University Selects New Centers of Strategic Excellence
Language Instruction, Podcasting Among 13 Targeted Areas
By Jamie L. Freedman
The new year started on
an exciting note at GW, with the University announcing the selection of 13 areas
of excellence earmarked to receive substantial funding over the next several years, thanks to a special $4.5 million endowment payout. The Board of Trustees approved the investment
to help propel GW to the next level of academic excellence, in accordance with the University’s strategic plan.
GW’s latest round of targeted program investment comes on the heels of a highly successful, multiyear initiative launched in 2003 providing valuable support to seven academic signature programs (see related story, page 4). Proposals, solicited from across the disciplines, were subject to a rigorous review process by a seven-member panel of deans and faculty members.
“We received an outstanding group of proposals,” says Donald R. Lehman, executive vice president for academic affairs, who oversaw the process. The criteria were stringent, requiring all candidates to address a specific goal of the University’s Strategic Plan for Academic Excellence in their proposals, as well as to identify substantial matching funds from their own budgets.
Thirteen proposals emerged victorious—eight submitted by faculty members and five directly by the deans. “In all evaluations, the bulk of the emphasis was placed on whether the proposed investment would address the goals of the strategic plan and enhance the University’s prestige and reputation,” says Lehman.
The five winning proposals submitted by the deans—funded as strategic initiatives—will pump
additional funds into the University Writing Program, language instruction, international initiatives,
an electronic classroom at Gelman Library for the University Writing Program, and podcasting. The eight selected faculty proposals—coined the new signature programs—include Discovering and Interpreting the Diversity of Life; Urban Inequality: Costs, Consequences, and Policy Responses; Systems Biology: Virus-host Interaction; Doctoral Study in Special Education; Institute for
Corporate Responsibility; Institute
for Integrating Statistics in Decision Sciences; Center for Biomimetics and Bioinspired Engineering (COBRE); and High Performance Computing Technology and Applications.
Two new GW centers will emerge from the winning proposals: COBRE, directed by Rajat Mittal, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and the Institute for Corporate Responsibility, directed by Timothy Fort, Lindner-Gambal Professor of Business Ethics. “In the last few decades, much of the focus in engineering has shifted to small, multi-functional machines, technologies, and devices,” explains Mittal. COBRE’s goal is to facilitate and develop infrastructure for interdisciplinary research and education in the rapidly growing area of biomimetics and bioinspired engineering. The Institute for Corporate Responsibility will focus on four programs: peace through commerce, environmental sustainability, corporate governance, and global stakeholder strategies through scholarship, research,
conferences, and global partnerships with business and government.
The deans’ strategic initiatives spotlight some of the hottest topics in academia today. A dozen GW classrooms are now podcast enabled through Colonial Cast, sponsored
by GW’s Academic Technologies in conjunction with Apple Computer’s iTunes U, making it possible for students to access lectures and related videos 24/7 on their iPods, MP3 players, and personal computers. Academic Technologies, which is carefully monitoring the use of the podcasts by students to assess improvements in learning, says the number of courses participating in Colonial Cast will double or triple this spring.
A second state-of-the-art electronic classroom currently is under construction in Gelman Library to provide instruction in research and writing techniques to students in the University Writing 20 (UW20) and Writing-in-Discipline (WID) courses. Gelman Library was allocated a one-time endowment payout of $250,000
to cover construction costs of the
e-classroom, which will be operational next fall. The acclaimed University Writing Program also is the recipient of funds to increase the number of WID courses and maximize training and support.
GW is poised to catapult to
the forefront of foreign language instruction through Columbian College of Arts and Sciences’ language instruction initiative. Funds will help bolster language instruction at GW by creating a technology-based
language center and adding 15 foreign language faculty specializing
in Arabic, Chinese, French, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and American Sign Language. “High-level foreign language instruction
is critical to providing a top-notch undergraduate education at GW as
a global university delivering core competencies,” says Lehman.
International initiatives also received top billing among endowment-funded programs, with the Elliott School of International Affairs receiving money to strengthen graduate education, research, engagement, and advancement. “In the area of graduate education, the funds will support an expansion of our recruitment efforts for all 11 master’s programs, plus provide additional support for staff and program activities, helping us to better serve our 650 graduate students,” says Elliott School Associate Dean Kristin Lord. The funds also will support the launch of two new research institutes— focused on the Middle East and on international security and conflict—and a signature lecture series analyzing topics such as the future of democracy.
Another new institute arising from the University endowment payout is the Institute for Massively
Parallel Applications and Computing Technology (IMPACT), an interdisciplinary faculty team spanning the School of Engineering and Applied Science and Columbian College that will conduct research, educational, and outreach programs in high-
performance computing, known
This year, $2.4 million of the special endowment funds will be allocated, shored up by matching funds of nearly $1.9 million. The remaining $2.1 million will be targeted toward strategic hires of senior faculty beginning in the fall. “Selective hiring of top faculty in our areas of strength will add stature, depth, and visibility to our programs,” says Lehman.
“Selective excellence is ultimately about building prestige and propelling GW into the ranks
of top-tier research institutions,” Lehman explains. “These types of high-impact investments pay off,
as shown by the strength of our seven original signature programs. Thanks to the many things we’ve accomplished over the past 20 years under President Trachtenberg, we’re poised to become one of the nation’s preeminent research universities.
It’s an exciting time for GW.”
Over the next 13 months, each issue of ByGeorge! will examine in-depth one of the new strategic initiatives.
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