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Innovation in Action
October 31, 2011
At two Showcases of Ideas last week, the GW community weighed in on top round three innovation ideas.
By Jamie L. Freedman
The GW community gathered last week at two university-wide Showcases of Ideas for a wide-ranging discussion on seven top-ranked proposals under consideration by the Innovation Task Force.
Since its establishment two years ago, the ITF has solicited nearly 500 ideas from the GW community aimed at making university operations more effective, efficient and innovative. The showcases are the culmination of months of rigorous behind-the-scenes work by the ITF’s Exploration Committee, charged with selecting six new innovation ideas for implementation every six months. The 12 top ideas selected in rounds one and two of the initiative are now well on their way to implementation.
At last week’s Showcases of Ideas – one on GW’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus and the other on the Foggy Bottom Campus – the committee took its final list to the GW community for feedback and fine-tuning. Six proposals will ultimately be selected for implementation from the following field of finalists:
- Expand Facilities Usage – Increase the utilization of GW’s physical resources year-round by promoting wider use of university facilities during non-peak periods (e.g., promoting the Mount Vernon Campus as a summer conference destination).
- Housing Optimization – Optimize the occupancy rates of GW’s Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon residence halls over the entire calendar year.
- Customer Relationship Management Program –Implement a university-wide customer relationship management program that provides GW community members with an easily accessible, effective self-serve solution to inquiries.
- Paperless Strategy – Develop a GW-wide paperless strategy aimed at increasing productivity and reducing overall paper usage and paper-related costs.
- Centralized Leave Tracking – Implement a university-wide leave tracking system that increases the administrative efficiency of administering the university’s leave policies.
- Leverage Internal GW Expertise – Leverage GW faculty and staff expertise in key areas historically requiring external consulting support, through the development of a comprehensive inventory of “internal consultants.”
- Migration to the Cloud – Exploit opportunities related to software, infrastructure, and platform as a service—collectively known as “Cloud Computing.”
Each showcase featured brief overviews of the top-ranked proposals, followed by breakout sessions focusing on individual initiatives. At seven tables, one for each project in the final group, students, staff and faculty discussed the feasibility and drawbacks of the proposals and offered suggestions. Participants moved from table to table every 20 minutes, rotating three times to the tables of their choice.
Lively discussions ensued. Participants at the Housing Optimization table, for example, discussed broad ways to realize the initiative’s goals—from financial incentives to entice juniors and seniors to live on campus to special programming for upperclassmen residing in the residence halls. At a “Share your Ideas” table, community members floated additional innovation ideas that they would like to see put into action.
The showcases are “invaluable,” said Dave Lawlor, co-chair of the ITF Steering Committee, since community participation is key to both the ITF vision and the success of its proposed projects.
“I applaud everyone here today for participating in the ITF process and really owning this vision,” Mr. Lawlor said. “It’s a very important part of what we do in the ITF—to make sure that not only those who generate, analyze and vet the ideas are comfortable with them, but that a good cross section of our community has an opportunity to contribute to and put their fingerprints on upcoming innovation ideas.”
Updating showcase participants on the ITF, Mr. Lawlor said that $34 million in recurring annual savings and revenue enhancements have already been identified toward the initiative’s $60 million goal and that $11.2 million of ITF funds has been budgeted for investment in the university’s top academic priorities in fiscal year 2012. “The ideas presented at this week’s showcases will generate an additional $5 million in recurring annual savings to reinvest in GW’s academic priorities,” he added.
A highlight of last week’s Foggy Bottom event was an update by Peg Barratt, dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, who briefed the community on important ways that ITF dollars are already benefitting Columbian College students, faculty and staff.
“Thanks to Innovation Task Force money, we were able to double the number of undergraduate advisers at Columbian College from nine to 18 last year and implement a state-of-the-art approach to undergraduate advising,” Dr. Barratt said.
“Columbian College again benefitted from ITF funds this year, enabling us to hire eight additional graduate teaching assistants as we rolled out our new undergraduate curriculum emphasizing 21st-century critical thinking and reasoning skills,” she added. “We are very appreciative of the ITF’s investment in Columbian College, which is helping prepare our students to be nimble thinkers prepared for lifelong learning.”
For more information on the seven leading proposals and the Innovation Task Force, click here.