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Strategic Plan Town Hall Draws Crowd
May 10, 2012
Faculty members, staff gather to hear working groups’ reports.
At a Tuesday town hall forum that attracted more than 250 people to Marvin Center’s Continental Ballroom, GW Provost Steven Lerman and representatives from four working groups briefed university faculty members and staff on the work completed so far to develop a new strategic plan that will mark a path for the university’s next 10 years.
The university’s last strategic plan was implemented in 2002 and work on it began in 1999—a very different time, Dr. Lerman said. A new plan is necessary to help shape GW’s vision for how it will serve students who will still be in the workforce in 2050 and beyond.
“This is an era, if we back up, that was characterized by the growth of a very short-term, utilitarian view of education,” he said. “This sort of rejects that. We care if students get jobs, but we don’t want to focus overly on that first job at the expense of an education that will be durable throughout their lifetimes.”
Dr. Lerman highlighted the advantages GW has over other similar-sized private institutions, including its capital investments, students’ engagement with the real world through internships and volunteer work, the university’s direct involvement in public policy work and its location in the nation’s capital.
“GW and its location are intertwined,” he said. “Strategically, we ought to be making use of the fact that we as a collection of people, and the assets and the buildings and the students, are far better off being where we are physically than being in any other place we could be. We need to build strategy to take advantage of that location.”
Representatives from four working groups—globalization, governance and policy, innovation through interdisciplinary collaboration, and citizenship and leadership—briefly explained the ideas they had gathered at the more the 30 events already held on campus to allow various subgroups to provide input and suggest strategic plan priorities.
Doug Guthrie, dean of the GW School of Business, said the globalization group suggests that GW should emphasize the broad themes of global development, justice and security, and ensure that all areas of study include a focus on diversity, variation and the complexities of global cultures.
“We need to go deep in specific parts of the world,” he said. “It’s one thing to have study abroad programs, but it’s another thing to go deep into a society, actually set up camp there, perhaps build a campus, perhaps have very deep institutional relationships beyond study abroad and faculty exchanges.”
The globalization group suggested that Asia, Latin American and sub-Saharan Africa were all regions in which GW could pursue these sorts of deep strategic relationships.
Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Planning Forrest Maltzman, a member of the governance and policy group, said his group suggested a targeted strategy for tenure-track hiring in strategic areas, including possible joint appointments to the university and government agencies and the development of joint graduate and undergraduate policy degrees. The group also proposed that GW develop a series of branded policy case studies—similar to Harvard Business School’s well-known case studies—in areas at which the university can develop even greater expertise, such as public health, engineering or international affairs.
“We want to make sure GW and all of its schools are internationally recognized for our contributions to developing policy and as place for those who want a policy-focused place to study,” he said. “It is important that people recognize that GW faculty do not just comment on the events. Instead, research at GW shapes public life.”
Brian Richmond, chair of the Department of Anthropology and of the interdisciplinary working group, described two of his group’s main ideas: creating cross-disciplinary “pop-up” centers that would have a finite amount of time to address a pressing issue, and developing “problem-based” first-year experience seminars in which incoming students would focus on an interdisciplinary problem that they could then follow throughout their college career, culminating in a capstone project or paper during the senior year. He also emphasized the importance of removing barriers that inhibit cross-school and department collaboration.
Terri Harris Reed, vice provost for diversity and inclusion and chair of the citizenship and leadership working group, said her group’s suggestions centered on making GW itself a “model citizen institution.” Working group members recommended creating a university-wide course on citizenship and leadership, launching a citizenship gap year program for incoming students and hiring a cohort of distinguished scholars whose work focuses on citizenship and leadership.
After the working group reports, attendees were invited to propose questions to the provost and the group chairs about specific areas of concern, and were encouraged to submit further questions via email and online forms.