The White Mountain School has set a 5-year strategic vision to be competitive with boarding schools in New England. In this podcast, Head of School Tim Breen discusses WMS goals.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Tim Breen, Head of School at The White Mountain School, a private college prep day and boarding school in New Hampshire. Today we're talking about White Mountain School’s strategic vision. Welcome Tim.
Tim Breen: Thanks John. Glad to be here.
The Strategic Vision of WMS
John: So Tim, as a boarding school in New Hampshire, what is White Mountain School’s strategic vision?
Tim: We recently went through a process with the board and the broader community to develop our new vision for the next five years. One of the really nice things about that is it's nothing terribly new for us. It’s really extending the work we've been doing the last five years, but it falls into three categories for us. One is intellectual excellence, another is maintaining a vibrant community, and then there's having a budget that sustains the mission.
Intellectual Excellence at the White Mountain School
John: Okay. Let's talk about each one of those three things. Tell me more about intellectual excellence and what that means for The White Mountain School.
Tim: When we talk about intellectual excellence, we view it as sort of a step beyond academic excellence. We know that students can be good at getting good grades without being intellectually curious, and we want our students to really be curious. We want to see the spark in the eye when they're exploring ideas. So we've developed an approach that we call student-driven inquiry, where students are challenged to ask their own questions about a discipline to some extent. We do a bunch of work that looks like other boarding schools, but we set aside some time for student-driven inquiry, where they're asked, “What questions you have about chemistry? Or about U.S. history?” Then we support them to explore those in depth. The reason we do that is because we've done a research on success at college and beyond, and the research on the success of college is really clear there are certain skills and habits that you need to succeed. Those are the kinds of skills and habits like critical thinking, research skills, communication skills, organization skills and habits of curiosity, collaboration, reflection, persistence, that really help students succeed. You develop those habits by doing this type of inquiry.
Developing a Vibrant Community
John: Okay. What about the second piece of the strategic vision, vibrant community?
Tim: Yes, we've got an incredibly diverse community here of students, really from around the world. Everybody walks on our campus remarks on this. It really is an incredible community, and we are looking to maintain that. We’re also looking to be sure that we have a faculty that supports that student community, and is diverse in the same ways that they are, so we're working on that. We're also looking to be sure that we have really strong student life programs and leadership programs for students.
John: Okay, and then finally the third part is sustainable budgeting. Obviously the intellectual excellence and the vibrant community won't happen without money backing that up as any school needs. So what was White Mountain School’s sustainable budgeting mean to the school overall?
Tim: What we're looking to do is, we're planning out five years in advance, to be sure that we will have the resources we need to keep the programs great.
John: So then that brings up the question of, where do you see the school being in five years then if you have this sort of strategic vision planned out five years ahead of time? Where do you want to be in five years?
Tim: I think that we are already in a position where we are beginning to be seen as leaders academically with our approach, and I think expanding that in five years. We would like to help other schools with this type of approach. We really see it is incredibly important for students, I think, being leaders there. Frankly, it's what boarding schools always want to do, is graduate students who are going to be great community members, who are curious people, who are going to have the courage to stand up for their convictions, and our hope is that through the student life programs to the academic programs that we’re really able to help students become the best people they can be.
John: Alright. That’s great. Thanks very much for speaking with me today Tim.
Tim: It's nice to be here with you.