LeBlanc’s new strategic pillars must be more defined

Two years ago, University President Thomas LeBlanc stepped into GW with five main goals: improve the student experience, research, philanthropy and constituent engagement, medical enterprise and institutional culture. But he shook things up again last week, announcing his newest pillars – graduate education, undergraduate education, faculty and research – with little indication of where his initial goals left off.

Everything officials have done over the past year, from naming a head of the student experience to conducting a survey to evaluate institutional culture, has tied back to his first five initiatives. Administrators have also added more common spaces around campus and launched a website to track the initiatives to ensure the GW community knew the status of every goal.

But his newest plans lack depth and only vaguely carry on the areas of improvement he vowed to address two years back. Aside from creating committees tasked with brainstorming suggestions to improve each area, LeBlanc himself did not map out specific plans for meeting his next pillars. LeBlanc needs to specify the role of the committees and lay out concrete plans to address each of the pillars to show students and faculty his intended direction for GW.

His pillars used vague language to describe improvements to every aspect of the University. Officials would obviously want to improve the undergraduate and graduate experience, boost research and recruit outstanding faculty – these are no-brainers. But LeBlanc needs to state what about these areas of the University he needs to improve. Without explanation, LeBlanc’s plan does not give students any new information.

The pillars are vague enough that the GW community cannot track whether or not the University is meeting them. Determining if the University has made strides in improving undergraduate education or faculty will be difficult because there is no goalpost. LeBlanc should lay out more specific areas about research, faculty and undergraduate and graduate experience to demonstrate how he will address each goal. Laying out pointed goals, like setting a number of research grants the University wants to obtain, would help students and faculty see LeBlanc’s vision actually come to fruition.

LeBlanc also did not update students and faculty on the status of previous initiatives before rolling out the new pillars. LeBlanc said the five initiatives were the foundation for the new pillars, but some of the old goals, like philanthropy, institutional culture and medical enterprise, were left out. It is unfair to move in another direction when students, faculty and staff do not know the state of his initial goals.

Each of the new pillars is headed by committees involving faculty members, students and officials. But the groups seem to lack information on their jobs, saying they are excited to serve on the committees but not stating their responsibilities. LeBlanc should have presented thought-out tasks for committees to understand their responsibilities when he announced that several groups would spearhead the goals.

LeBlanc may have introduced his plan intending to open a broader conversation about the University’s overarching initiatives. His pillars could be purposely vague because he wants students, staff and faculty to pinpoint areas of improvement and brainstorm ways to bolster each aspect of GW. But introducing a broad overview of his goals with no concrete details makes the plan seem rushed and undefined.

Committees are making a commitment to students and faculty to adequately investigate how to improve each pillar and fix areas of campus that are broken. Their commitment to the groups means they need to be transparent and be able to clearly communicate with the GW community about what their progress is. Committee members should be open about the feedback they receive to address each pillar and provide updates about their findings and goals throughout the academic year. They should outline their goals and expectations and ensure that those goals are accessible for all to see so the committees can be held accountable by students and faculty.

Achieving LeBlanc’s four new pillars will be difficult to assess, fix and quantify. Students and faculty deserve better than his half-baked plan that may not yield satisfactory results.

The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Kiran Hoeffner-Shah and contributing opinions editor Hannah Thacker based on conversations with The Hatchet’s editorial board, which is composed of assistant copy editor Natalie Prieb, managing director Leah Potter, contributing design editor Olivia Columbus, sports editor Emily Maise and culture editor Sidney Lee.

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