Faculty Senate Hears Updates on Research Funding and Flagg Building Renovations

The body also approved an academic forgiveness policy for first year students.

Sanjit Sethi, director of the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, plans to use the Flagg Building’s atrium space as a platform for social discourse. (William Atkins/ GW Today)
February 13, 2017

By Kristen Mitchell

The George Washington University Faculty Senate received updates on activities in the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design during a Friday meeting in which it also approved a proposal that allows first-year students to retake one class in which they earned a grade of D+ or lower.

Leo Chalupa, vice president for research, said GW has improved its reputation in research. GW ranked 83rd in the National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research and Development Survey in fiscal year 2015 in federal funding, compared to 114th in fiscal year 2006.

From fiscal year 2013 to fiscal year 2014, GW experienced 17.1 percent growth in federal funding while other universities in the top 100 federally funded institutions in the NSF survey averaged a 3.2 percent decrease in federal funding.

GW should target alternative funding sources, including from industry and corporate sources, to continue making gains as federal budgets tighten, Dr. Chalupa said.

In fiscal year 2016, corporate sources made up less than 1 percent of GW’s total research expenditures. The majority of federal funding, however, came from the National Institutes of Health, which Dr. Chalupa said is a good thing.

“In spite of what is going on in Washington, the NIH budget is going up,” he said.

The Office of Vice President for Research also has improved its financial support and incentives for research with increased funding available within the university. It sponsors incentives for faculty to include graduate students in their research and to submit institutional training grants, and provides assistance with grant editing.

The Office of Vice President for Research has improved its customer service with regular faculty lunches, open research forums, meetings with the Faculty Senate Research Committee chair, solicitations for feedback from the research community and additional training for staff.

This informal feedback has been helpful. Several faculty concerns have been directly addressed as a result, Dr. Chalupa said.

“We just had a lunch last week,” he said. “There were 8 faculty members, not one complaint.”

Research staff have also been soliciting feedback through an anonymous survey included at the bottom at every email. The comments from fiscal year 2017 have so far been overwhelmingly positive, Dr. Chalupa said.

Leo Chalupa, vice president for research, said in a presentation to Faculty Senate Friday GW has improved its reputation in research. (William Atkins/ GW Today.)


Sanjit Sethi, director of the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, provided updates on renovations at the historic Flagg Building, efforts to create a “cultural campus,” and upcoming exhibitions.

Phase I renovations that include critical infrastructure upgrades are set to be completed in December. These renovations will open the second floor of the Flagg Building, which houses the Corcoran School, for teaching space and for the National Gallery of Art, which will prepare to stage exhibitions in gallery space surrounding the building’s atrium.

Subsequent phases of the renovation of the Flagg building are expected to cost an additional $32 million and will be completed based on fundraising and donations, according to Mr. Sethi.

As renovations are completed and more usable space in the Flagg Building is available, Mr. Sethi plans to save the first floor atrium for exhibitions to act as a “platform for social discourse.” The current exhibition in that space, “Decolonizing Alaska,” focuses on identity and native Alaskan history.

The full integration of all GW degree-granting programs in the arts and design is expected to be completed in July 2017.  The Corcoran School also plans to grow its program offerings. It has developed a minor in fine arts and is developing a five-year dual degree for undergraduates.

In other business, Professor Phil Wirtz, chair of the Senate’s Education Policy Committee, presented a proposal on the academic forgiveness resolution, and the Senate adopted it. The policy would allow undergraduate students to retake one course from their freshmen year in which they earned a grade of D+ or lower.

“We wanted to create a system for students to be incentivized to go back and learn the material thus building upon academic material for future academic success,” said Thomas Falcigno, executive vice president of the Student Association. “It’s ensuring academic success at the core and basic levels of education and setting up for academic success during the remainder of their undergraduate career at GW.”

Dr. Wirtz said the policy is an example of the ways faculty and students have come together toward improving the student condition.

The forgiveness proposal was supported by all undergraduate deans and had been approved by the Faculty Senate’s Education Policy and the Professional Ethics and Academic Freedom Committees. The policy will be reviewed after three years to determine its success and if changes are necessary.

The Student Association started the process on the proposal last May and worked with the Office of the Provost to introduce the idea to deans and the Faculty Senate. Forrest Maltzman, university provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, applauded the Student Association and the Senate for their work.

“This is a statement about what the faculty feel, and I know sometimes students just as much as faculty members complain about the rules, regulations and things that stop us from being successful,” Dr. Maltzman said. “Students sometimes feel the same way, and this resolution in and of itself is a statement about us trying to help out our students.”


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