Howard Forward: Envisioning the Future

Howard Forward

The University’s strategic plan outlines five over-arching priorities.

Being asked for his input on an expansive bid to reshape Howard University into an even more cutting-edge institution certainly has been an honor, said Amos Jackson, senior and Howard University Student Association president.

The insights he initially shared with a panel of university leaders, and again in his interview with Howard Magazine, were simple: “We can get caught up on funding for big research initiatives, projects at Howard Hospital, or various issues regarding campus infrastructure, but unless we make students and students’ views about academics and Howard’s mission the No. 1 priority, the rest of this discussion is null and void,” Jackson said.

As one of the students who participated in the Howard Forward Planning Committee, Jackson is excited about what the strategic plan will yield. The plan’s five pillars bear titles that mirror their mandate:

1. Enhance academic excellence

We will enhance academic excellence by supporting faculty, research and student development, academic rigor and retention, through strategic recruitment and continuous improvement of academic programs.

2. Inspire new knowledge

We will reward innovation in instruction, research, entrepreneurship, collaboration and capacity building that maximizes our impact, and challenges, enlightens and inspires our faculty and students to change the world.

3. Serve our community

We will serve our diverse community with high impact outreach and collaborative partnerships across divisions and beyond campus borders, while cultivating an atmosphere of inclusivity, wellness and civility.

4. Improve efficiency and effectiveness

We will improve efficiency and effectiveness with investments in upgraded technology and systems to promote process automation and strategic incentive programming for customer satisfaction metrics, while consistently delivering the highest quality products and services.

5. Achieve financial sustainability

We will achieve financial sustainability through revenue diversification, process optimization, asset management, fundraising and investment in high return business opportunities, communicating in transparency and operating with accountability, all while being good stewards of our resources.

“We are embarking on a forward trajectory that positions Howard University as a model of excellence, in a contemporary context across everything we do, from academics to operations to fulfilling our legacy and mission of truth and service,” said President Wayne A. I. Frederick (B.S. ’92, M.D. ’94, M.B.A ’11). “This plan outlines our bold strategy to provide a quality educational experience while also doubling down on our commitment to produce distinguished global leaders.”

Pillar Leaders Double Down

From creating additional streams of income to raising Howard’s existing profile as a first-tier research center to ensuring that Howard hones its core duty to educate its students, leaders of the five pillars of Howard Forward 2024—the University’s five-year strategic plan—said they’re razor-focused on the tasks at hand.

For Angela Cole Dixon, Ph.D., associate provost and professor of psychology, the student encounter is Howard’s most fundamental priority. “The heart of our mission is the educational experience and to ensure that it’s exceptional at all levels,” said Cole Dixon, who’s in charge of pillar No. 1. “We’re taking a really deep look, self-refl ecting. We will look at the alignment of our resources, student outcomes, and how well we are doing, with an eye toward making sure students have what they need. We will also take into consideration our areas of high demand, as well as student and faculty insights on what’s needed to be part of the 21st century workforce.”

What transpires outside the classroom also is critical to student development, said Parris Carter, vice president of student affairs and chief strategist for pillar No. 3. Stocking shelves at a food pantry, serving meals at a soup kitchen, helping to rebuild housing in storm-ravaged regions and other projects can immeasurably enlarge students’ humanity. But Howard plans to start calculating aspects of student volunteerism that can be counted. “It’s not just trying to tally the number of service hours and service projects. It’s more about seeing how much economic impact our service has,” Carter said. “What’s the value of that kind of human labor as a resource? If we are providing that service for several hours every weekend, what does that effort equal? Howard wants to be able to report out on the economic impacts and gather information on the work we currently do. By doing that, we will break new ground.” For an upcoming central databank on Howard’s outreach and impact, students will document and quantify their volunteerism. “Students will more clearly understand the impact that they have. When we can do that, it will help rally other students toward making truth and purpose a priority.”

A Mission-Minded Ethos

Sometimes, students’ community outreach efforts can help them clarify the professions they choose and why, Carter added.

Howard’s mission-minded ethos has long been inextricably tied to the fields of study the university makes available to students, said Sandra Crewe, Ph.D., dean of the School of Social Work and one of the campus leaders whose input was key to developing the strategic plan. As an example of that interconnectedness, she cited Howard’s relationship with a 50-unit housing complex reserved for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.

“We adopted that development because we want to make sure that those grandparents and grandchildren get the support they need,” Crewe said. “We had a holiday drive for those families and will work on a counseling initiative that will recognize and address trauma in those individuals because someone connected to those grandparents and grandchildren died or is incarcerated. This kind of thinking is in our DNA.”

“That dedication to serving the community,” student leader Jackson said, “is something students deeply believe in. That experience outside the classroom is very much part of what keeps us engaged.” Entrusted with the No. 2 pillar that aims to inspire new knowledge, Bruce Jones, Ph.D., vice president for research in the Office of Research, said that given the increasingly intense competition for research dollars, he aims to better diversify the research topics that faculty pursue. “Genomics, for example, is one cutting-edge medical science sector where I expect Howard to keep burnishing its brand. But, also in the areas of liberal and performing arts, social sciences and other disciplines.”

“All of our research in science, technology, engineering and math is critical, but so are other areas of research,” Jones noted. Referencing former Howard professors, he said, “Alain Locke, philosophy professor and head of the Department of Philosophy, said ‘the soul of a community comes from the arts and humanities; you don’t want to lose your soul.’ I get goosebumps thinking of him and Howard’s former Political Science Chairman Ralph Bunche and how to maintain that lineage. Their contributions are part of what will drive what we do to advance research that will improve the quality of life for individuals and communities across the country and around the world.”

Strengthening Processes and Revenue Streams

As leader of pillar No. 4, Annamieke Martinez, assistant vice president and deputy chief financial officer, said she will streamline the university’s overall processes, including those that support Howard’s researchers.

“We’re looking at how we can reduce the amount of time it takes for faculty to start their research after a grant has been awarded,” she said. “Broadly, we will look at workfl ows and how to keep it as simple as possible and work on how to mitigate risks to the university. We will also review how we handle procurement to determine if it’s necessary for everyone to be involved in this step. What value are they adding by physically signing off on something? Making processes easier for employees also means we’re making things easier for our students.” Reviewing how well Howard complies with its own governing rules—for example, how many students are allowed to enroll in a certain class—is also partly under her purview. It’s a critical assessment that she will undertake alongside Michael Glatzer, assistant vice president for project management and the person steering pillar No. 5, which focuses on financial sustainability.

Tuition, housing and other student fees are revenue streams that any university counts on, said Glatzer. But beyond those obvious student-generated monies, additional streams of income that Howard will protractedly go after include: (1) research and other grants to faculty, (2) fees generated by licensing Howard’s intellectual property, (3) corporate donations and revenue-generating partnerships and (4) revenue generated by leveraging, retrofitting and revitalizing Howard’s considerable real estate holdings in Washington, D.C. Howard’s prime location has many advantages. “When you think of our engineering and science programs and our nearness to Congress, the National Security Agency, and the National Institutes of Health,” Glatzer said, “it’s not a giant leap to say that Howard stands to benefit from our proximity to those institutions. Every major law firm in the world has a presence in Washington, D.C., which means opportunities abound for our students to partner with fi rms and eventually get hired by them.”

Moving Forward

Although the strategic plan is still in its infancy, some essential tasks have already been tackled. For instance, with several of Howard’s buildings ripe for renovation, their revamp will occur with the marketplace of ideas and potential jobs for Howard graduates in mind. “We’re not simply replacing things with a newer version of what was. We want to improve upon and be more strategic about how we use our real estate. How can we be more nimble? How can we cross-pollinate different disciplines? When it comes time to renovate, how do we think about what a business lab or multimedia room should do or how they can be repurposed so that students and faculty get what they need from multipurpose spaces,” Glatzer said.

As the strategic planning continues, Jackson and other students will zero in on their community work just as they look acutely at what Howard does to bolster its bottom line. “If we don’t have the finances, we can do none of this work. So, we’d like to see improvements all around—an enhanced academic experience. Turn up the quality of advising, provide the right resources and just take away any of the stress that students might face. Howard Forward is really, really important.”

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