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Steven Lerman

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Interim business school dean Christopher Kayes led the school through its accreditation process this fall, which culminated with a campus visit this week. Photo courtesy of GW Media Relations.

The accrediting body of the School of Business has met with students, faculty and staff this week, the final leg of the school’s five-year review.

The site visit by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business is the last step in a years-long accreditation process, which evaluates the school’s status and mission and gives weight to the institution. The visit had been pushed back from November to give the school more preparation time after the unexpected firing former dean Doug Guthrie in August.

As the school prepared over the last few months, Provost Steven Lerman said administrators looked mainly at classroom objectives to “determine the extent to which the students have learned things that we claim are their educational outcomes.”

He said accrediting groups, like the business school association, are increasingly focusing on how well colleges are teaching students, rather than what resources colleges offer.

The school has recently expanded its learning assessments by testing students on material months after they learned it.

“If you said ‘this was the outcome,’ you ought to be able to downstream ask, ‘Are there ways to measure whether you’ve learned that or not?’” he said.

Christopher Kayes, the school’s interim dean, declined a meeting this month to discuss the school’s preparation for accreditation.

The school’s leaders completed a self-study for the business association last fall, which included three years of preparation and reports done by the school. Kayes asked the accrediting body to delay the site visit three weeks after Guthrie was fired so he would have more time to prepare the school.

Faculty said then that they feared the school’s accreditation would be in jeopardy. But after Kayes had been at the helm of the school for a few months, most said their concerns had blown over.

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Friday, Dec. 13, 2013 12:28 p.m.

GW to offer its first MOOC on the Federal Reserve

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The Federal Reserve is one of the least understood but most important institutions in the federal government. Students at GW and around the world will learn about it in the University's first massive open online course this year. Photo used under the Wikimedia Commons license

The Federal Reserve is one of the least understood but most important institutions in the federal government. Students at GW and around the world will learn about it in the University’s first massive open online course this year. Photo used under the Wikimedia Commons license

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Zunara Naeem.

GW announced its first massive open online course Friday – a non-credit class on the Federal Reserve that will likely launch next fall to boost the University’s academic brand.

Paul Schiff Berman, vice provost for online education and academic innovation, said GW chose to focus its first MOOC on the Federal Reserve because of the mystery and misconceptions surrounding the institution, which controls the country’s monetary policy with relatively little oversight.

“There really are very few institutions that are simultaneously so important, and so little understood as the Federal Reserve,” Berman said.

The course will draw from material from GW’s seminar series on the Fed, which included courses Fed chairman Ben Bernanke taught in the GW School of Business last year. It will also use an event with former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker and other material from academics and politicians in the course.

GW will begin to offer the course as the Fed reaches 100 years of existence. For much of that history, the central bank has been closed off from the public discourse, though that is beginning to change in the wake of the financial crisis.

The University will partner with Pearson Education, Blackboard and In The Telling, a documentary education information system, to produce the online course. Students will watch documentary film footage, see instructional tools and use interactives in the class, Berman said.

Universities around the world started offering MOOCs about two years ago, usually partnering with companies like Coursera or Udacity. The courses were initially heralded as a way to offer increasingly pricey higher education to the masses, but that frenzy has softened as students fail to finish the classes or meet learning objectives.

Berman has said that GW will offer a series of open online courses in some of GW’s strongest academic subjects, like politics and international affairs.

But the approach appears to take into account national skepticism about the effectiveness of MOOCs. The University will use the courses in a way that Provost Steven Lerman has said would be like a “PBS special.”

He said Friday that administrators do not see the course as the typical classes the University offers.

“It’ll have a feel and texture to it which is less like, ‘I’m going to a class,’ and more like some really good journalists got together and tried to intelligently explain the various aspects of the Fed’s operation,” Lerman said.

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Doug Guthrie told the Financial Times he was surprised at how quickly the University’s top officials fired him as dean of the School of Business. Hatchet File Photo.

GW School of Business students and faculty were not the only people shocked by administrators’ decision to fire Doug Guthrie as dean last week.

Guthrie defended his role in the $13 million of overspending, telling the Financial Times on Tuesday that he was “surprised by the suddenness” of last Thursday’s announcement.

He told the newspaper that it was well-known that the business school would be over its budget last year, and that the college was investing in online technology as part of the school’s long-term plan.

The business school started four online programs last year, partnering with the education company Pearson to provide peer-to-peer technology.

Provost Steven Lerman told The Hatchet last week that online programs and executive MBA programs contributed the most to the $13 million budget gap.

Lerman added that administrators did know that the school was spending more than their budget earlier in the year, but they  discovered $13 million budget gap this summer – much larger than they anticipated. “It was clear in the middle of the year that there was going to be more expenditure, but even additional money was found in closing,” Lerman told The Hatchet.

Guthrie did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Hatchet.

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The reception and help desks will be relocated to the entrance floor, from the basement floor. Sarah Ferris | Hatchet Staff Photographer

GW officially unveiled Gelman Library renovations Monday morning, showing off a glittering new entrance and expansive second-floor study space meant to modernize the 40-year-old building. A grand staircase now leads patrons to the building, instead of an opening that brought students downstairs into a “cave-like” atmosphere, as University President Steven Knapp had put it. As part of the $16-million renovations, students also will be able to find more space to work in groups, and new technology to aid research.

But the renovations are about six years in the making, after administrators, faculty and students pressured GW’s top brass to make Gelman a priority. Here’s a look back at how the Gelman renovations came to be.

Hatchet File Photo

2007: Plans outlined for library’s facelift

Gelman Library, built in 1973 during Lloyd Elliott‘s presidency, was flagged for renovations during GW’s sprawling 2007 Campus Plan. The plan, which also sketched construction for residence halls and the Science and Engineering Hall, put Gelman in a long line of GW priorities.

2009: Chief librarian says GW ignoring Gelman

Jack Siggins, who led Gelman until last summer,

Jack Siggins. Hatchet File Photo

admonished administrators and the Board of Trustees for failing to get specific on when they would begin dealing out funds to upgrade the library. He said library surveys had shown that students were fed up with a lack of study space and electrical outlets – and that Gelman had failed to keep up with GW’s expanded student body. “The senior administration of the University has other priorities,” he said. “This is not one of them.”

Plans for the renovations stalled again later that year because the library fundraising lagged.

The Senior Class Gift celebration. Hatchet File Photo

2010: Students step up to advocate for Gelman funding

Students began pressuring GW to accelerate efforts to refurbish the library – speaking up through student lobbyists, social media and their own wallets. About $31,000 of the money students raised for the Senior Class Gift was doled out to Gelman Library. Students took to Facebook to rally support for new library space, and Student Association leaders declared that advocating for more library funds would be their top priority.

2011: Board of Trustees allocates $16 million for Gelman renovations, blueprints unveiled

Renderings of Gelman renovations sat in the library in 2011. Hatchet File Photo

Gelman’s proposed renovations got an official green light in May 2011 when the Board of Trustees approved $16 million for the project. Administrators said they would pay for half of the project with fundraising dollars, though they would likely borrow and dip into their capital reserve fund to also pay for it.

Provost Steven Lerman said student demand for upgrades helped propel the project forward: “I wasn’t hearing from students or from faculty that we need a vast improvement in the collection. I was hearing the students say ‘We need better study space’ and they’re right. Gelman’s jammed, particularly around finals time.”

In fall 2011, GW revealed that the project would feature a new entrance in Kogan Plaza that would lead students up to the second floor of the building, which then housed administrative offices and event space. The work was done by Cox Graae + Spack Architects.

Gelman Library closed for two days in April due to sweltering heat. Hatchet File Photo by Delaney Walsh | Photo Editor

2013: Library continues to fight off funding issues, old age

As renovations to the new entrance floor of Gelman were winding down, the library still faced money woes in 2013. A pair of librarians from University of Virginia and Columbia University consulted on the library’s funding, telling a faculty committee that the library comes up short. Funding for the library’s collections has stayed at about $4 million for a decade.

“Apparently to objective outside observers, Gelman is in really, very bad shape and is in need of attention for funds for collections, as well as for staff, and so on,” English professor David McAleavey said at a Faculty Senate committee meeting in March.

In April, the library faced two days of shutdown, as temperatures inside soared to 90 degrees due to a failed cooling system.

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Eight top administrators, including University President Steven Knapp, jetted to China this week for talks with higher education and business leaders as GW looks to gain influence in the economic superpower.

The trip will send the GW delegation to the Fortune Global Forum, an elite business conference that will host the Chinese vice premier and top CEOs in the southwestern city Chengdu. The partnership is one of the growing number of ties GW is landing in China, as it has opened up graduate programs, courted students and garnered funds from the country. 

Knapp, along with three deans, three vice presidents and Provost Steven Lerman, will also visit Beijing universities like Renmin University and the University for International Business and Economics – trips that could develop into academic partnerships. The University also works with Renmin to provide a master of science in finance program, which launched two years ago.

Top officials will also participate in discussions on the Chinese economy and higher education system, as Knapp, Lerman, GW School of Business Dean Doug Guthrie and Elliott School of International Affairs Dean Michael Brown discuss U.S.-China relations with Chinese officials at an event in Chengdu.

The University signaled further interest in China by appointing GW School of Business Dean Doug Guthrie as vice president for China operations, bumping the young administrator up to one of the University’s top ranks. GW will also welcome a class of international freshmen that is highly concentrated in Chinese students, with 40 percent of the foreign population coming from the country.

The University pulled in $109 million from international students overall in 2011-2012, by far the most of any D.C. university, according to a report by NAFSA: Association of International Educators. Globalizing GW is one of the central tenets of the University’s decade-long strategic plan, as it looks to double the number of international students.

GW has continued to cultivate relationships with China this year through the opening of its Confucius Institute, which teaches language classes mostly to working professionals. The institute, funded by the Chinese government and used as a tool to spread soft power, named Knapp to its 10-member governing body last week.
The University’s global push hasn’t been entirely smooth, however. Administrators put the brakes this spring on an undergraduate program that would have allowed students to study on three continents – in D.C., France and China.
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Friday, May 17, 2013 3:13 p.m.

Honors society graduates get digital push

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Julian Panero prepares to sign his name in a book listing the newly inducted members of Phi Beta Kappa, the academic national honor society. Sam Klein | Photo Editor

This post was written by culture editor Karolina Ramos.

Information has never been more accessible to academia’s elite – but the next generation of academics was urged to tackle that as a challenge.

More than 100 seniors and 20 juniors were inducted Friday into Phi Beta Kappa in Lisner Auditorium, entering the society as the top 10 percent of GW students. The national honors society boasts members like author Pearl Buck, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, and GW alumna and commencement speaker Kerry Washington, who was inducted in the organization in 1998.

Provost Steven Lerman, a Phi Beta Kappa member himself, encouraged students to distinguish between knowledge and information in the “digital era” in his charge to the graduates, urging students to question the barrage of information available to them.

“Knowledge derives, in part, from information, but it really requires what I would call a discipline of the mind and a way of thinking critically about information and weighing its values,” Lerman said. “One of the great joys of the world of information is that it’s available, but the challenge, of course, is to continue to make sense of it.”

Assistant professor of honors and physics Bethany Kung regarded the inductees’ accomplishments as more than just a number on a 4.0 scale.

“Phi Beta Kappa membership implies a breadth of thought and challenge. These students have not focused single-mindedly on just one subject but have taken more intellectual risks,” Kung said. “These students represent not only the highest achieving students at GW, but also those who have chosen to make the very most of their undergraduate experience.”

Former D.C.-area Phi Beta Kappa Association President Christel McDonald encouraged the new members to wear their honors regalia with pride, recalling wearing her key, the society’s national symbol, to social functions in her youth. Honorees are presented with a key during the ceremony.

She urged students to connect face-to-face with fellow members both in the District and across the country.

“Instead of having 200, 300 friends on Twitter and Facebook and so on, you have gained half a million new friends, all people in Phi Beta Kappa, who are real people, intelligent people, and eager to meet you,” McDonald said.

In a time of exhaustive access to digital information, McDonald left the graduates with a promising reminder.

“If you ever lose [your key,]” she said, “you can always order another one online.”

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Provost Steven Lerman speaks at a strategic plan town hall last year. The provost led the creation of the decade-long plan, which the Board of Trustees approved Friday. Hatchet File Photo

The Board of Trustees unanimously approved the strategic plan Friday – the ultimate endorsement for a decade-long University blueprint that will almost immediately add big data research centers and begin to remodel admissions.

The nearly $400 million plan – sprinkled with big initiatives like remaking the core undergraduate curriculum and bolstering science and engineering education – has been a top priority for Provost Steven Lerman and University President Steven Knapp since administrators and faculty began hammering out details more than 18 months ago.

The final plan changed little from previous versions, and includes a call for GW to admit undergraduates the University as a whole instead of specific colleges. That shift, likely still a few years away, generated opposition from specialized schools like the Elliott School of International Affairs.

That plan will begin to take shape over the next year as the University looks to strip away requirements and “hurdles” for students to transfer between colleges, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Planning Forrest Maltzman said in an interview Friday.

Lerman added that a research center in genomics will launch over the next year to help complete a cluster of three institutes focused on studying science- and engineering-driven big data – a hot topic across higher education. The University will invest about $15 million in the project, he said Friday.

The plan also emphasizes aspirations to grow as a global University by doubling the number of international undergraduates and building more immersive study abroad programs. The most costly parts of the plan include up to $100 million for new faculty positions and $30 million to start new cross-disciplinary research centers over the next decade.

The University expects to pay for the plan’s initiatives partly through at least $300 million worth of fundraising and $45 million of cost savings through the Innovation Task Force.

The bulk of the plan tries to leverage GW’s strengths, like its D.C. location, against its competitor schools.

It mirrors other recent blueprints by top universities and follows trends in higher education, like tendency for American universities to chase international students, who typically pay full tuition.

The plan does not include a set strategy on digital course offerings like offering massive open online courses. It also does little to address rising tuition costs.

But it is also much broader that GW’s last strategic plan in 2002, which set the tone for GW’s attempts to ascend as a research institution and outlined more graduate aid.

What else is in store for GW’s next 10 years?

  1. Create cross-disciplinary minors in topics like AIDS, obesity and poverty.
  2. Launch more accelerated B.A./M.A. programs.
  3. Coordinate the Office of Study Abroad and the Career Center to idenfity more international work opportunities.
  4. Expand the faculty-in-residence program.
  5. Build more community and student space into residence halls.
  6. Recruit more top science, technology, engineering and math faculty.
  7. Create up to 50 fully funded graduate packages.
  8. Develop more cross-disciplinary graduate programs.
  9. Examine how to roll back the University’s policy against classified research to potentially build a facility on classified research at the Virginia Science and Technology Campus.

10. Renovate performing arts venues to draw top artists to campus.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013 7:07 p.m.

A sigh – and yodel – of relief for new Ph.D.s

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Doctoral candidates, left, wait to be called up to the podium to have their hoods formally presented by Provost Steven Lerman during the doctoral hooding ceremony. This ceremony honors the accomplishments they have made to acquire the highest earned degrees available in academia. Sam Klein | Photo Editor

This post was written by culture editor Karolina Ramos. 

Degrees in hand, doctoral candidates of the Class of 2013 exited the stage with vibrantly-colored robes and a call to pay it forward.

Over 250 students earned doctoral degrees in dozens of fields, ranging from public policy and special education to mechanical and aerospace engineering, Thursday at the Smith Center.

The hooding ceremony adorns graduates with brightly colored robes and hoods that signify their respective degrees. The practice was adopted to distinguish the most academically arduous curriculum from lesser degrees.

Delivering the charge to graduates, Provost Lerman called upon the graduates to become educators for later generations and to commit to public service initiatives.

Welcoming the graduates to a “community of scholars,” Lerman noted that only three percent of the population holds a doctoral degree.

“You carry the responsibility to teach the next generation of scholars. I urge you to find as many ways as possible to give back to formal education. That could be mentoring a colleague, going into teaching, tutoring, or bringing along people who may not have had the same opportunities and educating them,” Lerman said.

Lerman also encouraged the doctoral candidates to continually broaden their studies beyond their intensely narrow-focused dissertation work.

“You’ve now become some of the world’s leading experts in something. I charge you to bring that same intellectual curiosity to address larger world problems,” Lerman said. “The doctoral degree brings a responsibility to continue to renew yourself by exploring new areas outside of your dissertation work.”

The completion of rigorous and research-intensive coursework elicited relief and pride from graduates and family members. One audience member punctuated the ceremony with a yodel-like call for over thirty seconds as one graduate took to the stage, prompting audience-wide laughter and applause.

“I don’t know if I can even put into words what it means to me to finally be done,” Barbara Braffett, who received her doctoral degree in epidemiology, said. “It’s such an emotional day.”

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Adrian Sannier, Pearson’s senior vice president for product, said Friday at Jack Morton Auditorium that MOOCs are only signs of innovation to come. Scott Figatner | Hatchet Staff Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Asha Omelian.

Administrators and online education experts gathered Friday to hash out the future of free online education, agreeing that it was nearly impossible to gauge where massive open online courses would take universities.

At the talk in Jack Morton Auditorium, some of GW’s top officials cautiously embraced the power of MOOCs, which have swept across higher education as some of the best U.S. universities like Stanford and Harvard have advocated for them.

Provost Steven Lerman echoed his previous statements that the University would create a handful of MOOCs that showcase GW’s best qualities. He said he considers this a transformative moment in which new technology is being added to rather than displacing existing practices.

“Like all technology, MOOCs will find their place over time and evolve, and we will adapt to it,” he said.

P.B. Garrett, an associate provost and chief academic technology officer, called 2012 the year of disruptive technology.

“We don’t really know where the future of education is going. We’re making it up as we go along,” Garrett said.

The growing popularity of the free online courses – with companies like Coursera and Udacity signing with the most prestigious names in higher education – prompted The New York Times to dub last year “The Year of the MOOC.” Administrators around the country have debated whether the courses would disrupt universities’ tuition-based revenue streams and change how they teach students.

But the event, called “The Future of Higher Education: MOOCs and Disruptive Innovations,” also featured a lineup of MOOC skeptics.

GW School of Business Dean Doug Guthrie compared MOOCs to textbooks, claiming that they are just a new way of packaging technology instead of being a new and disruptive innovation. He said education should be focused on the community and interactions, not mass production.

Guthrie discussed the business school’s digital community, a suite of online degree and co-curricular programs that linked the school up with the education company Pearson. Guthrie was firm in stating that this program was not the same as a MOOC, and instead produced an “interactive experience, where the experience is individualized.”

Adrian Sannier, Pearson’s senior vice president for product, said MOOCs are only signals of innovation to come. But to be successful, the new technology needs a marketplace.

He said a major problem is that universities are trying to get into the business of making courses when they should be in the business of curating courses already created.

“The problem is people aren’t buying this stuff. We are still buying and assigning textbooks,” he said.

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Gilman Hall is the humanities hub at Johns Hopkins University. Ben Vinson, a vice dean there, will move to a Foggy Bottom office this summer, and earned praise from his colleagues Monday. Photo courtesy of Lester Spence and used under the Creative Commons License

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Mary Ellen McIntire. 

Faculty and administrators at Johns Hopkins University called the next dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences trustworthy and energetic, praising his ability to work with different academic departments.

Ben Vinson, vice dean for centers, interdepartmental research and graduate programs at Johns Hopkins, now oversees 19 centers and programs, including the Center for Africana Studies, which he led for four years.

Steven David, vice dean for undergraduate education at Johns Hopkins, said Vinson has worked to bring together disparate fields in the social sciences, humanities and natural sciences.

“He’s worked very well with the centers and programs at Johns Hopkins, getting them into a cohesive unit. Prior to his arrival the centers and programs existed more separately and he really brought them together and to be there for each other,” David said.

That reputation likely made him an attractive candidate for Provost Steven Lerman and University President Steven Knapp, who have highlighted increasing researchers’ interdisciplinary work as a key goal.

Ben Vinson is a renowned scholar in Latin American studies. Photo courtesy of the Office of Media Relations

When Vinson takes over for Peg Barratt and starts leading the Columbian College in August, he will juggle 42 departments, while spending at least 40 percent of his time fundraising. A member of Johns Hopkins’ history department, Vinson is a specialist in Latin American studies.

Franklin Knight, Vinson’s successor as director of the Center for Africana Studies, said his colleague strengthened the program by increasing its research output and partnering it with several outreach programs.

Knight said his predecessor “made the center work” by making it more visible on campus.

“There’s no doubt that we have a center which before Ben was nowhere near in terms of its activity and quality what he has [done]. And if the university continues to support it, that will be a lasting legacy,” he said.

While serving as the director of the program, Vinson attracted donors by starting a series of summer institutes and efforts to digitalize the archives of the Baltimore Afro-American Newspaper Morgue, Knight said. Vinson also created relationships with several community organizations and institutions while he was director, he said.

Knight emphasized Vinson’s ability to lead a “heavily science-oriented university,” despite his background in the humanities and social sciences. Johns Hopkins has led the nation for 33 straight years in research expenditures, pulling in $2.1 billion in medical, science, and engineering research in fiscal year 2011.

Vinson will guide GW’s science departments through the move into the Science and Engineering Hall when the $275 million building is complete in 2015. He will also be charged with increasing the college’s about $12 million in research expenditures.

“He’s a really quick learner. He does understand quite well what the differences are,” Knight said. “He has the capacity to go beyond his own discipline.”

Lerman said in an interview last week that the new dean would need “enormous interpersonal skills” and have a “proven track record of leading an organization.” The Columbian College dean is the school’s chief administrative officer, also in charge of duties like recommending tenure and controlling the school’s expenditures.

David described Vinson as low-key and a good listener, as well as compelling speaker. He said Vinson is able to work one-on-one with those who report to him in order to reach solutions.

“He’s not going to try and overwhelm or coerce you,” David said. “He really is interested in understanding the key points of others.”

David added that Vinson has also led graduate programs at Johns Hopkins, having handled a number of changes within the programs like increasing stipends for graduate students. About $12 million was allocated for graduate aid in Columbian College this year, a number administrators have said they hope to raise.

David said he believes faculty and students will respect Vinson for his achievements as an esteemed historian.

“I think what’s most important is integrity. He’s someone who is a straight shooter, will not lie, mislead or deceive,” he said. “He’s someone you can trust. And he’s someone whom I believe the faculty, staff and students will have confidence in.”

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