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Strategic Plan Working Groups Pitch Bold Vision for GW
May 07, 2012
GW community members are invited to attend a town hall meeting on the plan tomorrow.
George Washington faculty, staff, students and administrators charged with charting the university’s course in creating a new strategic plan will present their ideas and hold a question-and-answer session with the GW community tomorrow.
The town hall meeting, set for 4 p.m. in the Marvin Center’s Continental Ballroom, marks one of the most critical phases for the strategic plan: soliciting feedback and additional ideas. The university-wide plan will give us guidance in the sort of changes we hope to make over the next decade, said Provost Steven Lerman. It can’t be a “laundry list” of everything the university might do. Instead, it’s important to ask, “What are the things that we can do extremely well that ultimately elevate the university’s educational and research programs and, as a result, the university’s stature?”
At the town hall, strategic planning working groups will present some of the ideas they have been developing over the past semester. A preview of these was offered last week at a strategic planning retreat attended by the members of all of the working groups. The working groups are made up of GW faculty, students and staff and are focused on one of four areas that the strategic plan will highlight: innovation through interdisciplinary collaboration, globalization, citizenship and leadership, and governance and policy. Each area will specifically address what GW can do to improve its research, educational programs and outreach as well as its internal, institutional structure.
The idea of a more interdisciplinary university is particularly important, especially because the world’s greatest problems, such as sustainability, obesity or income inequality, are unlikely to be solved through any one disciplinary approach. “We need a fusion of approaches that includes science and technology, social sciences, the humanities and arts, and many other fields to address local, national and global issues,” said Dr. Lerman. “We also need to educate our students to draw upon diverse disciplinary perspectives as they work to translate what we teach them into concrete actions throughout their lives.”
Brian Richmond, chair of the Department of Anthropology and of the interdisciplinary working group, said that “some of the most fertile areas for innovation and coming up with new ideas are the boundaries between disciplines.” Dr. Lerman elaborated, “GW will be a better institution if we can embrace mechanisms to ensure that those who are associated with our professional schools are exposed to the mechanisms and approaches embraced outside these schools and that our non-professional school students are able to take advantage of the offerings of these schools.”
The sort of mechanisms proposed by the strategic planning working group on innovation through interdisciplinary collaboration included cross-disciplinary “pop-up” centers that would have a finite amount of time to address a pressing issue and creating a “minor track” focused around issues, rather than a specific discipline. The committee also thinks there may be some value in changing GW’s structure by creating just one undergraduate college in which students are initially enrolled. Students would then declare their majors in a specific school.
“That would certainly remove barriers to cross-disciplinary programs and courses,” Dr. Richmond said. “But it has its own set of challenges.”
The globalization working group suggested that the university should focus on global development and justice and security. Though no region should be omitted as a possibility, the working committee argues that GW should focus on growing programs and partnerships and recruiting expert faculty in Asia (notably China and India), Latin America (including Brazil), and sub-Sahara Africa.
Working group members recommended injecting global perspectives into all GW programs, and taking advantage of expert faculty and GW’s location to engage with critical global institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
“One of the challenges is to change the culture here to view things in a truly international manner and shift away from these marked silos of information and knowledge,” said Scheherazade Rehman, professor of international business and international affairs.
Citizenship and leadership is another key component of the strategic plan. 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. The group felt it was important that GW itself serve as a “model citizen” for the role it plays in the community and that students should be encouraged to seek leadership opportunities outside the university and bring that experience back to enrich their academic endeavors. Recruiting a more diverse workforce should also be a focus, said Terri Harris Reed, vice provost for diversity and inclusion and chair of the citizenship and leadership working group.
Finally, members on the committee addressing governance and policy, the fourth area of the strategic plan, proposed strengthening faculty and research in their area by hiring more tenure-track professors and those who hold joint positions with a policy-oriented organization. GW could also create a policy minor or five-year bachelor’s/master’s program, said Sara Rosenbaum, Harold and Jane Hirsh Professor of Health Law and Policy and the chair of the policy and governance working group. The committee also felt that GW should explore bringing highly regarded “think tanks” and high-profile policymakers to campus.
At the end of last week’s strategic planning retreat, Dr. Lerman emphasized that while the strategic plan will identify areas GW should focus on over the next decade, it certainly doesn’t mean those are the only areas the university can excel in.
“Each of the great universities of the world often has some things it is globally recognized for, but these schools also excel at many other things,” said Dr. Lerman. “The key to an effective plan is to continue to have an intellectually diverse university in which the many individually created initiatives generated by our faculty, students and staff fit into some larger framework to make the whole larger than the sum of its parts.”