Wednesday, September 26, 2012
University Announces New Strategic Academic Plan
by Emma Thomson
Provost Steven Lerman and the Student Association hosted a town hall meeting yesterday to discuss with students the university's efforts to set a new strategic plan in effect this academic year.
The new strategic plan aims to consolidate the university from separate units into one, operating under one undergraduate admissions system. Under the new plan, applicants will apply to the university as a whole, rather than applying to specific school, such as the Elliot School or Columbian College.
This process follows the admissions model of many other prestigious universities such as Princeton, Stanford, and the University of Rochester, schools that Provost Lerman spoke about at the town hall.
The plan has been centralized around two questions: "What is the world going to look like in ten years?" and "What is GW good at?"
Provost Lerman emphasized the goal of preparing GW students for the work force, especially in an international market. In addition, Lerman stressed that the university is not wealthy, but can use its resources to improve already strong programs into world-class caliber ones. According to the provost, GW has a great advantage in its central location that connects it to institutions such as the World Bank, the Smithsonian Institution, and the State Department.
The new academic plan outlines four areas that connect the various units of the university: potential to be strong in globalization, governance and policy, innovation through cross-disciplinary studies, and citizenship and leadership. The plan seeks to connect the schools with common themes, such as the importance of policy to many GW programs. Cross-disciplinary studies can apply academic concepts to real world applications.
"Most of us are interested in how theory affects human condition," Lerman said. "Solutions to problems will not come from one discipline...but a holistic solution."
Provisions in the tentative strategic plan include calls to action regarding goals to foster interdisciplinary studies, create additional faculty positions, implement the "admit to one university" application model, build more graduate housing, create more opportunity for undergraduate research, and expand the career center.
Provost Lerman says the plan will make budget changes to increase the prosperity of already-successful academic programs, using monetary incentives to encourage schools to teach more undergraduate students. He gave the example of the university giving the law school incentives to teach undergraduates constitutional law.
A draft of the strategic plan should be ready October 1st, followed by discussion by the October 2nd faculty assembly and board of trustees meeting. How to pay for the new plan, which is expected to cost at least $100 million, is a top concern for students. Lerman said the money will come from the provost's office, the Innovation Task Force measures to consolidate university debt, and philanthropy. The plan is slated to go into effect February 2013 if approved by the board of trustees.
Many students voiced their concerns over the lack of student life measures in the strategic plan, citing desires to foster a greater sense of community and more school spirit. In addition, students asked for a stronger student voice and more involvement in administrative and board of trustees decisions.
This is the first strategic plan the school has made following the 2002 "Academic Excellence" campaign, which emphasized investments in specific parts of the university rather than the academic experiences as a whole. The previous plan selected twenty-two GW programs to receive funding. Since the program's implementation, only two investments have been discontinued. The new academic plan is meant to carry GW into its bicentennial in 2021.
For those unable to attend Tuesday's meeting, Provost Lerman announced university officials are organizing another town hall meeting in order to allow more students to participate.