Winning idea could lead to full ride

Students could win a year’s worth of free tuition if they pitch a plan that saves or pulls in $1 million for the University annually.

The incentive marks an attempt to involve more students in the Innovation Task Force, which conducts a series of brainstorming sessions that will last five years as GW looks to cut costs and raise funds through ideas like telecommuting and training for international judges.

While six students have been on the task force annually since 2009, they have never championed an idea.

The group has floated 28 projects – nearly all of which have stemmed from administrators or faculty members. About three-quarters of those ideas have been carried out, tallying $34 million in slashed waste or new revenue since 2009.

The scholarship was one of seven ideas presented at GW’s sixth idea showcase Wednesday.

The student selected next year would help GW tap into “the creativity and innovation of the student body,” should University President Steven Knapp choose to follow through with the project, said Megan Flood, one of GW’s internal consultants.

To ramp up interest in the project among students, Flood also said the task force would look to add a student intern to aid promotion across GW and keep track of deadlines.

“The tricky part for students will be figuring out what GW is doing already and working from that,” Flood, a junior project manager within the Office of Finance, said.

She added she hoped to see between 30 and 35 student finalists working with faculty and alumni mentors by January or February of next year. Students would present their ideas the same way as administrators working on the committee, complete with objectives, financial analysis and a list of the plan’s benefits and drawbacks.

Finalists would be judged on how the proposals fit into the University’s mission and how long the ideas will take to implement. The student would not be tied to helping implement their own idea.

“This is really an idea to get more ideas,” Flood said. “We are still fleshing it out, but it is a way to get more students involved in ITF.”

Senior Associate Vice President for Finance Dave Lawlor said the task force has identified $56 million that will be available in 2015. By 2017, the group is projected to rake in $75 million yearly, surpassing the original goal of $60 million.

The Innovation Task Force was created by President Steven Knapp in 2009. Charged with funding an additional $60 million for research and academic programs in five years, the group has helped launch ideas such as new online degree programs and a master’s program in public contracting.

The group of faculty and students also proposed Tuesday an on-site master’s program with employers, which would be developed based on an existing model in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Students will enroll in an on-site or partially online master’s program, and their curriculum will be tailored by an employer.

The engineering school already offers online and off-site courses in which students work with employers. It connects students with alumni, and students are reimbursed for their work if they receive a “B” or better in the course.

Expanding the online master’s program is expected to bring in about $2 million for the University, Lawlor said. The University has increased online programs within the School of Nursing and the GW School of Business this year, as well.

The Innovation Task Force is also pushing for renewable energy through power purchase agreements, after noticing the market for sustainable products becoming cheaper. The group hopes to reduce energy costs through renewable power purchase agreements.

The initiative would not require any capital investment, but the task force does not know what the exact benefit would be or when it would be implemented.

The group also proposed a regulatory training certificate for attorneys and senior executive technical professionals, which would produce $1 million in revenue annually.

Previous ITF initiatives have included training certificates in areas such as sustainability and organizational ethics.

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