Now that the George Washington University’s new strategic plan has been unveiled and approved, it is time to zero in on its most important aspects and to begin implementing them as soon as possible, said Provost Steven Lerman during his remarks at the 2013 Faculty Assembly on Tuesday.
Dr. Lerman outlined three “action clusters” the university hopes to bring to fruition in the upcoming year: undergraduate education, cross-disciplinary research centers and international strategy. These clusters align with the themes of GW’s Vision 2021 plan.
Regarding undergraduate education, Dr. Lerman said the university will work to eliminate the “maze of restrictions” students must bypass in order to transfer into a different university department or to add a second major. Currently, it is sometimes difficult for students to major in academic disciplines in two different schools, and undergraduates who want to transfer into a different academic school must submit a request to the Undergraduate Admissions Office.
“These are unnecessary barriers to our students’ education,” Dr. Lerman said. “They want the flexibility to construct majors and double majors, or combinations of majors and minors that are not necessarily aligned with how we’ve chosen to organize our schools and departments.”
In the future, undergraduate students will be admitted to the university at large, instead of being admitted to individual schools, Dr. Lerman said. This will be done in a way that accommodates the limitations some academic programs need to impose on the size of their undergraduate enrollment. Students will also be given tools to explore a full range of possible major and minor combinations. For instance, the university is revising GW’s online advising system, so students can easily explore different academic scenarios.
Secondly, the university wants to bring more structure to internship and leadership involvement by integrating reflective activities into these experiences, Dr. Lerman said. The university is also looking at ways to encourage students to study disciplines in STEM and to encourage STEM students to go into teaching.
The university hopes to create more cross-disciplinary institutes that will combine research, educational programs, outreach and practice, Dr. Lerman said.
Finally, Dr. Lerman stressed the university’s commitment to creating a global strategy. He said he has appointed a committee to explore a strategy for GW’s presence in China. Some of the questions the university must address are who will be GW’s partners in China and what the university will try to accomplish there.
“At this point, I think it’s a wide open field,” Dr. Lerman said. “We don’t know exactly what we want to do, but I think this is the year to figure that out.”
In George Washington President Steven Knapp’s opening remarks, he praised the efforts of faculty members throughout the university who have worked to secure research funding during a time when grant money is on the decline nationally. In the past month, eight GW researchers were awarded federal grants of more than $1 million.
“We continue to attract very high caliber faculty from around the country and around the world,” Dr. Knapp said. “We never had to stop our hiring or freeze salaries or research support during this whole economic decline.”
He said he expects an increase in research funding this upcoming year.
Dr. Knapp also said this year’s Alumni Weekend had the largest attendance in the event’s history.
“What we’re seeing is alumni increasingly getting excited about the university and wanting to be a part of that,” Dr. Knapp said.
What Dr. Knapp emphasized about the weekend was how many of his conversations with alumni focused on faculty members who had “in one way or another changed their lives.”
“It really, I think, speaks to how important you are all in the lives of your own students,” Dr. Knapp said.
Also at the Faculty Assembly, Board of Trustees Chairman Nelson Carbonell, B.S. ’85, reiterated his plans to review the Faculty Code — an agreement between faculty and the administration that establishes governance policies at the university.
Mr. Carbonell said he will assemble a group of trustees, faculty and administrators to review the current code and recommend revisions to align the code with the university’s strategic plan, to reflect best practices in higher education and to revise any elements that may be outdated. The review was recommended by former chairman W. Russell Ramsey, B.B.A. ’81, before the end of his term.
The task force will seek input from the faculty, Mr. Carbonell said.
“We want to hear from our faculty what are the things we need to do to align how we operate with the strategy that we have,” he said. “Perhaps you come from other institutions, and you’ve seen better practices. We want to know what those are. And we certainly want to know where there are areas we need to add clarity.”
At the conclusion of the Faculty Assembly, Scheherazade Rehman, chair of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee discussed the work of the Faculty Senate over the past year, which included passing multiple resolutions.
"This university is on the move, we can all feel it. It’s hard to quantify and articulate," Dr. Rehman said. "But we all sense that GW is on the verge of breaking through new barriers, breaking out of its own skin and remolding itself and delivering an education experience that is worthy of the potential of this institution."