Update (April 2020): The university will pause the strategic planning process for the foreseeable future to focus on immediate needs due to COVID-19, President Thomas LeBlanc announced in a message to the GW community on April 2.
GW Community Questions from Strategic Plan Interim Reports Public Forums
As we head together into the final stretch of our strategic planning, we remain grateful for the hundreds of students, faculty, staff and alumni who have engaged deeply in this process over many months. You have contributed so many innovative ideas and suggestions, asked thoughtful questions and advocated for what you want the George Washington University to look like five years from now. Thanks to your work, the picture is starting to become clearer.
The four faculty-led committees have shared that your feedback, through several public forums and the strategic plan website, has been indispensable to their process. They have begun to synthesize your suggestions and use them to refine their recommendations. As we move forward, you can continue to provide feedback online through the spring.
The “20/30” targets refer to the university’s objectives to decrease the Foggy Bottom undergraduate population by 20 percent over five years and increase our commitment to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), specifically by increasing GW’s undergraduate STEM majors, from 19 percent to 30 percent. Once implementation plans are finalized in consultation with the faculty, we commit to evaluating progress on these goals with the Faculty Senate annually to determine whether we are meeting the expectations of the 20/30 targets. If the circumstances do not support the current strategy, the administration and the Board of Trustees will adapt the plan and targets as appropriate.
The current size of GW’s student body has strained many of GW’s resources, including support services, class offerings, and facilities. The 20 percent reduction in on-campus undergraduate students over the next five years will allow for more flexibility and discretion in our resources so that we can better serve the students we have, such as by reducing housing demand on campus. It also serves as a proactive response to forecasted declines in the traditional college-age population. Overall, the 20 percent reduction will enable us to strengthen the quality of the undergraduate student experience.
The increase in STEM majors will allow GW to elevate another area of excellence, on par with its traditional strengths, and give our students the technical and quantitative skills needed for future jobs. The number of GW students interested in pursuing STEM degrees has naturally trended upward over the past several years; we are providing a framework for that trajectory in which we can expand our course offerings and continue attracting a broad array of students. The greater focus on STEM disciplines, however, does not mean that GW is turning away from its historical strengths in fields such as international affairs, policy and the arts and humanities. Our STEM aspirations and our traditional strengths will inform and enhance one another through collaboration and interdisciplinary work.
The Future Enrollment Task Force, led by Provost M. Brian Blake and comprised of representatives from the Faculty Senate, academic leadership, and students, focuses on the academic experience for future GW students who will graduate from GW in 5 to 10 years. It will explore options for implementation of the 20/30 targets, in collaboration with the High-Quality Undergraduate Education Committee. This includes consideration of the overall composition of students and programs around theme areas of future interest that could potentially resonate with the university community. We plan to seek feedback from the GW community on these theme areas. The Task Force and the High-Quality Undergraduate Education Committee are making great progress during their meetings and are providing regular updates to the Faculty Senate.
Phasing out fixed tuition will allow for flexibility and discretion in our budget so that we can better respond to the needs of the community, including our students who need support the most. Maintaining a diverse student body is a priority. The 20 percent reduction over five years does not equal a 20 percent reduction in university revenue. The university budget includes revenue from many sources, including endowment returns, real estate investments, graduate tuition and philanthropic support, among others. Provost Blake has committed to making high-quality undergraduate education possible by prioritizing an initiative to meet full financial need for undergraduate students who qualify for financial assistance. We will remain open to all options so that we can ensure affordability for students.
Diversity is a GW value and is a top priority. Applications for the Fall 2020 semester are as diverse as they have ever been, and university leadership has committed to maintaining its level of student diversity. The Future Enrollment Task Force led by Provost Blake will be making more specific recommendations to sustain our commitment to diversity as part of implementing the 20/30 objectives.
At this stage of the planning process, we are focused on generating the best ideas for the strategic plan. We asked the committee members of the four faculty-led strategic planning committees not to consider potential funding or available resources when writing their reports – to remain creative and open to all ideas. Nevertheless, we understand that there will be an eventual cost to the ideas we do decide to implement. The Board of Trustees and university leadership are willing to consider all options and pursue various sources of funding, including philanthropic support from outside the university, in order to fund the recommendations made in the final report.
We understand that the GW community, and the student body in particular, is passionate about sustainability on campus. It has been a primary concern within much of the feedback the planning committees have received during the course of this review of the interim reports, as well as in the community planning forums hosted by the Strategic Campus and Facilities Master Plan committee. We remain committed to sustainability, which will be woven through the strategic plan as part of a responsible stewardship of resources.
We are continuing to address basic student services challenges as quickly as possible when we learn about them so that we can continue to improve the student experience.
We are continually assessing and improving physical accessibility across our campus, including crosswalks and exterior access at some buildings. Accessibility also will be an integral component in our new Strategic Campus and Facilities Master Plan and in any new construction or renovation work, such as Thurston Hall.
Background and Process
GW’s strategic planning process was designed to engage the university community in examining the needs and challenges GW faces in pursuing our shared aspiration for preeminence as a comprehensive, global research university.
The plan will focus on four strategic areas, or pillars, that drive excellence in higher education: World-Class Faculty, High-Quality Undergraduate Education, Distinguished and Distinctive Graduate Education and High-Impact Research.
The strategic plan will provide the university with practical priorities to guide our work together for the next five years. The strategic plan will not cover everything that GW will do. Work is already underway, for example, on the five strategic initiatives (Student Experience, Research, Philanthropy & Constituent Engagement, Medical Enterprise and Institutional Culture) that emerged as immediate priority areas to advance GW. The strategic plan will focus on the core commitments to guide GW on a path to preeminence as a comprehensive, global research university, and it will help the university community understand the key choices we face as we shape our future together.
The focus of the strategic plan has been informed by conversations over the past two years with faculty, trustees, students, staff, alumni and community members. Those conversations have informed the plan's framework.
On September 12, 2019, President LeBlanc delivered a University Update on the plan, and he announced the formation of four committees to guide the strategic planning process. There is a separate committee for each of the four pillars of the framework: world-class faculty, high-quality undergraduate education, distinguished and distinctive graduate education, and high-impact research. There is also a university-wide Strategic Planning Task Force, chaired by Trustee Christine Barth, which includes representatives of the Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, students, and alumni to coordinate the work of all of the pillars.
The entire campus community, including faculty, students, and staff, will have opportunities to engage in the planning process. The committees will offer multiple avenues for community engagement, including town halls, as determined by the committee. Alumni will be informed of the planning process and have opportunities to provide input.
Committees will prepare interim reports, including principles, metrics and a proposed set of recommendations, and share them with the university community in January 2020. The committees will present their final recommendations to the Board of Trustees in May 2020. The board will then consider how to harmonize those recommendations with budget planning and campus and facilities planning before voting on a final strategic plan at its meeting in late June 2020. View the detailed timeline.
The committees were formed based on recommendations from the deans, Faculty Senate Executive Committee, strategic plan committee chairs, and other university leaders. The Office of the Provost also helped to ensure representation from across the schools on each committee as well as academic resources to support each committee.
There will be regular updates to the campus community about the plans, the major decisions the university faces and the planning process. This process will require many conversations and clear choices as the university sets priorities. The strategic planning process is an opportunity for all members of our community to engage in sharing their ideas and their hopes for the future of GW. You can check this site for updates, and university channels, including GW Today, will continue to share updates and opportunities to engage.
We encourage all members of the university community to follow the work of the committees, participate in campus discussions and share their ideas for moving GW forward.