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Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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PAUL closes in Western Market
By Ella Mitchell, Staff Writer • April 22, 2024

Staff editorial: Plans for GW’s future should address its present

The GW community may not have a crystal ball, but officials are asking faculty, students, staff and alumni to predict the University’s future.

These “future-focused conversations” are the first step in creating a strategic framework for GW in the coming years, the first long-term plan since the tenure of former University President Thomas LeBlanc. But as we collectively ponder the state of GW — and the world — five to 10 years from now, let’s not lose sight of the issues currently facing the University.

Historically speaking, officials’ yearslong strategic plans tend to outline priorities that are as ambitious as they are abstract. Look no further than “globalization” and “interdisciplinary innovation” in 2012’s strategic plan, or “world-class faculty” and “high-impact research” in 2019.

As buzzword-y as they sound, these plans can radically transform the University if, or when, they come to fruition. From constructing new buildings to hiring new faculty to admitting new students, strategic frameworks shape the course of GW’s history.

And to their credit, officials are garnering feedback from faculty, students, staff and alumni. But how will the questions they’re asking help craft a concrete vision for GW’s future?

Ask students what frustrates them about the University, and answers will range from the eye-watering cost of attendance to stomach-churning dining options to not feeling supported on campus. That can’t be reduced to a one-word objective, and neither can concerns about pay rates and promotions, tenure, departmental funding or the various day-to-day issues facing GW.

By their nature, strategic plans miss the minutiae in favor of overarching goals. That shouldn’t stop GW from dreaming big — officials didn’t select University President Ellen Granberg because she’d keep everything the same. But those ambitions can only go so far when GW faces pervasive, ongoing challenges.

If GW becomes a world-class research center or commits to the principles of shared governance, for instance, it still faces the same problems both large and small. How can GW retain talented and dedicated faculty and staff, provide students with a job-ready education and contribute academic research to the wider world?

While officials aren’t directly asking these questions about the workforce, higher education and knowledge, they offer a clearer way forward than guessing about the future. It’s not strategy but tactics, not what GW should be but how it can get there.

Reinventing the University every five to 10 years is an impossible task, especially when circumstances beyond its control, from COVID-19 to global conflicts, can dash even the most thorough plans. So, why not strive to make the University a little bit better each year?

Officials — and faculty, students, staff and alumni — can only guess where they and GW might be years from today. But they can and should discuss the challenges they face and the solutions they need to implement now, not in some far-off future.

The editorial board consists of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s staff editorial was written by Opinions Editor Ethan Benn based on discussions with Contributing Culture Editor Jenna Baer, Editorials Assistant Paige Baratta, Contributing Social Media Director Anaya Bhatt, Contributing Opinions Editor Riley Goodfellow and Social Media Director Ethan Valliath.

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