"Six Big Ideas" task forces tackle budget

This week, The Lamron introduces the college's Six Big Ideas, a collection of six task forces committed to improving the college's financial standing and overall experience. Over the next six weeks, The Lamron will feature an article on each individual task force.

Administrators and faculty are collaborating in what President Christopher Dahl called, "Much more than an academic exercise" to address the current budgetary crisis through an initiative known as Six Big Ideas.

Six Big Ideas, created by Dahl in May, is a collection of six major strategic task forces dedicated to using creative strategic thinking "to meet economic austerity with strategic innovation," according to the project's Web site, go.geneseo.edu/sixbigideas.

The "ideas" include: bringing theory to practice, creating innovative five-year professional programs, expanding instructional delivery, rethinking the course load, creating a center for collaborative research and creating a center for strategic community partnerships.

"Each task force was charged with finding ways to improve the college and to generate new revenues or achieve efficiencies, or unify and enhance our most important activities as a public liberal arts college," Dahl said in his fall convocation address.

The task forces consist of 64 official members, 53 faculty and staff "colleagues" and two co-chairs. Currently, there are no student members on the task forces, but Dahl said he is considering their inclusion in the future.

Those not officially involved with the six task forces may follow their progress and offer feedback on an interactive forum hosted on the Web site. The site also features information about each of the task forces, RSS feeds and a link to the Six Big Ideas' Twitter account.

"Student participation in the discussion forum is highly welcomed, especially about things that have the most direct and immediate impact on them," said Paul Schacht, English professor and coordinator of the initiative. "As you can see from the Web site, I'm a big believer in crowd-sourcing. I think when you have a huge problem or a set of issues, the more minds that you can bring to take on the problems, the better off you are."

On Tuesday, Dahl responded online to the August interim reports highlighting the progress and plans of each task force. The forces will issue their final reports in December, after which they plan to disassemble.

"It is very often the case with an enterprise like this when that charge runs out to look for a way to continue since there is still work to be done," Schacht said. "But, by December, it might be the case that these forces need to take a different approach. The fate of the forces though, will become clear based on their final reports."

One of the forces, "bringing theory to practice," is a national project working to improve the high-impact, or transformational, learning experience present at colleges, which "underpins the work of all the other task forces," according to Schacht.

"If you look at the work that all the other task forces are trying to do, whether it be service-learning or collaborative research, these are all trying to bring about increased chances of providing a learning experience that doesn't just address students as minds sitting in chairs but changes who they are," Schacht said. "Therefore, this task force in particular is foundational to all the others."

While none of the task forces' proposals have specific deadlines for enactment, Schacht said that the adoption of the "rethinking the course load" task force's potential plan to change from five to four classes would produce visible changes on campus sooner than the other five.

Though awareness of the task forces is still limited, some students said they believe the forces will have a positive impact on the campus.

"I think the new task forces will be very beneficial to the college. I specifically am interested in seeing the college increasing partnerships in the community," said senior Rebecca Schwartz, a business major. "I believe that Geneseo students have the potential to act as excellent resources to the local schools and businesses. Increasing student involvement in community-based projects would not only benefit both parties, but would increase students' awareness of what is going on in Livingston County."

"I think [the six task forces] go to the heart of what we are and try to do as an institution," Schacht said. "It's always important for a campus to be reflecting on what its identity is and what its mission is. That should be an ongoing conversation … The work of the task forces gives us an opportunity to have this conversation with more participants and with greater intensity than we usually do."