It’s our time to define the Georgetown of the future … We want to identify creative ways—new packages, new educational programs—that use our creativity to address some of these challenges”
– Provost Robert Groves
The Designing the Future(s) Initiative supports curricular innovation as an inquiry into new ways for Georgetown’s educational practices to align with its institutional identity and values. This work is especially urgent in the context of the institution’s social obligations to serving as diverse a student body as possible, while living out its multiple missions in a competitive global landscape.
Committed to equity and a robust conception of educating the whole person in the 21st century, Future(s) uses iterative research and design processes to explore the expanding contexts of liberal and professional education, the well-being of students and faculty, and the ways in which higher education can renew its greater purposes and ultimately serve the common good.
We launched the Designing the Future(s) of the University Initiative in 2013 amid an unprecedented national conversation about the nature and value of higher education; in particular, our effort sought to address what a Georgetown education might look like 5, 10, or even 15 years into the future. Since then, the Initiative has evolved to focus on four driving questions:
How is innovation a crucial tool in the larger ethical act of institutional transformation?
We believe that innovation is imperative if we, as an institution, are to live up to our own values in a landscape marked by ever-expanding demands.
The focus of our innovation processes is structural variation: our goal is not to “disrupt” the institution’s core model so much as to generate nuanced iterations that enable us to reach our institutional potential more frequently and with greater efficacy. We believe that if we are to balance educational improvement with equity and costs, then we must innovate on the most basic structures of our educational model.
To this end, we actively support projects and pilots that break at least one rule: that is, they experiment with flexibilities around key dimensions of our educational model, such as the one-size fits-all 15-week semester, the nine-month calendar, the ways we count and bundle credits, how we count faculty load, etc.
We believe the most effective way to implement this kind of structural overhaul is through a three-pronged process, each component designed to address a particular aspect of the institution’s overall structure and function:
Top down permission to innovate (Board, President, Provost)
Grass roots creativity (Faculty, Staff, Students)
An R&D mechanism with the credibility to develop designs, convene stakeholders and clear obstacles (the Red House)
We support “game-changing” pilots that experiment with novel pedagogical techniques and expand the range of potential approaches to a Georgetown education. Our goal is to use structural innovation to revisit conventional assumptions about the nature and purpose of higher learning, and to explore alternate avenues that may better reflect the needs, values and standards of students today.
However, we are not seeking change for its own sake; rather, we introduce only those pilots and modifications that are grounded in a vision of integrative learning. The models that interest us are those that work to stimulate new kinds of connections—between students and faculty, between classroom study and experiential application and ultimately between individual enlightenment and broader social change.
This kind of structural innovation should help us move toward becoming a more integrated University, one with more flexible and agile structures, a sustainable cost model, and stronger connections among its otherwise disparate units. Implementing these multifaceted changes, we believe, will result in a more robust, more meaningful student learning experience across the board.
The Red House functions in a broader campus ecosystem with a long tradition of pedagogical innovation. In addition to the continuous innovation by faculty and departments, the campus is increasingly characterized by innovative projects emerging out of our schools, centers, and institutes.
Naturally, the execution of structural experiments, also depends upon the dedication and expertise of people throughout the campus who work tirelessly to support these efforts, such as the Office of the University Registrar, the advising deans, and the Office of Financial Aid.
All of the funding for Designing the Future(s) comes from philanthropy. Our success would not be possible without the support of Georgetown’s wider community of alumni, parents, and the stakeholder boards of the University, whose insight and generosity have allowed this work to take place.
Future(s) is our strategic institutional response to the widespread and noisy national conversation about the nature and value of traditional university education. Is college worth it? Will the university be disrupted by massive online education and the burgeoning Web-based options for learning skills and content? What is the long-term value proposition of a residential education that aspires to prepare students for a life of professional success, personal flourishing, and to make a difference in the world? Future(s) works with faculty across Georgetown’s schools and campuses to design innovative curricular programs three “interlocking and mutually reinforcing” aims of the university: the formation of our students, the scholarship of our faculty and the pursuit of the common good.
The Initiative is set in the context of two critical challenges:
1) The changing context of higher education (both liberal education and professional education). How can we can preserve the core strength of faculty-student interaction in the classroom and beyond it, while at the same time effectively integrating digital technology, collaborative research, experiential learning, interdisciplinarity and diverse global perspectives into the curriculum?
2) Costs. The greatest value of a Georgetown education resides in the most resource-intensive aspects of our model: small and medium-sized courses, faculty mentorship, a rich co-curriculum, and a diverse community. How can we ensure that the cost of acquiring the kind of education we value as an institution remains within the means of our whole population, equitably? How might variations and flexibilities within our curricular structures–in ways that do not compromise the core of our model–help make a robust education affordable into the future?
We launched the Designing the Future(s) of the University Initiative to address these questions not only through dialogue engaging the whole community, but also through active experimentation that could help us begin to address the questions about what a Georgetown education could look like 5, 10, and 15 years into the future. Read more about the themes that drive our work.