New Board Chair Addresses Faculty Senate

Grace Speights said strategic plan approval is planned for May 2020, while diversity and shared governance are among her priorities as chair.

GW Board of Trustees Chair Grace Speights speaks to the Faculty Senate. (Harrison Jones/GW Today)
GW Board of Trustees Chair Grace Speights speaks to the Faculty Senate. (Harrison Jones/GW Today)
October 14, 2019

The George Washington University Board of Trustees will prioritize student diversity as it implements GW’s five-year strategic plan, including the planned increase in STEM majors and gradual reduction of the on-campus undergraduate population, Chair Grace Speights told the Faculty Senate on Friday.

“You’re looking at an African-American woman who is chair of the board, so diversity is very, very important to me,” Ms. Speights said in her first address to the academic governing body. “It’s at the top of our list. It’s even part of our framework, in terms of the strategic plan.”

Approval of the strategic plan will be the board’s top priority this year, Ms. Speights said. Over the next few months, the Strategic Planning Task Force will review and synthesize recommendations from four strategic plan pillar committees comprising faculty, staff and students

The task force will propose some budgetary recommendations to the Board of Trustees at its meeting in February 2020, informing the budget process for fiscal year 2021. In May 2020, the task force anticipates recommending the full strategic plan for approval.

“We cannot spend years working on a strategic plan,” Ms. Speights said. “I know that this is a very, very, ambitious timeline, but it is a timeline and hopefully a plan that will set GW up for success in our future.”

Ms. Speights also stressed her faith in shared governance and the board’s emphasis on working closely with faculty and other university stakeholders to refine the university’s strategic planning framework.

As a fiduciary body, the board is responsible for overseeing university policy and finances, Ms. Speights said. But the input of other university constituents will shape the ways those policies and budgetary initiatives are implemented.

“It is critically important for the faculty to be involved and engaged in the steering process,” Ms. Speights said.

GW President Thomas LeBlanc seconded Ms. Speights’ emphasis on socioeconomic and racial diversity, listing it among his top priorities with graduation rates.

He also stressed that implementation of the strategic plan would be an evolving process.

“Everything we’re talking about will be on a five-year timeframe, and every year we’re going to learn something,” Dr. LeBlanc said.

Culture initiative update

Sylvia Marotta-Walters, chair of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, presented with professors Marie Price and Jason Zara on the progress of GW’s ongoing institutional culture initiative.

The initiative remains on schedule, with service framework trainings taking place for university leadership in September and for faculty and staff through October and November.

In-person trainings provide an opportunity for dialogue between previously siloed academic, administrative and student-facing staff populations, Dr. Marotta-Walters said.

“These training opportunities give us that chance to develop a common language and a common experience and try to create a culture that we want,” she said.

Provost gives farewell remarks

Departing Provost Forrest Maltzman gave his final address to the Faculty Senate, thanking colleagues for sharing their diverse perspectives.

“The benefit of organizational complexity is a divergence in views,” Dr. Maltzman said. He plans to rejoin the Department of Political Science after a sabbatical.

Updates from the president

  • Dr. LeBlanc thanked Dr. Maltzman for his service to GW and said the university is pleased to welcome M. Brian Blake as Dr. Maltzman’s successor. “I’m glad we were able to conclude [the search] with such a successful result,” Dr. LeBlanc said.
  • The Law School dean search continues, with the search committee expected to make candidate recommendations before the end of the semester.
  • The four faculty-led strategic plan committees have begun their work and will be holding outreach activities in the coming weeks and months.
  • GW has undertaken efforts to improve campus spaces and security. This includes a resolution to equip every residential space on the Mount Vernon and Foggy Bottom campuses with electronic access by the end of the year. Dr. LeBlanc also said the university will work to gather up-to-date cell phone information for all members of the university community so text alerts can be sent more reliably.
  • GW also is developing more community spaces on campus, including the Potomac Square space on G Street across from Lisner Auditorium. The space will be outfitted with outdoor furniture and a daily selection of food trucks.
University News


GWSB, Budget Updates Presented at Faculty Senate

September 16, 2019

Leadership also urged faculty to be involved in this year’s work developing the new strategic plan.