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Strategic Plan

Executive Summary

In the past ten years the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology (PGSP) has grown into Palo Alto University (PAU), added six new programs to the three it had, grown its annual budget 350%, bought a new campus, tripled the number of students, and increased its faculty and staff several fold. The strategic plan for 2015-17 will continue the pattern of growth but at a slower pace than the past 10 years. During the next phase of its development PAU will enhance its position as a regional, national and international leader in training students and treating patients with empirically based mental health services.

Focusing on the academic programs first, some of the programs will maintain their current size of the student body. The Ph.D. and Psy.D. doctoral programs are capped in terms of the number of students who enter each fall. That means that the main focus will be on quality improvements such as building APA accredited internships with local agencies and working to attract the best and most diverse student body to each of the programs as well as increasing financial support for students. The master’s programs have grown dramatically in the last three years. Additional growth is expected but at a slower rate, 10% annually. Because of the multiple formats by which the program can be delivered, there are opportunities to create partnerships and offer these programs globally. The undergraduate programs will largely focus on quality improvement and adding new locations. Offering the programs with both residential and online/residential formats will allow the program to attract students who are both going to school full-time and also working adults who want to complete their education. Efforts will be made to increase the academic performance of underserved groups who are at higher risk for dropping out of college.  PAU is emerging as an international leader in providing clinical training. This effort will continue in the next three years using new technologies, such as smart phone applications and common technologies like web-based instruction and face to face training in an effort to reach the most people in the most cost-effective manner. The Gronowski Center will continue to be a state of the art clinical training site for the doctoral programs. It will begin to offer services in Spanish to better serve the clients. It will also seek referral partners who can send their patients for mental health services.

In the area of administrative changes, the plan calls for re-engineering enrollment management. New strategies for marketing by academic program will be created and these will need to take advantage of the various hardware and software platforms now available. The process for applicants will be made fully electronic and seamless. PAU’s website will be improved to make sure the information is current, easily accessible, welcoming and accurate. The student portal will be upgraded to provide student services for both our residential and online students. These will include online orientations, job information, success coaching, and student advising.

The infrastructure of PAU will continue to keep pace with developments in technology and communication. Support for the enterprise software, website, classrooms, and user needs will be enhanced. The plan recommends that a Presidential task force be appointed to look at the space needs of PAU in the longer term, beyond the three-year scope of the Strategic Plan. The leases at the Los Altos campus will expire in 2017 and that represents a significant decision point for PAU.
The final portion of the plan deals with the Board of Trustees. The Board has adopted a number of fiscal policies that will guide the plan and insure that PAU remains financially strong. Annual fundraising goals will be established and the focus on fundraising will be for student scholarships and fellowships. Presidential succession is also a major focus of the Board as it selects PAU’s next president. Finally, the Board will work to increase diversity on the Board, invest in the development of Board members, and assist in the presidential transition.

The costs of the plan have been analyzed and the projected income is expected to be sufficient to cover the costs of the plan, to ensure that the Department of Education (DOE) ratio remains above 2.0, and to provide sufficient working capital to approach the desired three months of expenses.

It is recommended that the plan be reviewed twice a year for both adherence and for the need to change as circumstances evolve, and that the Strategic Planning Committee be responsible. In aggregate, the 2015-17 Strategic Plan will extend and solidify PAU’s leadership position of providing the best clinical training and applied psychology education domestically and globally.

Strategic Plan 2015-17

  • Introduction 
  • Methodology 
  • History


PAU’s last formal strategic plan was published in December 2009. Since then, the institution has undergone substantial changes. To optimize and focus PAU’s growth in an environment that keeps changing requires strategic planning. In a dynamic environment the length of the plan is an issue. Believing that 5 years was too long a timeframe, we chose 3 years. Therefore the plan runs from 2015-2017. We have brought together a broad group from across the PAU community to help PAU anticipate and shape its future. These included 5 members of the Board of Trustees, Program Directors (4), the Chair of the Faculty, the Head of the Staff Council, and two senior administrators. The Provost chaired the Strategic Planning Committee.


The core group started meeting in Spring 2013. A series of discussions was then held with institutional stakeholders. These included in person meetings with the following:

  • Faculty
  • Community Presentation
  • Provost’s Council (Vice-Presidents)
  • Board of Trustees
  • PAU Board Retreat (with representatives of PAU constituencies)

The committee members were encouraged to discuss the process with the groups they represented. The resulting document was then approved by the Strategic Planning Committee and forwarded to the Executive Committee of the Board in August 2014. Implementation of the Plan is the responsibility of the President. He has assigned oversight of the plan’s execution to the Provost.


The Pacific Graduate School of Psychology (PGSP) was created by students who sought to fill their need for professional training in clinical psychology that was not available in the Palo Alto area in the mid-1970’s. Dr. Robert Kantor was hired as the school’s first president and faculty were hired to begin instruction. In the early days PGSP attracted very talented students but lacked formal accreditation from either the regional accrediting agency (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) or from the American Psychological Association.

The current president, Dr. Allen Calvin, was hired in 1984. To enhance the credibility of the school and the ability of the graduates to be licensed, Dr. Calvin began a process of changing the institution so as to meet the accreditation standards. WASC accreditation followed in 1986. The APA awarded its accreditation in 1988. There was only one academic program during those years, the Ph.D. in clinical psychology.

Just as PGSP was achieving accreditation, the accrediting agencies were trying to reconcile Ph.D. degrees that differed greatly in content within the same field. Specifically the Ph.D. degree that PGSP and other professional schools awarded at the time was quite different than the Ph.D. awarded by university based Ph.D. programs. The university programs trained small numbers of students, were very research oriented, and had as their mission the training of the next generation of faculty members in clinical psychology. The professional schools trained many more students, were more practice oriented, and sought to train practicing clinicians. Accrediting agencies sought consistency between the training students received and the degree the institution offered. Many professional schools chose to move to the Psy.D. degree as a way of clarifying their mission. PGSP, at the time, decided to stay with the Ph.D..

Other economic forces were also starting to impact graduate training. Managed care was spreading throughout the country as a way of containing health care costs. This led to many insurance companies capping their reimbursement plans, making reimbursement for services far more difficult than in the pre-managed care days. Practicing psychologists were demoralized by the change and the future of the field was uncertain.

New technologies were also emerging in the .com era that allowed education to be delivered in revolutionary new ways. Distance learning, though around since the days of correspondence courses, took on new, more viable forms employing the internet. All these changes required PGSP to broaden its offerings, which it did. Additional programs have been added: Distance Learning (2000), PGSP-Stanford Psy.D. Consortium (2002), and the undergraduate program at De Anza (2006). A joint degree program was established in Law and Psychology (1997) with Golden Gate University leading to a JD and Ph.D.. A new undergraduate program in Business Psychology opened in September 2009 at Foothill College. It parallels the program at De Anza in structure with students obtaining their bachelor’s degree after completing their associate of arts degree from the community college. To reflect its offering of undergraduate classes, PGSP changed its official name to Palo Alto University in 2009. It also moved into its present campus on Arastradero Road in September 2009. In 2011 PAU began to offer applied master of art degrees in mental health counseling. Those degrees are offered in both a residential and online format. PAU also began to pursue offering of mental health training in countries where such training was limited or non-existent. The MA in Counseling was extended to incorporate students from China in 2012.

Many of these changes occurred under the guidance of PAU’s last strategic plan which covered the period 2006-09. A number of other notable accomplishments also were the result of that plan:

  • Remodeling, re-engineering, and expansion of the Gronowski Clinic which resulted in significantly improved clinical training for the doctoral students 
  • Fundraising of $600,000 in funds for the Gronowski Clinic Endowment that raised the total Gronowski endowment to 1 million
  • Instituting the Tuition Stabilization Plan which holds tuition constant once a student enters PAU. The program saves students approximately $700,000 annually in tuition and fees 
  • Establishing a cohort of students in China to pursue a master’s degree in counseling psychology 
  • Installation of an enterprise software platform that allowed all departments to integrate their data 
  • The addition of hybrid programs to our undergraduate offerings that combine online classes with residential evening classes thereby allowing working adults to complete their education 
  • Adding a new location for our undergraduate programs at the College of San Mateo  The challenge now is to prepare PAU for the next phase in its development. That is the goal of this strategic planning effort.

Strategic Planning Committee


Chair: William Froming, Provost
Board of Trustees: Matt Levine, Richard Lonergan, Marilyn Manning Lonergan, Kathryn Pryor, Fred Seddiqui
Program Directors:
Ph.D.: Robert Russell/Rowena Gomez
Psy.D.: Jim Breckenridge
Undergraduate Programs: Paul Marcille
Staff Council: Liesl Violante
Faculty Chair: Rowena Gomez/Leonard Beckum
Dean: Jim Breckenridge


  • Prior Strategic Plan was adopted in December 2009 and successfully completed in 2013 
  • Some highlights:
    • Added new academic programs (e.g., MFT) 
    • Improved IT infrastructure (e.g., Jenzabar) 
    • Re-engineered the Gronowski Center 
    • Raised $600,000 for Gronowski Center endowment (to 1 million) 
    • Created international dimension to MA programs 
    • Current process was begun in Spring 2013

Engagement of Faculty and Staff

  • Program Leaders have been involved from the beginning 
  • Meetings for presenting plan and obtaining feedback: 
  • Faculty at the school wide faculty retreat (Fall 2013) 
  • Ph.D. program faculty (Spring 2014) 
  • Board retreat (Spring 2014) 
  • Faculty and staff (Spring 2014)

Goals of Plan

  • PAU seeks to impact psychology related education and training on a regional, national, and international level. 
  • By combining traditional instructional methods with web based delivery of didactic material PAU is able to provide state of the art training to students locally and globally. 

  • PAU will enhance its position as a leader in multi-cultural psychology based training.

Mission Statement

Engaging Minds and Improving Lives Locally and Globally through Innovative Education.

Vision Statement

Through collaborative leadership we transform in measurable and accountable ways the quality of lives through psychological insights, scientific rigor and compassion for humanity.

Core Values

All existing and envisioned programs should embody the following core values:

  • Diversity in all endeavors 
  • Excellence and distinction in all aspects of programs and operations 
  • Innovation in the pursuit of science, evidence-based practice, and pedagogy 
  • Operational transparency 
  • Fiscal responsibility 
  • Strong, collaborative relationships with local, national, and international partners 
  • Commitment to each student’s personal and professional growth 

Strategic Planning Overview

Components of Plan

  • Goals
  • Strategies
  • Person Responsible 
  • Projected Costs

Grouping of Initiatives

  1. Academic Programs
  2. Administrative and Infrastructure Needs 
  3. Board of Trustees

Academic Programs: Improving Quality and Expanding Enrollment

Doctoral Programs

  • Quality Focus
  • Lead PAU in Brand value

Ph.D.: Significantly improve the quality of graduate outcomes by aggressively recruiting and enrolling the best and brightest with strong representation from the underserved who will benefit most from the program; increase APA internship possibilities locally.

Psy.D.: Continue to build on its reputation as an outstanding Psy.D. training program while increasing the diversity of the student body.

Masters Programs:

  • Growth Potential 
  • Market Differentiator
  1. Continue to grow the Master’s offerings while balancing constraints posed by rapid growth – example, physical space and practicum needs.
  2. Partner with high-quality institutions to launch, pilot and evolve new programs locally and globally.
  3. All programs are developed and managed with quality management system/metrics and if possible be accredited nationally and benchmarked with top peer institutes.

Global Mental Health

  • Develop and pilot degree programs 
  • Create unique learning opportunities for students and faculty 
  • Philanthropy
  1. Bring together PAU faculty around this issue, many of whom are already active in the area.
  2. Develop and/or pilot the Global Online M.A. Counseling program in China, Latin America, Africa, and India.
  3. Continue to grow program in China.
  4. Provide outreach to countries in need, while also providing opportunities for PAU students and the PAU community to expand knowledge and improve lives on a global level. Seek financial support from government in the countries we operate in.
  5. Utilize the i4health and Global Advancement of Counseling Excellence (GACE) initiative as a philanthropic charter to raise $500,000.

Undergraduate Programs

  • Growth Potential
  • Market Differentiator
  1. Continue the development and refinement of program assessment modes to evaluate incoming students and achieve high quality student outcomes.
  2. Grow enrollment by developing new sites and possible new majors for existing bachelor offerings with re- engineered and focused outreach, marketing and admissions strategies.
  3. Grow the hybrid programs to meet growing opportunities for working adults looking to augment their personal and professional development.
  4. Identify proper balance between FT and PT faculty.
  5. Create plan for improving academic success of underperforming students in the classroom

Gronowski Center: The Next Chapter

  1. Continue to develop and maintain state of the art foundational clinical training for doctoral students.
  2. Expand culturally competent and appropriate services to the local community, including treatment and assessment in a client’s native language.
  3. Develop new referral partnerships with community health care and academic organizations.
  4. Develop assessment opportunities for doctoral students

Administrative and Infrastructure Needs

Enrollment Management: Building our Core Competency

  1. Re-engineer and differentiate outreach, marketing and admission experiences and processes of each program. 
  2. Develop a marketing strategy for residential and online offerings to target audiences such as local and global working professionals and full time students.

Enrollment Management

  • E-Campus “culture” 
  • E-Marketing 
  • E-Students Services
  1. Adopt virtual campus culture (living, breathing website with up-to-date information).
  2. Experiment with, utilize, and measure effectiveness of online marketing techniques to reach prospective students: social media (Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter), YouTube Channel, email strategy and program, webinars, online open houses, and google ads.
  3. Transition and build online student services, including online orientations, online career fairs, and online student advising and success coaching.

Infrastructure Rigor and Stability

  • Collaborate
  • Systemic Deployment 
  • Access and Service
  1. Continue to Integrate administrative/student/faculty management systems
  2. Continue to maintain and improve access to internet and intranet services and systems
  3. Provide adequate staffing/resources to address growth areas and overall university experience


  • Optimum use of space

Clarify and determine impact of future growth on space needs:

  • Administrative and staff offices
  • Academic and faculty needs
  • Clinic needs
  • Community gathering areas

Board of Trustees: Governance and Policy Issues

Financial Sustainability

  • Operating Principles
  1. Finish in the black each year
  2. Stay debt-free
  3. Don’t use the endowment to fund operations
  4. Build 3 months working capital by end of plan
  5. Maintain 2:0 Department of Education (DOE) ratio at all times

Institutional Advancement

  • Student and Faculty Aid
  1. Increase student scholarships and fellowships
  2. Set annual fundraising goals

Leadership Transition

  • President

Board of Trustees to recruit and select a new President to lead Palo Alto University by July 1 2016.


  • Board of Trustees
  1. The Board of Trustees has provided essential guidance as PAU has matured. Their role will continue to be essential as the institution enters it next developmental phase with guidance from a new President.
  2. Recruit a minimum number of diverse Board candidates to be determined by the Committee on Trustees annually.
  3. Invest in Board development in significant ways.
  4. Ensure that there is a core set of Board officers to help with the transition of the new President


1791 Arastradero Road
Palo Alto, CA 94304

Phone: (800) 818-6136 Fax: (650) 433-3888





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