The Innovation Task Force will potentially save the University $11.5 million yearly through six new plans the administration will begin implementing over the next six months.
Started last October by University President Steven Knapp with a mission of promoting efficient spending and bolstering fundraising, the ITF has already identified and saved $2.8 million, officials announced in April. The money was saved through energy cuts, lease reductions and shifting a graduate program to the Mount Vernon Campus to free up space in Foggy Bottom.
After a year of brainstorming and soliciting more than 400 ideas from the GW community, the task force voted in June on the top 15 ideas and ultimately chose six, entering phase two and implementing its “6 x 6” program – a strategy to get the ball rolling on six new ideas every six months.
“Some of these [ideas] are going take a year, a year and a half, sometimes even two years to implement,” Lenn said.
The first six ideas include increasing the number of hybrid courses offered at the University, making purchases through a consortium, reducing the amount of space leased by the University. Another idea is to expand study abroad opportunities to equalize the number of students that study abroad in the fall with the number that study abroad in the spring.
Task force members analyzed the first six ideas according to feasibility and highest impact on the University as a whole, said Associate Vice President for Academic Operations Jeff Lenn.
Some of the ideas identified include establishing an internal temporary employment agency, which will eliminate GW’s dependence on an outside temp agency and will lead to roughly $500,000 in savings. The University will also identify GW employees who can telecommute, freeing up office space and saving GW about $1 million.
Office space on campus can be put to better use if staff members who can telecommute are identified, Lenn said. But effectiveness must match efficiency of resource use, he added, saying productivity is a key factor in determining the fate of this policy.
“If you only look at efficiency, then you’re going to get in trouble,” Lenn said. “[Telecommuting] is not going to be for everybody.”
An estimated 140 officials might successfully telecommute, saving $1 million annually.
The addition of 35 new hybrid courses each year – which utilize conventional classroom meetings as well as online tools – for the next five years is projected to yield an annual $1 million in savings, facilitating a decrease in leased classroom space by 50,000 square feet.
Using a program called iBuy will open up an online store for GW departments and divisions to make all necessary purchases from vendors – with whom pricing deals have been negotiated – will save $6 million per year on items such as technology and furniture.
Expanding study abroad opportunities to balance the number of students who leave the District in the fall and the spring would free up an equal number of beds on campus each semester, allowing for increased undergraduate enrollment. To equate the numbers, 250 more students must go abroad each fall, bringing in an estimated $1 million in revenue per year.
Revenue and savings generated from ITF initiatives will be placed into the Innovation Fund to be spent on faculty, research, academic programs and enhancing student academic experiences.
So far, funds have been put toward the increase in Columbian College of Arts and Sciences advisors and the addition of a degree audit system. Lenn said the task force plans to accept more ideas through the website for at least the next year.
“We hope that we can embed innovation into the GW culture,” Lenn said.