Feedback provided online and during the public forums will be used to improve the four strategic planning committee reports.
The George Washington University held its third open forum on the strategic plan interim reports Wednesday, giving community members another opportunity to provide feedback on the committees’ recommendations for the university’s direction over the next five years.
The reports, released in January, synthesized hundreds of GW community-generated ideas. They include draft principles, metrics and recommendations for the four areas in which the university’s developing strategic plan will be focused: world-class faculty, high-quality undergraduate education, distinguished and distinctive graduate education and high-impact research.
GW Provost M. Brian Blake moderated the forum at the Marvin Center Amphitheater, which included representatives of the four faculty-led strategic planning committees. The panel solicited questions, concerns and suggestions from students, faculty and staff in the audience.
The committees will use the feedback to improve the reports this spring and will continue to share updates with the Faculty Senate, Strategic Planning Task Force and Board of Trustees.
A student in the audience said she hopes the strategic plan can improve the student experience, in particular access to services such as the Colonial Health Center and tutoring. The strategic planning process has revealed several areas for improvement, Dr. Blake said, and the administration plans to address challenges as quickly as possible.
Distinguished and Distinctive Graduate Education Committee Chair Carol Sigelman, professor of psychology in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, said while examining the university’s basic student services was not considered part of the committee’s original charge, the pressing feedback they have received has made it a priority.
Multiple members of the audience raised concerns that implementing the administration’s plan to move away from fixed tuition and the 20 percent reduction in on-campus resident students would harm the student body’s diversity over the next several years.
Dr. Blake said applications for the 2020 fall semester are “as diverse as they’ve ever been” and that any reduction in the population on the Foggy Bottom campus will not come at the expense of aid for students who need it most.
Other audience members expressed concern about the planned increase in GW students who complete a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) major, currently aimed to reach 30 percent. Some asked whether GW should instead lean into its historical strengths in fields like law, international affairs and policy.
Dr. Blake said the number of GW students interested in pursuing STEM degrees has been trending upward organically over the past several years. Data shows this shift would have likely occurred without the administration’s goal.
“We can’t be status quo five years from now, so I think we have to start making a trajectory that makes us even more attractive to a broad array of students,” he said.
Other attendees raised concerns about how funding for humanities departments would be impacted by the greater focus on STEM disciplines. Scott Kieff, chair of the World-Class Faculty Committee and Fred C. Stevenson Research Professor of Law, urged faculty members of all disciplines to continue asking for the resources they believe are necessary for success throughout the process and not to be discouraged by the change.
One attendee emphasized the importance of offering competitive funding packages to prospective Ph.D. candidates. GW can miss out on high-achieving students because other universities often offer more comprehensive packages. Another community member stressed the importance of incorporating sustainability into the plan, an issue that cuts across disciplines and has support from the student body.
One student-athlete advocated that the university construct a multiuse athletic training center on the Mount Vernon campus, complete with an indoor pool and indoor track. This center would be accessible for all of GW’s student-athletes and could also be used as a hub for biomedical and public health research studies.
Several attendees said many members of the GW community do not feel like they’ve had adequate time to provide input in the strategic planning process and urged the university to halt progress on the next steps in order to ensure the process has support among faculty, students and staff. Dr. Blake said that he will continue to solicit feedback from the GW community as the strategic plan is finalized.
Members of the audience also said they want to be sure the recommendations in the final reports will be taken seriously by the administration beyond this academic year. Proposed initiatives would need to receive ample funding to be successful, Dr. Wald said.
Several attendees thanked the committee members and leaders for the time and consideration they put into developing the interim reports following a series of public forums.