Strategic Planning Committees Give Updates at Faculty Senate

The chairs of four faculty-led committees presented on their current achievements, preliminary recommendations and next steps.

Gayle Wald, chair of the High-Quality Undergraduate Education strategic planning committee, presents to the Faculty Senate.
Gayle Wald, chair of the High-Quality Undergraduate Education strategic planning committee, presents to the Faculty Senate. (Harrison Jones/GW Today)
December 16, 2019

Chairs of the George Washington University’s four strategic planning committees gave progress reports at Friday’s Faculty Senate meeting, laying out accomplishments, outreach efforts, challenges, preliminary recommendations and next steps.

These updates built from reports made to the Board of Trustees’ Strategic Planning Task Force in late November and anticipate interim reports each committee will make in late January.

High-Impact Research Committee

Chair Alan Greenberg, chair and professor of epidemiology at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, discussed the development of the High-Impact Research Committee since its inception this fall. Given the charge to develop a strategy for improving research productivity across the university that addresses all disciplines and exploits the unique opportunities available at GW, the committee began by assessing the university’s strengths and weaknesses in research and gathering constituent input in a variety of ways, including an online portal, town halls, surveys and outreach by committee members to faculty at their individual schools.

In October, Dr. Greenberg said, the committee came to a fairly basic definition of high-impact research: Research is “high-impact” if it strongly impacts either a specific academic discipline or society in general. The committee also asked researchers to report the metrics by which different academic disciplines measure impact, which Dr. Greenberg said was “an incredible wake-up call.”

“[There are] dozens and dozens and dozens of ways in which the breadth and depth of researchers at this institution measure the impact of our work, from…grants and publications to forming corporations, social media impact or museum admissions,” Dr. Greenberg said.

In November, the committee began to define the bedrock principles around which it will eventually form initiatives to be suggested to the Board of Trustees. Dr. Greenberg said the committee will discuss those concrete initiatives in the next few weeks.

World-Class Faculty

Committee Chair and GW Law Professor Scott Kieff said the committee has been working with other committees and faculty across the university to “gather information about what a world-class faculty we have and what a better world-class faculty we may be together by focusing on people and ideas.”

During the information-gathering stage, Mr. Kieff said the committee has focused in particular on faculty members who have increased both excellence and diversity in their fields, which “is vital to the growth of the university.”

“If we together as faculty put before the leadership as concise and clear a set of ideas as we can, we are doing ourselves and them a favor by making the best case for future investment,” Mr. Kieff said. “And if we build that concrete and concise set of ideas through this collaborative process, then we also are making the best shot at community enhancement and community buy-in.”

Distinguished and Distinctive Graduate Education

Chair Carol Sigelman, a professor of psychology in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, said the committee’s guiding emphasis has been on quality. To that end, she said, the committee has not only organized town halls and student surveys during the assessment stage, but also solicited information from graduate deans and enrollment management staff and met with career services directors to discuss optimizing the success of program alumni.

One of the committee’s goals is to use uniform criteria for measuring a graduate program’s quality, Dr. Sigelman said. The committee has developed a few such criteria, which are flexible enough to be broadly applicable but adjustable based on programs’ different goals and focuses.

“We envision using these criteria in the review of new program proposals,” Dr. Sigelman said. “Let’s start out with excellence if we’re launching new programs, and let’s use the same criteria built into academic program review process so that every so often…there’s an opportunity to look at graduate programs and how they’re progressing.”

High-Quality Undergraduate Education

Like the other three committees, the High-Quality Undergraduate Education Committee has utilized multiple sources of input online and in person to assess GW’s current undergraduate ecosystem and chart a path forward. Committee Chair Gayle Wald, chair of American Studies and professor of English and American Studies in CCAS, said the committee began by brainstorming on a “visionary level” about what a high-quality undergraduate education entails, across all institutions of higher learning and also at GW specifically. The committee has been working in four subcommittees based on areas of improvement they identified early as being of concern: academic advising and student success, academic innovation, STEM at GW and leveraging GW’s location in D.C. The committee is currently working on developing specific goals and metrics linked to these four areas of interest.

Initiatives coming out of the committee should “feel like they are aspirational and connected to what GW specifically is,” Dr. Wald said. The set goal of increasing GW’s undergraduate STEM major population to 30 percent, for instance, should be tied to a specific value proposition for STEM majors at GW and not on “reproducing the STEM work that other schools do.”

“We’re trying to manage being aspirational…within the context of what we already have and where we could go,” Dr. Wald said.

Learn more about the Strategic Plan here.

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