Student life examined under provost purview

The University’s top academic leader plans to launch regular reviews of major student life departments, bringing a number-crunching strategy common in academia to other offices newly under his purview.

Officials will lead semester-long reviews of the more than a dozen student life offices, including Student Health Service and the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, to trim costs and evaluate each program’s value. The plans come less than a year after Provost Steven Lerman took over student affairs departments, in addition to his role overseeing all GW schools and programs.

“No matter how good you are, you can almost always get better by thinking consciously of your goals, reviewing them, even bringing some outsiders in to cross-fertilize other ideas from other universities,” Lerman said.

The initiative will push student affairs officials to vet programs that haven’t been formally reviewed in years, and marks a major step by Lerman to run student life offices like academic departments, which are reviewed every five years.

“In academic reviews, we bring in a couple top people to look at how the department is doing,” Lerman said. “Student affairs can benefit enormously from that self-reflection and constant improvement.”

The provost became more than just an academic chief when his office took over the University’s admissions and student life arms last spring. Soon after, he also launched a review of the admissions office, leading to the discovery that it had inflated data for more than a decade.

For the previous 24 years, Senior Vice President for Student and Academic Support Services Robert Chernak had steered the student life and athletic offices.

Under Chernak, who retired in June, program and office evaluations – such as those of the University Counseling Center and Career Services – took place informally. But Senior Associate Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski said last week that officials will probe at least one department per semester, and added that each office will be reviewed every three to five years.

“It allows us to set goals for the future and hold ourselves accountable,” Konwerski said. “We’ve spent more time looking at student satisfaction and this will allow us to continue looking at satisfaction but also looking at how programs are running and the impact they have on campus.”

In January, officials, including Konwerski, began the first audit, targeting the Office of Parents’ Services, because it is one of the “first and longest-running” parent support offices in the nation, Konwerski said. The team will release a report next month, compiling more than 650 parent responses to an electronic survey, focus group responses and research from a dozen other universities.

Next for review are likely the Student Health Service and the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, Konwerski said. He added that he is interested in seeing if the Office of Academic Integrity should be overseen by the student judicial office.

Assistant Vice President for Student Academic Support Services Andy Sonn, who has led the parent services review this semester, said “GW’s parent population, like the GW population, is a constantly changing and evolving group in terms of needs, issues and trends.”

Sonn was a member of the team that reviewed the athletics department, leading to the creation of the athletics strategic plan.

“The most exciting part of the review is taking a look at other parent services offices nationally and noting some ideas, events and initiatives that might be good things to introduce, in the short and long terms, at GW,” Sonn said.

“At this point, we are in the midst of analyzing these data to lead to the next stage of the process, which will involve generating our findings and recommendations to inform the office’s strategic planning process,” he said.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.