A new student advisory committee to the Office of the Provost will establish a forum for student representatives to communicate academic issues directly with University Provost Robert Groves.
In an Oct. 24 blog post, Groves said that the committee will provide him with an understanding of student needs that he does not get by meeting with administrators.
“One of the great threats to being an effective provost is losing touch with faculty and students at the university,” he wrote in the post. “I think I’d do a better job if I had more regular contact with students so that I’m more informed about their reactions to the challenges and opportunities facing the university.”
Groves reached out to the Georgetown University Student Association and the Georgetown Graduate Student Organization to form a student advisory committee that will comprise approximately 14 representatives split evenly between undergraduate and graduate students.
GUSA representatives lauded Groves’ steps to reach out to the students and facilitate communication.
“This new provost is showing an unprecedented willingness to engage with students that we haven’t seen from this position before,” GUSA Vice President Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS ’13) said. “This committee is one of the demonstrations of his commitment.”
The presidents of the university’s four academic councils will occupy four spots on the committee. The remaining spots will be open to all applicants.
“I don’t want just people who are active in everything,” Groves told The Hoya. “I can get in touch with people who are really active. I’ve met with GUSA people a lot … but I’m not in touch with the person who is a little shy, who isn’t in a million activities but has real thoughts about this place.”
Groves said he plans to discuss students’ roles in the university’s initiative to enhance learning with technology and the barriers students face when attempting to take courses in other schools. He also hopes to use the committee to address concerns from the 2012 Student Life Report, which was published in April.
Kohnert-Yount pointed out that the committee will provide an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to exchange ideas.
“There are very few forums in which undergraduate and graduate students come together to discuss and share academic experiences,” Kohnert-Yount said. “A lot of undergraduate students are taught by graduate students as [teaching assistants], so I think a lot of our academic experiences and priorities are a lot more in common than we think.”
GSO President Paul Musgrave (GRD ’16) agreed.
“From the [undergraduate] perspective, [it is a way] to better appreciate how the research mission of the university has a claim on university resources,” Musgrave said. “For graduate students, it’s a way to be reminded of what the counter Georgetown institution is.”
Though both Kohnert-Yount and Musgrave identified the use of technology in the classroom as an important topic for discussion, they also said that undergraduate and graduate students would have different priorities.
“An issue that’s really near and dear to a lot of undergraduate students is the availability of cross-school classes and minors,” Kohnert-Yount said.
Meanwhile, Musgrave stressed the importance of strengthening research and teaching resources.
“For doctoral students, research opportunities and maintaining competitive funding package is really important. … For master’s students, a greater opportunity to engage in research and share their research is also really important,” Musgrave said. “The other dimension of being a Ph.D. student is learning how to teach, and the provost can engage with that through technology and education initiatives.”
Groves said that he hopes to reach out to students outside the committee through town hall meetings about issues the committee decides is important. He also plans to teach a class in either math or sociology the next academic year.
In his blog post, Groves also emphasized the committee’s role in providing student input in the development of academic policies.
“A student advisory committee to the provost’s office won’t by itself solve all the problems of the university,” he wrote. “It can, however, increase the odds that decisions at my level will be made with more insight into how students react to the different options facing the university.”