Crossroads Task Force Propose Future Plans for Goucher

Samuel Kessler
Staff Writer

President Sanford Ungar sent an email to the staff and faculty detailing the creation of a taskforce called Crossroads on January 4. In his email, Ungar describes Crossroads as “the second iteration” of Crossroads, a task force created in September 2011 by the suggestion of the Strategic Planning Group. Crossroads is formed from a mixture of trustees, faculty, staff, and ex officio members (who are members due to having another important role on campus), with some of the members returning from Crossroads. Returning members include President Ungar, Associate Professor of Education and Faculty Chair La Jerne Cornish ’83, Professor of Psychology Rick Pringle, now Chair of the Board Norma Lynn Fox ’76, and Chair Pierce Dunn. Meetings of Crossroads+ began in January.

The implementation of Crossroad’s proposals has already begun. One of its specific recommendations to increase revenue was to alter admission and financial aid policies to “need aware” rather than “need blind.” This college’s discussion of this proposition made known to Goucher students last semester. Another specific recommendation, increasing the number of masters programs offered by the school, is also currently under discussion. According to an email sent by Alena Wolflink and presented at the February 27 Student Government Association meeting, a proposal for creating more five-year B.A. and M.A combination degrees was presented at the February 2013 trustees meeting. This proposal would include the expansion of current graduate programs, as well as the addition of environmental studies and sciences programs.

Crossroad’s original purpose was to investigate revenue sources and recommend specific ways to increase revenue to the Board, soon, though, its role grew to include a multitude of suggestions and recommendations affecting diverse parts of Goucher, including the organization and use of faculty, academic offerings, and general finance issues. In October 2012, the Strategic Plan Implementation Strategy document noted that, in addition to the fundraising plan and revenue plans being affected by the Crossroads Task Force’s recommendations, the academic strategy plan originally due in May 2012 had been put on hold until the Crossroads Task Force had reported its findings. The plan, with Crossroads recommendations incorporated, is scheduled for approval in May 2013, and the recommendations were highlighted during the January department retreats, according to an email sent by Provost Marc Roy to the faculty and staff.

The task force has regularly met since its creation in September 2011, and gave preliminary reports of its findings at the board of trustees meetings in February, March, and May 2012 before they planned to give a final report of their findings at the October 2012 board of trustees, according to an email sent to the Goucher community in March 2012.

The task force released two separate reports of their findings and recommendations in November 2012, one to the faculty alone, one to the faculty and staff. The task force had a number of primary recommendations.

As might be expected, the report released to the faculty concentrated on academics. The task force set out three primary goals for the school academically: apprenticeship, innovation, and stewardship.

Apprenticeship is based on the idea that online learning has become pervasive. It suggests that Goucher should “place face-to-face, hands-on learning at the very heart” of the school’s educational experience. This would entail even closer relationships between faculty and students, blurring the lines between classroom, research, and life.

Noting Goucher’s need for new streams of revenue, the task force also suggested the need for a “culture of innovation.” The task force specifically suggested continuing the college’s emphasis of study abroad programs, positing that it was one of Goucher’s “differentiators.” The task force also recommended adding more summer and winter courses to the academic schedule, increasing the number of offered masters programs, emphasizing students’ careers, and combining online and in-class learning.  Finally, the task force proposed adding a “global, liberal arts degree program to prepare students for work and scholarship in international business, non-profit, and governmental settings,” which would involve more internships and the hypothetical increase in summer courses.

Stewardship of the school’s wider-ranging interests is also necessary, according to the task force. This involves the unification of the school’s wide-ranging offices and academic departments. According to the task force’s report the task force noticed that the college had “a pervasive insularity” that caused “significant financial costs.” To combat this reality, the task force recommended that yet another committee be created to address faculty governance. The task force also advocated for addressing size and number of faculty and academic departments as well as discussing how to make  “large-scale initiatives,” such as the study abroad program, more cost-effective.

The Crossroads Task Force report released to both the faculty and staff more directly emphasized the task force’s original goal of addressing revenue issues.   While the report’s long-term goals are similar to the report to faculty alone, this report has many short-term recommendations as well. These include increasing and streamlining undergraduate and graduate revenue sources by hiring a consultant of financial resources, altering the current “need blind” financial aid policy, recruiting more diverse students, making transfer of credit policies simpler, and increasing graduate programs. It also suggested attempting to increase the retention of student rates, philanthropy, and lowering the price of the study-abroad program.

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