Nov. 5, 2002
Strategic Plan Takes Shape
Selective Academic Excellence Committee Establishes
a Strategic Framework, Announces Writing Program, Areas for Investment
Work is well underway on the development of the academic excellence
component of the comprehensive strategic initiative launched at the
start of the 200102 academic year.
The initiative, which will establish a three-to-five-year plan to guide
GW well into the 21st century, stems from an address by President Trachtenberg
before the Board of Trustees June 2001 retreat, during which he outlined
the Universitys need to retain our momentum and continue
our move into the ranks of the top-tier institutions.
One year later, a framework for the academic plan, including a model
for academic excellence, was presented to the Board of Trustees by Vice
President for Academic Affairs Donald R. Lehman. The structure outlined
ways to bolster GW baccalaureate programs through enhanced student engagement
and a reemphasis on writing. Lehman acknowledges that the Universitys
current reputation was built in part on strong masters- and doctoral-level
programs, particularly through law and medicine. So additional emphasis
will be placed on graduate studies in the form of selective investment
in academically excellent doctoral programs, a critical review of the
existing programs, and increased support for graduate students.
An important piece of the plan is the development of a targeted writing
program featuring an intensive freshman writing seminar and two-credit
writing workshops taken in conjunction with classes that have been designated
as writing development courses. The goal, according to the
strategic planning committee report, is to enable students to
express both general and discipline-specific information in written
form that is coherent, engaging, and readily comprehended by both lay
and professional audiences.
A writing program task force, co-chaired by Lehman and Columbian College
of Arts and Sciences Dean William Frawley, began meeting to build the
writing programs following the Board of Trustees meetings in October.
Shortly after the announcement of the strategic initiative, Lehman engaged
the faculty to develop proposals to recommend academic areas for additional
investment to enhance their growth toward excellence.
When speaking about the importance of getting the faculty invested in
the development of the new strategic plan, Lehman only needed two words
to describe it absolutely critical.
What it did for us was educate the community about what the plan
was all about, says Lehman. It got their commitment to the
plan, and it literally got them involved in the plan because they were
helping to set the directions within the departments and schools, and
many helped develop proposals for consideration.
A rigorous selection process was established to pare down the many proposals.
In the end 24 proposals reached the academic excellence committee. Seven
were selected on the basis of their academic assets, their use
of the resources of the Washington metropolitan area, and their involvement
with, or contribution to, undergraduate education. The committee
selected: GW Initiative for Excellence in Transportation Safety
and Security; Public Policy and Public Service at GW: Building
on Our Strengths to Achieve Greater National Distinction and Prominence;
The Sigur Center for Asian Studies; GW Institute for
Biomedical Engineering; Department of Political Science:
Proposal for Investment and Development to Promote Academic Excellence;
Excellence in History: A Challenging Undergraduate Curriculum;
and Distinguished Graduate Program Human Evolution at GW.
A second task force was formed to review the doctoral programs, and
it will consider nine criteria: faculty resources and the quality of
scholarship; student quality; clear mission; demand for the program;
employment opportunities upon graduation; success of the students in
the program; special resources required; cost of the program; and national
rankings. Lehman is co-chairing the committee with Associate Vice President
for Research and Graduate Studies Carol Sigelman. Together, with assistance
from the deans, they named to the task force people who have significant
experience with doctoral education and have a history of strong research
and scholarship. The committee is charged with reviewing all of the
existing doctoral programs against the criteria for the doctoral programs
plus the criteria used to select the academic excellence areas.
Well start by looking at the data from Institutional Research,
says Lehman. What we will end up with is a rank-ordered list of
doctoral programs. It will be similar to the competition for the areas
of investment and development.
Assessment of the plan throughout its development is vital and, according
to Lehman, it will be an ongoing process. Several benchmarks have been
established including: retention of undergraduate and graduate students;
increased student satisfaction; evolution of greater senior faculty
interaction with freshman students; observable improvement in undergraduate
writing; and national recognition of academic programs through
faculty fellowships, grant competitions, and student fellowships.
We are going to be constantly measuring what we are achieving,
says Lehman. Were going to measure outcomes and assess the
objectives, so at the end of each academic year well have an assessment
of our progress.
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