Two open forums gave undergraduates a chance to speak on their experience and express concerns.
The High-Quality Undergraduate Education Strategic Planning Committee held public forums Tuesday and Wednesday evening, giving George Washington University students the opportunity to help shape a five-year strategy to attract and retain high-quality undergraduate students.
The committee is one of four tasked with developing recommendations for each of the strategic plan’s pillars. It is charged with developing a strategy with measurable outcomes to attract and retain high-quality students and to guide what educational opportunities the university should provide to those students.
At its first meeting, the committee developed a partial rubric for describing “high-quality undergraduate education.” They developed the following descriptors:
- It is rigorous and inquiry-based.
- It emphasizes creativity, intellectual curiosity and higher-order thinking skills.
- It empowers students to chart the path of their learning.
- It builds communities of learning (in and out of classroom).
- It enables students to develop personally as well as intellectually.
- It embraces evidence of learning sciences and is up to date with modern pedagogies.
- It adapts to a changing world and to the production of new knowledge.
- It is collaborative and equitable.
Student committee member Daniel Kassl, who moderated the discussions, asked the audience to use these descriptors as prompts for “thinking big” about the university’s future.
Audience members spoke about a number of issues affecting the undergraduate population, including campus housing improvements and physical accessibility as a barrier to student success. Required first-year classes on the Mount Vernon Campus may be difficult for wheelchair-using students to attend, for instance, resulting in missed or delayed credits.
Another way to improve student success might be to create more flexible academic requirements across the university’s various schools to make it easier to transfer across areas of study, audience members suggested.
Attendees also expressed concern that the strategic plan’s focus on STEM would marginalize non-STEM majors and asked that the university simultaneously renew its focus on its traditional strengths. And while GW President Thomas LeBlanc and committee members have discussed improving the university’s premed program, STEM majors in the audience also said some of their classes have felt targeted to future medical students—occasionally to the confusion of students who don’t plan to be doctors.
Students also asked that there be a continued focus on diversity—not just on attracting students from a variety of backgrounds, but on supporting and retaining them and on creating a welcoming environment on campus.
Diversity training can’t be merely nominal, Mr. Kassl agreed.
“If students from diverse backgrounds…come here and don’t feel included, that’s another barrier to success,” Mr. Kassl said. “That’s something we’ve talked about in nearly every meeting.”
Submit feedback to the High-Quality Undergraduate Education Strategic Planning Committee.