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Effective Strategic Planning For Your Behavioral Intervention and Threat Assessment Team (Part 2)

Tara Shollenberger, Ed.D., High Point University

As we learned in part one of this strategic planning series, strategic planning is a critical tool to help behavioral intervention and threat assessment teams (BIT) meet the mission, vision, and internal/external mandates of their institution, educate constituents, enhance stakeholder buy-in, and create value.[1] That is a tall order on top of the other duties and obligations BITs shoulder with campus and individual safety on campuses. However, at the core, strategic planning and BITs share a foundational structure, planning for the unexpected and thriving in chaos.

Two tools in a robust strategic plan are the SWOT/C and PESTEL. A SWOT/C looks at the internal environment of your team. SWOT/C stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats or challenges. Let’s explore that tool first.

Case Study

“Opportunity University” has 5,000 undergraduate students, 1,000 graduate and professional students, and 1,200 employees. The BIT has decided to move to a one-team model for care (early intervention for at-risk individuals) and threat assessment on campus. During the transition, there was a 250% increase in referrals to the team. The team develops a SWOT/C and invites the Senior Vice President, who oversees campus police and student affairs, to a strategic planning meeting after the academic year ends. They share the following SWOT/C:

Opportunity University SWOT/C

Merging Care and Threat Assessment into one team. Downsizing the team allows for better discussion and less noise. Great relationships and support from local and campus police.Weekly meeting scheduled for Friday morning (comes too late in the week). Not everyone prepares for the meeting. Dated policy and procedure handbook.Data reporting per new state mandate.
Educating the campus community about this merger.Increased volume of cases.Partnering with the provost to educate faculty on the function and purpose of the team.New staff members need training. Increased volume of cases.Funding for additional training.Training back-ups for the chair and those trained in the SIVRA tool to prevent staff burnout. Staff duties include yearly reporting to the state per new HB 1234.

As you can see, the planning process is vastly more robust with these SWOT/C elements broken out so that they can be addressed systematically, with evident time horizons to harness opportunities, manage threats, and reassess progress.

The other tool that can guide teams in strategic planning is PESTEL. This stands for political, economic, social, technological, environmental, and legal categories that identify external factors that may influence or provide guiding information for the team. Identifying the forces, trends, legal mandates, and political factors that may affect a threat team’s ability to operate and be successful is essential to the overall function of the group. These categories are flexible – one or two may not be as related to the team – and PEST or PESTL are common modifications. Continuing to use Opportunity University from the previous example, a sample PESTEL is shared below:

Opportunity University PESTEL


  • Campus Police meets with the city Chief of Police every quarter to build a better working relationship.
  • Updating the MOU.
  • City Council members are asking questions of the university president on the university’s stance on weapons on campus, prompting the president to ask questions of the threat assessment committee/team.


  • The student body is split between 50% in-state and 50% out-of-state. There are many students with increasing mental health needs in the incoming class. Counseling Services has requested an additional full-time counselor in anticipation of this increase, as counseling licenses do not cross state lines, and the team wants to be able to support students who go home for summer, holidays, breaks, or weekends.
  • The Office of Accessibility Resources has reported that more than 50% of the entire university population requires some accommodation, a 10% increase from two years ago.
  • Campus Police is not fully staffed due to national employee shortages. They have three positions open and are adjusting campus coverage plans depending on campus needs.
  • Inflation continues to cut into the university’s budget, impacting training.


  • 85% of the student population lives on campus full-time; the other 15% lives adjacent to campus in a 1-mile radius. Students like to party off-campus, which has blurred the line between campus and local police.
  • Increasingly, threats are being made on social media platforms like Yik Yak and Discord.


  • Campus Police reports having trouble keeping all campus cameras 100% online; they continue to have technical issues.
  • Not all members of the current team have access to the case management software where all cases are kept. This is an ongoing discussion with key stakeholders.


  • The campus is set in the center of the local town, and access is porous. Many community members drive through the center of campus or walk on campus. It’s hard to monitor all community members.
  • 15% of the campus lives off-campus and in community neighborhoods. “Town and gown” tensions are escalating in those areas.
  • The southside of campus is dense in underbrush and trees, causing many students to wander and try to hide from Campus Police. This continues to be a safety risk to students and Campus Police.


  • The state legislature is passing HB 1234, which mandates the function of trained and fully equipped threat assessment teams on all college and university campuses. This includes collecting quantitative data, which will be reported annually to the state.
  • The state legislature is considering HB 5678, which would allow open carry within college and university campuses.

When conducting a SWOT/C or PESTEL analysis, teams should be comprehensive and overinclusive rather than leaving out anything. In the example above, there are several bullet points that the group may find irrelevant once reviewing all the information. For example, does it matter that more than half of the students live out-of-state, and counseling will be limited in providing care once they cross state lines? It depends on the individual teams and institutional policies, procedures, and expectations. However, it is essential to put all considerations into the analysis and discussion to allow for strategic prioritization.

Enhancing strategic planning with the SWOT/C and PESTEL tools provides teams with a roadmap to create mission, vision, and values statements and a long-term plan for the team. Success is a moving target for BITs, but the trends toward strategic planning and professionalization will help colleges to ensure their approaches are agile and effective for the long term. Do you need assistance creating a SWOT/C and PESTEL or improving your strategic planning? The consultants at TNG can help. Contact to learn more.

[1] Bryson, J. M. (2018). Strategic Planning for Public and Nonprofit Organizations: A Guide to Strengthening and Sustaining Organizational Achievement, 5th Edition.