s comments are as relevant now as they were in those post-war years. Today, through shifting and even colliding currents in North American higher education, Plan 2021 charts a daring course for firmly establishing Finlandia’s place in higher education and for realizing her highest aspirations.


Philip Johnson, Ph.D.


With bold visioning we have imaged Finlandia’s best self. With rigorous planning we have charted a course for its fullest realization. We will, with collective resolve, work to realize its signature commitments and goals:

  • become more fully a learning community inspired and set apart by a clear and compelling vision
  • advance expansive learning that best prepares graduates for the 21st-century workplace and world
  • meet and exceed rigorous standards for financial health and resilience
  • enroll 700+ students who persist and graduate at historically high rates
  • become a full member of a NCAA Division III regional conference
  • carry a strong brand and reputation locally and regionally
  • enhance and expand instructional, residential, and athletics facilities
  • establish a thoroughgoing culture of assessment for continuous improvement



Plan 2021 consists of several documents. This executive summary provides the broad architecture of the Plan. It presents foundational language and categories: vision, rationale, and university commitments. Companion documents align with and support these institution-wide categories with goals and implementation strategies including: campus planning templates, branding style guide, unit-level plans, timelines, and financial projections.


There are four areas of campus activity and leadership that are responsible for the successful implementation and continuous assessment of Plan 2021. First, Finlandia’s campus-wide committee structure has been redesigned to align with Plan 2021 to better facilitate its implementation. Second, Finlandia’s institutional planning council consists of campus committee leadership and other staff responsible for unit-level planning. These monthly, campus-wide leadership meetings will provide accountability and ensure continuous coordination of Plan 2021’s implementation. Third, Plan 2021 components are reviewed at weekly management meetings of the president and vice presidents. Finally, Finlandia’s board of trustees conducts an annual comprehensive review. 


Plan 2021 does not unfold evenly across its seven-year span. It calls for aggressive implementation on the front end. Capital projects needed to fuel and absorb projected enrollment growth are placed earliest in the timelines. Financing strategies to complete these projects have been identified and are currently being implemented. Facility improvements and expansion in the first 24 months of the plan include the College of Health Sciences, main campus science labs, the Paavo Nurmi fitness center, and expansion of the Finlandia Athletics Complex: a fieldhouse, stadium, and multi-purpose practice facility. Adequate financing and timely completion of these front-end construction projects is crucial for achieving short- and long-term enrollments goals. 


The architecture, categories, and language found in Plan 2021 have evolved from visioning and planning exercises that reach back several years. Over forty campus discussions and dozens of meetings including those of trustees, campus leadership, advisory groups, students, alumni, and community partners have taken place since fall 2010. Our earliest conversations imagined our learning community more deliberately organized around the whole learner—engaging students in their entirety—mind, heart, and body. These earliest considerations remain at the center of Plan 2021.

The future for higher education in general, and Finlandia University in particular, presents significant challenges and, at the same time, holds great promise. Most fully achieving the latter requires more fully grasping the former which is marked by shifting student demographics and college readiness, increased federal oversight and legislation, a slower economic recovery, public scrutiny, escalating costs, and new delivery systems. Plan 2021, in its broadest expressions, as well as in the more detailed strategies and timelines found in campus unit plans, is informed by these trends and shifts in higher education as well as their calculated impact on Finlandia’s context.

Moreover, Plan 2021 inherits the achievements of its predecessor plan in areas of board governance, finance and debt management. It also takes up again those areas which underachieved: enrollment, institutional image, facilities, and assessment. These strategic areas are given priority attention in Plan 2021. Enrollment growth is the chief area of concern. Previous enrollment goals were not achieved when program launches were deferred. Plan 2021 contains a rigorous new program launch sequence that is able to have immediate and enduring positive impact on enrollment. Disciplined implementation is necessary to achieve the enrollment goals Finlandia envisions.

Download the full text of Plan 2021 (PDF)


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