Provost Steven Lerman hosted a town hall meeting Nov. 19, taking questions from George Washington community members as administrators move closer to releasing a second draft of a strategic plan that leads the university into the next decade.
Dr. Lerman, who has championed the yearlong process to create the plan, emphasized the importance of creating a guide that’s “distinctly unique”—one that builds on the university’s strengths, like its location, history and the interest of its students and faculty in policy and service.
“Our hope and aspiration for this plan is that when you read it, you can’t take out the name George Washington University and put in a different university’s name and have the plan make sense,” Dr. Lerman said. “The plan should make sense for GW.”
The plan, the first draft of which was released last month, is informed by four thematic areas—innovation through cross-disciplinary collaboration, globalization, citizenship and leadership, and governance and policy—and outlines several dozen concrete actions in the areas of education, research and service to society. The university will invest at least $110 million over the next 10 years to implement the plan.
Among other initiatives, the plan includes a proposal to admit incoming students to the university as a whole, rather than to a specific school or program. This provides flexibility in exploring disciplines. Incoming students who wish to declare pre-majors would be able to do so. Dr. Lerman said other universities, such as Tulane, have made this transition successfully.
Last week’s town hall also focused on the theme of citizenship and leadership. The strategic plan draft outlines actions relevant to this theme, ranging from curricular offerings to internships and research opportunities. Theory and practice would come together in focused classroom discussions. “The hope is to create something uniquely GW, a program that distinguishes us from other universities,” Dr. Lerman said.
Another topic was alumni engagement. With more than 250,000 alumni living across the globe, now more than ever is an important time for the university to engage them, Dr. Lerman said. That’s especially true regarding efforts to create internships and job opportunities for students. Dr. Lerman said many alumni want to help—they just need to be asked.
The strategic plan also calls for increasing the number of international students, especially at the undergraduate level to create a truly diverse and globalized campus.
Students from abroad “give American students a more international experience. That’s an important value,” Dr. Lerman said. To support more international students, the university will need to further develop its services for this group, Dr. Lerman said.
Closing the town hall, Dr. Lerman addressed the plan to hire an additional 50 to 100 faculty members. Administrators also want to encourage faculty to integrate teaching and research.
Investing in undergraduate research opportunities is one way to do this, Dr. Lerman said. It’s win-win: the student gains research experience, and the faculty member advances her or his scholarship.
“I think it gives the students a transformational educational experience,” Dr. Lerman said. “They really are in a much more collaborative relationship with the faculty member. Some of the students I have gotten to know the best and taught the most are students who are working on research.”