Students added to Innovation Task Force

The University announced the addition of six students to the Innovation Task Force Tuesday in an attempt to draw more ideas from the student body and increase student representation as the group looks for ways to save University money.

The task force also launched a new Web site Nov. 23 and is increasing efforts to solicit opinions from faculty members and students, ITF Chair and Associate Vice President for Academic Operations Jeff Lenn said.

The project is part of an ambitious plan launched by University President Steven Knapp to identify opportunities to fundraise and save money over the next five years, with the eventual goal of injecting $60 million per year into academics. The task force is split into three subcommittees – a steering committee, a learning and teaching committee that will reevaluate academic pursuits, and a business processes committee that will analyze the administrative and operational aspects of the University. The learning and teaching and business processes committees have met three times since their inception in October. The

steering committee has met twice.

The six students – three undergraduates and three graduates – were split between the three committees, with one undergraduate and one graduate serving on each.

Lenn said it was always Knapp’s intention to add students to the task force and said the group sought nominations for undergraduate students from Student Association President Julie Bindelglass soon after its launch. Sophomores Brendan Curran and Soham Gupte and senior Will Rone have all agreed to participate. The graduate students – Chris Brooks, Alyscia Eisen and Gina Fernandes – are all current second-year students and Presidential Administrative Fellows.

Curran, who is on the business processes committee, said he feels he is a bridge for students to the task force, a role he views as vital, as students’ opinions are “essential at the University.”

“The students are the bottom line,” Curran said. “Anything that comes out of the committees will affect students. Students are necessary in the early stages of these projects because, when it comes down to it, it is their University. “

Having talked to students since joining the task force, Curran said he has heard students say they want to see changes with J Street, advising and registration, what he called the “common problems and complaints” of students.

As a former undergraduate and a current graduate student and University employee, Brooks said he has seen many aspects of the GW experience and hopes to use those experiences to add to the business processes committee.

“GW is a large institution with many moving parts. In some respects, it’s a small city complete with an educational system, a housing system, recreational activities, health services and emergency services,” Brooks said. “Many of the programs and processes at GW are extremely effective, however there are always opportunities for improvement.”

The Web site, innovation.gwu.edu, lays out the task forces’ goals, mission statement, members, and next steps. It also provides a forum for students, faculty and staff to submit ideas to the different committees. In the week and a half the site has been running, only two ideas have been submitted, Lenn said.

He added that more ideas had been shared with the task force before the site was launched, but he did not know the exact number.

Lenn described the current step as an “information and idea gathering” phase and the next step will be to analyze the ideas submitted. In late February or early March, the task force hopes to host town halls and open forums with faculty and staff so they have an opportunity to review the ideas from the different committees, Lenn said.

“The idea is to make sure funds are put to the best possible use. That should do three things: help us reduce unnecessary costs, help us avoid unnecessary costs in the future, and help us make sure we are spending the money we do spend as wisely as possible,” Knapp said in October.

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