All universities are testaments to their histories, both good and bad. One of the legacies of the organizational evolution of most universities is the division into separate subunits of distinct campuses, schools, departments, programs, etc. These organizational units are vital to assessing the quality of faculty activities, shaping coherent educational and research programs, and alerting the larger university to opportunities for advancement within fields. They also sometimes, however, act as brakes on reacting to new opportunities that combine approaches from multiple domains.
For many decades, Georgetown has organized the educational activities into three separate campuses, the medical center (the Medical School and the School of Nursing and Health Studies), the law center, and the “main” campus, which contains Georgetown College, the Walsh School of Foreign Service, the Graduate School, the McDonough School of Business, the School for Continuing Studies, and the McCourt School of Public Policy.
The medical center and the main campus are feet away from one another. Many students and some faculty have already informally worked out arrangements to collaborate across the boundary between the campuses. Students from the main campus serve as research assistants in laboratories in the medical center. Some graduate students from the medical center work in collaboration with faculty on the main campus.
Further, there is a small number of faculty who share their time between the medical and main campuses. Often this involves teaching activities at the main campus and research activities at the medical campus.
However, in my first year I heard many stories about a history of failed attempts to support faculty and students who want to take advantage of both campuses and have talents that would benefit Georgetown by working at both sites. So, last year, Howard Federoff (the Executive Vice President of the Medical Center) and I began periodic conversations about the issue. To our delight, he and I appear to be in complete alignment that the barriers to collaboration between the two campuses are a weakness of the institution that we should work to eliminate. We feel personal responsibility to act on this.
We don’t claim full understanding of the cultural impediments to collaboration, so we’ve agreed to designate a faculty and staff task force to identify those and help us identify ways to eliminate them. I’m personally hopeful that the new policies on joint appointments approved by the faculty (see Guidelines on Joint Appointments for Tenure-Line Faculty) will be helpful in this regard. Paralleling the faculty and staff task force will be a group of senior administrators from the two campuses that will identify any policies that need to be changed to support our colleagues who wish to contribute to the teaching or research activities on the two campuses.
Dr. Federoff and I understand that many will be skeptical that the impediments that prevented such collaborations in the past can be overcome. We can’t wait to prove them wrong.