Innovation Task Force solicits feedback on top ideas

Members of the University community and the Innovation Task Force discussed fifteen ideas that will try to enhance student life and streamline business operations at the second of three showcases of ideas Thursday morning in the Eckles Library Auditorium.

The task force was created as part of University President Steven Knapp’s plan to identify opportunities for fundraising and efficient spending over the next five years. The goal is to increase the amount of money available for academics by $60 million per year.

Ideas from the business processes committee and the learning and teaching committee were presented to the 30 people in attendance. After hearing the ideas, a group of mostly faculty and administrators, including Dean of Freshmen Fred Siegel, discussed the ideas in small groups during two 20-minute sessions.

Dianne Martin, co-chair of the learning and teaching committee and associate vice president for graduate studies, said the meeting succeeded in giving the task force positive feedback and areas of improvement for the different ideas.

“I think that these sessions where we’ve discussed the ideas among the community have been the most exciting part of the process because we’ve been getting a lot of positive affirmation that people think they’re good ideas,” Martin said.

Much of the response from participants was positive, with comments targeted at making the proposals a real possibility by addressing specific concerns. The group discussing study abroad changes tackled how to balance enrollment in the fall and spring semesters. Suggestions included the possibility of scholarships and other incentives for students studying abroad in the fall. Community members addressing a proposed January term questioned what types of courses would be taught in the shortened time period.

Maria Frawley, director of the University Honors Program, said it would not be possible to teach Jane Austen in three weeks so the committees would need to address the specific course topics that would be featured in the condensed time period.

Members from the two committees were on hand to take notes and facilitate the small group discussions.

The comments and suggestions will be collected and distributed to the committees for discussion and possible inclusion in revised idea proposals.

Proposals that originated in the learning and teaching committee included increasing hybrid courses; increasing study abroad opportunities and GW study abroad centers; creating a January term, signature interdisciplinary courses, and four-credit pathways toward a major; developing internships for academic credit; and renovating the first floor of Gelman Library.

Martin divided the eight ideas into three categories: those that will increase revenue, those that are revenue neutral and those that are an investment.

The Gelman Library renovation plan is the only idea presented that falls into the last category.

The business processes committee’s proposals included developing a GW temp agency for students and those in the University neighborhood interested in part-time work opportunities; 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 GW calendar; and creating a strategic sourcing program to consolidate purchases across the University.

After the respective committees review the community suggestions, the committee chairs will present the ideas to Knapp and his senior staff, Associate Vice President for Academic Operations Jeff Lenn said.

“It gives us an opportunity to improve on how we do business on one hand, but how we’re engaged in the learning and teaching enterprise on the other,” Lenn said. “This is a start for building innovation into our culture. It’s only a start. We’ve had this first year to get it started.”

Martin said she hopes the next step is to start implementing some of the ideas discussed.

“It’s always great to sort of re-imagine how we could do things. It’s so easy to just keep doing the same thing that you’ve been doing because it’s comfortable,” she said. “I think anything that brings positive change and gets people energized is a good thing.”

The final showcase of ideas will take place April 26 on the Virginia Science and Technology campus.

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