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2009 "State of the University" Faculty Assembly
October 30, 2009
Thanks, Don, for that introduction. This year, it will be your 14th, if I’m not mistaken, in your role as the university’s chief academic officer - as Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs. So on behalf of all of us I would like to extend thanks to you for that very distinguished service. And also, on a personal note - I have had a number of occasions to do this and I will have others in the future - but my appreciation for the support, advice, and guidance you provided me as the new President here at the university even before I was officially here in office. So thank you very much for that and we will have other occasions to celebrate your service as the academic year proceeds. Thanks once again.
I was asked when I was discussing topics with various colleagues for this year’s faculty assembly, there was a seeming interest in hearing me give something of a state of the university address. And I will be doing that, not in an entirely formal way, but I do want to give a slightly broader overview than I did, for example, last year when I focused on a single project, in fact, at a presentation here on one of our capital projects and how that fit in a broader context of the University’s 20 year plan for the development of the campus and the placement of academic buildings that we are envisioning going forward for a number of different purposes. In the queue, as you know, we are looking at new facilities for Science and Engineering, we are looking at new facilities for the School of Public Health and Health Services, there are projects for the law school that are being envisioned, but we have the spaces and the sites for them already laid out in our campus plan. That’s what we focused on last year. So this year I am going to be talking about what I think is going on in the university in general, picking up on some of the kinds of themes that Dr. Lehman was just talking about but set it in a slightly different context.
So I do want to begin by welcoming our new faculty, by congratulating the Bender award recipients. I think it’s very fitting that we begin each academic year - although this is happening a little later in the season than it sometimes does. We nevertheless are beginning officially the work of the Faculty Assembly with recognition of colleagues, particularly for their distinction in teaching.
As I think about the standing of the university, first of all is the question about how we are doing financially as an institution. At one point last year I had an occasion, because there are a lot of questions as a result of the somewhat dire reports that were emanating from other institutions. You may have heard, just yesterday, or the day before I think it was another article about one of our institutions in this country - actually Harvard - which had difficulties it had gotten into because of investment policy, and in this case having to do with investing operating funds in some rather, I guess you would say, risky ventures. And of course they, for many years, were very well known for their success in building up a substantial endowment. It remains a substantial endowment but nevertheless because of the illiquidity problems that the institution has faced along with many other U.S. institutions, they have had to institute some fairly draconian cuts in operations, they have had to do things like freeze hiring, and in some cases reduce staff.
We have not been in that situation, and you have probably heard this explanation several times, so I will try to give you a very brief version of it. It has to do with the fact that we did build up some cash reserves and very importantly we had a fairly conservative approach to our investments so that we were not in the kinds of complicated vehicles that some other institutions were involved in. We have not had to fund these capital calls, where you commit, you are allowed to participate in a fund because you commit to continue to pay into it for future years. We have not had those kinds of arrangements so we have not been stuck in that kind of situation.
On the other hand, that’s not entirely for good reasons, it’s also the fact that our endowment is sufficiently small that even a downturn in the market does not effect our operations very deeply, so it’s good news, bad news scenario. We actually fund 6% of our operations from our endowment payout, which if you look at the rolling average is about $60 million, and that’s a very small percentage of what we spend each year. Ideally we’d like that percentage to be larger, but on the other hand, the fact that it isn’t very large means that when we had our 20% - it sort of moves up and down – 15%, probably when you net everything out, loss of the endowment last year, it didn’t affect us very much. It was 15% of 6% of operations so you can see that’s not very substantial especially when we are continuing to generate new revenues through increased enrollments and of course through our fundraising activities. So we have been in pretty good shape, I’m going to come back to that because I think that despite the fact that we are in good shape this is a good opportunity for us to step back and take a look at the way we do business at the university because, although we are in good financial shape, we have very strong aspirations that we need to find ways of supporting. So again, I’ll be returning to that.
I do want to tell you however, that as a tuition-dependent institution there is no question that this past year has been a very good one for us financially because our enrollments are very robust. In fact stronger than we anticipated and, as many of you may know, we ended up very close to the cap on enrollment. We didn’t have that much growth in our undergraduate programs, but we did have substantial growth in graduate programs bringing us right up to the brim of exceeding that cap, which would be a problem with us because we do have an arrangement with the District of Columbia that in return for approving our 20 year plan - letting us have a zoning process that is somewhat expedited, letting us have, if we build new buildings or replace old buildings, letting us take that to a higher altitude than was possible in the past - actually enables us to add about a couple million square feet to this campus without having to cut into the green spaces and have additional crowding of the campus. But we can only maintain that relationship with the city if we honor our side of the commitment, which includes capping our enrollment and the reason we got so close to the cap was that we frankly anticipated a melt would occur over the summer and it didn’t happen. We had actually more applications last year than the previous year. We admitted the same percentage of students rather than cutting back because we expected that there would be a melt. And this widely discussed in the press among all universities and it didn’t happen over the summer so as a result we had to very quickly cut back on the number of transfer students we were going to admit and we had to move some programs off campus very expeditiously so that we could remain within that overall level. But the result was nevertheless financially beneficial because it meant that we had more tuition revenue coming in than we anticipated.
So we have done very well and we have to keep watching that because if you follow the news about the economy you know there was better than expected growth in the economy just reported yesterday - three percent, three and a half percent or something - surprising many people. On the other hand, job growth has not occurred at the same level. In fact it continues to decline, the rate may have slowed but that’s expected to last all the way perhaps through to the next year, and so that could affect the ability of families to be able to afford the education that we provide and there is also the question as to whether this availability of loans, especially for students whose families have taken out in the past home equity loans to help defray the cost of their educations. We may continue to see pressure on those fronts and that could have an affect on enrollments. We have to constantly be vigilant because we are so heavily dependant on enrollment, precisely because we don’t have the size of the endowment that we really should have as an institution of our size and distinction. And if you compare us with our peers, it’s the most glaring difference between us and many of our peers particularly when it comes to financial resources undergirding our student aid. It means that we have to take funds out of our general funds to provide student aid. We provide as much student aid as any one else. In fact, on some accounts we provide more than other institutions. But the problem is that we’re taking out of our tuition revenues and so we are having to raise our price to make it possible for people to afford to pay our price. And that, as you can hear it, that’s a bit of a crazy cycle that we are trying to work our way out of.
We instituted an affordability program when I first arrived - in fact I talked about this with the vice presidents the very first day I arrived - and you may recall it had several components, one of which was to moderate the growth of our tuition price and that has resulted in the fact, it was just recorded today in the CNN Money Magazine, just reported today - the rankings vary as the information varies - but we were placed at #5 - remember we used to be #1 - now we’re number #5. Ahead of us are Sarah Lawrence, which is not really comparable, but Georgetown is now the highest university and NYU is also above us. There’s an arts college in there somewhere. So if you look at our peer institutions we went from one to three. And you know I think it’s important that we get off the front page as the highest, most expensive university. In a way it’s a bum rap as I think you also know because we do have a fixed tuition, guaranteed aid program, and when you take that into account and you look at the 30 universities with which we most frequently compare ourselves, it probably moves us down to about 15th or 16th on that list in terms of the cost of a four or five year undergraduate education compared to those other institutions. But we had been number one in the sticker price and since that’s all that gets reported by the media, at least until the 7th or 8th paragraph of the story, it’s the only thing that people pick up on and it’s the reason why, it’s still the case when I meet people around Washington, or around the country they say oh yeah, that’s the most expensive university in the world or aren’t you the highest priced institution and you don’t want to have to explain – well yes, but not really, it’s not the story you would like to lead with when you are meeting potential supporters of the university. So I think we are making progress there.
I do want to come back to finance, not to report more on the details of our financial condition, but to talk about ways in which we are going to be developing resources to invest in our academic programs, the work that all of you do and I’ll come back to that at the end of this talk. But I want to start with just mentioning some highlights that you may or may not be aware of in a number of different areas in the university. Some successes, frankly, we have already had this academic year, and one that I think is pretty dramatic is that we discovered last week that we are ranked sixth among universities in the number of Fulbright awards that we received this year. That’s tied with Columbia and Harvard, just above us in that scale is Yale and just below us is Boston College. It’s pretty good company to be in, I think it’s fair to say. And we actually had the highest yield in terms of the percentage of wins for the number of applications that we use - I think it’s something like 23 out of 74 or something like that. But anyway it was a very high rate of yield and I think that tells you something about our - the nature of the university as an international university that is increasingly being recognized as a global university and increasingly active in that arena. But again, that’s the kind of company that we would like to see ourselves keeping.
You’ve heard a lot about our sustainability initiatives. When I first arrived I launched a task force on sustainability. I perceived this as an area of tremendous interest to our students, with a lot of faculty work going on in that area. We have some new colleagues today who are interested in working in that area. I met a number of those at the faculty reception and we had some representation among them here today among the new colleagues that we introduced. But I think it’s a critical issue because, frankly we won’t be competitive in recruiting students after a certain period of time if we are not recognized as an institution committed to sustainability. It’s actually one of the things the students ask, one of the questions they ask when they are looking at schools. And I have heard this report from many both admissions professionals and also from parents and from students themselves. It’s something they take very seriously. When I arrived we had just been ranked by something called the Sustainability Report Card from the Sustainable Endowments Institute. Our overall grade for the year I arrived was D+ and I’m happy to say - and it’s not a result of grade inflation - that our grade this year was B and I think that’s some significant progress. We went from D+ to C+ to B in just two years. Perhaps more important we were singled out in this report as a “Campus Sustainability Leader.” And, by the way, when they gave us that B it was because they gave us a grade of A in almost every category. We had an F in one category which was, as a private university, we weren’t willing to tell them all of the investments that we make with our endowment. We weren’t willing to tell them what companies we invest in. However, they gave us an A for our investment philosophy, so they liked the philosophy but we wouldn’t give the names of the specific companies they gave us an F in that, and that’s what pulled our grade down from an A to a B average. Still a fair amount of progress in a fairly short period of time.
Our Green Move-Out Program – as some of you know we have a program where students, when they leave at the end of the year have an opportunity to recycle all of their possessions that they don’t want but otherwise would be just left behind and discarded - received the Green Business Award for Innovation from the Washington Business Journal. So we are getting some recognition. As you know, we have been partnering with the District of Columbia, which I think wants itself to be a leader in urban sustainability. Of course important to all of you is the fact that we see this not only as an opportunity to be a responsible citizen in terms of the impact that we have on the environment around us, and not only as an important aspect of being competitive as an institution, but also as an opportunity to provide intellectual leadership because we are right here in the nation’s capital, with strong connections to the policy world, with growing strengths and growing visibility in science and technology. And if we put all that together this is an area I believe we can assume some very serious intellectual leadership and that will contribute to our growing stature as a research university. And we see that in the alternative energy unit that we are building on our Virginia Science and Technology Campus - our 100 acre campus in Loudon County in Ashburn - and we also see that in the creation in the Columbian College last year of the Solar Energy Institute and there are discussions going on right now with a large number of faculty about perhaps creating an umbrella initiative for our academic activities in sustainability that would make it possible for us to do cross-fertilization among all of those various areas in which we are working. We have strengths in the law school in environmental law, we have environmental engineering strengths, we have strengths in the business school, we have people interested in this field in public health and arts and sciences, in education. It really is one of the areas that pulls together the entire university and I think we have great opportunities for intellectual leadership there. And that’s ultimately the reason that a university like our university really ought to be in this field, along with all of the other benefits that I think it confers.
You have heard a lot over the years about our community relations, our relations with our neighbors, you know. Well I have to tell you we have made some progress and this is, I give a lot of credit to, Vice President Lorraine Voles who is our new Vice President for External Relations and her staff in community relations. I think you’ve met them - Michael Akin, and his colleagues - some of you have interacted with them. But we were just ranked among the top 25 best neighbors by a survey, which particularly noted the Center for Excellence in Public Leadership, which is an academic program within the College of Professional Studies. But for a broad range of factors we were ranked among the 25 best neighbors and I don’t think that would have always been our reputation and it was a lot of work that went on before I got here that contributed to that.
I wanted to mention some highlights among faculty activities, of course, as you can imagine this is entirely selective and just a smattering of examples and I could endlessly multiply. But I just thought you would be interested because I wanted to exemplify some of the range of things that are occurring at the university. So to begin with, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Cynthia Dowd, who received an NIH grant to develop a strategy to alter the structure of antibiotic molecules not previously examined. And this is for tuberculosis treatment. She works in partnership with researchers at the GW Medical Center and also at the National Institutes of Health.
Another example, Professor of Law John Duffy discovered a constitutional flaw in the appointment process for judges who decide patent disputes. And that flaw could have resulted in the invalidation of every decision made by the Patent Court over a period of about eight years. Well Professor Duffy’s discovery has resulted in the enactment of legislation to correct that flaw.
Professor of Political Science and International Affairs Henry Nau and Associate Director of the Sigur Center for Asian Studies Deepa Ollapally received a Carnegie Corporation grant to study world views of major and aspiring powers. Their study leverages the strengths of the Elliott School’s research centers and represents an important step, I believe, in developing the university’s relationship with the Carnegie Corporation. As a matter of fact, I met last Friday in New York City with Vartan Gregorian, some of you may remember him as the former President of Brown University, former head of the New York Public Library, now the President of the Carnegie Corporation, and we talked about several initiatives to the tune of actually several million dollars now being funded or contemplated being funded by the Carnegie Corporation, which now regards this university as one of its strongest partners in addressing international affairs. The Carnegie Corporation is one of the few foundations that still provides support for studying international conflicts and so on. Some others, such as the Ford Foundation, have kind of retrenched in that area somewhat. So this is an important relationship and it’s developing thanks to the initiative of those colleagues.
Associate Professor of Decision Sciences Denis Cioffi and Assistant Professor of Decision Sciences Homayoun Khamooshi published a study recently that used computer modeling software to investigate a range of issues involving wind, solar, and other energy sources. Their research is already guiding decisions by policy makers in what is, of course, a critical area of national investment.
Professor of Media and Public Affairs Steve Roberts recently published a new book, From Every End of the Earth, which tells us stories of 13 immigrant families from across the globe. At least half the families he profiles are connected to GW and Professor Roberts dedicated his book to his GW students for directing him to much of the book’s content.
Well, again, I am giving the spread of the different kinds of examples and one of the reasons that I have selected that range of examples is it illustrates, I think, what it means to be a research university. There is often confusion to the public mind about that because the assumption is that research means beakers and large magnets or whatever else the public imagination may envision going on at the Science and Engineering Complex. And we are doing that kind of work and intend to do more of it. However, we also make intellectual contributions across the range of disciplines and all of those are part of what it means to be a research university. And I think that’s illustrated by the work we are doing in addressing and bringing knowledge to bear on the solution of important problems from medicine to law to public policy in the humanities and certainly in the fields of science and technology.
Let me tell you a little bit again, giving you a survey of what is going on at the university, a little bit about the searches that are underway – university-level searches that are occurring. As you know, we are seeking a successor to Dr. Lehman. We also have three Dean searches currently underway and I think I want to recognize a few people in the room here. First of all, the search that began and is already underway for the School of Public Health and Health Services. I think we have the Interim Dean Josef Reum here. I think I saw him earlier; at least he was in the back of the room at one point. That search has a very strong committee and is already up and running. We had the announcement, just this month, of two retirements of very distinguished leaders of our institution. And I do want to recognize both Dean Mary Futrell and Dean Susan Phillips. I think they are both here today and thank them for extraordinary service in leading those two institutions - the Graduate School of Education and Human Development and the School of Business. Both Dean Futrell and Dean Phillips have very kindly agreed to stay on in their current roles, giving us time to find their successors without having the disruption of two transitions by having an interim. It’s great when people step forward to be interim deans, but if we could have this kind of arrangement when someone announces in advance then it gives us the ability to do the search while the current dean is still in office. Of course that makes the transition that much easier and smoother, so we are very grateful to both of them for helping us out there.
I want to talk a little bit about research because I mentioned the appointment of Vice President Lorraine Voles, which she joined us in February. Last April we were joined by the occupant of the newly created position of Vice President for Research, Dr. Leo Chalupa, who came to us from the University of California at Davis. A distinguished neuroscientist, I think it is fair to say he has really hit the ground running. He has already consolidated all of the university’s research offices on an entire floor of Rice Hall. I want to thank the many other offices that were very accommodating in allowing us to concentrate his offices in that area. He has, as you may know, launched a new grant supporting unit, which will help faculty write their grants. He is creating a center for entrepreneurship, which will help faculty bring their intellectual property to market, if they have an interest in doing that. And I know a number of colleagues do have that interest. And he has begun working with the deans and with faculty in identifying some crosscutting areas in which, bringing together the strengths of various departments across the university, we can have a real impact in visibility - perhaps in fairly short order - in some key areas. And I want to mention some topics he is already focusing on. And when I say that he’s focusing on them, it is important that this is the result of his very carefully going around from office to office, many departmental meetings, many meetings with individual colleagues in order to find out what’s going on in this - new to him - university, so that he could begin to develop some salient themes and then see whether they might have legs. In other words, whether this might be the kind of thing that would attract enough faculty interest and commitment and where we would have enough opportunities for external sponsorship, or just for bringing together strengths already here at the university that we could have an immediate impact and really produce something visible and powerful. And I’ll just mention the areas that he has identified so far. This is not by any means an exclusive list and it certainly isn’t meant to supplant other initiatives that were already underway before he arrived. And some of these had beginnings before he arrived, but he is involving colleagues in collective discussions to see if they might be taken to another level.
The first of these areas is that of autism, where we have strengths in medicine and a number of departments in the Columbian College and elsewhere and that we have a great deal of interest on the part of our collaborators with the institution that is really our pediatrics department here at the university, which is the Children’s National Medical Center across town. And Dr. Chalupa put together a committee of faculty on this campus and faculty in the Children’s National Medical Center to look at that. And they have already produced a report in very short order, which I think is an excellent piece of work in its own right and we are very interested to see how that might develop. We think this is an area that might be attractive to, not only to federal agencies like the National Institute of Mental Health, but also potentially to private donors.
Another area is computational biology and this grows out of discussions that we have been having with potential industrial partners in Northern Virginia in the area surrounding our Science and Technology Campus in Ashburn - where already have strengths in high performance computing, where we are developing that alternative energy group that I mentioned earlier, where we have been doing work for some years now in crash analysis transportation safety. By the way, we recently had another large grant renewal for that and we have another grant pending with the federal government. We will have to see how that goes. But that’s a possibility because computational biology is an area where we think we can put together our existing strengths with some support from private industry and have a very powerful presence in Northern Virginia in that area.
I have already talked about sustainability, and that’s another area I won’t say more about that except that Dr. Chalupa had a meeting - I think of about 30 colleagues last week – gathered from across the university to talk about ways of taking that effort to another level.
Science policy is another one. Here the idea is that to respond if we already have a national science policy unit – a very significant institute - that is in the Elliott School, but this is really focused on how we might provide guidance to the federal government so that when it invests as it does, enormous resources in scientific and technological enterprises, it does so not blindly but informed by the best possible scientific knowledge and also by policy expertise that we can bring together. And I think we have a unique opportunity to do that, but we will have to see how that develops in terms of faculty interest. But it is something that has emerged from a number of discussions that I have had and that others have had, not only within the university but with potential partners that surround us.
Energy, we have talked about a little bit already. And the final one I’ll mention is neglected tropical diseases. This has to do with the work of Dr. Peter Hotez in the School of Medicine. And as you know he focuses on developing vaccines that may successfully prevent some of the most debilitating diseases in the world, but often diseases that are neglected, certainly by the media, they aren’t very well known outside of the developed world, diseases like hookworm and schistosomiasis. These are diseases that he, I think, rather eloquently describes as diseases of poverty in two senses, both because they are caused by poverty, but also they are causes of poverty because they are so debilitating that they prevent people from being able to go out and work. And there are parts of the developing world where entire villages are infected with these parasitic diseases. What’s interesting about Dr. Hotez’s approach, and what makes it an example of this kind of broad cross-disciplinary focus that all these other areas have, is that he doesn’t just look at the basic science for producing the vaccines. He is also interested in the systems for manufacturing and distributing them because these are not vaccines for which there is a strong market in the pharmaceutical industry because they are frankly not profitable because these are diseases that affect the poorest of the poor around the world. So there is not much interest in developing them on the part of for-profit pharmaceutical companies. He does receive support from the Gates Foundation through the Sabin Institute that he leads here on our campus. But it’s another one of these areas that I think is attractive because it has a relation to economics and to public policy as well as a strong base in fundamental science. And so that’s another unit that Dr. Chalupa and - working with colleagues - is looking at.
We talk a lot about our research efforts and I just want to give you my general perspective on this. Some of you may have seen, and I wrote about it briefly in an op-ed piece that appeared in the Hatchet last week. And what I really was focusing on there was the fact that we have made tremendous progress as an institution, and you have heard Dr. Lehman give you some of the statistics that very clearly, unmistakably, and I think irrefutably, document the progress we have made in developing a competitive and selective undergraduate program, much larger than it was decades ago, certainly much more academically qualified than decades ago, and a lot of credit goes to my predecessors, both to Lloyd Elliott and to Stephen Trachtenberg, for that accomplishment. We also have developed really three campuses, but a strong campus presence here in Foggy Bottom that did not exist, again 20 – 30 years ago. And we will continue to make incremental progress in developing our strengths in that undergraduate program. We will continue to become more selective, I expect our applications will continue to grow. Washington, as you may know, is a hot city tied with Seattle as the hottest city for young people, something that surprises those who perhaps first visited this city 20-30 years ago, that it beat out San Francisco and New York as one of the two hottest cities in this latest Wall Street Journal survey. We will continue to be an attractive magnet for undergraduates, but if we are going to achieve the stature that I think is really our destiny as the largest university in the nation’s capital, we can only do that by matching our strengths at the undergraduate level with strength and distinction and powerful contributions in our graduate and research programs. And that’s what this aspiration to strengthen research is really all about.
At the same time there are other hallmarks of this university that I think are also important to pay attention to and remain faithful to. One of those is our mission of public service and that’s been in the news a lot. I will just very quickly tell you about a few things - highlights this year - that I think have been relevant to that. You all know that the First Lady, Michelle Obama, has challenged us to perform 100,000 hours of public service this year, and if we do that she will be our commencement speaker on the National Mall this coming May. I can guarantee you that we will hit that 100,000 hour marker even if I have to be out there the entire month of April cleaning up parks, but we will do that. What may interest you to know is that the Board of Trustees in its meeting just two weeks ago actually made an interesting decision. It voted unanimously that every member of the Board will put in 60 hours of public service by May 1st. That’s a pretty substantial commitment from busy people to put in a week and half of public service between now and May 1st. I was really struck by that because it wasn’t even really a debate - they were so excited and taken by this way in which the university is becoming known as a university committed to public service. And, of course, when we talk about being committed to public service, we mean not just what we do going out on a weekend to clean up a park. We also mean of course the many ways in which we contribute to addressing national and global problems through the intellectual work that all of you do as well as through what is done outside of, off the campus. Well, we announced that challenge at our Freshman Day of Service, in which 1,400 freshmen fanned out across the city. That took place on September 11th - that’s how we commemorated the September 11th attacks this year. There are opportunities for faculty, any of you who want to participate in this. If you do community service activities, and I know many of you are involved in volunteering as tutors, as leaders, coaches with inner-city youth, and so on, what ever that might be, if you want to report that you can go to our website for that purpose - serve.gwu.edu - and your hours will certainly count along with those of students and trustees and others who are involved in this.
We had, a couple of weeks ago, an event to launch a new award. This was the Colin Powell Public Service Award and General Powell, one of our distinguished alumni, allowed us to create this award in his name and we conferred the first one on a woman named Tammy Duckworth, a rather remarkable individual. She is currently serving as assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs. She’s an alumna of the University and an interesting fact – doing work in public health, she is actually working on a graduate program in public health. And she, however, was a combat helicopter pilot in Iraq, was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade, and managed to land the aircraft successfully so that the lives of her crew were saved. But she lost both of her legs in the process and she gave an extraordinarily moving speech. This was a ceremony that took place, what we called the Celebration of Service, and the venue was the Hall of Flags at the newly renovated National Museum of American History. It’s the space where the newly refurbished Star Spangled Banner is displayed, so you can imagine this is a very moving conjunction of things. And I think Colin Powell, after he heard her speak, he was supposed to make a speech himself, he was almost unable to do so because he was so moved and impressed by what Tammy Duckworth had to say. He did comment on this history, this tradition of public service at our university. On that occasion I announced the creation of the Center for Public Service and Civic Engagement. This is something that really grew out of the law school, an initiative last year in which Dean Lawrence, working with the Lerner family, created a new position in the law school. It’s the Lerner Associate Deanship for Public Service and Public Interest Law. And we managed to recruit for that position a very distinguished public interest lawyer named Alan Morrison, the creator of Public Citizen, an organization associated with the early work of Ralph Nader and some of you may be familiar with that. And I think Dean Morrison has really again, come in to the institution, has really hit the ground running. He’s gotten to know colleagues and schools across the university and he is one of the members of a faculty committee who has been working on creating this Center for Public Service and Civic Engagement. The idea is really to support the activities that our students and others are already involved in and give them more of an institutional focus and sort of a support structure and we are conducting a search for the Executive Director.
Well, with all these things going on I do want to come back to the question of resources. I announced in the same op-ed piece of which I talked about the reason that we need to match our strength as a selective undergraduate institution with a similar level of distinction and continual growth in research and intellectual contributions that we can make as an institution. I also announced the creation of something called the Innovation Task Force and I just want to comment briefly on what that is about and the whole rationale. I mentioned to you that our endowment currently generates about $60 million a year to support our operations. I titled that op-ed piece “Doubling the Impact.” What I had in mind was if we could find resources through a variety of means that would add up to an additional $60 million a year that we could invest in our academic programs, our academic priorities, if we could do that we would in effect be doubling the impact of our current endowment without having to raise $1.2 billion for the endowment to do that. Our plan is that over five years to move up to the level where we are able to spend an additional $60 million a year to invest in our programs, as if we went from on average $1.2 billion to on average $2.4 billion endowment.
I think that’s a pretty ambitious goal, but I do think it’s achievable and we are approaching this with really three different sources in mind. One of those of course is fundraising, and we are doing that anyway, but I want to clarify something which is that we are not going to count everything that we raise. We are already raising more than $60 million dollars a year, but that wouldn’t help us. If we had a gift, let’s say for an endowed professorship, somebody gives us $3 million to endow a faculty position, we wouldn’t count that whole $3 million toward the $60 million. We would only count the payout from it, five percent of that endowment is spent for current use. So we are talking about funds that would be available for new investments in our academic programs adding up to $60 million dollars. So it is a pretty ambitious program.
The second component is savings from streamlining our business processes. We are planning to have a system where we systematically book those savings and bank them so they don’t just get re-absorbed into our administrative processes. It is easy enough to find a saving one place and then let that money get spent in another administrative process. The point is to capture those savings, track them on a quarterly basis so that we know how much we are actually saving, and then make sure that it gets reinvested in our academic programs.
And the third is, for lack of a better phrase, what I will call productivity gains. What I have in mind is, for example, finding more efficient ways of using our existing facilities and campuses to generate resources that we can then reinvest. An example of this would be a laboratory that currently doesn’t have federal support. If you get a federal grant associated with an existing laboratory, you get what’s called indirect cost or facility administrative cost and that helps to pay what funds that would be otherwise coming directly out of our general funds, in other words our tuition revenues. So if we can do that we are freeing up more resources that we can invest and we can track that and quantify that.
I’ll give you some examples of what we have done so far. We have moved the Forensic Sciences program for Arts and Sciences to Mount Vernon over the summer. That freed up 79 full-time equivalent student spots from the Foggy Bottom campus that we can fill in behind. If we have additional students, for example, in master’s programs coming onto our campus who are located here, that’s additional revenue without adding any additional campus space, we are using our campus more efficiently and we are therefore having a productivity savings. Another example would be the Doctor of Psychology program, which we moved from leased to on-campus space and actually saved, that move alone saves $330,000 in rent per year. In energy, just between the last few months we have identified $950,000 in energy savings from an energy efficiency task force that’s working on this. That one really surprised me - in a very short period of time and that will be a recurring savings that we will be able to book every year. So that’s already a million and sixty that we are talking about without going into everything else that we are doing.
To accomplish the savings and productivity goals, those components of this, we have created something we are calling the Innovation Task Force. It’s being led by Jeff Lenn, the Associate Vice President, right over here. I think many of you know Jeff Lenn, he’s the overall head of this task force. The task force has a steering committee but then it has two branches, one focused on learning initiatives, the other focusing on business processes. And we constructed those in such a way that there is overlapping membership of faculty and staff on both of them. We didn’t put all of the faculty on the learning side and we didn’t put all of the staff on the business process side - we mixed them up so that we would have cross-fertilization between those perspectives. We are going, this is only going to work if we have your advice and input and those of everyone in the University community. There is a website that is being set up that will solicit ideas. You can send e-mail already to firstname.lastname@example.org. And we do want to track this and we will report to you on a regular basis. I don’t know of any other private university that is doing anything like this. And we are doing it not because we have to do it but because we can do it and if we do we will have more resources to invest in reaching our aspirations so we will be the greatest research university in this region, a world-class university fulfilling the dream of our founder to have a world-class university in the heart of our nation’s capital.
Let me stop there. And I think I have time for just a few questions. Any questions? Hearing none, let me invite the chair of the Faculty Senate - that’s Lilien Robinson - to give her remarks.