Task force finds $2.8 million in savings

The University’s Innovation Task Force has generated and saved $2.8 million – roughly 5 percent of the task force’s five-year goal – since its inception in November, a University official said Friday.

The $2.8 million came from energy savings, moving the forensic science program to the Mount Vernon Campus, and moving the doctorate of psychology program to Foggy Bottom, task force chair and Associate Vice President for Academic Operations Jeff Lenn said. The task force is part of a plan launched by University President Steven Knapp to identify opportunities to fundraise and spend more efficiently over the next five years, with the eventual goal of injecting $60 million per year into academics.

The task force has already spent some of the saved expenses. Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Donald Lehman announced in March that $500,000 would be used to add nine professional advisors to the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

Lenn said the task force’s two working committees have submitted their recommendations to the steering committee and all three committees will host community meetings at the end of April to garner feedback from staff, students and faculty.

“What we are trying to do now is work out a schedule for getting that out to the entire community. We are at a point now where we are hitting the down slope in terms of this year. The committees have done an excellent job on focusing on the 237 recommendations that came through the Web site,” Lenn said, referencing a Web site the task force started to garner money-saving ideas.

The 237 ideas submitted through the Web site and the roughly 60 ideas submitted directly to the committees have been vetted, with the ideas that may have the biggest impact sent to the steering committee. Lenn declined to share the recommendations, saying it was too early in the vetting process.

“The committees have focused on the ideas that they think will have the biggest impact beginning next year,” he said.

Student Association Executive Vice President-elect Rob Maxim said he has been promoting getting involved with the task force to groups like Greek-letter life organizations and the Multicultural Student Services Center. Maxim said he has also come up with ideas of how to spend some of the saved funds.

“Two of my own ideas have been to hire a head chef to give direction to the J Street café, similar to George Mason’s dining hall, and to instill some sort of printing capability in residence hall computer labs,” Maxim said.

To develop additional ideas, Lenn said he is creating positions for next year called innovation facilitators. This group of GW employees and students will work with different parts of the University and help the process of finding new ideas.

“We have already gotten into talking with key library staff at Gelman, associate deans and Presidential Administrative Fellows,” Lenn said. “This concept of innovation facilitator is basically having skills to help bring people to a point where they can bring great ideas.”

The ITF also tested a development program with students last week, asking student organizations to brainstorm ideas about dining, Executive Director of Staff Learning and Development Sara Melita said. Melita invited students to compete for a $100 gift certificate, to be given to the three students with the best ideas.

The turnout at this event was very low, but Melita said the small turnout – around 25 people – “worked in favor of the brainstorming process.”

“It’s all just experimentation to try these out, to see what we need to do to continue,” Lenn said. “We are looking at ways to really embed the innovation process within the University.”

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