Officials center global strategy around D.C.-based international organizations

Media Credit: Paige James | Hatchet Photographer

GW's international strategy will focus specifically on partnerships with organizations already located in D.C. to avoid costly trips or programs abroad. Central administrative divisions will have trimmed budgets for six consecutive years.

When it comes to international strategy, GW leaders are keeping it local.

The University’s leader for international strategy laid out a plan at Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting for GW to build D.C. partnerships with organizations like the World Bank and the U.S. Department of State, which he said would help limit costs and maximize GW’s location at the center of many international organizations and companies.

Faculty and experts said working with local institutions with global reach isn’t a new strategy, but it is strategic for an institution located in D.C. that is not looking to spend extra money abroad.

Doug Shaw, the senior associate provost for international strategy, called GW’s location an “embarrassment of riches” for international opportunities, given the University’s partnerships among schools, faculty, staff and students and global federal departments, embassies and nonprofit organizations located in the District.

The opportunities for partnership in D.C. would bring students and faculty closer to international actors without spending money to travel across the globe or build campuses in other countries, Shaw said.

“In many ways, it’s less expensive than burning jet fuel,” Shaw said after the meeting.

Globalization is one of the main pillars of the University’s decade-long strategic plan, and Shaw was brought into the provost’s office last year to help execute those goals. But with budget cuts heading to the central administration – including the provost’s office – Shaw said his plan prioritizes internationalization without heavy funding.

GW made 5 percent cuts across administrative divisions last year, and all divisions will also make 3 to 5 percent cuts each year for the next five years – totaling about 15 to 25 percent of existing budgets. Shaw did not address budget problems during his presentation of the global plan.

Shaw said making connections with powerful global institutions located in D.C. will work to solve international humanitarian issues and provide more teaching and research opportunities.

“Many universities must seek international engagement far from home, but we can on campus too,” Shaw said during his presentation.

He added that many staff members and administrators at GW already work with officials in or from other countries, and those existing relationships could be built upon to create lasting partnerships through the international office.

“I want this to be able to backstop them, so that GW looks like a foreign ministry to other foreign ministries,” Shaw said.

Plans for international strategy
Shaw also proposed a timeline for GW to secure partnerships with certain companies or institutions for each of the next five years.

This year, he plans to create a relationship with African nations through an African studies institute in the Elliott School of International Affairs, start an official partnership with the World Bank and continue plans to partner with China that have already been initiated with a global bachelor’s degree program.

Last month, officials announced they are launching a global bachelor’s degree program, which will allow students to spend three of their undergraduate semesters abroad, starting at Fudan University in Shanghai. Former Provost Steven Lerman had supported a global bachelor’s degree program that would send students to China and France, which was abandoned in 2013.

In coming years, Shaw said he hopes to work with countries like India, Mexico, Turkey, South Korea and Israel before GW’s bicentennial in 2021. Other possible partnerships include groups like the State Department, National Geographic and any of the 177 foreign embassies in D.C.

Last year, the School of Business launched the Korean Management Institute, which builds connections with Korean business executives.

Knapp traveled to Turkey in 2014 to fundraise and create partnerships with late Turkish billionaire Mustafa Koç. The University also secured 2,300 foreign scholarship and research contracts between 2007 and 2014.

Shaw said he plans to support current staff members and encourage their partnerships with global institutions and to eventually hire staff who already have connections with D.C.-based international organizations.

“Immediately, it’s a matter of tasking with existing resources, but in the future I want this to be a place with the best academic diplomacy team in higher education,” Shaw said, declining to say if more staff hires were in the works.

Staying local keeps costs down
Amid already trimmed budgets, looming budget cuts and high-level departures, officials have already had to compromise their originally large-scale goals.

Lerman, who helped steer GW’s international strategy, announced last fall that he would step down as provost. He is now on a year-long sabbatical and will return as an endowed engineering professor. He is one of six officials who have left posts this academic year.

Officials planned to open a campus in China in 2013, but after faculty advised building a campus abroad would be too expensive, they dropped their plans. Doug Guthrie, who was dean of the business school, also served as vice president for China relations and planned to transform GW into one of the top universities in China until he was fired for overspending in the school.

Media Credit: Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor
Doug Shaw, the senior associate provost for international strategy, said GW will create partnerships with international organizations like the World Bank and the U.S. Department of State that also are based in D.C.

Daniel Levy, a professor of higher education at the University at Albany, State University of New York, said globalization programming officials must find ways to be profitable instead of becoming another drain on a university’s expenses.

“In the modern day, there’s more of a financial bite and practical rationale that it’s not only something nice to do, but something we damn well better do, or we will not make any money,” Levy said.

Faculty said the University has continuously supported partnerships to take advantage of its D.C. location and make itself attractive to potential students and faculty.

Charles Garris, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the chair of the Faculty Senate’s executive committee, said faculty have long been taking advantage of GW’s location.

“People have been capitalizing on this for a long time. This is not a new revelation,” Garris said. “That said, this is probably the first time someone has taken a coherent look at it.”

Shaw is scheduled to give a more detailed presentation of the international plan at March’s Faculty Senate meeting, which will give faculty a chance to examine and respond to his goals.

David Shambaugh, the director of GW’s China Policy Program, said in an email that faculty in the Elliott School have been taking advantage of their location “all along,” but moving that goal to other schools will work to create more relationships with global actors in the area.

The School of Business released a strategic plan in October focusing on internationalization by focusing on building global connections for business students.

John Thelin, a professor of higher education at the University of Kentucky, said while other schools, like peer institution New York University, have built complete campuses in other countries, he said it was smart for GW to keep things local to draw on convenient resources.

“I would always prefer to put initiatives into having people or faculty get together with other people, rather than GW building a brick-and-mortar building abroad,” Thelin said.

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