Three years in, officials tout strategic plan successes

Media Credit: Dan Rich | Photo Editor

Interim Provost Forrest Maltzman updated the Board of Trustees on the progress of the University-wide strategic plan.

University officials say they have checked off major goals from GW’s decade-long strategic plan.

Interim Provost Forrest Maltzman gave a report on the progress of the University’s strategic plan – a set of goals to steer the University’s future – at Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting. Fifty-two of the plan’s 60 goals have been met, five years before the deadline.

Maltzman focused on four areas of the strategic plan in which officials have made the most progress: international student enrollment, student diversity, interdisciplinary study and research.

With five years left in the strategic plan, Maltzman said he is going to improve the quality of the GW student experience and continue work on projects that staff have already begun.

“The plan is a living document, so I consider that to be part of it,” he said. “I want to make sure that the quality and experiences of our students are really a good thing.”

He said that as the plan has progressed, officials have had to delay some goals, like increasing graduate housing. Officials cut more than $8 million in strategic plan funding in 2014 after unexpected drops in graduate enrollment strained GW’s budget.

Provost Steven Lerman created the plan in 2012. The search for a new provost will begin in the fall a year after Lerman announced his departure. Faculty and experts have said finding someone who can effectively lead strategic plan implementation will likely be a major goal of the search.

Maltzman said international undergraduate student enrollment has gone from 7 percent before the strategic plan to about 10 percent last fall, and he expects next academic year’s international undergraduate population to reach 12 to 13 percent. He said he also expects similar bumps within the international graduate population.

Maltzman said it has been challenging to equally recruit students from a variety of countries, especially as 47 percent of GW’s international students are from China. He said he hopes for more equal enrollment from other countries in future years, especially from countries like India, where he said the University has untapped recruiting potential.

He said adopting a test-optional admissions policy, which officials linked to an increase in applications and partnering with foundations in different areas of the country, like the Posse Foundation in Atlanta, have helped increase enrollment from minority student populations.

“I think the real goal is to actually graduate these students that we bring in, not just to enroll additional students,” he said in his presentation. “But the challenges are cost of attendance, retention and graduation rate.”

Maltzman added that there has been progress in collaboration between GW’s schools, like an increase in majoring or minoring in a school other than a student’s home school: 1,002 students majored or minored across schools in 2015, which is up from 676 in 2011.

“Crossing these interdisciplinary boundaries has been a real challenge,” Maltzman said during his presentation. “Getting faculty buy-in is a challenge. Going ahead and getting human advisors that are based in our schools to be able to give information about other schools – all of those are some of the challenges that we have.”

University President Steven Knapp said he thinks the implementation of the strategic plan has been successful, especially in creating faculty positions: More than 170 new faculty positions have been added since the plan’s launch. He said the number of international students and the overall diversity of the student body have also increased.

Knapp added that he hopes people within the University continue to understand the plan and work to achieve its goals.

“The problem is if you pass a plan, people kind of forget about it, except the people who are working on it,” Knapp said. “And I think we need to do a better job of communicating it.”

Board of Trustees Chair Nelson Carbonell said it can be challenging to find the funding to start the programs outlined in the strategic plan.

“We want GW to be a place where we can have access to lots of different students, but then we have to look at the resources that we need to get the programs together,” Carbonell said. “It’s always a balancing act that we have to maintain, and hopefully we can do it, but that’s certainly a challenge.”

Robin Eberhardt contributed reporting.

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