GW’s chief information officer presented on possible changes in GW's digital platform with a focus on services that impact student experience and success.
By Ruth Steinhardt
The George Washington University is looking toward an evolution of its digital platform that supports the GW experience, Chief Information Officer Loretta Early told members of the Faculty Senate Friday.
“The higher education landscape—particularly in the areas of student expectations, business needs and technology offerings—has changed significantly since many institutions implemented these enterprise systems, now over 20 years ago,” Ms. Early said.
GW currently uses Banner 8 as one of its enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Banner is comprised of several modules that support the university’s ability to organize, collect, store, manage and analyze data from many administrative and academic activities.
It serves as the system of record for business transactions in areas such as course registration, accounts receivable, financial aid, payroll and human resources.
Ellucian, the vendor of Banner 8, has announced that it will no longer provide development, patches, fixes or regulatory updates for version 8. As a result, GW will migrate to a newer version of Banner to ensure maintenance and support of essential business processes for the short term, while looking at what system could best serve GW needs for the long term.
Ms. Early said the Division of IT plans to migrate forms critical to operations, such as financial aid and W-2 processing, to the upgraded Banner system and to work with experts to complete testing by September.
“Before we just buy a new system, we have an opportunity to look at the way we do things through a new lens,” Ms. Early said. “Can we streamline our processes? How can we improve services for faculty, students and staff?”
Ms. Early said one of her priorities would be to generate discussion and to solicit input from university community members rather than to communicate changes from the top down.
“Our conversations and discussions are just starting at the university about recommendations for the road map for our enterprise systems,” she said.
In other business, George Washington President Thomas LeBlanc discussed the importance of clarity in university policies on sexual harassment, pointing to turmoil at the University of Rochester as an example of the consequences of vague guidelines around harassment and inappropriate relationships.
The Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate currently is reviewing language in GW’s own sexual harassment policy for faculty members. “Right now, our policy errs on the side of ambiguity, and therefore we really do have to look at it,” said Sylvia Marotta-Walters, executive committee chair.
Dr. LeBlanc also proposed possible amendments to GW’s “market basket,” the set of peer institutions to which the university compares itself. He said the current basket “does not serve us” because it includes institutions with wildly divergent reputations, focus areas and available resources.
“I would like us to focus on schools that in some key dimension we aspire to be more like, and I would like it to be realistic,” Dr. LeBlanc said.
Finally, Dr. LeBlanc encouraged faculty members to try a thought experiment. If given $1 billion to move GW forward, where would they spend it? Investments that might seem major on their face—like student aid, new faculty members and residence hall renovations—could eat up that money more quickly than expected, he suggested, without necessarily manifesting large-scale results.
“This experiment is not a waste of time,” Dr. LeBlanc said. “The university does have some resources, and we’re going to have to think about how to prioritize them in a world in which everything we care about is really expensive.“
The Senate also elected two new members to its standing committees and unanimously approved two alterations to the language of the Faculty Code, both of which Jeff Gutman, chair of the Professional Ethics and Academic Freedom Committee, said were “non-substantive changes intended to clarify what the code intended.” A third proposed alteration was re-referred to the committee.