Task force identifies “top ideas” for savings

After six months of gathering suggestions, the University’s Innovation Task Force has highlighted 15 “top ideas” – totaling more than $25 million in potential new revenue and savings – to submit to the GW community and senior administrators for review, a University official said Wednesday.

The 15 ideas will be evaluated and commented upon at the end of April during three community meetings on April 20, 22 and 26, Associate Vice President for Academic Operations Jeff Lenn said. Lenn also chairs the task force’s steering committee.

The task force is part of a plan launched by University President Steven Knapp to identify opportunities for fundraising and efficient spending over the next five years, with the eventual goal of injecting $60 million per year into academics and student life.

Unlike the $2.8 million in savings the task force announced last week, the $25 million have yet to be saved, Lenn said. The approximate savings or new revenue linked with each idea is only an estimate that, in some cases, will take up to five years to be realized. After the community meetings on the Foggy Bottom, Mount Vernon and Virginia campuses, the ideas will be submitted to Knapp’s senior officials for approval and analysis.

“We’re coming into the third stage now, which we’re getting feedback from the GW community about the initial ideas,” Lenn said. “It’s what we’re calling the top ideas.”

Lenn stressed the importance of innovation occurring at the University when it is in good financial standing.

“[Knapp] is doing this because we are in great shape,” Lenn said. “Most importantly, we’re doing things in ways that are innovative.”

The eight ideas from the learning and teaching committee include increasing hybrid courses; increasing study abroad opportunities and study abroad centers; creating a January Term, signature interdisciplinary courses, and four-credit pathways toward a major; and developing internships for academic credit.

January Terms are classes scheduled between the fall and winter semesters that traditionally meet five times a week, packing a full semester into the month of January. The classes would allow interested students to graduate earlier and would bring in an estimated $682,433 in new tuition revenue, Lenn said.

The learning and teaching committee also proposed spending $1.5 million on renovating the first floor of Gelman Library. Lenn declined to comment on why Gelman Library renovations are included in the “top ideas,” which designed to save money or create new revenue. According to the task force’s Web site, the money will be spent to “renovate the first floor of Gelman to create a flexible array of technologically enhanced workspaces and a blended learning environment.”

The business processes committee submitted seven ideas, including developing a GW temp agency – for students and others interested in temporary part-time work – creating an energy consortium, consolidating the graduate admissions process, reducing the amount of space the University leases, telecommuting for faculty and staff, developing a unified calendar for GW, and using programs like iBuy to consolidate purchases across the University.

iBuy is a program that allows faculty to buy computers and other technology through a consortium, lowering the prices for such products. The strategic sourcing program is estimated to save $6 million.

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