Board Orientation eBinder_Peggy Farnham_2023-03-06_FINAL

Create successful ePaper yourself

Turn your PDF publications into a flip-book with our unique Google optimized e-Paper software.

<strong>Board</strong> Member <strong>Orientation</strong><br />


March 6, <strong>2023</strong>

<strong>Board</strong> Member <strong>Orientation</strong><br />

Dr. <strong>Peggy</strong> <strong>Farnham</strong><br />

March 6, <strong>2023</strong> (via Zoom)<br />

led by<br />

- Steve Triezenberg (President and Dean of VAI Graduate School – VAIGS)<br />

- Juan Olivarez (Member and Chair of the VAIGS <strong>Board</strong> of Directors)<br />

- Thomas Curran, Jr. (VAI General Counsel and Corporate Secretary to the VAIGS <strong>Board</strong> of Directors)<br />

1. Organizational structure:<br />

a. VAI, VARI, VAEI and VAIGS<br />

i. *Organizational Chart<br />

ii. *VAI leadership team<br />

b. Nature of “charitable trust” for VARI and VAEI, VAI as supporting organization<br />

c. Relationship of VAIGS as “member” to VAEI, and operationally to VARI<br />

d. *Articles of incorporation (rev. 2017) / *bylaws / *corporate governance guidelines<br />

(also available on <strong>Board</strong> portal)<br />

2. <strong>Board</strong> members, duties, and expectations:<br />

a. *Directors’ Biographies<br />

b. *<strong>Board</strong> members terms of service<br />

c. *AGB Statement on Fiduciary Duties of Governing <strong>Board</strong> Members [J. Olivarez]<br />

d. *AGB Statement on <strong>Board</strong> Responsibility for the Oversight of Educational Quality [J. Olivarez]<br />

e. Liability and indemnification [T. Curran]<br />

f. *Form 990 disclosure questionnaire [T. Curran]<br />

g. *Schedule of meetings and remuneration<br />

h. Key contacts: Susanne Miller-Schachinger, Laurie Beardsley<br />

3. History of program development and implementation:<br />

a. Mission, vision, philosophy, values<br />

b. Student recruitment, instructional model, completion rate, time to degree, placement<br />

c. *Strategic Plan 2019-2025<br />

d. *Faculty roster, *Student roster, *VAIGS Staff members<br />

e. Accreditation status, process; access to accreditation reports on <strong>Board</strong> portal<br />

4. Discussion of individual skills, knowledge, and experience, as applied to <strong>Board</strong> [J. Olivarez]<br />

5. Web portal for <strong>Board</strong> access and archives<br />

a. *Web portal reference guide (sent via email)<br />

* Attachments included in <strong>eBinder</strong>

BYLAWS<br />

OF<br />


(the "School")<br />

A Michigan Nonprofit Corporation<br />


1.1 Registered Office. The registered office of the School shall be located at the<br />

address specified in the Articles of Incorporation or at such other place as may be determined by<br />

the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors if notice thereof is filed with the State of Michigan.<br />

1.2 Other Offices. The business of the School may be transacted at such locations<br />

other than the registered office, within or outside the State of Michigan, as the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors<br />

may from time to time determine, or as the business of the School may require.<br />


2.1 Composition. The sole Member of the School shall be the Van Andel Education<br />

Institute, a Michigan charitable trust u/a/d October 16, 1996, Jay Van Andel, Granter (the<br />

"Trust").<br />

2.2 Transferability. Membership in the School shall be freely transferable only by<br />

action of the Member.<br />

2.3 Place of Meetings. Meetings of the Member shall be held at the registered office<br />

of the School or at such other place, within or outside the State of Michigan, as may be<br />

determined from time to time by the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors; provided, however, if the Member's<br />

meeting is to be held at a place other than the registered office, the notice of the meeting shall<br />

designate such place.<br />

2.4 Annual Meeting. Annual meetings of the Member for the purpose of electing<br />

Directors, appointing officers and for such business as may come before the meeting shall be<br />

held at such time as may be fixed by the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors, or at such other time within the four<br />

(4) months succeeding the end of the School's fiscal year as may be designated by the <strong>Board</strong> of<br />

Directors and stated in the notice of the meeting. If the annual meeting is not held at the time<br />

specified, the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors shall cause the meeting to be held as soon thereafter as is<br />

convenient.<br />

2.5 Special Meetings. Special meetings of the Member may be called by the<br />

President or the Secretary and shall be called by one of them pursuant to resolution therefor by<br />

the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors, or upon receipt of a request in writing, stating the purpose or purposes<br />

thereof, and signed by the Member.

2.6 Action by Member Without a Meeting. Any action which is required to be taken<br />

or which may be taken at any annual or special Member meeting may be taken without a<br />

meeting, without prior notice, and without a vote if the Member consents thereto in writing.<br />


3.1 <strong>Board</strong> of Directors. The business and affairs of the School shall be managed<br />

exclusively by a <strong>Board</strong> of Directors. The number of Directors shall be not less than four ( 4) nor<br />

more than twelve ( 12) as specified by the Member from time to time. Directors shall be elected<br />

for three (3) year terms with approximately one-third of the <strong>Board</strong> being elected each year.<br />

Directors shall be elected by the Member at each annual Member meeting. Directors shall serve<br />

until their respective terms expire and until their .successors are appointed or until their earlier<br />

resignation or removal.<br />

3.2 Chairperson and Vice Chairperson. The Chairperson shall preside at all meetings<br />

of the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors and shall perform such other duties as are determined by resolution of<br />

the <strong>Board</strong>. The Vice Chairperson shall preside at meetings of the <strong>Board</strong> and shall perform the<br />

duties of the Chairperson in the event of the Chairperson's inability or refusal to act. The Vice<br />

Chairperson shall also perform such other duties as from time to time may be assigned by the<br />

<strong>Board</strong>. The Chairperson and Vice Chairperson shall be elected by the Member at each annual<br />

Member meeting.<br />

3.3 Resignation and Removal. A Director may resign by written notice to the<br />

Secretary of the School, which resignation shall be effective upon receipt by the School or at a<br />

subsequent time as set forth in the notice. Any Director(s) or the entire <strong>Board</strong> of Directors may<br />

be removed, at any time with or without cause, by action of the Member acting with or without a<br />

meeting.<br />

3.4 Vacancies and Increase in Number. Vacancies on the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors<br />

occurring for any reason, including an increase in the number of Directors, may be (but is not<br />

required to be) filled by the Member. A Director elected to fill a vacancy occurring for any<br />

reason, including an increase in the number of Directors, shall hold office until the next election<br />

of Directors or until his or her earlier resignation or removal.<br />

3.5 Place of Meetings and Records. The Directors shall hold their meetings, maintain<br />

the minutes of the proceedings of meetings of the Member, the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors, and<br />

committees of the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors and keep the books and records of account for the School,<br />

in such place or places, within or outside the State of Michigan, as the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors may<br />

from time to time determine.<br />

3.6 Annual Meetings. The annual meeting of the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors shall be held at a<br />

place and time to be determined by the Member. If such meeting is not so held, whether because<br />

a quorum is not present or for any other reason, or if the Directors were elected by written<br />

consent without a meeting, the annual meeting of the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors shall be called in the<br />

same manner as hereinafter provided for special meetings of the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors.<br />

3.7 Regular Meetings. Regular meetings of the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors may be held<br />

without notice at such time and place as shall from time to time be determined by the <strong>Board</strong> of<br />


Directors. Any notice given of a regular meeting need not specify the business to be transacted<br />

or the purpose of the meeting.<br />

3.8 Special Meetings. Special meetings of the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors may be called by<br />

President or the Secretary and shall be called by one of them on the written request of the<br />

Member or any Director, upon at least two (2) days written or e-mail notice to each Director, or<br />

twenty-four (24) hours notice, given personally or by telephone. The notice does not need to<br />

specify the business to be transacted or the purpose of the special meeting. Attendance of a<br />

Director at a special meeting constitutes a waiver of notice of the meeting, except where a<br />

Director attends the meeting for the express purpose of objecting at the beginning of the meeting<br />

to the transaction of any business because the meeting was not lawfully called or convened.<br />

3.9 Quorum and Vote. A majority of the members of the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors then in<br />

office constitutes a quorum for the transaction of business, and the vote of a majority of the<br />

Directors present at any meeting at which a quorum is present constitutes the action of the <strong>Board</strong><br />

of Directors unless the vote of a larger number is specifically required by the Articles of<br />

Incorporation or these Bylaws. If a quorum is not present, the Directors present may adjourn the<br />

meeting from time to time and to another place, without notice other than announcement at the<br />

meeting, until a quorum is present.<br />

3.10 Report to the Member. The <strong>Board</strong> of Directors shall cause a financial report of<br />

the School for the preceding fiscal year to be available for distribution to the Member within four<br />

(4) months after the end of each fiscal year. The report shall include the School's statement of<br />

income, its year-end balance sheet and such other statements or reports as the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors<br />

shall deem appropriate from time to time.<br />

3.11 Corporate Seal. The <strong>Board</strong> of Directors may authorize a suitable corporate seal,<br />

which seal shall be kept in the custody of the Secretary and used by the Secretary.<br />

3.12 Compensation of Directors. Directors as such shall not receive any salaries for<br />

their services, but by resolution of the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors a fixed sum and expenses of attendance<br />

may be allowed for attendance at each regular or special meeting of the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors.<br />

Nothing herein contained shall preclude any Director from serving the School in any other<br />

capacity and receiving reasonable compensation therefor.<br />

3.13 Committees. The <strong>Board</strong> of Directors may designate an executive committee<br />

consisting of one or more members of the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors. At all meetings of the executive<br />

committee, a majority of the members of the committee shall constitute a quorum and the act of a<br />

majority of the members present at any executive committee meeting at which there is a quorum<br />

present shall be the act of the executive committee. The executive committee, to the extent<br />

provided in said resolution, shall have and may exercise the powers of the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors in<br />

the management of the business and affairs of the School, and may authorize the seal of the<br />

School to be affixed to all papers which may require it.<br />

The <strong>Board</strong> of Directors may designate one or more additional committees which shall<br />

have such powers and duties as may be determined by the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors. All committees<br />

shall keep regular minutes of their proceedings and report to the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors when<br />

required.<br />


3 .14 Meeting by Communication Equipment. Members of the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors, or<br />

of any committee designated by the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors, may participate in a meeting of the<br />

<strong>Board</strong> of Directors or committee, as the case may be, by using a conference telephone or similar<br />

communications equipment by means of which all persons participating in the meeting can<br />

communicate with each other. Participation in a meeting pursuant to this section shall constitute<br />

presence at the meeting.<br />

3.15 Action Without a Meeting. Any action required or permitted to be taken pursuant<br />

to authorization voted at a meeting of the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors, or any committee thereof, may be<br />

taken without a meetiQg if, before or after the action, all members of the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors, or<br />

such committee, consent thereto in writing. The written consent shall be filed with the minutes<br />

of the proceedings of the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors or co .. :;nittee and the consent shall have the same<br />

effect as a vote of the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors or committee for all purposes.<br />


4.1 Officers. The officers of the School shall be a President and Chief Executive<br />

Officer (herein referred to as the "President"), a Treasurer, and a Secretary, all of whom shall be<br />

elected by the Member. Each officer shall hold office until his or her successor is elected and<br />

qualified or until his or her earlier resignation or removal.<br />

4.2 Appointment of Officers. The Member shall, at its annual meeting, appoint the<br />

President, Treasurer, Secretary and any other office designated by Member. The Member shall<br />

select such officers from a list of candidates provided by the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors to the Secretary<br />

no less than thirty (30) days before the date of the Member annual meeting. The <strong>Board</strong> of<br />

Directors shall nominate at least one candidate for each office. If the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors does not<br />

provide a listing of candidates to Member as provided above, or if Member elects not to appoint<br />

any of the listed candidates for a given office, M~mber shall make such appointment after<br />

consultation with the Chairperson of the <strong>Board</strong>.<br />

4.2 Other Officers and Agents. The Member or <strong>Board</strong> of Directors may appoint such<br />

other subordinate officers and agents as it may deem advisable, who shall hold their offices for<br />

such terms and shall exercise such powers and perform such duties as shall be determined from<br />

time to time by the Member or <strong>Board</strong> of Directors. The Member and <strong>Board</strong> of Directors may, by<br />

specific resolution by each, empower the President or the executive committee, if such a<br />

committee has been designated by the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors, to appoint such subordinate officers or<br />

agents and to determine their powers and duties.<br />

4.3 Removal. The President, the Secretary and the Treasurer may be removed at any<br />

time, with or without cause, but only by the affirmative vote of the Member. Any Assistant<br />

Secretary or Assistant Treasurer, or subordinate officer or agent appointed pursuant to Section<br />

4.2, may be removed at any time, with or without cause, by action of the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors or<br />

by the Member or by the committee or officer, if any, empowered to appoint such Assistant<br />

Secretary or Assistant Treasurer or subordinate officer or agent.<br />

4.4 Compensation of Officers. Compensation to be paid to the officers for services<br />

rendered to the School shall be reviewed and approved by the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors. Nothing<br />


contained in this section shall be construed to preclude any officer from serving the School in<br />

any other capacity and receiving additional compensation therefor.<br />

4.5 President. Unless the Member shall determine otherwise, the President shall be<br />

the chief executive officer as well as the chief operating officer of the School and shall have<br />

general supervision, direction and control of the business of the School as well as the duty and<br />

responsibility to implement and accomplish the objectives of the School. In the absence of the<br />

Chairperson and the Vice Chairperson, the President shall preside at all meetings of the <strong>Board</strong> of<br />

Directors. The President shall perform such other duties as may be assigned by the <strong>Board</strong> of<br />

Directors.<br />

4.6 Treasurer. The Treasurer shall have custody of the School's funds and securities<br />

and shall keep full arid accurate account of receipts and disbursements in books belonging to the<br />

School. The Treasurer shall deposit all money and other valuables in the name and to the credit<br />

of the School in such depositories as may be selected by the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors. The Treasurer<br />

shall disburse the funds of the School as may be ordered by the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors, or the chief<br />

executive officer, taking proper vouchers for such disbursements. In general, the Treasurer shall<br />

perform all duties incident to the office of Treasurer and such other duties as may be assigned by<br />

the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors.<br />

4.7 Secretarv. The Secretary shall give or cause to be given notice of all meetings of<br />

the Member and of the Directors and all other notices required by law or by these Bylaws;<br />

provided, however, that in the case of the Secretary's absence or refusal or neglect to do so, any<br />

such notice may be given by any person so directed by the President or by the Directors, or by<br />

the Member upon whose requisition the meeting is called, as provided in these Bylaws. The<br />

Secretary shall record all the proceedings of the meetings of the Member and of the Directors in<br />

one or more books provided for that purpose, and shall perform all duties incident to the office of<br />

Secretary and such other duties as may be designated by the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors.<br />

4.8 Assistant Treasurers and Assistant Secretaries. Assistant Treasurers and Assistant<br />

Secretaries, if any shall be appointed, shall have such powers and shall perform such duties as<br />

shall be assigned to them by the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors or by the officer or committee who shall<br />

have appointed such Assistant Treasurer or Assistant Secretary.<br />

4.9 Bonds. If the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors shall require, the Treasurer, Assistant Treasurer<br />

or any other officer or agent of the School shall give bond to the School in such amount and with<br />

such surety as the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors may deem sufficient, conditioned upon the faithful<br />

performance of his or her respective duties and offices.<br />


5.1 Contracts. The <strong>Board</strong> of Directors may authorize any officer or officers, agent or<br />

agents to enter into any contract or execute and deliver any instrument in the name of and on<br />

behalf of the School, and such authority may be general or confined to specific instances.<br />

5.2 Loans. No loans shall be contracted on behalf of the School, and no evidences of<br />

indebtedness shall be issued in its name, unless authorized by a resolution of the <strong>Board</strong> of<br />

Directors. Such authorization may be general or confined to specific instances.<br />


5.3 Checks. All checks, drafts or other orders for the payment of money, notes or<br />

other evidences of indebtedness issued in the name of the School shalJ be signed by such officer<br />

or officers, agent or agents of the School and in such manner as shall from time to time be<br />

determined by resolution of the <strong>Board</strong> of Dfrectors.<br />

5.4 Deposits. All funds of the School. not otherwise employed, shall be deposited to<br />

the credit of the School in such banks, trust companies or other depositories as the <strong>Board</strong> of<br />

Directors may select.<br />


6.1 Fiscal Year. The fiscal year of the School shall be fixed by resolution of the<br />

<strong>Board</strong> of Directors.<br />

6.2 Notices. Whenever any written notice is required to be given under the provisions<br />

of any law, the Articles of Incorporation or by these Bylaws, it shall not be construed or<br />

interpreted to mean personal notice, unless expressly so stated, and any notice so required shall<br />

be deemed to be sufficient if given in writing by mail, by depositing the same in a post office<br />

box, postage prepaid, addressed to the person entitled thereto at his or her address as it appears in<br />

the records of the School, and such notice shall be deemed to have been given at the time and on<br />

the day of such mailing.<br />

6.3 Waiver of Notice. Whenever any notice is required to be given under the<br />

provisions of any law, or the Articles of Incorporation or these Bylaws, a waiver thereof in<br />

writing, signed by the person or persons entitled to said notice, whether before or after the time<br />

stated therein, shall be deemed equivalent thereto.<br />

6.4 Voting of Securities. Securities of another corporation, foreign or domestic,<br />

standing in the name of the School, which are entitled to vote may be voted, in person or by<br />

proxy, by the President of this School or by such other or additional persons as may be<br />

designated by the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors.<br />


These Bylaws may be amended or repealed or new Bylaws adopted onJy by action of the<br />

Member.<br />

Effective as of<br />

October Zb , 2010.<br />

WNJDMS4807457-3<br />




Van Andel Institute Graduate School (VAIGS) is incorporated with the State of Michigan as the<br />

wholly-owned, non-profit subsidiary of Van Andel Education Institute (VAEI). VAIGS operates<br />

under the authority of VAEI which delegates the governance of the Graduate School to the VAIGS<br />

<strong>Board</strong> of Directors.<br />

The following Corporate Governance Guidelines (Guidelines) set out the rights and responsibilities<br />

of VAEI, as the sole member of VAIGS, and of the VAIGS <strong>Board</strong> of Directors and its officers.<br />

These Guidelines are intended to supplement and not supplant the VAIGS articles of incorporation<br />

and bylaws (collectively, the “Governing Documents”). To the extent there is a conflict between<br />

these Guidelines and the Governing Documents, the Governing Documents will control.<br />

The paramount concern of the Member and the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors in adopting these Guidelines is<br />

that clear and effective governance of the organization will advance the ability of VAIGS to fulfill<br />

its mission of preparing biomedical research scholars through a graduate program in cell and<br />

molecular genetics with emphasis on translation of this knowledge and technology to improve<br />

human health and well-being.<br />

Member<br />

Van Andel Education Institute (“VAEI”) is the sole member of VAIGS.<br />

A. Rights and Responsibilities. VAEI holds the membership interest in the corporation. The<br />

business and affairs of VAIGS shall be managed exclusively by the VAIGS <strong>Board</strong> of Directors.<br />

B. Member Representative. One member of the VAIGS <strong>Board</strong> of Directors shall be a Trustee of<br />

VAEI and shall represent VAEI as the Member of VAIGS.<br />

C. Member Actions. The following require action of the Member:<br />

1. amending the articles of incorporation or bylaws;<br />

2. electing directors as provided in the Bylaws;<br />

3. removing a director, if the Member deems necessary;<br />

4. electing officers including the Chairperson, Vice Chairperson, President, Treasurer and<br />

Secretary.<br />

<strong>Board</strong> of Directors<br />

A. <strong>Board</strong> Responsibilities. The business and affairs of VAIGS are managed exclusively by its<br />

<strong>Board</strong> of Directors. The <strong>Board</strong> of Directors of the Graduate School shall have charge, control

and management of the business, property, personnel, affairs and funds of the School and shall<br />

have the power and authority to do and perform all acts and functions permitted to an<br />

organization described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Code. The <strong>Board</strong> of Directors ensures that the<br />

corporation serves the public good and exclusively operates for the charitable and educational<br />

purposes. Further, the <strong>Board</strong> fulfills its duties by performing the following acts either directly or<br />

through assignment to <strong>Board</strong> committees with <strong>Board</strong> oversight.<br />

The <strong>Board</strong> of Directors is the governing body and “holds the future and mission [of the school]<br />

in trust.” (Max De Pree in “Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer<br />

<strong>Board</strong>). In order to hold this trust, Directors should have a passion for the mission of the<br />

graduate school and its excellence. Directors will shape the vision for the Graduate School, plan<br />

for a successful future, ensure excellence, monitor the progress of students and encourage the<br />

staff and students in their study. The <strong>Board</strong> is expected to bring understanding of biomedical<br />

education and research and be advocates for the school in the various communities of the<br />

School.<br />

The specific expectations of the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors are as follows:<br />

1. Strategic<br />

a. set the mission and affirm the vision for the Graduate School;<br />

b. review and approve the strategic and operational plans, which requires that the <strong>Board</strong><br />

develop a depth of knowledge of scientific academia; understand and critically evaluate<br />

the assumptions upon which such plans are based; and reach an independent judgment as<br />

to the probability that the plans can be realized;<br />

c. monitor the performance of the Graduate School against the strategic and operational<br />

plans, including oversight of the operating results on a regular basis to evaluate whether<br />

the organization is being properly managed;<br />

d. ensure the quality of the educational experience, and that the structures, policies, and<br />

resources of the Graduate School are sufficient to sustain that quality;<br />

e. make any substantial changes in the organization structure of the corporation;<br />

f. comply with the Bylaws, which set forth the primary rights and duties of the Directors<br />

and provide the procedural framework for the operations of the <strong>Board</strong>;<br />

2. Procedural<br />

a. meet regularly (at least once annually) as provided in the Bylaws. Directors may<br />

participate in meetings in person or by electronic means (e.g., video conference or<br />

teleconference). Actions may be taken by the <strong>Board</strong> outside of a regular or special<br />

meeting only through unanimous written consent, which may be obtained by<br />

videoconference, telephone, or email. Such actions will be recorded with the minutes of<br />

the subsequent regular or special meeting of the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors.<br />

b. provide a comprehensive written and oral annual report to the VAEI Trustees;<br />

c. regularly (at least monthly) inform and advise the VARI Trustees and/or executive staff<br />

to ensure effective collaboration and governance.<br />

3. Employment<br />

a. select and appoint the Dean (as President and Chief Executive Officer of the school),<br />

contingent on ratification by the Member<br />

b. approve the Dean’s selection of other senior officers<br />

VAIGS Corp Govenance Guidelines 2017 clean Page 2

c. monitor and evaluate the performance of the Dean, and recommend appropriate<br />

compensation (including annual bonus incentive plan targets and outcomes, if any)<br />

d. as necessary, replace the Dean (on ratification by the Member) and other senior<br />

executives and ensure ensuring management succession<br />

4. Financial oversight<br />

a. review and approve the financial objectives, plans, and actions of VAIGS, including<br />

significant capital allocations and expenditures<br />

b. approve draft and final audited financial statements and tax returns;<br />

c. review and approve material transactions in the ordinary course of operations, including<br />

but not limited to incurring indebtedness, giving a guarantee, a letter of credit, mortgage,<br />

security interest, and/or pledge, and otherwise incurring or assuming a contingent or<br />

non-contingent liability<br />

5. Intellectual Property<br />

a. approve any change in the logo or trade name of the Graduate School;<br />

b. establish and uphold policies governing the registration and protection of patents and<br />

other intellectual property, and approve the content of the procedures for filing any<br />

necessary application, in a manner congruent with the intellectual property policies of<br />

Van Andel Institute<br />

c. assign, license, or limit the corporation’s right to any intellectual property owned or<br />

possessed by VAIGS in a manner congruent with the intellectual property policies of<br />

Van Andel Institute;<br />

6. Ethical and Other<br />

a. ensure ethical behavior of the Graduate School and its executive leadership, including<br />

compliance with laws and regulations, auditing and accounting principles, the<br />

corporation’s own governing documents and all accreditation standards<br />

b. assure that the <strong>Board</strong> makes decisions based upon adequate information and free from<br />

conflicts of interest<br />

c. approve any transaction involving a material conflict of interest on the part of a <strong>Board</strong><br />

Member or Officer of the Graduate School<br />

d. assess the <strong>Board</strong>’s own effectiveness in serving its governance oversight role and<br />

fulfilling these and other board responsibilities<br />

e. provide a comprehensive written and verbal annual report to the Member<br />

f. perform such other functions as are prescribed by law or assigned to the <strong>Board</strong> in the<br />

corporation’s governing documents<br />

B. <strong>Board</strong> Composition and Terms. Member of the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors are appointed by the VAEI<br />

<strong>Board</strong> of Trustees for three year terms. The terms of the Directors shall be staggered to ensure<br />

continuity on the <strong>Board</strong>. Typically, the <strong>Board</strong> comprises seven members representing different<br />

interests and bringing different gifts as follows:<br />

1. One representative from VAEI <strong>Board</strong> of Trustees<br />

2. One representative from Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) <strong>Board</strong> of Trustees<br />

3. One representative from West Michigan colleges and universities<br />

4. One clinician from the local medical community<br />

5. One representative of the national biomedical research and graduate education community<br />

VAIGS Corp Govenance Guidelines 2017 clean Page 3

6. One life sciences investigator from a research-intensive university in the state of Michigan<br />

7. The chief scientific officer of VARI<br />

C. Individual Director Duties<br />

1. Rights and Responsibilities -- The primary rights and duties of Directors are set forth in the<br />

corporation’s bylaws. Individual Directors do not have the authority to bind the corporation<br />

in their role as Directors.<br />

2. Fiduciary Duties -- Under common law for directors of Michigan nonprofit corporations,<br />

and congruent with best practices for governing boards of institutions of higher education,<br />

individual directors owe to the corporation and its shareholders, Member and fellow<br />

Directors the fiduciary duties of due care, loyalty, and obedience.<br />

a. The duty of due care requires that a director carry out his or her obligations to the<br />

Graduate School with the same degree of diligence, care and skill that an ordinarily<br />

prudent person would exercise under similar circumstances, acting in a manner he or she<br />

believes to be in the best interest of the corporation.<br />

b. The duty of loyalty requires that a director exercise his or her duties in a manner which<br />

best serves the interests of the Graduate School rather than the personal interests of the<br />

director.<br />

c. The duty of obedience requires that a director fulfills his or her role in such a way as to<br />

ensure that the Graduate School operates in furtherance of its stated mission and<br />

operates in compliance with relevant law.<br />

3. State Law—Under State law, directors of nonprofit corporations must discharge their duties<br />

in good faith and with that degree of diligence, care, and skill which an ordinarily prudent<br />

person would exercise under similar circumstances in a like position. Thus, each director<br />

must act as a reasonable person, charged with overall responsibility for the corporation,<br />

would act under similar circumstances. All actions of a director are guided by the underlying<br />

principle of acting in good faith and in the best interests of the corporation.<br />

D. <strong>Board</strong> Officers and Committees<br />

1. Officers -- The Member will appoint a Chairperson, a Vice Chairperson, a President and<br />

Chief Executive Officer, a Treasurer, and a Secretary. The <strong>Board</strong> will provide the Member<br />

with a list of candidates for officer positions.<br />

2. Rights and Responsibilities – The officers are required to implement the policies set by the<br />

<strong>Board</strong>. The chief executive officer is the President (also the Graduate Dean) who also<br />

serves as the chief operating officer of VAIGS. The President provides general supervision,<br />

direction, and control of the operations of VAIGS and has the duty and responsibility to<br />

implement and accomplish the mission and objectives of the organization. The rights and<br />

duties of corporate officers are set forth, and limited by what is set forth, in the Bylaws.<br />

3. Executive Committee – The officers will constitute an Executive Committee and have the<br />

authority to appoint committees of the <strong>Board</strong> as needed. The Executive Committee will be<br />

the only standing committee; all others will be appointed for specific purposes and time.<br />

VAIGS Corp Govenance Guidelines 2017 clean Page 4

Approval and ratification<br />

1. The <strong>Board</strong> of Directors Mandate (Mandate) was initially approved by the VAIGS <strong>Board</strong> of<br />

Directors on May 4, 2005. The original Corporate Governance Guidelines were adopted on<br />

May 16, 20<strong>06</strong>.<br />

2. These Corporate Governance Guidelines combine the Mandate and original Guidelines into<br />

a single, revised document that have been acknowledged and accepted by the VAIGS <strong>Board</strong><br />

of Directors in March 2017.<br />

VAIGS Corp Govenance Guidelines 2017 clean Page 5



James B. Fahner, M.D.<br />

Dr. James B. Fahner is medical director of philanthropy education and provider<br />

well-being at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan.<br />

Dr. Fahner previously served as the founding Division Chief of Pediatric<br />

Hematology/Oncology and Senior Administrative Physician for Philanthropy and<br />

Community Relations at HDVCH. He also holds appointments as Associate<br />

Professor in the Department of Pediatrics/Human Development at Michigan<br />

State University and Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics<br />

and Communicable Diseases at the University of Michigan.<br />

Dr. Fahner completed his undergraduate degree, M.D., pediatric residency,<br />

and pediatric hematology/oncology fellowship at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.<br />

His deep commitment to community and agency service includes the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors of the Helen<br />

DeVos Children’s Hospital Foundation, the Spectrum Health <strong>Board</strong> Committee for Helen DeVos Children’s<br />

Hospital, Chairman of the Hospice of Michigan Foundation <strong>Board</strong>, the Van Andel Research Institute <strong>Board</strong><br />

of Trustees, and <strong>Board</strong> Chairman of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Michigan. Prior activities include the<br />

Michigan Community Blood Center Foundation, the West Michigan Ronald McDonald House, and<br />

President of the <strong>Board</strong> of Education for Forest Hills Public Schools. Dr. Fahner is Past Chairman of the<br />

<strong>Board</strong> of Hospice of Michigan and serves on the Executive Committee of the Grand Rapids Clinical<br />

Oncology Program.<br />

Dr. Fahner is the recipient of the Children’s Miracle Network Miracle Maker Award, the Philip McCorkle<br />

Child Advocacy Award, the Hillman Award and the Crystal Rose Award from Hospice of Michigan.<br />

Mary X.D. O‘Riordan, Ph.D., Vice Chair<br />

Dr. Mary O’ Riordan is the Associate Dean for graduate and postdoctoral<br />

studies at University of Michigan Medical School. She also serves as the<br />

Frederick C. Neidhardt Collegiate Professor and professor of microbiology and<br />

immunology. Dr. O’Riordan oversees graduate education and postdoctoral<br />

training in the Medical School and works with the Office of Medical Student<br />

Education to explore opportunities for graduate and medical student program<br />

coordination. She also represents the Medical School in its interactions with the<br />

Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies and provides guidance and<br />

support to student and postdoctoral organizations such as the Graduate<br />

Student Council and the Association of Multicultural Scientists.<br />

She received a Master of Arts in molecular biology from Princeton University and her doctorate in<br />

immunology from the University of California, San Francisco. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship<br />

at the University of California, Berkeley, she joined the faculty at the University of Michigan in<br />

20<strong>03</strong>.Throughout her years on the faculty, Dr. O’Riordan has been active in the educational mission of<br />

the Medical School. She was inducted into the Medical School’s League of Educational Excellence in 2013<br />

and was selected as a National Academy of Sciences Kavli Fellow in 2014.<br />

Page 1 of 3

Peter Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon)<br />

Dr. Peter Jones was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and raised and<br />

attended college in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and received his Ph.D. from<br />

the University of London. Dr. Jones joined the University of Southern<br />

California in 1977 and served as Director of the USC Norris Comprehensive<br />

Cancer Center between 1993 and 2011. He became Chief Scientific Officer<br />

of Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2014.<br />

Dr. Jones helped pioneer the field of epigenetics, particularly its role in<br />

cancer, and helped develop novel therapies for cancer. His laboratory<br />

discovered the effects of 5-azacytidine on cytosine methylation and linked<br />

processes of DNA methylation, gene expression and differentiation.<br />

Dr. Jones has published more than 300 scientific papers and received several honors, including an<br />

Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Cancer Institute. He and his colleague Stephen Baylin<br />

shared the Kirk Landon Award for Basic Cancer Research from the AACR in 2009 and the Medal of Honor<br />

from the American Cancer Society in 2011. Dr. Jones is a Past President of the American Association for<br />

Cancer Research and was elected a Fellow of the AAAS in 2009 and a Fellow of the Academy of the<br />

AACR in 2013. He was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2016 and the American<br />

Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2017.<br />

Candace Smith-King, M.D.<br />

Dr. Candace Smith-King serves as vice president of academic affairs for<br />

Spectrum Health System and as a pediatrician at Spectrum Health Helen<br />

DeVos Children’s Hospital. Dr. Smith-King joined the academic general<br />

pediatrics practice at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in 2009, and in 2012<br />

became the program director for the pediatric residency program at Helen<br />

DeVos Children’s Hospital. Additionally, she serves as the designated<br />

institutional official for residency and fellowship programs through the<br />

Spectrum Health/Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. She is<br />

an assistant professor at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine<br />

Department of Pediatrics and Human Development.<br />

Dr. Smith-King is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, and completed her middle and high school<br />

years in Grand Rapids. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Michigan<br />

and her medical degree from Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.<br />

Her training continued at the Spectrum Health/Michigan State University College of Human Medicine<br />

Pediatric Residency Program at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Dr. Smith-King serves on the board of<br />

NIA Centre <strong>Board</strong> of Directors.<br />

Maria Cimitile, Ph.D.<br />

Maria C. Cimitile is a Professor of Philosophy in the Honors College and<br />

Academic Consultant at Grand Valley State University. She served GVSU as<br />

served as Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic and Student<br />

Affairs from 2017 to 2021, and prior to that as Associate VP for Academic<br />

Affairs. She earned her Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Memphis,<br />

M.A. from Villanova University, and A.B. from the College of the Holy Cross.<br />

She joined Grand Valley State University in 1999. Dr. Cimitile has received a<br />

number of teaching awards. She created the Latino Student Initiative at Grand<br />

Valley State University, reflecting her deep commitment to committed to equity<br />

and excellence in education.<br />

Page 2 of 3

Juan R. Olivarez, Ph.D., Chair<br />

Juan R. Olivarez recently completed a term as interim President of Grand<br />

Rapids Community College, where he also served as President from 1999 to<br />

2008. He is also President Emeritus of Aquinas College, and the past<br />

President and CEO of Kalamazoo Foundation. He was an educator in the<br />

Grand Rapids Public Schools for more than 20 years. In 1991, he became<br />

Dean of Institutional Research at Grand Rapids Community College and was<br />

promoted to Chief Executive Officer of the Community Learning Enterprise in<br />

1996. He served as distinguished scholar in residence at Grand Valley State<br />

University from 2018 to 2021. He earned his Ph.D. in Family & Child Ecology<br />

from Michigan State University, M.A. in Educational Psychology from Wayne State University, and his B.A.<br />

from Aquinas College.<br />

Among numerous honors, President Olivarez was named Aquinas College Distinguished Alumnus for<br />

2005. He has also received the Faith in Humanity Award from the Hugh Michael Beahan Foundation, the<br />

Communicator of the Year Award from the Association of West Michigan Communication Professionals,<br />

the Distinguished Community Trustee Award from Leadership Grand Rapids, and the Whitney M. Young<br />

Jr. Award, from the Boy Scouts of America for service to youth.<br />

He serves on many local, state and national educational and civic organizations including Van Andel<br />

Education Institute, National Institute For Literacy, First Steps Kent, the Council of Independent Colleges,<br />

Educational Testing Services, and Higher Education Research & Development Institute.<br />

<strong>Peggy</strong> <strong>Farnham</strong>, Ph.D.<br />

Dr. <strong>Farnham</strong> is the Vice Dean for Health and Biomedical Science Education<br />

and Professor and Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular<br />

Biology at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern<br />

California. Dr. <strong>Farnham</strong> received her Ph.D. from Yale University and<br />

performed her post-doctoral training at Stanford University. Dr. <strong>Farnham</strong><br />

previously held Professorships at the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research<br />

at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and at the University of California-<br />

Davis (as Associate Director of the UC Davis Genome Center). Dr. <strong>Farnham</strong> is<br />

an international leader in the study of chromatin regulation. She is a member<br />

of an international consortia of genomic scientists working on the ENCODE<br />

(Encyclopedia of DNA elements) Project and a member of an NIH Roadmap Reference Epigenome<br />

Mapping Center. Based on her contributions to biomedical research, she was elected as a fellow of AAAS<br />

in 2010 and in 2012 she received the ASBMB Herbert A Sober Award, which recognizes outstanding<br />

biochemical and molecular biological research with particular emphasis on the development of methods<br />

and techniques to aid in research.<br />

Page 3 of 3

AGB <strong>Board</strong> of Directors’ Statement on the<br />

Fiduciary Duties<br />

of Governing <strong>Board</strong> Members

This statement was approved<br />

on July 24, 2015, by the <strong>Board</strong> of<br />

Directors of the Association of<br />

Governing <strong>Board</strong>s of Universities and<br />

Colleges. The following principles<br />

are intended to educate board<br />

members about the elements of their<br />

fiduciary responsibilities and how<br />

to translate their fulfillment of those<br />

responsibilities into effective board<br />

conduct and oversight<br />

The “AGB Statement on the<br />

Fiduciary Duties of Governing<br />

<strong>Board</strong> Members” encourages all<br />

governing boards and chief executives<br />

to remember that governance<br />

is significantly improved when<br />

board members and presidents<br />

share a mutual understanding<br />

of the standards that define their<br />

fiduciary obligations.<br />

© 2015 Association of Governing <strong>Board</strong>s of<br />

Universities and Colleges<br />

www.agb.org.<br />

All rights reserved.

Preface<br />

AGB <strong>Board</strong> of<br />

Directors’ Statement on the<br />

Fiduciary Duties<br />

of Governing <strong>Board</strong> Members<br />

Governance of American colleges and<br />

universities is at a crossroads. The<br />

governing bodies of these institutions<br />

face critical challenges to methods<br />

of operation and oversight that have<br />

been in common use for decades, but which are underperforming in satisfying current<br />

stakeholders and protecting future generations. At the same time, they are under greater<br />

scrutiny than ever before, with their members increasingly held accountable for the<br />

success or failure of their institutions. These members hold a unique position with regard<br />

to stewardship of the institutions they serve, a position not shared with students, faculty,<br />

alumni, donors, regulators, or others in the community. They are fiduciaries.<br />

The concept and practice of being a fiduciary cannot and should not be reduced to<br />

a legal principle with no real-world impact on a board member’s behavior. Fiduciary<br />

principles and duties are at the heart of effective governance and AGB’s work with its<br />

members. The fiduciary duties described in this statement can seem, at first glance, to be<br />

a matter of common sense. What could be more essential for a board member than to act<br />

with good-faith and care, with loyalty to the institution, and in compliance with its mission<br />

and the law? And yet, behind nearly every failure of governance and leadership at higher<br />

education institutions is a breach of the principles of fiduciary duty.<br />

While governing boards act as a body, the fiduciary duties applied by law and best<br />

practice fall on individual board members. Each has a personal responsibility to ensure<br />

that he or she is up to the task and fulfilling his or her obligations. Effective board members<br />

must be more than names on a masthead. They must be fully engaged. They must<br />

attend meetings, read and evaluate the materials, ask questions and get answers, honor<br />

confidentiality, avoid conflicts of interest, demonstrate loyalty, understand and uphold<br />

mission, and ensure legal and ethical compliance. Those who cannot do so must step down<br />

and allow others to take their place. The success and sustainability of the institution and the<br />

protection of board members from personal liability require nothing less.<br />

This AGB board statement is designed as a tool to orient board members to the<br />

elements of fiduciary duty and to recommend proven practices for translating those duties<br />

into effective board conduct. It comprises a discussion of governing board members and<br />

officers as fiduciaries of their institutions, an explanation of the three fiduciary duties that<br />

apply to them, and principles for translating these duties into effective board conduct.<br />

Integrated throughout the statement are illustrative questions for members of governing<br />

boards to consider.<br />


Principles of Fiduciary Duty<br />


Under state statutory and<br />

common law, officers and board<br />

members of corporations (including<br />

nonprofit corporations and public<br />

bodies that operate colleges and<br />

universities) are fiduciaries and<br />

must act in accordance with the<br />

fiduciary duties of care, loyalty, and<br />

obedience. What is a fiduciary?<br />

Legally, a fiduciary relationship is<br />

one of trust or confidence between<br />

parties. A fiduciary is someone<br />

1.<br />

2.<br />



Does the board understand the elements<br />

of the duty of care, the duty of loyalty,<br />

and the duty of obedience? How is our<br />

board educated on these principles?<br />

Do board members understand how their<br />

fiduciary duties relate to their particular<br />

responsibilities in overseeing the college<br />

who has special responsibilities in<br />

or university? How does our board<br />

connection with the administration,<br />

discuss these matters?<br />

investment, monitoring, and<br />

distribution of property—in this<br />

3. Do board members understand the<br />

ways in which they could be exposed<br />

to personal liability for breaching their<br />

case, the charitable or public assets<br />

fiduciary duties? What areas of liability<br />

of the institution. These assets<br />

exposure are of greatest concern to our<br />

include not just the buildings and<br />

board members?<br />

grounds and endowment, but also<br />

intangibles, such as the reputation<br />

of the institution and its role in the<br />

community. A college or university board member or officer has duties to the institution<br />

under the law that a faculty member, a student, or an administrator does not.<br />

A fiduciary owes particular duties to the institution he or she serves. They are<br />

commonly known, as described above, as the fiduciary duties of care, loyalty, and<br />

obedience. Taken together, they require board members to make careful, good-faith<br />

decisions in the best interest of the institution consistent with its public or charitable<br />

mission, independent of undue influence from any party or from financial interests. These<br />

duties may be described in and imposed by a college or university’s bylaws, governing<br />

board policies, standards of conduct, or code of ethics. In the case of a public institution,<br />

state law may describe or apply these standards of conduct differently (for example,<br />

under particular rules applicable to regents or public bodies); however, adherence to<br />

these principles remains a key governance best practice at both independent and public<br />

colleges and universities.<br />


Good governance practice mandates that all board members be informed of the<br />

legal meaning and obligations of their fiduciary role and provided practical examples of<br />

issues that the board is likely to face and that require careful attention to the balancing of<br />

interests necessary to carry out the fiduciary role. In addition, board members and officers<br />

must understand that while they hold fiduciary duties individually, they act collectively as<br />

a board. Absent a particular designation of authority by the board to an individual board<br />

member or officer (such as the authorization of a board chair to enter into an employment<br />

agreement with the president on behalf of the institution), no single board member or<br />

officer has authority to bind the institution or determine its course of action, even those<br />

who may be appointed by a state governor or through a political process.<br />

A question that often arises is: To whom are fiduciary duties owed? By law, these<br />

duties are owed by governing body members and officers to the institution. However,<br />

in the court of political and public opinion, fiduciary duties are commonly extended<br />

(erroneously) to other beneficiaries: students (and those who may pay the tuition for<br />

them), faculty, alumni, donors, and the community at large, particularly where the<br />

institution has a direct and material impact on the livelihood of its community and the<br />

beneficiaries of its research and scholarship. In a given case, governing board members<br />

may comply faithfully and with integrity with their legal fiduciary duties in overseeing<br />

their institutions and yet still run afoul of regulators, politicians, and stakeholders who<br />

believe a different result should ensue. It may even cost a board member his or her seat.<br />

Still, fidelity by board members and officers to their legal fiduciary duties is the essence of<br />

good governance.<br />


In the American higher education system of shared governance, governing boards<br />

share governance duties with the president and the faculty, while respecting academic<br />

freedom and soliciting input from a broad campus constituency. However, under<br />

the law, only governing board members and officers hold fiduciary responsibility.<br />

Nevertheless, the governance principles ingrained in the fiduciary duties discussed in<br />

this statement have clear application to the efforts of the administration and faculty, as<br />

well. All participants in the system of shared governance would do well to adhere to these<br />

principles and practices.<br />


The Three Duties<br />

The following three duties of governing board members and officers, which are<br />

established by law and are well-accepted principles of good governance, are set forth for<br />

board members to thoughtfully consider and apply.<br />


The duty of care generally requires officers and governing board members to carry out<br />

their responsibilities in good-faith and using that degree of diligence, care, and skill which<br />

ordinarily prudent persons would reasonably exercise under similar circumstances in like<br />

positions. Accordingly, a board member must act in a manner that he or she reasonably<br />

believes to be in the best interests of the institution.<br />

Determining what is in the best interests of the institution is left to the governing<br />

board’s sound judgment under the duty of care. It will necessarily involve a balancing<br />

of interests and priorities appropriate to the institution’s mission and consistent with<br />

its strategic priorities. This should include explicit attention to the tradeoffs inherent in<br />

achieving balance among employees’ interests (maintaining quality of education and<br />

protecting the institution’s assets), student interests (maintaining affordability), physical<br />

assets (buildings and grounds), fiscal assets (endowments and fund balances), consumer<br />

value of the degree (cost of degree attainment versus future job earnings), and community<br />

interests in the institution (jobs, economic development).<br />

Under the duty of care, governing bodies of colleges and universities are responsible<br />

for both the short- and long-term financial health of the institution and achievement of the<br />

goal of preserving the institution and its resources for future generations. At the same time,<br />

governing boards have the obligation to develop and protect the quality of the institution’s<br />

academic programs and to become appropriately engaged in the oversight thereof.<br />

There can be no single, succinct statement of specific actions required by the duty<br />

of care, since different circumstances will inevitably require different acts. However,<br />

the proper exercise of the duty of care requires a board member to regularly attend<br />

meetings; to read and evaluate the meeting materials prepared for the board in advance<br />

of the meeting; to ask questions and participate actively in board discussions; and to be<br />

knowledgeable of the institution’s purposes, operations, and environment.<br />

Also interwoven in the duty of care is the responsibility of board members to<br />

maintain the confidentiality of matters brought before the board, both during and after<br />

their board service. This is particularly the case with respect to personnel concerns and<br />

sensitive business matters. In some cases, board members may be asked to sign an oath<br />

of confidentiality or a binding agreement that sets forth their duties and responsibilities<br />


to the institution. Such instruments may be useful, but they may also seem heavy-handed<br />

to some, and the duties will apply to board members who have been duly elected and<br />

have consented to service whether or not an oath or agreement exists. At the same<br />

time, board members must balance their obligation to maintain confidentiality with the<br />

core governance principle and public-policy objective of promoting transparency in<br />

board operations.<br />

The duty of care does not require professional expertise, extensive consideration, or<br />

full knowledge of the matter at hand by every board member. Instead, the duty generally<br />

requires board members to be reasonably well informed of the relevant issues. Officers<br />

and board members may rely upon expert advice in making their determinations. For<br />

example, a board member may rely on information, opinions, reports, or statements,<br />

including financial statements<br />

and other financial data, that are<br />

prepared or presented by: (a) one<br />

or more officers or employees of<br />

the institution whom the board<br />

reasonably believes to be reliable<br />

and competent in the matters<br />


presented; (b) legal counsel, public<br />


accountants, or other persons as<br />

1. Does the board invite discussion and<br />

questions regarding matters before it?<br />

to matters the board reasonably<br />

believes are within the person’s<br />

2. How does the board encourage full<br />

engagement by board members and<br />

professional or expert competence;<br />

enforce attendance requirements?<br />

or (c) a committee of the governing<br />

3. How does the board involve<br />

board of which he or she is not<br />

experts to facilitate and enhance its<br />

a member if the board member<br />

understanding of matters before it?<br />

reasonably believes the committee’s 4. How does the board assess its<br />

report merits confidence. Any<br />

own performance in fulfilling its<br />

fiduciary duties?<br />

reliance on information provided<br />

by others must be reasonable under<br />

the circumstances, considering such<br />

factors as the source from which the information was obtained, whether the information<br />

relied upon is a brief summary or an extensive analysis, whether the matter is routine or<br />

exceptional, and the time frame in which a decision must be made.<br />



The duty of loyalty requires<br />

officers and board members to act<br />

in good-faith and in a manner that<br />

is reasonably believed to be in the<br />

interests of the college or university<br />

and its nonprofit or public purposes<br />

rather than their own interests or<br />

the interests of another person or<br />

organization. The fiduciary must<br />

not act out of expedience, avarice,<br />

or self-interest. The requirement<br />

that officers and board members<br />

discharge their duties in goodfaith<br />

is a subjective one that<br />

will vary depending on the facts<br />

and circumstances.<br />



1. Does the board have a robust<br />

conflict-of-interest policy that also<br />

addresses dualities of interest?<br />

How do board members disclose<br />

conflicts and dualities and to whom?<br />

2. Whose responsibility is it to<br />

review board conflict-of-interest<br />

disclosures and to report on<br />

potential conflicts to the board?<br />

3. What does the board do when<br />

a conflict is identified?<br />

Under this duty, a college or<br />

4. How does the board determine<br />

university board member must be<br />

what matters before it are<br />

confidential, and how does it enforce<br />

loyal to the institution and not use<br />

confidentiality by board members?<br />

the position of authority to obtain,<br />

directly or indirectly, a benefit<br />

for him or herself or for another<br />

organization in which the board member has an interest. Accordingly, when evaluating<br />

a board member’s conduct, the duty of loyalty considers both a board member’s<br />

financial interests and the governance or leadership positions he or she holds with<br />

other organizations.<br />

<strong>Board</strong> member independence is increasingly sought after by regulators and key<br />

stakeholders to ensure adherence to the duty of loyalty. In this context, independence<br />

means that the board member is not employed by and does not do material business<br />

with the college or university. This information is reported on IRS Form 990 and in other<br />

public record filings. In addition, the board member acts independently of any personal<br />

relationship he or she may have with the president or senior leaders of the college or<br />

university or with other board members. It is not required that every member of the<br />

board be independent (for example, some ex officio board members may not be), but,<br />

ideally, a majority of the board members should be independent.<br />


In addition, it is incumbent on board members to retain their independence<br />

from external and internal stakeholders in the conduct of their oversight and policy<br />

responsibilities. This applies to boards of independent institutions and especially to public<br />

boards whose members are most often selected for their service through some form of<br />

political appointment. It also applies in cases in which board members are appointed<br />

or elected by internal constituent groups such as faculty or staff. Public and internally<br />

appointed board members may be respectful of the views of appointing authorities but must<br />

not allow such influence to be determinative of board action. Governing board members of<br />

public institutions, while serving the public interest, must still adhere to the fiduciary duty<br />

of loyalty to the institution and, in so doing, must prioritize the interests of the institution<br />

over any other. It is essential that board members avoid a conflict of loyalty in meeting their<br />

fiduciary responsibilities to act on behalf of the institution(s) they hold in trust.<br />

The most critical implementation of the duty of loyalty comes in a college or<br />

university’s conflict-of-interest policy. Such a policy, when adhering to state law and best<br />

governance practices, requires board members to fully disclose financial interests and<br />

dual organizational relationships (“dualities of interest”) that may affect their decision<br />

making on behalf of the institution. The policy will prohibit board members from<br />

participating in or unduly influencing decisions in which they have a material financial<br />

conflict of interest or an adverse duality of interest (“recusal”) and may require the board<br />

member to eliminate the duality of interest. The 2013 “AGB <strong>Board</strong> of Directors’ Statement<br />

on Conflict of Interest with Guidelines on Compelling Benefit” offers clarifying guidance<br />

on best practices for boards to consider in managing conflicts of interest within the board.<br />



A third fiduciary duty, which is<br />

arguably an element of the duties<br />

of care and loyalty, is the duty<br />

of obedience. This is the duty of<br />

board members to ensure that the<br />

college or university is operating in<br />

furtherance of its stated purposes (as<br />

set forth in its governing documents)<br />

and is operating in compliance<br />

with the law. The board should also<br />

periodically re-evaluate its purposes<br />

and mission and must be prepared<br />

to amend or change them when it is<br />

necessary and appropriate to do so<br />

under the law and the institution’s<br />

governing documents. A governing<br />

body of a college or university must<br />

make reasonable efforts to ensure<br />

that the institution is both legally<br />

and ethically compliant with the law<br />

and applicable internal and external<br />

rules (for example, accreditation,<br />

environmental, research, labor, or<br />

athletics requirements) and that<br />

it has instituted effective internal<br />

controls to achieve compliance and<br />

to identify and address problems.<br />

1. Has the board been impeded in<br />

fulfilling its fiduciary responsibilities by<br />

external influences such as government,<br />

corporate, political, social, athletic, or<br />

religious interests? How should the board<br />

respond under these circumstances?<br />

2. Do our appointed public board<br />

members understand and abide by<br />

their fiduciary obligation to objectively<br />

evaluate the matters before them<br />

and to maintain their independent<br />

judgment, notwithstanding any<br />

potential effort by the appointing<br />

authority to influence their decisions?<br />

3. By what process does the board<br />

determine whether proposed<br />

board action is consistent with the<br />

institution’s mission and purposes?<br />

4. How does the board oversee legal<br />

compliance in the institution?<br />

5. What internal controls are applied<br />

to prevent legal violations such<br />

as fraud, theft of intellectual<br />

property, embezzlement, athletics<br />

infractions, use of gifts in violation<br />

of donor intent, and employment<br />

discrimination? Are they effective?<br />


Translating Fiduciary Duty into<br />

Effective <strong>Board</strong> Conduct<br />

In order to ensure that college and university board members are well prepared to<br />

effectively carry out their roles as fiduciaries, good governance tools may be developed<br />

to provide clarity as to expectations and strategies for action. Fiduciary duties will apply<br />

by law even if an institution does nothing more to implement them, but governance is<br />

improved when board members and presidents share a mutual understanding of the<br />

standards that define the fiduciary role, including the balancing of interests necessary to<br />

carry out the institution’s mission and strategic priorities.<br />



<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

<br />

Acting at all times in good-faith and with the appropriate diligence, care, and skill<br />

required under the circumstances.<br />

Acting in a manner reasonably believed to be in the best interests of the institution.<br />

Actively attending and participating in all board and committee meetings, reading<br />

and evaluating the materials presented, and asking questions about unexplained<br />

results and unfamiliar issues.<br />

Retiring from board service (or declining nominations) if one is no longer able to<br />

satisfy the time, effort, and attendance expectations for the institution’s governing<br />

body members.<br />

Relying, when appropriate, on experts who serve the board by evaluating<br />

complex matters, while questioning their reports when their advice is inconsistent<br />

with expectations.<br />


<br />

Faithfully pursuing the interests of the college or university and its charitable or<br />

public purposes rather than one’s own interests or the interests of another person<br />

or organization.<br />

<br />

Actively disclosing existing or potential financial conflicts of interest and dual<br />

interests, and recusing oneself from board discussions and votes on transactions or<br />

policy matters, in accordance with the institution’s conflict-of-interest policy.<br />


Maintaining complete confidentiality about any matters presented to the governing<br />

board at all times, unless otherwise directed by the board and subject to state<br />

transparency laws applicable to public institutions.<br />

Retaining the governing board’s independence from external and internal<br />

stakeholders in the conduct of its oversight and policy responsibilities.<br />


<br />

<br />

<br />

Ensuring that the institution is acting at all times in accordance with its mission<br />

and purposes.<br />

Ensuring that the college or university, in all of its activities, is acting in legal and<br />

ethical compliance with the law and applicable internal and external rules.<br />

Instituting effective internal controls to achieve compliance and to identify<br />

and address problems.<br />


<br />

<br />

Implement a year-round director-recruitment program in which a pool of prospective<br />

candidates is developed and vetted, and in which candidates have an opportunity to<br />

learn more about the institution and are educated as to the needs and expectations of<br />

the institution for their board service, and their prospective fiduciary responsibilities.<br />

Engage in thoughtful and advance planning regarding board development and<br />

composition to avoid conflicts of interest, ensure adequate independence of<br />

board members, and secure an appropriate balance of skills and experience<br />

among board members.<br />

<br />

Establish meaningful orientation programs for new board members (and a refresher<br />

for long-serving members) that include: an explanation of fiduciary duties; a<br />

discussion of the institution’s mission, vision, and strategic plan; an explanation of<br />

related board policies, such as conflict of interest and confidentiality; an explanation<br />

of relevant portions of the college or university bylaws that pertain to board members’<br />

conduct; the expectations of board members as to active participation on the board<br />

and in board committees; an explanation of the potential for personal liability for<br />

board members in the event of a breach of fiduciary duty; and the identification of<br />

resources for further study.<br />


Develop and implement an up-to-date conflict-of-interest policy that: makes<br />

the disclosure and recusal process clear; identifies standards for materiality and<br />

compelling benefit; explains and addresses financial interests, dualities of interest,<br />

and rules of conduct when the interest is adverse; and includes an effective form<br />

for disclosing material financial and dual interests. The governing board or a board<br />

committee will establish a process for review of disclosures of interest and forwarding<br />

of identified conflicts to the board for appropriate action.<br />

Ensure appropriate communication between the governing board and college or<br />

university legal compliance officers and programs and provide orientation for all<br />

board members regarding their role in such programs, including whistleblower<br />

policies, investigations of allegations, and complaint resolution.<br />

Secure on a timely basis the advice of knowledgeable experts who can increase<br />

the level of understanding and competence of board members on key issues,<br />

which may include compensation of the president, strategic planning, academic<br />

quality, construction of new facilities and development of property, marketing<br />

and communications, advocacy, legal compliance, fundraising and endowment<br />

management, and risk management.<br />

<br />

Commission board committees to regularly assess, through self-evaluation and review<br />

of board-member conduct, the effectiveness of the board in adhering to its fiduciary<br />

duties. Such committees may include the executive committee, the governance<br />

committee, and the audit committee.<br />


AGB <strong>Board</strong> Of Directors, 2015–2016<br />

Chair<br />

Yvonne R. Jackson<br />

Simmons College<br />

Spelman College, life trustee<br />

Vice Chair<br />

Clifford M. Kendall<br />

University System of Maryland<br />

Foundation<br />

University of Maryland College<br />

Park Foundation<br />

Wesley Theological Seminary<br />

Juliet V. Garcia<br />

(public member)<br />

Joanne Harrell<br />

University of Washington<br />

Mary K. Hughes<br />

University of Alaska System<br />

Willamette College<br />

Jeffrey L. Humber, Jr.<br />

Gallaudet University<br />

Vice Chair<br />

David Miles<br />

Drake University<br />

Secretary<br />

Charles R. Pruitt<br />

University of Wisconsin System<br />

Elizabeth Ballantine<br />

American University of Paris<br />

Grinnell College, life trustee<br />

Karen Bearden<br />

Kentucky State University<br />

Richard A. Beyer<br />

Olivet College, trustee emeritus<br />

Rita Bornstein, Ph.D.<br />

(public member)<br />

Nelson Carbonell<br />

George Washington University<br />

Helen Aguirre Ferré<br />

Miami Dade College<br />

Angel Mendez<br />

Lafayette College<br />

Joyce M. Roché<br />

Dillard University<br />

Verne O. Sedlacek<br />

(public member)<br />

Charles A. Shorter<br />

City University of New York<br />

James C. Stalder<br />

Carnegie Mellon University<br />

Jeffrey B. Trammell<br />

College of William and Mary,<br />

rector emeritus<br />

William and Mary Annual Fund<br />

William E. Trueheart<br />

Johnson and Wales University<br />

Jacqueline F. Woods<br />

Muskingum University<br />

Our Mission<br />

The Association of Governing <strong>Board</strong>s of Universities and Colleges strengthens and<br />

protects this country’s unique form of institutional governance through its research,<br />

services, and advocacy. AGB is committed to citizen trusteeship of American higher<br />

education. For more information, visit www.agb.org.<br />


1133 20th St. N.W., Suite 300 • Washington, D.C. 20<strong>03</strong>6<br />


AGB Statement on<br />

<strong>Board</strong> Responsibility<br />

for the Oversight of<br />

Educational Quality

This statement was approved on March 17, 2011, by the <strong>Board</strong> of Directors of the Association of Governing <strong>Board</strong>s<br />

of Universities and Colleges. The following principles are intended to guide boards in the governance of colleges,<br />

universities, and systems, inform them of their roles and responsibilities, and clarify their relationships with presidents,<br />

administration, faculty, and others involved in the governance process.<br />

AGB <strong>Board</strong> Statements are intended to affirm and clarify specific core principles of board governance. As with all AGB<br />

<strong>Board</strong> Statements, this Statement on <strong>Board</strong> Responsibility for the Oversight of Educational Quality is not limited to any<br />

one sector of higher education or type of institution, and it is not intended to be prescriptive. It presents principles and<br />

recommendations for boards and institutional leaders to consider and to adapt to their own unique institutional<br />

circumstances.<br />

Acknowledgments<br />

The Association of Governing <strong>Board</strong>s of Universities and Colleges (AGB) and its board of directors are grateful to<br />

the many people who have added their insights to the development of this statement. We are especially grateful to<br />

AGB Senior Fellow Tom Longin who wrote the initial draft and contributed much to the statement’s direction and<br />

content. AGB also extends its appreciation to those institutional presidents, board leaders, and other academic leaders,<br />

too numerous to name here, who added substantially to the quality of the final statement. In addition, AGB’s Council<br />

of Presidents and Council of <strong>Board</strong> Chairs offered their support and wisdom at critical points, as did the general AGB<br />

membership, which provided additional comments to strengthen the statement. This statement was supported by<br />

Lumina Foundation for Education as part of AGB’s project, “Governance for Student Success.”<br />

About AGB<br />

For 90 years, the Association of Governing <strong>Board</strong>s of Universities and Colleges (AGB) has had one mission:<br />

to strengthen and protect this country’s unique form of institutional governance through its research, services, and<br />

advocacy. Serving more than 1,200 member boards and 36,000 individuals, AGB is the only national organization<br />

providing university and college presidents, board chairs, trustees, and board professionals of both public and private<br />

institutions with resources that enhance their effectiveness.<br />

In accordance with its mission, AGB has designed programs and services to strengthen the partnership between the president<br />

and governing board; provide guidance to regents and trustees; identify issues that affect tomorrow’s decision making;<br />

and foster cooperation among all constituencies in higher education. For more information, visit www.agb.org.<br />

<strong>Board</strong> Responsibility for the Oversight of Educational Quality<br />

Copyright ©2011<br />

Association of Governing <strong>Board</strong>s of Universities and Colleges,<br />

1133 20th St. N.W., Suite 300, Washington, D.C. 20<strong>03</strong>6.<br />

Printed and bound in the United States of America.<br />

PDF copies of this statement are available online at no charge: www.agb.org.

table of contents<br />

Introduction ............................................................... 1<br />

Principles ................................................................. 3<br />

Recommendations to Stakeholders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6<br />

The Academic Affairs Committee of the <strong>Board</strong>: An Illustrative Charge . . . . . . . . . . . 8<br />

Resources ................................................................. 9<br />

AGB <strong>Board</strong> of Directors ..................................................... 10

Introduction<br />

A governing board is the steward of the institution 1 it<br />

serves. As a fundamental part of its stewardship, the board<br />

is responsible for assuring the larger community and<br />

stakeholders to whom it is accountable that the education<br />

offered by the institution is of the highest possible quality.<br />

Yet AGB’s 2010 survey on the engagement of boards in<br />

educational quality revealed that board members often are<br />

not sure how to provide stewardship in this area, and<br />

some even doubt that they should.<br />

In Making the Grade: How <strong>Board</strong>s Can Ensure Academic<br />

Quality (AGB, 20<strong>06</strong>), Peter T. Ewell affirms that the<br />

oversight of educational quality “is as much a part of our<br />

role as board members as ensuring that the institution has<br />

sufficient resources and is spending them wisely.” The<br />

educational mission of colleges, universities, and systems<br />

makes this a primary obligation for their boards, and the<br />

significant fiscal investments made by these institutions,<br />

by their students and donors, and by state and federal<br />

governments underscore its importance. Governing<br />

boards should recognize that assuring educational quality<br />

is at the heart of demonstrating institutional success and<br />

that they are accountable for that assurance.<br />

The current environment makes this responsibility<br />

more pressing. Today’s technological, pedagogical, and<br />

economic forces, along with increasing public skepticism<br />

about the value and cost of education, make board<br />

accountability for quality crucial. And with only 38<br />

percent of America’s adult population now holding a<br />

degree from a college or university, it is clear that much<br />

more needs to be done if we are to ensure the country’s<br />

economic and civic future.<br />

Our efforts to confront that contemporary reality<br />

for higher education are complicated by a number of<br />

formidable challenges, including:<br />

• A significantly older and more ethnically and<br />

racially diverse student body;<br />

• Increasing numbers of contingent faculty members;<br />

• Revenues that have not kept pace with<br />

institutional need;<br />

• Dramatic escalation in demand for admission<br />

while certain fixed costs are skyrocketing, straining<br />

institutional capacity;<br />

• Competition for students, faculty members,<br />

and resources that diverts available funding away from<br />

educational quality and toward less critical functions;<br />

• Tension between issues of workforce preparation<br />

and intellectual development;<br />

• Large numbers of students needing remedial<br />

courses; and<br />

• Declining confidence that higher education is<br />

capable of meeting its commitment to students and<br />

its obligation to serve the public good.<br />

Some of these challenges directly affect educational<br />

quality; others intensify the need for institutions to<br />

demonstrate quality. If we are to effectively broaden<br />

opportunity and increase success among our students,<br />

then we will need to address these challenges head-on<br />

and with some urgency.<br />

<strong>Board</strong> Accountability<br />

AGB’s “Statement on <strong>Board</strong> Accountability” asserts,<br />

“[A governing] board broadly defines the educational<br />

mission of the institution, determines generally the types<br />

of academic programs the institution shall offer to students,<br />

and is ultimately accountable for the quality of the<br />

learning experience.” While academic administrators and<br />

faculty members are responsible for setting learning goals,<br />

developing and offering academic courses and programs,<br />

and assessing the quality of those courses and programs,<br />

boards cannot delegate away their governance responsibilities<br />

for educational quality. The board’s responsibility<br />

in this area is to recognize and support faculty’s leadership<br />

in continuously improving academic programs and<br />

outcomes, while also holding them—through institutional<br />

administrators—accountable for educational quality.<br />

1<br />

Throughout this document, references to institutions are intended to include<br />

colleges, universities, and systems.<br />

1 | <strong>Board</strong> Responsibility for the Oversight of Educational Quality

In fulfilling this responsibility, the board should work<br />

within the governance structure of the institution.<br />

For some boards, significant change may be required<br />

in how they interact with academic administrators and<br />

faculty members on matters of educational quality.<br />

AGB’s “Statement on Institutional Governance” stresses<br />

that “Governance documents should state who has the<br />

authority for specific decisions—that is, to which persons<br />

or bodies authority has been delegated and whether that<br />

which has been delegated is subject to board review.”<br />

Governing boards should make a conscious effort to<br />

minimize ambiguous or overlapping areas in which<br />

more than one governance participant has authority,<br />

particularly in the area of educational quality, where<br />

faculty members, administrators, and the board all<br />

have important responsibilities.<br />

This “Statement on <strong>Board</strong> Responsibility for the<br />

Oversight of Educational Quality,” approved by the <strong>Board</strong><br />

of Directors of the Association of Governing <strong>Board</strong>s<br />

(AGB) in March 2011, urges institutional administrators<br />

and governing boards to engage fully in this area of board<br />

responsibility. The following seven principles offer<br />

suggestions to promote and guide that engagement.<br />

2 | agb statement

Principles<br />

1. The governing board should commit<br />

To developing its capacity for ensuring<br />

educational quality.<br />

According to AGB’s survey on boards and educational<br />

quality, a little more than one-third of board members<br />

receive information related to oversight of educational<br />

quality during their board-orientation program.<br />

Additionally, while most have experience on boards of<br />

either corporate or nonprofit organizations, they are<br />

less familiar with academic trusteeship. To fulfill this<br />

specific area of oversight responsibility, a board should<br />

commit to a strategy for educating itself.<br />

<strong>Board</strong> leadership and senior administrators should<br />

intentionally incorporate discussions of educational<br />

quality in new-trustee orientation programs, board<br />

education programs, and the annual agendas of the<br />

board and its various committees. Structured discussions<br />

with faculty members, key administrators, and<br />

outside experts on learning goals, as well as reviews<br />

of the institution’s current student-learning assessment<br />

practices, student retention and graduation rates, and<br />

information about program and institutional accreditation,<br />

can help develop the board’s understanding of<br />

these issues.<br />

Both the board and its appropriate committees<br />

(for instance, the Academic Affairs or Education<br />

Committee and the Committee on Student Affairs)<br />

must make understanding the elements of educational<br />

quality a central feature of their agendas. Adding<br />

regular reports on student-learning outcomes to those<br />

that the board already receives on finances and endowments<br />

will round out the board’s understanding of its<br />

essential oversight responsibilities.<br />

2. The board should ensure that policies<br />

and practices are in place and effectively<br />

implemented to promote educational<br />

quality.<br />

The board is ultimately responsible for the currency<br />

of policies and their implementation, including policies<br />

related to teaching and learning. With the president<br />

and chief academic officer, the board, either through<br />

an appropriate committee or as a body, should ensure<br />

that institutional practices for defining and assessing<br />

educational quality are current, well communicated,<br />

and used for continuous improvement of students’<br />

educational experience. The board should receive<br />

reports—annually, if not more often—on the appropriateness<br />

of these practices, their results, and any changes<br />

needed.<br />

Because faculty members are responsible for the<br />

important work of setting standards for educational<br />

quality, creating and implementing processes for<br />

assessment, and responding to the findings, the board<br />

should encourage a focus on these responsibilities in<br />

new faculty orientation and through faculty development<br />

programs. Additionally, the board should ensure<br />

that faculty work on learning assessment is recognized<br />

and rewarded.<br />

3. The board should charge the president<br />

and chief academic officer with ensuring<br />

That student learning is assessed, data<br />

about outcomes are gathered, results are<br />

shared with the board and all involved<br />

constituents, and deficiencies and<br />

improvements are tracked.<br />

Practices in assessing student learning differ from<br />

institution to institution based on mission and experience.<br />

A board needs to understand how assessment is<br />

done at its institution, what the educational goals are,<br />

whether the goals align with the institutional mission,<br />

and how well the institution performs against those<br />

goals. And the board should understand the challenges<br />

associated with measuring learning, especially those<br />

dimensions of education that are less easily quantified.<br />

3 | <strong>Board</strong> Responsibility for the Oversight of Educational Quality

With leadership from chief academic officers, board<br />

committees—where they exist—should delve more<br />

deeply into student-learning assessment practices and<br />

findings. Involving faculty leaders in these discussions<br />

is critical in conveying the board’s support for the<br />

endeavor and its commitment to quality.<br />

A board committee, such as the Academic Affairs or<br />

Education Committee, should provide the board with<br />

policy-level, strategic summaries of the assessment<br />

information it receives. It should report regularly to<br />

the full board on the learning-assessment data collected,<br />

the significance of the data, institutional responses<br />

to those findings, and improvements over time.<br />

4. The board is responsible for approving<br />

and monitoring the financial resources<br />

committed to support a high-quality<br />

educational experience.<br />

Ordinarily, the delivery of educational programs is the<br />

largest institutional expense. Also, because an institution’s<br />

finances are directly tied to enrollment, retention,<br />

endowment, and external support of its programs,<br />

boards should monitor regularly the connections<br />

between academic programs and financial sustainability.<br />

The board should advocate for sufficient resources<br />

in support of educational priorities. It also should monitor<br />

the cost effectiveness of financial commitments to<br />

these priorities and be certain that the investments are<br />

consistent with institutional mission, plans, and overall<br />

financial trends. <strong>Board</strong>s of public institutions, which<br />

may lack the authority to determine overall institutional<br />

funding levels, should help make the case for<br />

sufficient state support of educational quality.<br />

Although improved educational quality is not necessarily<br />

the result of increased spending, the board<br />

should consider the allocation of new funding or the<br />

reallocation of existing funding to address academic<br />

needs identified through learning assessment, program<br />

review, or reaccreditation. Additionally, the board<br />

should encourage and be prepared to invest in<br />

academic innovation, including the development of<br />

new delivery models, to advance the institution’s<br />

educational mission. Institution-wide efforts to contain<br />

expenses can help to facilitate investment in academicprogram<br />

priorities. On occasions when a board is<br />

required to make decisions about academic programs<br />

based on financial circumstances, it is best done with<br />

candor and consultation with stakeholders.<br />

To be fully accountable, the board needs information<br />

about the institution’s educational outcomes to assure<br />

the public, students, parents, donors, and other funders<br />

of the return on their investment of tuition dollars, philanthropy,<br />

and state and federal aid. The board should<br />

ensure transparency in reporting this information to<br />

stakeholders.<br />

5. The board should develop an<br />

understanding of the institution’s<br />

academic programs—undergraduate,<br />

graduate, and professional programs.<br />

An institution fulfills its mission primarily through<br />

its academic offerings—its general education program,<br />

academic majors, and degree programs. To ensure<br />

that the mission is being met, board members need<br />

to understand the broad structure of these offerings.<br />

<strong>Orientation</strong> for new board members should include an<br />

overview of undergraduate, graduate, and professional<br />

degree programs. <strong>Board</strong>s should be aware of how the<br />

mix of programs reflects the institution’s history, is<br />

suited to its mission and student profile, and compares<br />

to those of peers and competitors. The board should<br />

also be aware of the learning goals the institution has<br />

established for students.<br />

Also, because an institution’s finances are directly<br />

tied to enrollment, endowment, and external support<br />

of its programs, boards should monitor regularly the<br />

connections between academic programs and financial<br />

sustainability.<br />

4 | agb statement

6. The board should ensure that the<br />

institution’s programs and resources<br />

are focused on the total educational<br />

experience, not just traditional<br />

classroom activity.<br />

With few exceptions, a student’s education involves<br />

more than classroom experience and the formal<br />

curriculum. It also includes a range of learning experiences<br />

and academic-support activities outside class<br />

that have proved to have significant effect on student<br />

development, education, retention, and graduation. An<br />

understanding of an institution’s educational quality<br />

includes an appreciation for the value added by such<br />

experiences beyond the classroom.<br />

The board should develop a holistic understanding<br />

of the opportunities and services that the institution<br />

provides to complete students’ educational experience.<br />

Some of these—for instance, internships, learning<br />

communities, student-faculty research opportunities,<br />

and service learning—can be among the most distinguishing<br />

features of an institution. <strong>Board</strong>s should be<br />

informed about the quality of these experiences and<br />

other support activities, and their effect on students’<br />

learning as well as on recruitment and retention.<br />

7. The board should develop a working<br />

knowledge of accreditation—what it is,<br />

what process it employs, and what role<br />

The board plays in that process.<br />

Accreditation—the periodic, peer-based system<br />

of review of higher-education institutions and<br />

programs—is designed to assure the public of an<br />

institution’s commitment to academic quality and<br />

fiscal integrity. It also serves to stimulate continuous<br />

improvement by the institution.<br />

As part of its attention to educational quality, the<br />

board should become familiar with how accreditation<br />

works at the institution. The board’s own ongoing<br />

educational program should include an overview of<br />

the accreditation process, the various types of accreditation<br />

that the institution holds, and the key findings<br />

from accreditation processes. The board should also<br />

be clear about its role in the institutional accreditation<br />

process. Most regional accreditors require contact with<br />

members of the board, and some include standards for<br />

the effectiveness of board governance.<br />

The board should require from senior administrators<br />

a timely preview of forthcoming re-accreditation<br />

processes and periodic progress reports on the required<br />

self-studies. It should review key elements of the<br />

accreditation self-study, the visiting team’s report, and<br />

formal action and decision letters from the accrediting<br />

organization, and it should consider their implications<br />

for the institution’s strategic goals, mission, and<br />

resources.<br />

5 | <strong>Board</strong> Responsibility for the Oversight of Educational Quality

Recommendations to Stakeholders<br />

For Institutional and System Chief Executives<br />

• Work with board leadership to ensure that educational<br />

quality and student-learning assessment are part of the<br />

agendas of the board and its appropriate committees,<br />

and that sufficient time is provided for discussion.<br />

• Be sure that orientation programs for new board<br />

members include a conversation about educational<br />

goals and student-learning trends and challenges.<br />

• Encourage the chief academic officer to foster full<br />

board engagement in discussions of matters related<br />

to educational quality; assist him or her in understanding<br />

board governance responsibilities.<br />

• Working with the chief academic officer, establish<br />

goals related to educational quality and learning<br />

outcomes to serve as benchmarks for the institution<br />

and for the chief executive officer’s performance.<br />

• Include the board in the accreditation process in<br />

appropriate ways; be certain that the board remains<br />

informed as to current accreditations held by the<br />

institution as well as the status of anticipated<br />

accreditation reviews.<br />

• Remain transparent with the board as to risks<br />

and opportunities facing the institution related to<br />

educational quality and outcomes, including the link<br />

between fiscal and educational decisions.<br />

• Provide regular opportunities for discussion with the<br />

board on how the campus defines educational quality.<br />

For <strong>Board</strong> Members<br />

• Become informed about the board’s responsibility<br />

for overseeing educational quality.<br />

• Expect to receive strategic-level information and<br />

evidence on student-learning outcomes at least<br />

annually, including longitudinal data from the<br />

institution and, where appropriate, periodic<br />

comparisons with peer institutions.<br />

• Hold institutional administrators appropriately<br />

responsible for goals that were mutually established<br />

for educational quality.<br />

• Use information from the accreditation processes,<br />

program reviews, and the assessment of student<br />

learning to inform decision making, including<br />

financial decisions.<br />

• As appropriate in board and committee meetings,<br />

ask strategic questions related to educational<br />

quality—goals, processes, outcomes, improvements,<br />

trends, and any adjustments needed to improve results.<br />

• Recognize that faculty members and academic<br />

administrators shape the approaches to assess the<br />

outcomes of student learning, and that boards should<br />

not micromanage this work, but that the board is<br />

ultimately responsible for ensuring that assessment<br />

takes place and that results lead to action for<br />

improvement.<br />

• Make service on your board’s Academic Affairs<br />

Committee part of a regular committee rotation for<br />

board members.<br />

• Include the chair of the Academic Affairs Committee<br />

as a member of the board’s Executive Committee.<br />

• Where possible, consider including one or more<br />

academic experts, such as former presidents,<br />

administrators, or faculty members from other<br />

institutions as ex officio members of the committee<br />

charged with oversight of educational quality.<br />

• Schedule opportunities for the Academic Affairs<br />

Committee and the full board to discuss educational<br />

quality and learning outcomes.<br />

6 | agb statement

For Chief Academic Officers<br />

• Contribute to the orientation and continuing education<br />

of board members regarding academic programs,<br />

student-learning goals, assessment practices, and<br />

educational quality.<br />

• Working with the board or relevant committee, create<br />

a board-level set of dashboard indicators related to<br />

educational quality. Update it regularly and present it<br />

to the board for discussion annually.<br />

• Work collaboratively with the chair of the Academic<br />

Affairs Committee to set a committee agenda that<br />

emphasizes institution-specific academic questions and<br />

concerns, as well as a review of important academic<br />

policies and procedures.<br />

• Ensure that academically related information for<br />

the board is clear, concise, free of jargon, and at a<br />

strategic level.<br />

• As appropriate, include representatives from the<br />

faculty and academic administration in board and<br />

committee discussions of the institution’s educational<br />

goals, approaches for measuring student learning,<br />

and progress against goals over time.<br />

Questions For <strong>Board</strong>s to Ask<br />

• How does this institution define educational quality? In addition to measures of student learning,<br />

what is considered in answering questions about educational quality?<br />

• Does the institution say what and how much students should learn? Where is this said?<br />

• What kinds of evidence does the institution collect about learning?<br />

• Is the institution benchmarking performance against external standards as well as tracking institutional<br />

performance over time?<br />

• How are assessment results used?<br />

• What do students and alumni say about the quality of their educational experience?<br />

• How do the institution’s retention and graduation rates look over time, and how do they compare to<br />

those of other institutions?<br />

• What does success look like for the types of students enrolled at this institution?<br />

• Does the institution define college readiness, that is, the skills and knowledge that students must possess<br />

to be successful at the institution?<br />

• How do faculty members and administrators keep abreast of innovative ideas for curriculum redesign and teaching?<br />

• What progress has been made in addressing recommendations from the last accreditation review?<br />

• What can the institution learn from its engagement with accreditation?<br />

• Do financial allocations reinforce academic priorities as necessary and appropriate?<br />

• In meeting its oversight responsibility for educational quality, is the board functioning at the policy level<br />

or trying to micromanage specific educational programs?<br />

7 | <strong>Board</strong> Responsibility for the Oversight of Educational Quality

The Academic Affairs Committee of the <strong>Board</strong>:<br />

An Illustrative Charge<br />

<strong>Board</strong>s with standing committees should have a committee charged with oversight of educational quality. Such committees<br />

have traditionally been called the Academic Affairs Committee, but they go by other names as well, such as the<br />

Education Committee, the Educational Excellence Committee, and a range of others. They may or may not be combined<br />

with student life or student development committees.<br />

Each board committee needs a charge that clearly identifies the scope of its responsibilities. For the purpose of simplicity,<br />

this illustrative charge is for an Academic Affairs Committee.<br />

Illustrative Charge<br />

The Academic Affairs Committee facilitates the<br />

governing board’s ultimate responsibility for educational<br />

quality. It does this by working closely with academic<br />

leadership and by regularly monitoring the following:<br />

• learning goals and outcomes;<br />

• program quality, institutional and program<br />

accreditation, and program review;<br />

• student retention, graduation rates, graduate school<br />

acceptances, and job placements;<br />

• policies and procedures related to faculty<br />

compensation, appointment, tenure, and promotion—<br />

and when appropriate, the committee makes<br />

recommendations for action;<br />

• academic planning;<br />

• the structure of the academic programs—and when<br />

appropriate, the committee reviews proposals for<br />

adding, modifying and deleting programs; and<br />

• budgets for academic programs and services.<br />

The committee should report regularly to the board and<br />

frame recommendations on matters of policy, quality, and<br />

funding that require the board’s consideration and action.<br />

The committee must receive appropriate and timely<br />

information and data to meet its responsibilities. Working<br />

at the nexus between board oversight and academic prerogative,<br />

the committee should recognize and respect the<br />

central role of the academic administration and faculty<br />

in academic planning, curriculum development, faculty<br />

development, the evaluation and academic advising of<br />

students, and recommendations for faculty appointment,<br />

tenure and promotion. However, the committee must<br />

also be mindful that, in its oversight role, the board is<br />

ultimately accountable for ensuring educational quality.<br />

8 | agb statement

esources<br />

Allen, Jo. “Ask the Right Questions About Student<br />

Assessment.” Trusteeship, May-June 2007.<br />

Association of Governing <strong>Board</strong>s of Universities<br />

and Colleges. “Statement on <strong>Board</strong> Responsibility for<br />

Institutional Governance.” Washington, D.C.: Association<br />

of Governing <strong>Board</strong>s of Universities and Colleges, 2010.<br />

Association of Governing <strong>Board</strong>s of Universities and<br />

Colleges. Faculty, Governing <strong>Board</strong>s, and Institutional<br />

Governance. Washington, D.C.: Association of Governing<br />

<strong>Board</strong>s of Universities and Colleges, 2009.<br />

Bacow, Lawrence S. “How Competition Whipsaws<br />

Our Colleges and Universities.” Trusteeship, January-<br />

February 2008.<br />

Baldwin, Roger G. “Tresspassers in the Groves of<br />

Academe?” Trusteeship, January-February 2005.<br />

Bok, Derek C. “The Seizing Initiative For Quality<br />

Education.” Trusteeship, March-April 20<strong>06</strong>.<br />

Erwin, Dary. “The ABCs of Assessment.” Trusteeship,<br />

March-April 20<strong>03</strong>.<br />

Ewell, Peter. “Do We Make the Grade?” Trusteeship,<br />

November-December 20<strong>06</strong>.<br />

Ewell, Peter T. Making the Grade: How <strong>Board</strong>s Can<br />

Ensure Academic Quality. Washington, D.C.: Association<br />

of Governing <strong>Board</strong>s of Universities and Colleges, 20<strong>06</strong>.<br />

Ingram Center for Public Trusteeship and Governance<br />

of the Association of Governing <strong>Board</strong>s of Universities<br />

and Colleges and the Texas Higher Education<br />

Coordinating <strong>Board</strong>. Closing the Gaps by 2015:Texas<br />

Strategies for Improving Student Participation and Success.<br />

Washington, D.C.: Association of Governing <strong>Board</strong>s of<br />

Universities and Colleges, 2008.<br />

Johnston, Susan Whealler and Kyle Long. How<br />

<strong>Board</strong>s Oversee Educational Quality: A Report on a<br />

Survey on <strong>Board</strong>s and the Assessment of Student Learning.<br />

Washington, D.C.: Association of Governing <strong>Board</strong>s of<br />

Universities and Colleges, 2010.<br />

Kazin, Cathrael and David G. Payne. “Ensuring<br />

Educational Quality Means Assessing Learning.”<br />

Trusteeship, March-April 2009.<br />

Klein, Stephen and Steve Uhlfelder. “Should College<br />

Students Be Tested to Hold Institutions Accountable for<br />

Student Learning?” Trusteeship, May-June 20<strong>06</strong>.<br />

Loughry, Andrea. “So Many Rankings, So Few<br />

Measures of Student Learning.” Trusteeship, January-<br />

February 2008.<br />

Massy, William F., Steven W. Graham, and Paula<br />

Myrick Short. “Getting a Handle on Academic Quality.”<br />

Trusteeship, September-October 2007.<br />

Morrill, Richard L. Strategic Leadership in Academic<br />

Affairs: Clarifying the <strong>Board</strong>’s Responsibilities. Washington,<br />

D.C.: Association of Governing <strong>Board</strong>s of Universities<br />

and Colleges, 2002.<br />

Morrill, Richard L. The <strong>Board</strong>’s Responsibilities for<br />

Academic Affairs. <strong>Board</strong> Basics. Washington, D.C.:<br />

Association of Governing <strong>Board</strong>s of Universities and<br />

Colleges, 20<strong>03</strong>.<br />

Morrill, Richard L. “The Overlapping<br />

Worlds of Academic Governance.” Trusteeship,<br />

January-February 20<strong>03</strong>.<br />

These resources can be found at:<br />

http://agb.org/resources-boards-and-educational-quality.<br />

9 | <strong>Board</strong> Responsibility for the Oversight of Educational Quality

agb <strong>Board</strong> of Directors *<br />

Chair<br />

James M. Weaver<br />

Vice Chair<br />

Honorable Jim Geringer<br />

Secretary<br />

Yvonne R. Jackson<br />

Treasurer<br />

Honorable Jack B. Jewett<br />

Honorable Cynthia A. Baldwin<br />

Duquesne University, trustee emerita<br />

Elizabeth Ballantine<br />

American University of Paris<br />

Grinnell College, life trustee<br />

Richard Beyer<br />

American University<br />

Rita Bornstein<br />

(public member)<br />

Helen Aguirre Ferré<br />

Miami Dade College<br />

Honorable Jim Geringer<br />

Western Governors University<br />

Marilyn French Hubbard<br />

Central Michigan University<br />

Yvonne R. Jackson<br />

Spelman College<br />

Honorable Jack B. Jewett<br />

University of Arizona Foundation<br />

Clifford M. Kendall<br />

University System of Maryland<br />

W. Austin Ligon<br />

University of Virginia<br />

Andrea Loughry<br />

University of Tennessee System<br />

Charles H. McTier<br />

Emory University<br />

James J. Mitchell, III<br />

Roosevelt University<br />

Constance L. Proctor<br />

University of Washington<br />

David H. Roberts<br />

Thunderbird School of Global Management<br />

Occidental College<br />

Joyce Roché<br />

Dillard University<br />

Verne O. Sedlacek<br />

(public member)<br />

Charles Shorter<br />

City University of New York<br />

James C. Stalder<br />

Carnegie Mellon University<br />

James M. Weaver<br />

Gettysburg College<br />

Former board chair and trustee<br />

Jacqueline F. Woods<br />

Kent State University<br />

Muskingum College<br />

*<br />

As of March 17, 2011<br />

10 | agb statement

1133 20th Street NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20<strong>03</strong>6<br />

t 202.296.8400 f 202.223.7053 www.agb.org

Form 990 Disclosure Questionnaire / Van Andel Institute Graduate School<br />

Tax Year: 2021<br />

Fiscal Year: 2022<br />

Page 1<br />

Form 990 Disclosure Questionnaire by Persons of Interest<br />

For <strong>Board</strong> Members, Officers, Key Employees, and Highest Compensated Employees<br />

Instructions: Please respond to all questions to the best of your ability. For any reportable transaction, report<br />

only in one section. Click within text boxes to enter your responses.<br />

Once completed, please sign, date, and return an executed copy of this questionnaire to Yah-Sheba Jenkins,<br />

Accountant I (YahSheba.Jenkins@vai.org) by March 31 st , <strong>2023</strong>.<br />

Name of Exempt Organization:<br />

Van Andel Institute Graduate School (“VAIGS”)<br />

Tax year Ended November 30, 2022<br />

Name of person completing this questionnaire (print/type):<br />

Please insert an “x” in the appropriate box:<br />

Role Current Former Portion to complete<br />

Trustee / Director<br />

Please complete the entire disclosure<br />

Officer<br />

Please complete the entire disclosure<br />

I HEREBY CONFIRM that I have read and understand the definitions and instructions included in this questionnaire and<br />

that my responses to the above questions are complete and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief. I agree that if<br />

I become aware of any information that might indicate that this disclosure is inaccurate, I will contact the person listed on<br />

the instructions accompanying this letter, immediately.<br />

Signature: ________________________________________<br />

Date: ____________________________<br />

Phone: Daytime: Evening: E-mail: E-mail:

Form 990 Disclosure Questionnaire / Van Andel Institute Graduate School<br />

Tax Year: 2021<br />

Fiscal Year: 2022<br />

Page 2<br />

Part I: Excess Benefit Transactions<br />

1. Are you (or a family member or a controlled entity) a disqualified person?<br />

• This includes voting members of the governing body, and persons holding the power of presidents, chief<br />

executive officers, chief operating officers, treasurers and chief financial officers.<br />

• See Appendix A for a summary of facts and circumstances provided by the IRS that assist in determining whether<br />

a person is a disqualified person (in a position to exercise substantial influence over an exempt organization).<br />

No:<br />

Yes:<br />

2. If yes, have you (or a party related to you as noted above) been directly/indirectly benefited by VAIGS from an excess<br />

benefit transaction?<br />

No:<br />

Yes:<br />

If Yes, please describe:<br />

Part II: Business Transactions Involving Interested Persons (All Trustees/ Directors/ Officers are<br />

“Interested Persons”)<br />

Reporting thresholds for business transactions with VAIGS:<br />

• All payments (direct and indirect) during the tax year between the interested person and VAIGS exceeded<br />

$100,000.<br />

• Compensation payments made by VAIGS or a related party (see Exhibit A) to you or a family member exceeds<br />

$10,000.<br />

NOTE: This disclosure is quite complex. Please read the IRS provided definition and examples in Appendix B.<br />

1. Aside from payments for services as Trustee / Director/ Officer, did you or a family member receive (direct or indirect)<br />

any payments for a business transaction with VAIGS, including compensation for services?<br />

• Compensation directly from VAIGS to you in your capacity as an officer, director, trustee, or key employee<br />

will be obtained from our payroll records and are not to be reported by you here.<br />

No:<br />

Yes:<br />

If yes, please describe who, what and how much:

Form 990 Disclosure Questionnaire / Van Andel Institute Graduate School<br />

Tax Year: 2021<br />

Fiscal Year: 2022<br />

Page 3<br />

PART III: Relationships<br />

1. Did you have a family relationship with any other officer, director, trustee, or key employee at any time during the<br />

tax year of VAIGS? (See Exhibit A)<br />

No:<br />

Yes:<br />

If yes, indicate with whom and nature of relationship:<br />

2. Did you have a business relationship 1 (direct or indirect) with any other officer, trustee, or key employee (see<br />

Exhibit A) at any time during the tax year of VAIGS?<br />

No:<br />

Yes:<br />

If yes, indicate with whom and nature of relationship:<br />

3. Do you have any obligations that conflict or could be perceived to conflict with your obligations as a Director of<br />

VAIGS?<br />

4. Do you have any business or financial interests that could be perceived to conflict with interests of VAIGS?<br />

5. Is there any other disclosure you desire to make to VAIGS?<br />

1<br />

Please note that the definition of a business relationship is different than for purposes of business transactions. Do<br />

not report any relationships eligible for the privileged relationship exception (attorney and client; medical professional<br />

and patient; or priest / clergy and penitent / communicant).

<strong>2023</strong> <strong>Board</strong> Meeting Dates<br />

Monday, March 20<br />

Monday, August 21<br />

2024 <strong>Board</strong> Meeting Dates<br />

Monday, March 25<br />

Monday, August 19<br />

2025 <strong>Board</strong> Meeting Dates<br />

Monday, March 24<br />

Monday, August 25

August 15 – 26: <strong>Orientation</strong><br />

22: Convocation<br />

29: Classes begin<br />

Academic Calendar<br />

2022-<strong>2023</strong><br />

Approved by Graduate Program Committee 2020-09-15<br />

Fall Semester: August 29 – December 16, 2022 (16 weeks)<br />

Strategic Approaches to Biomedical Research Modules (SABR)<br />

SABR Module 1 August 29 – September 23<br />

Laboratory Rotation 1 September 26 – October 21<br />

SABR Module 2 October 24 – November 18<br />

SABR Module 3 November 21 – December 16<br />

[First-year student Winter Break: Dec. 17 – Jan. 8 (three weeks)]<br />

Winter Semester: January 9 – May 5, <strong>2023</strong> (17 weeks, including exams)<br />

Laboratory Rotation 2 January 9 – February 3<br />

SABR Module 4 February 6 – March 3<br />

Laboratory Rotation 3 March 6 – March 31<br />

SABR Module 5 April 3 – April 28<br />

Exams May 3 – 5<br />

[First-year student Spring Break: May 6 – May 14 (one week)]<br />

Summer Semester: May 15 – August 18, <strong>2023</strong> (14 weeks)<br />

Final week of semester overlaps with first week of orientation<br />

Thesis Lab Integration Week: May 15-19<br />

VAI Scientific Retreat: TBD<br />

[Summer Break: Aug. 19 – Aug. 27 (one week)]<br />

Revised 2022-08-01 (st)

Van Andel Institute Graduate School<br />

Strategic Plan for 2019-2025<br />

Adopted by the VAIGS <strong>Board</strong> of Directors<br />

September 23, 2019<br />

The mission of Van Andel Institute Graduate School is to develop biomedical research leaders.<br />

Although the phrasing has been slightly modified since the last iteration of the strategic plan<br />

in 2015, the fundamental goal remains the same: preparing the scientists who will lead biomedical<br />

research for years and decades to come. The primary focus of this mission is on the students who<br />

come to VAIGS for doctoral education, training, and experience. The mission statement also fittingly<br />

applies to our faculty, in that VAIGS can enhance their capabilities as biomedical research leaders.<br />

Vision: VAIGS operates a PhD program in molecular and cell biology, with an emphasis on human<br />

disease to benefit human health and well-being. In 2025, VAIGS will be nationally known and<br />

respected as an innovative and effective leader in biomedical doctoral education. By 2025, VAIGS<br />

will increase its impact within the institute and within the biomedical research community by<br />

expanding the number of students and alumni.<br />

VAIGS operates within the context of Van Andel Research Institute (VARI), which has profound<br />

implications for the scope and focus of the graduate school. The faculty of the school are also the<br />

research leaders of VARI, hired to lead innovative and productive research laboratories. Thus, the<br />

principal focus of their time and energy is conceiving and directing those research programs,<br />

including securing the necessary grant support and publishing the outcomes in journals. The<br />

participation of faculty in the work of VAIGS is an inherent component of their appointment in VARI;<br />

the particular ways in which they participate reflect the faculty member’s interests and capabilities.<br />

VAIGS grants degrees in molecular and cell biology, which obliges the school to ensure that<br />

our graduates have knowledge and skill broad enough and deep enough to warrant that designation.<br />

PhD degrees are awarded based on evidence that the student has the stature of a professional in this<br />

discipline, evidence captured in the dissertation that summarizes their work addressing some<br />

interesting and unsolved problem in the field. The PhD program, including the dissertation, show that<br />

each graduate can think, write, speak, and act like a research leader in this field.<br />

With that in mind, the scientific scope of the students’ dissertation research is inherently<br />

bounded by the research interests and programs of the VARI faculty, which can be considered in<br />

three dimensions. The first dimension represents the diseases that give rise to the important<br />

questions of our research, including cancer, neurodegenerative disease, and metabolic disorders.<br />

The second dimension comprises the scientific approaches applied to those questions (e.g.,<br />

epigenetics, structural biology, mouse models, and bioinformatics). The third dimension reflects the<br />

balance of basic science and translational research as defined by VARI in pursuit of its mission to<br />

improve human health and well-being. The VAIGS curriculum and training scope has been and will be<br />

aligned with the scientific vision set by the VARI Chief Scientific Officer.

This strategic plan lays the framework for fulfilling this vision with an operational target of<br />

2025 which will represent the 20th anniversary of the founding of the school. This strategic plan is<br />

ambitious in its goals and thoughtful in its approaches to achieve those goals. The VAIGS strategic<br />

plan is inherently integrated with that of VARI, the context in which the graduate school operates.<br />

The associated and collaborative effort of faculty and institutional leadership will be essential to<br />

committing to these goals and to devoting the resources of time, money, and space to achieve them.<br />

In addition to articulating the mission and vision of the organization, this strategic plan lays<br />

out specific goals to direct our efforts and hold us accountable so that progress towards fulfilling that<br />

vision can be monitored. The goals and pathways defined herein will certainly be modified along the<br />

way as some steps are accomplished and as new circumstances come into play. The strategic plan will<br />

be dynamic in adapting to new information and new ideas as those arise. The <strong>Board</strong> and the faculty<br />

will share responsibility for frequently revisiting this plan to assess progress towards that vision and<br />

to make appropriate and nimble adjustments to new needs and<br />

opportunities.<br />

Values:<br />

VAI has established six core values that, when working at our<br />

best, describe and direct our efforts towards accomplishing our<br />

mission. These values were presented to the VAI community in March<br />

2019 along with short statements elaborating on what each value<br />

means and how it applies across the institute.<br />

As elaborated below, these core values apply in specific and<br />

focused ways to VAIGS faculty, students and staff. These values foster<br />

a culture of learning and discovery that is essential for fulfilling our mission with excellence.<br />

1. Be curious. We thrive in the pursuit of discovery. We strive to equip emerging scientists<br />

with the knowledge, skills, and motivation to identify new questions and to find new<br />

answers. We continually explore new and better ways to develop biomedical leaders.<br />

2. Take risks. We do things that other graduate schools don’t, in ways that they can’t. We<br />

guide students to practice taking risks and to learn from the results. We create and test<br />

new ways to better develop young scientists.<br />

3. Collaborate. We foster collaboration among students so that all learn better. We foster<br />

collaboration among faculty to help each other teach and mentor. We work with local and<br />

peer institutions to enhance the overall intellectual communities of which we are part. We<br />

learn from what others do well and share with them what we do well.<br />

4. Respect everyone. VAIGS students are regarded as colleagues and as the future stewards<br />

of our scientific disciplines. We foster the balanced well-being of faculty, students, and<br />

staff. We provide opportunities for students from a wide range of backgrounds.<br />

5. Work with urgency. Our work matters, in the laboratory and in the classroom. We help<br />

our students and faculty achieve their goals of student success in an efficient, effective,<br />

and timely manner.<br />

6. Do the right thing. The school holds the students’ best interest as its primary focus. We<br />

exceed expectations for best practices and for standards of performance. We look<br />

carefully at our work and its outcomes and we seek ways to do things better.<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 2

Context of this Strategic Plan: Trends Affecting Biomedical Higher Education:<br />

This strategic plan was developed in the context of internal and external parameters that<br />

inherently or subtly influence the vision for biomedical education and for VAIGS specifically.<br />

Several notable publications have reflected on the state of graduate education in the US<br />

generally and in biomedical research education specifically, with recommendations that are worth<br />

considering in our planning. The Formation of Scholars was published in 2008 (just after VAIGS<br />

welcomed its first students) as the product of a five-year study of US doctoral education, conducted<br />

by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Many of the principles developed in<br />

that study echo the philosophy underpinning the creation of VAIGS, including recognition that a<br />

primary function of graduate school is the development of the student to be a “steward of the<br />

discipline”. The “formation” of such scholars brings expectations of scholarly integration, of<br />

participation in an intellectual community, and on the responsible use of the resources for the benefit<br />

of future generations and not simply for the benefit of the individual or current setting. The VAIGS<br />

program and culture also reflects a number of practical or operational aspects recommended by this<br />

study, including a continuous assessment and devotion to improvement.<br />

Last year, as our strategic planning process was taking shape, the National Academies Press<br />

published an insightful whitepaper on the state of biomedical graduate education (Leshner and<br />

Scherer, Graduate STEM Education for the 21 st Century, 2018). While recognizing that the US system<br />

may be the “gold standard” for graduate STEM education, serious questions arise regarding how well<br />

this system meets the needs of students and society in current times. The report calls strongly for a<br />

shift to give primary emphasis in doctoral education on student-centered need rather than on<br />

institutional or research enterprises. Specific recommendations include greater transparency to the<br />

public regarding student outcomes; greater institutional support and relevant reward mechanisms for<br />

effective teachers and mentors; regular review and revision of curricula and degree requirements;<br />

stronger support for student well-being including mental health; definition of core competencies for<br />

PhD education; and better preparation for a wider range of career opportunities for graduates.<br />

VAIGS students and faculty also reflected on external factors and internal factors in setting the<br />

context for this plan. External factors included political, economic, social, and technological trends or<br />

forces that impinge on graduate education, the biomedical research enterprise, and the VAI mission<br />

and setting. Political trends include globalization of science, both in collaboration and in competition;<br />

an increasingly anti-science culture that places less inherent trust on research activities and results;<br />

and greater expectations for accountability for the process and consequences of scientific discoveries<br />

and technological advances. Economic trends include strong current economic growth balanced by<br />

fears of impending recession and significant increases in federal deficit and debt; and a solid base of<br />

support for continued growth in NIH and NSF research budgets. Social factors include a diminishing<br />

pool of college-age students; strong employment statistics but relatively few academic positions for<br />

STEM graduates; the impact of social media on interpersonal communication; and the rise of openaccess<br />

movements for scientific publications. Technological trends include the rise of big-data<br />

science in multiple fields (genomics, structural biology) and the use of online learning platforms.<br />

VAIGS <strong>Board</strong> members, faculty, and students reflected on internal factors using a SOAR<br />

analysis (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Resources) with a particular emphasis on aspirations:<br />

what do we want VAIGS to achieve? Not surprisingly given the diversity of the participants, a wide<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 3

ange of views were expressed, ranging from philosophical to tactical. Themes emerging from faculty<br />

and <strong>Board</strong> discussion include catalytic collaboration in both research and teaching; developing in<br />

students a way of thinking as much as a collection of facts or technical skills; broadening the scope of<br />

concepts to reflect the research directions of VARI; providing training plans that fit the needs of<br />

individual students; and building in students professional skills that will apply to many future career<br />

positions. Students emphasized the value of translational research opportunities and of connections<br />

to clinical problems, and effective preparation for a wide range of future career paths and positions.<br />

These factors, forces, trends, and characteristics have all shaped the development of the<br />

strategic plan whose major themes are mapped out below.<br />

Major Themes of the VAIGS Vision for 2025:<br />

The vision we have in mind for VAIGS over the next six years (2019-2025) will be accomplished<br />

through the following ten major threads or themes. These themes identify the goals that we hope to<br />

accomplish during this period and the timelines by which we hope to achieve those goals, and less<br />

often prescribe the manner in which those goals will be attained. Although these themes are<br />

articulated separately, they have many intersecting and connected components that should be<br />

considered as specific operational plans are developed and implemented.<br />

The ten themes include:<br />

Growth<br />

Degrees and Programs<br />

Scientific and curricular scope and structure<br />

Finances<br />

Faculty recruitment, effort, and development<br />

Student support programming<br />

Student outcomes<br />

Assessment and accreditation<br />

Undergrad and internship programs<br />

Governance, Staff, and Space<br />

I. Growth: VAIGS will grow to a student body of approximately 80 students.<br />

A. The VARI strategic plan “VARI 3.0” anticipates the growth of the institute to a steadystate<br />

number of about 40 faculty who direct research laboratories. At this writing<br />

(September 2019), the VARI faculty number is 35, with several open positions still in<br />

the search stage. These faculty hold the major responsibility for the design,<br />

implementation, and assessment of the graduate school (teaching, mentoring, and<br />

faculty governance).<br />

Given the dynamic nature of this field, we anticipate ongoing transitions as<br />

some of our faculty find new opportunities elsewhere. For purposes of this plan, we<br />

project an annual change of 5% of the faculty (i.e., two positions) each year.<br />

In addition to the research faculty, VAIGS utilizes the skills and experience of<br />

other members of the VAI community who contribute to the teaching, mentoring, and<br />

management of the VAIGS program. These persons are elected to faculty status as<br />

allowed by the VAIGS Faculty Bylaws. Six persons presently hold such positions; others<br />

may be invited to participate based on the capabilities and interests of those staff<br />

members match the opportunities within VAIGS.<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 4

Moreover, from time to time persons from outside the VAI community may<br />

provide important contributions (typically as course directors or key instructors).<br />

These persons are appointed as adjunct faculty as per the Faculty Bylaws. We do not<br />

anticipate a substantial increase in the use of adjunct faculty for core VAIGS functions.<br />

B. In 2018, a faculty initiative resulted in a commitment to significantly expand the<br />

number of graduate students relative to the number of faculty. Since 20<strong>06</strong>, our<br />

objective had been to match the number of students and number of faculty. Our new<br />

and ambitious vision is to double the student:faculty ratio, for an enrollment goal of<br />

approximately 80 students by 2025. Given that we strive to enable students to<br />

complete the PhD degree within five years, this target forecasts an annual recruitment<br />

of 16-20 students per year (assuming some attrition). Thus, the cohorts will grow from<br />

an average of six new students per year to three times that number.<br />

To meet this goal, we will gradually increase the enrollment targets each year,<br />

beginning with a cohort goal of 12 students for Fall 2019 and progressing to 16-20<br />

students by Fall 2021. Each fall, the faculty will be polled to identify the number of<br />

student positions that they might be interested and able to support, given their space,<br />

money, and time resources. The enrollment target will be set as half of the number of<br />

potential positions identified, to ensure that the incoming students have an adequate<br />

selection of thesis mentors and laboratories to choose from. This plan is likely to be<br />

affected by at least two factors: the willingness of faculty to support students on their<br />

own research funds (see Theme IV: Finance) and the degree of interest that<br />

prospective students will have in the laboratories that seek to host new students in<br />

any given year.<br />

The following table presents a simple projection of the growth of the student<br />

body over the next six years. This projection presumes that the new funding model for<br />

laboratories hosting more than one graduate student (see Theme IV) does not<br />

diminish our enrollment targets. The number of graduating students through <strong>2023</strong> is<br />

based on current enrollments and what we know about their likely time to degrees;<br />

thereafter, this model presumes an average of five years to degree completion.<br />

Year<br />

Prior Year<br />

Enrollment<br />

Graduating<br />

Students (by Sept 1) Attrition<br />

New cohort<br />

(on Sept 1)<br />

Total<br />

Enrollment<br />

2019 28 3 1 10 34<br />

2020 34 6 1 14 41<br />

2021 41 5 2 18 52<br />

2022 52 8 2 18 60<br />

<strong>2023</strong> 60 7 2 18 69<br />

2024 69 9 2 18 76<br />

2025 76 12 2 18 80<br />

C. The significant growth in the number of students (tripling the size of incoming cohorts)<br />

will require significant expansion of the recruiting and admissions efforts. The<br />

enrollment strategy must encompass the populations from which prospective<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 5

applicants will be drawn; the approaches used to reach and attract applicants from<br />

each of those populations; and the materials and expertise to carry out those<br />

approaches.<br />

1. The key target populations from which VAIGS draws applicants can be<br />

considered in several dimensions. For some of these, we can set specific goals<br />

for the composition of our applicants and of our student body.<br />

a. Geographic considerations: applicants and enrollees may come from<br />

local, national, or international institutions. To broaden the impact of<br />

the school, our GOAL for 2025 will be to enroll 20-30% of our students<br />

from local institutions, 30-50% from US national institutions, and 30-<br />

50% from international institutions. Particular focus might be placed on<br />

Canada, given the geographic proximity and the professional networks<br />

available through faculty members with Canadian backgrounds.<br />

b. Our students come from a range of prior educational and work<br />

experiences; some directly from undergraduate education, some with<br />

master’s degrees, and some from the research workforce. We will<br />

continue to seek students from each of these sectors without setting<br />

specific goals. Given the institute’s translational mission to improve<br />

human health and well-being, we have established collaborative<br />

programs for developing physician-scientists. Our GOAL for 2025 is that<br />

10% of the student body will be engaged in dual-degree (MD-PhD)<br />

and/or residency-PhD programs.<br />

c. The research at VARI is increasingly diverse, as new areas of focus (e.g,<br />

metabolism and nutrition) are added to the portfolio and as new<br />

research approaches (e.g., structural and computational biology) are<br />

brought to bear. These research areas may attract students from a<br />

broader range of prior disciplinary training and experience, including<br />

mathematics, data science, computer science, chemistry,<br />

pharmacology, and the like. No specific goals will be set for broadening<br />

the range of disciplines for students drawn to VAIGS, but certain tactical<br />

approaches might be needed to reach students not presently within our<br />

“broadcast” zone.<br />

d. The goal of increasing the student:faculty ratio was conceived in part to<br />

broaden the distribution of graduate students among VARI laboratories.<br />

Recruitment efforts and the admissions process should consider not<br />

only how many faculty are interested in mentoring students, but which<br />

faculty those are in any given year. This process should promote<br />

enrollment of students with particular interest in the research programs<br />

of faculty new to VARI, junior faculty, women faculty, and faculty who<br />

(despite their interest in mentoring) presently have no students.<br />

e. Certain demographic sectors are substantially underrepresented in US<br />

biomedical science, including some ethnic/racial groups, socioeconomic<br />

groups, and groups with limited family experience in higher<br />

education. Institutions such as VAIGS face multiple challenges in<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 6

attracting, welcoming, and supporting students from diverse<br />

populations. Addressing those challenges will require concerted and<br />

committed effort from across the institution. One GOAL is to develop<br />

and implement a specific plan for diversity, equity, and inclusion for<br />

VAIGS by December 2021. A more concrete GOAL is to enroll and<br />

support to successful completion students from underrepresented<br />

populations as 20% of our enrolled and graduating cohorts, which will<br />

exceed national benchmarks but still fall short of equivalent<br />

representation from the population as a whole.<br />

2. The goal of tripling the size of our incoming cohorts from an average of<br />

6 to an average of 16-20 will require significant effort in expanding awareness<br />

of and respect for the institute and the graduate school; increasing the number<br />

of prospects and applicants; interviewing top applicants; enhancing the yield<br />

rate from those to whom offers are extended. The various populations from<br />

which we seek to recruit students will require specific recruiting approaches.<br />

a. Given that VAIGS has only one staff person directing and implementing<br />

all recruitment and admissions activities (along with all registrar<br />

functions), additional faculty effort in early-stage promotion and<br />

recruitment activities will be essential. This might take the form of<br />

presence at undergraduate research conferences; social media postings<br />

that may reach new audiences; and mentioning the graduate school as<br />

an integral part of seminars presented at other institutions or<br />

conferences. Our GOAL is that at least one faculty member and one<br />

student will accompany VAIGS staff to at least four undergraduate<br />

research conferences every year. An ALTERNATIVE strategy is to hire an<br />

additional VAIGS staff person so as to minimize the impact on faculty<br />

research activities.<br />

b. Many prospective graduate students rely on their undergraduate<br />

faculty professors and mentors to guide them in their search for<br />

graduate school opportunities. Relationships of our faculty with their<br />

peers in other institutions should be leveraged to promote the PhD<br />

program opportunity at VAIGS. Our GOAL is that every faculty member<br />

will report at least FIVE peer contacts per year in which they have<br />

explicitly promoted VAIGS, with an average of TEN such contacts per<br />

faculty member.<br />

c. The broadcast recruiting efforts of advertising, social media, mailings to<br />

universities, and grad school fairs could be complemented by a limited<br />

number of focused, long-term institutional relationships based on<br />

faculty relationships with those institutions. These might include<br />

institutions where our faculty were training, or where they held<br />

previous positions, or where they have deeply rooted research<br />

collaborations. Some of these are geographically close to VAIGS<br />

(Aquinas, Calvin, GVSU, Hope, Kalamazoo, MSU, U Michigan, etc.)<br />

where faculty and/or students could visit each year. Others will be<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 7

more geographically dispersed, particularly given the internationallydiverse<br />

origins of our faculty. This approach may be particularly<br />

important for enhancing our recruiting efforts for students from<br />

underrepresented populations.<br />

d. The large disciplinary conferences (AACR, ASBMB, ASCB, SfN, etc.) often<br />

offer venues for graduate recruiting. For many of these, the number of<br />

prospective students (undergrad or master’s level) attending the<br />

conference will be relatively low. But faculty from many other<br />

institutions attend these conferences and may be convinced to bring<br />

the message of our program back to their students.<br />

e. On-campus grad school fairs at many universities have become less<br />

fruitful in soliciting interest and applications. New approaches including<br />

on-line “virtual” grad school recruiting events are and can be<br />

coordinated with like-minded peer institutions.<br />

f. Social media approaches may be more effective in reaching target<br />

audiences than print, website, or on-site means. This effort has been<br />

engaged seriously as of Summer 2019. The success of these efforts<br />

should be tracked carefully and where possible these tools must be<br />

continually refined and adjusted for maximum impact. Collaboration<br />

with the institute’s communications and marketing team will be<br />

essential for conveying a unified and coherent message.<br />

II.<br />

Degrees and Programs<br />

VAIGS is chartered by the State of Michigan to grant both doctoral (PhD) and master’s<br />

(MS) degrees in molecular and cellular biology. Since its inception, VAIGS has recruited<br />

students only to the PhD program, given that other local institutions offer MS degrees<br />

in this and related disciplines. We do not envision that this priority will change in the<br />

next five years. Nor do we envision expanding the formal fields in which the PhD<br />

degree is conferred (e.g., neuroscience, biochemistry, etc.). Nonetheless, several<br />

opportunities will arise in these years that are consistent with the mission of VAIGS<br />

and VAI.<br />

A. We will expand our participation in the development of physician-scientists. Several<br />

such mechanisms are already in place and several new mechanisms will be explored.<br />

1. We have established dual-degree (MD-PhD) programs with Michigan<br />

State University’s College of Human Medicine and the Stryker School of<br />

Medicine at Western Michigan University. As of this writing, we have one MD-<br />

PhD graduate and three students enrolled in PhD studies, with an additional<br />

three slated to begin their medical training in Fall 2019 and their VAIGS<br />

research training in 2021. GOALS: (a) renew the MSUCHM MOU in 2020. (b)<br />

sustain dual-degree enrollment with MSUCHM at average of 2 students/year<br />

through 2025. (c) enhance recruitment through MD-PhD program of WMed to<br />

include at least two students (total) by 2025.<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 8

2. In 2019, a pioneering student completed her PhD in association with<br />

the Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Fellowship program at Helen DeVos<br />

Children’s Hospital. We intend to keep this option open for the rare trainee<br />

who seeks to augment advanced clinical training with the VAIGS research<br />

training. Enhanced efforts to recruit trainees to this joint program will be<br />

conducted in concert with the Fellowship Program staff. Our GOAL is to enroll<br />

one or two trainees in this dual-training program by 2025.<br />

3. In its very first year, VAIGS established a relationship with the<br />

organization that oversaw the medical residency programs (e.g., Internal<br />

Medicine, Surgery, Pathology) in Grand Rapids (GRMEP) whereby medical<br />

school graduates could combine their medical specialty training with the PhD<br />

program at VAIGS. The key advantage of this approach is that trainees<br />

complete advanced medical and research training more synchronously, which<br />

is expected to enhance their success in combining both aspects in the<br />

subsequent career positions. Over the years, several trainees have expressed<br />

considerable interest (and one enrolled) in this route of physician-scientist<br />

training, but to date none have completed the PhD program of VAIGS. The<br />

residency programs are now overseen directly by the hospital systems<br />

(Spectrum and Mercy Health St. Mary’s). Efforts to re-establish effective and<br />

robust co-training programs that conjoin VAIGS doctoral degrees with<br />

residency training have not yet gained significant traction under this new<br />

regime. Our GOAL is to re-establish working relationships with two Grand<br />

Rapids-based residency programs by 2021, and to enroll two to four trainees in<br />

these programs by 2025.<br />

4. The time required to complete the full PhD training program is a<br />

disincentive for some trainees interested in careers as physician-scientists. To<br />

address this issue, we will consider whether to design and offer a master’s<br />

degree in biomedical research specifically for students enrolled in medical<br />

school or engaged in residency training. Bioinformatics might be a suitable<br />

discipline for such a master’s program. Our GOAL is to assess the feasibility and<br />

value of such a program by the end of 2020, and if that assessment is<br />

affirmative to design and implement such a program for the entering class of<br />

2021.<br />

B. Higher education in the US is increasingly making use of “micro-credentials” that<br />

indicate some degree of expertise that does not rise to the level of a formal degree.<br />

Certificate programs are prominent examples of this trend, in which students take a<br />

set of courses and/or demonstrate mastery of a specified set of technical skills.<br />

Although the VAIGS PhD will remain focused on a single discipline (molecular and cell<br />

biology), opportunities to document specific focused areas of training should be<br />

considered. In particular, certificates documenting expertise in Bioinformatics or in<br />

Structural Biology should be considered and, if the value and cost:benefit ratios are<br />

deemed appropriate, should be designed and implemented. Our GOAL is to consider<br />

the benefits of certificate programs in bioinformatics, structural biology, or other fields<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 9

deemed relevant and appropriate by VAIGS faculty by June 2021, and if so, implement<br />

the programs and recruit students with this goal in mind for the entering class of 2022.<br />

C. MSU doctoral students enrolled in certain East-Lansing based graduate programs can<br />

pursue their dissertation research in VARI laboratories, provided that the VARI faculty<br />

member obtains an adjunct appointment with a cognizant MSU college or department.<br />

This relationship was first established in 2002 and has been renewed every five years<br />

since. The relationship has been managed through VAIGS since 2007. To date, 16 MSU<br />

doctoral students and one MS student have successfully completed their degrees<br />

based on research in VARI laboratories. GOAL: By June 2021, determine whether VARI<br />

faculty continue to be interested in this relationship and in mentoring MSU doctoral<br />

students in their dissertation research. If sufficient interest exists (i.e., five or more<br />

VARI faculty are actively engaged), then a renewal of the MOU will be completed by<br />

April 2022.<br />

D. The reputation of VARI science in its areas of specialization is growing worldwide. This<br />

growing international reputation is evident in the international composition of VARI<br />

faculty and the increasing number of international students to VAIGS. This<br />

international reputation and impact could be further expanded by design and<br />

operation of PhD programs jointly with institutions in other countries, who share with<br />

VARI similar missions and a common scope of scientific interests. We propose to<br />

explore the value and potential structure of such a co-degree (or cotutelle) degree<br />

programs with the Helmholtz institute in Germany and the Garvan Institute in<br />

Australia. Students admitted to these joint programs would take some courses at each<br />

site and would conduct some portions of their dissertation research at each site. The<br />

administrative, governance, and accreditation aspects of such programs are<br />

formidable. Our GOAL is to assess in 2019-2020 whether the pursuit of such programs<br />

is justified, and then to build the necessary structures and to obtain necessary<br />

approvals by the end of 2020, for implementation in Fall 2021.<br />

III.<br />

Scientific and curricular scope and structure<br />

The VAIGS curriculum is intended to support the mission of the graduate school to<br />

develop biomedical research leaders. The primary goal of any curriculum is to meet the<br />

educational needs of the students. For VAIGS, the curriculum must be broad to justify the<br />

PhD degree in the field of “molecular and cell biology” while also being deep enough to<br />

prepare students with the foundation necessary and suitable for their dissertation<br />

research in VARI laboratories. A key value in implementing this goal is to exercise good<br />

stewardship in the use both of student time (towards timely completion of their degree)<br />

and of faculty effort (given their primary obligations as research leaders).<br />

A core principle of the graduate school is a commitment to innovation in teaching and<br />

training. Our intention is to implement or develop the best practices for student learning.<br />

The best practices are developed in the context of a research institute, where it is<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 10

necessary to use student and faculty time efficiently and to maximize student<br />

effectiveness in research.<br />

A second principle guiding the graduate school is a commitment to continual<br />

evaluation and improvement. This commitment covers the entire program and particularly<br />

the curriculum. Section 4 of our accreditation assurance argument states that “VAIGS<br />

demonstrates its responsibility for the quality of its educational programs through a<br />

regular and rigorous review of its programs, including evaluation of courses, expectations<br />

for student learning, and subsequent success of its graduates.” Assessment occurs on an<br />

annual basis for each course, followed by alterations as needed. But on a less regular<br />

basis, we evaluate the entire structure of the curriculum. The next round of complete<br />

review will begin in the first year of the new strategic plan (Fall 2019).<br />

The impetus for substantial review of the VAIGS curriculum is driven by the expanded<br />

scope of research directed by VARI faculty. Whereas the initial curriculum was developed<br />

when cancer biology was the predominant focus of research at VARI and signal<br />

transduction was a primary conceptual theme, both the diseases under study and the<br />

approaches employed at VARI have dramatically changed in the past five years. The<br />

curriculum revision should result in better alignment with the present and anticipated<br />

research directions of the Institute. This Strategic Plan dictates neither the form nor the<br />

content of that new curriculum, but sets out a process by which both form and content<br />

revision should take place.<br />

Our GOAL is to review the current curriculum during the 2019-2020 academic year and<br />

propose revisions to be implemented beginning in the Fall of 2021. The overall process will<br />

involve the following steps: 1) assessment of the current curriculum; 2) development and<br />

evaluation of proposed improvements; 3) discussion and approval of changes; and 4)<br />

implementation.<br />

The tasks of assessment, evaluation, and recommendation will be led by a task force<br />

appointed by the Dean for that purpose. Faculty members with an interest in contributing<br />

will be invited to participate. The task force will include representation from interested<br />

parties such as:<br />

• Chair of the Curriculum Committee<br />

• Faculty (some experienced in teaching at VAIGS and others new to the program).<br />

• At least one member of the Research Advisory Council<br />

• Evaluation Specialist (or successor) from the graduate school staff<br />

• Students from a range of levels in the program<br />

We will seek participation from at least 4 faculty members and 3 students, giving an<br />

approximate membership of seven or eight.<br />

A. Assessment: The assessment step will require reviewing the goals of the curriculum<br />

and assessing how well each component of the curriculum and the overall structure of<br />

the curriculum is contributing to the goals.<br />

The first step of the task force will be to define the standards against which we<br />

compare the current curriculum. The standards will be defined for the skills and<br />

capabilities we are trying to achieve and for the specific concept areas we want to<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 11

cover. For the skills and capabilities, a useful guide will be the “core competencies”<br />

rubric developed by VAIGS to describe the levels of development for scientists being<br />

trained in our program. The core competencies emphasize skills and capabilities over<br />

specific concepts because the specific concepts needed by our students likely will<br />

change considerably over time, whereas the skills and capabilities will have longer<br />

value. To define the concept areas that will be relevant for our students over the next<br />

five years, the task force will identify the concepts that are important for the research<br />

at the institute as well as emerging areas that are predicted to impact biomedical<br />

research in general.<br />

The task force will then assess how well the curriculum as a whole and each<br />

component in particular contributes to the core competencies and to the targeted<br />

concept areas. The method of assessment will include, among other tools, surveys of<br />

faculty and students with a particular emphasis on the contribution of the core<br />

curriculum to student growth in the core competencies. The task force will develop<br />

and use additional modes of assessment as necessary, such as evaluations of success in<br />

achieving learning objectives in particular courses and assessments of faculty teaching<br />

preparedness and effectiveness.<br />

The task force in particular will assess: the number of courses and length of<br />

semester; the content and scope of each of the core courses; the content and credit<br />

requirements of the ancillary courses including the professional development and<br />

special topics courses; means and processes for independent study courses or credits;<br />

opportunities for collaboration with local universities (particularly MSU); and<br />

opportunities such as teaching, internships, or clinical connections. The task force will<br />

also examine how well current faculty are prepared to lead courses or teach topics<br />

that are important for student development as biomedical research leaders.<br />

The result of the assessment will be a summary report of the findings. The<br />

report will include an evaluation of contribution to the goals of VAIGS of the individual<br />

components of the curriculum and the structure of the curriculum as a whole,<br />

addressing each of the topics mentioned above. The task force will highlight areas of<br />

strength and areas of deficiency. The report will detail the aspects that should be<br />

retained, strengthened, or modified, and also areas that should be revamped. These<br />

results will be used in evaluating proposals for curriculum changes<br />

B. Development of a Proposal of Revisions: The development of a proposal of revisions<br />

will involve discussions and analysis of various options for modifications. The goal will<br />

be to address any deficiencies or areas for improvement that were identified in the<br />

assessment.<br />

Proposed changes to the components or structure of the curriculum could be<br />

small or large, depending on the findings from the assessment stage. Proposed<br />

changes will be solicited from the faculty and gathered from evaluations of graduate<br />

schools at similar institutions. The proposals will be discussed and evaluated by the<br />

task force, using the core competencies summary as a guideline for the outcomes that<br />

are intended. Broad themes to be considered may include translational vs. basic vs.<br />

biomedical; PBL vs other styles of teaching; balancing course load vs. lab time; timing<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 12

as it relates to rotations and choosing labs; written or oral exams or none (how to<br />

assess the skills learned); means and processes for independent study courses or<br />

credits; opportunities for collaboration with local universities (particularly MSU); and<br />

opportunities such as teaching, internships, or clinical connections.<br />

The task force will produce a proposal of changes to the curriculum structure or<br />

components. Recommendations for further development of teaching skills and topica<br />

areas for faculty may also be included. The proposal will provide enough detail to allow<br />

full consideration by institute leadership and to enable implementation in a timely<br />

manner.<br />

C. Approval of Proposed Changes: The proposal will go to the Curriculum Committee, the<br />

Graduate Program, and the faculty as a whole. Opportunities for review, discussion,<br />

and evaluation of alternate proposals will be provided as needed. The task force,<br />

Curriculum Committee, Dean, and Graduate Program will evaluate all comments and<br />

alternate proposals in light of the assessment report and the objectives of the<br />

program. A final proposal or alternate proposals will be put forward to the entire<br />

faculty for approval by vote. The approved plan will be provided to the <strong>Board</strong>.<br />

D. Implementation Timeline: The implementation plan will cover various timelines and<br />

practical matters depending on the scope of the alterations. The process will begin<br />

with the appointment of the task force in October of 2019. The assessment report will<br />

be due in the early spring of 2020. The proposal review and revision will be completed<br />

and approved by September or October of 2020, which will allow time to develop and<br />

provide full descriptions of the new curriculum to prospective students for the 2021<br />

incoming class. The changes will be implemented beginning with the 2021-2022<br />

academic year.<br />

IV.<br />

Finances<br />

The substantial increase in the number of students directly implies the need for<br />

increased financial resources for direct support of the students (stipends, insurance,<br />

travel funds), for operational expenses (e.g, curriculum, textbooks, thesis committees,<br />

orientation, student affairs, and supplies) and for VAIGS staff. Since its inception, the<br />

graduate school has been supported almost exclusively through very generous<br />

allocations from Van Andel Institute and the endowment that it holds. This section<br />

includes goals for diversifying mechanisms for financial support.<br />

A. The direct costs for supporting students (i.e., stipends, benefits, and travel) will<br />

obviously increase in direct proportion to the number of students. From 2019 to 2025,<br />

those student numbers and costs will nearly triple. Operational and staff costs are<br />

projected to increase at a much lower rate of approximately 55%. Some of these<br />

increases will be offset by infusions from laboratory funds, individual fellowships, and<br />

philanthropy (see following sections). The investment from VAI is projected to<br />

increase by approximately two-fold in current dollars (see table below).<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 13

Category Basis FY2019 Changes FY2025<br />

(in 2019 $)<br />

FY2025<br />

(if 3% / y)<br />

Student support $40k x 28 $1.23 M $45K x 80 $3.6 M $4.3 M<br />

Staff salary/ben 7.2 FTE $0.85 M 11.2 FTE $1.4 M $1.6 M<br />

Operations: $0.45 M (55% increase) $0.7 M $0.84<br />

TOTAL $2.53 M $5.7 M $6.7 M<br />

Lab $, fell’ships 3 students $0.12 Labs: 16 Fell: 12 $1.1 M $1.3 M<br />

Philanthropy (mostly<br />

$0.46 M $0.4 M $0.5 M<br />

/Other<br />

carryforward)<br />

VAI contribution 25 students $1.95 M 52 students $4.2 M $4.9 M<br />

B. When the faculty adopted the new vision of doubling the student: faculty ratio, they<br />

also endorsed a plan for broadening the number of faculty who serve as thesis<br />

advisers. In this plan, VAIGS will cover the fellowship costs for all first-year students.<br />

VAIGS will continue to support fellowships for the first student in any laboratory;<br />

VAIGS and the lab will split evenly the costs for the second student; and the lab will<br />

cover the costs for the third (or more) student. We expect that faculty will be<br />

somewhat less likely to take on a second or third (or more) student because of the<br />

associated costs. Based on initial polls of faculty, our working model posits that 100%<br />

of faculty with no student will be willing to take a student in the coming year; that 75%<br />

of the faculty with one student will be willing to take a second; and that 50% of the<br />

faculty with two or more students will be willing to take an additional student.<br />

C. VAI support: A simple projection of this enrollment and funding model suggests that<br />

by 2025, VAI support will be needed to fund approximately 52 student fellowships<br />

each year (18 first-year students and 28 continuing students). Operational support,<br />

including staff salaries, will also continue to rely primarily on VAI funding. The current<br />

practice of providing partial support for research supply costs ($8,000/student/year)<br />

will be discontinued for all students enrolling in 2019 and beyond, eventually trimming<br />

approximately $212,000/year from the current VAIGS commitment by 2025.<br />

D. Laboratory research funds: The lab-specific costs for student fellowship support are<br />

expected to cover approximately 16 continuing students each year. Student fellowship<br />

support will draw on internal or unrestricted funds, not directly on research grants,<br />

since students are not considered employees at VARI. In addition, laboratories will be<br />

expected to cover all equipment, reagent and supply costs for students’ dissertation<br />

research.<br />

E. Individual fellowships: All VAIGS graduate students are expected to apply for external<br />

individual fellowships (from NSF, NIH, or other sources). As an ambitious target, we set<br />

a GOAL that by 2025, 20% of students beyond the first year (i.e., roughly 12 students)<br />

will be supported by external fellowships. Some of these fellowships will include costs<br />

for tuition or other education-related expenses (e.g., health insurance or research<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 14

materials). These ancillary funds will offset some of the VAI institutional commitment<br />

for VAIGS operational costs.<br />

F. Training Grant: Training grants represent another mechanism for supporting student<br />

stipends. Both NIH and NSF offer various options for training grants. Given the healthrelated<br />

focus of VARI research, NIH T32 training grants are likely a better fit for VAIGS<br />

than are NSF programs. Training grants from various NIH institutes have particular<br />

structures or restrictions; for instance, T32 grants from National Cancer Institute<br />

require a trainee ratio of three postdocs for one predoctoral position. Our GOAL is to<br />

submit the first T32 training grant application by 2025. The choice of training focus and<br />

NIH institute will depend on the research and training strengths of the various VARI<br />

centers and programs at that time. We anticipate that a small fraction of VAIGS<br />

students (perhaps 3-5) will be supported on the initial training grants.<br />

G. Philanthropic support: Beyond the exceptionally generous support from VAI for<br />

operational support, the primary philanthropic support specifically for VAIGS to date<br />

has been modest. We are very grateful for the long-standing underwriting by the<br />

Meijer Foundation of the summer undergraduate internship program (currently<br />

$140K/y through <strong>2023</strong>); those funds are channeled through VARI to be used primarily<br />

to support intern wages. A bequest to VAEI in 2016 has been held as an endowment<br />

that generates approximately $65K/year for VAIGS (and a comparable amount for VAEI<br />

K-12 programs). In addition, VAIGS receives $25,000/year from unrestricted donations<br />

to VAI from the previous year. Annual giving directly to VAIGS has typically been less<br />

than $5,000. Thus, the current annual philanthropic support for VAIGS per se is<br />

$95,000.<br />

Multiple opportunities for specific donor interests remain open for investment.<br />

Cultivation of the donor base will require more time and attention from both the<br />

VAIGS Dean and the VAI Development team than previously. Additional opportunities<br />

could include naming rights for positions or facilities.<br />

Opportunity<br />

Target<br />

Endowment of the Dean / President position<br />

$ 5M<br />

Endowed individual student fellowships<br />

$ 1M<br />

Individual student fellowships (annual)<br />

$50K/student/y<br />

Fellowships for students from underrepresented pops $50K/student/y<br />

Graduate student travel funds (X 80 students) $2k/student/y<br />

MD-PhD fellowships (for med school training years) $30K/student/y<br />

Expanding summer undergrad internship $5k / intern/y x 7<br />

Internship for students from underrep populations $10k/intern/y<br />

Med student summer research internships $8K/intern/y x 4<br />

VAIGS office / teaching space renovations<br />

(pending)<br />

Excellence in Grad Education award (endow)<br />

$3k/y, $60K to endow<br />

Recruiting scholarships / supplements $3.5K /y<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 15

Our ambitious GOAL for 2025 is to secure annual philanthropic support in the amount<br />

of $400,000/y (including the Jabury bequest and VAI unrestricted funds as well as<br />

major gifts for specific opportunities. An additional GOAL will be the renewal of the<br />

Meijer Foundation gift in support of summer internship programs in <strong>2023</strong>.<br />

V. Faculty effort and development<br />

Whereas this school, as any school, has as its primary mission the education of students,<br />

the faculty are the engine by which the school achieves its mission. The dedication by<br />

faculty to the mission takes form in their commitment of time and effort to the various<br />

functions that must be fulfilled, including recruiting and admitting students, teaching<br />

courses, advising dissertation research, serving on thesis advisory committees and faculty<br />

standing committees, and promoting the reputation of the school and institute.<br />

Given that VAIGS operates within the context of VARI as a research institute, the<br />

primary priority of the faculty is to design, conduct, and communicate innovative and<br />

impactful research programs (and to secure the funding to support those programs).<br />

Relative to typical universities, the fraction of VARI faculty effort committed to graduate<br />

school functions will be significantly lower.<br />

A. Faculty Effort Commitments: The standard workweek in the US comprises 40 hours for<br />

a total of 2000 h/y. Those in professional fields (medicine, law, higher education),<br />

particularly in entrepreneurial settings that depend on individual initiative, often work<br />

longer hours. The following estimates of faculty effort are based on a rough rule of<br />

thumb that faculty members work an average of 50 hours per week for 50 weeks, or<br />

2500 hours per year.<br />

Faculty effort in pursuit of the mission of VAIGS takes place in several<br />

functions. Some of these functions (e.g, thesis advising / TAC committees,<br />

recruiting/admissions) scale directly with the number of students; other functions can<br />

be accomplished with some degree of economy (teaching, faculty meetings, some<br />

faculty committees).<br />

1. Teaching: The present VAIGS curriculum (encompassing first-year,<br />

special topics, and professional development courses) comprises approximately<br />

500 hours/year of class time. The curriculum revision anticipated in Theme III<br />

will certainly change this total, which will revise the following estimates of<br />

teaching effort.<br />

With the expanded cohorts of 16-20 students, courses taught in smallgroup<br />

format (5-10 students) will need more than one instructor for each<br />

scheduled hour of class time. In the present curriculum, that additional<br />

instructional time would represent about 250 hours (e.g., SABR, RECR, and<br />

some special-topic courses). Three approaches will be considered for fulfilling<br />

the anticipated teaching effort. VARI faculty may take on some of this effort. A<br />

Teaching Specialist could be added to the in the VAIGS staff. Postdoctoral<br />

associates or research scientists (with approval of their research supervisor and<br />

with adequate preparation and oversight) may also find this a valuable<br />

opportunity.<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 16

Using the current curriculum model, the total annual teaching effort is<br />

estimated to be about 750 h. Instructors typically spend an average of three<br />

hours of preparation and assessment time for each hour of class (2250 h), for a<br />

total teaching effort of about 3000 h/y. We envision that the Teaching<br />

Specialist, postdocs and research scientists will fulfill one third of that effort.<br />

For VARI faculty, we anticipate an average of 12 h/y in class time and 36 h of<br />

preparation time for a total of 50 h/y, or approximately 2% of total effort.<br />

These averages will range widely among faculty in any given year (likely from 2<br />

to 30 class hours/y), and for any given faculty member may vary significantly<br />

from year to year (for classes that are not offered every year).<br />

2. Thesis advising; mentoring doctoral students (in rotations and in<br />

dissertation research) encompasses both explicit educational and professional<br />

growth as well as directing research activity per se. We estimate that faculty<br />

devote about 75 h/y in mentoring the educational growth of a doctoral<br />

student. At the targeted student:faculty ratio of 2, the average faculty member<br />

will commit about 150 h/y or about 6% effort to thesis advising.<br />

3. Thesis advisory committee: With 80 students and 3 VARI members per<br />

committee, 240 committee-member slots will be needed. Assuming 40 faculty,<br />

the average faculty member will serve on 6 TACs in any given year. Each TAC<br />

meets twice a year for 2 h, with an estimated 2 h of faculty prep time (reading<br />

reports, comprehensive exam proposals, or dissertations, and compiling<br />

evaluative comments). Thus, the typical faculty member will commit about 50<br />

h/year (2% effort) to TACs.<br />

4. Faculty committees: the work of some faculty committees will scale<br />

directly with student numbers (e.g., Admissions, Comprehensive Exams, and<br />

Student Performance Review). Others will see larger workload but not directly<br />

proportional to student numbers (Grad Program, Curriculum). Faculty meetings<br />

will likely continue at the current frequency of 6-8/year. Faculty effort for<br />

these administrative functions will likely range from 25 h/year to 50 h/y (i.e., 1-<br />

2% effort) depending on the committee and role.<br />

5. Other faculty activities not formally enumerated include participation in<br />

faculty development workshops, attending grad student seminars, and<br />

promoting the reputation of VAIGS and VARI among external colleagues and<br />

communities.<br />

6. The average fraction of faculty effort devoted to VAIGS activities overall<br />

in recent years has been about 6%. Doubling the student:faculty ratio will<br />

inherently mean a substantial increase in average faculty effort on educational<br />

activities (and concomitant reduction in research and/or service activities).<br />

Based on the estimates of given above, we anticipate that faculty members<br />

will commit on average 10% of their professional effort to VAIGS activities.<br />

Specific commitments will vary among the faculty (i.e., may range from 2% to<br />

20%). For any given faculty member, the commitment will vary from year to<br />

year depending on teaching and committee assignments, and on the number of<br />

graduate students in that laboratory.<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 17

B. Faculty Development: VAI is committed to enhancing the capabilities, productivity,<br />

effectiveness, success, and sense of satisfaction for all its employees through ongoing<br />

professional development. This commitment applies no less to the VARI faculty.<br />

1. Faculty development in the general area of scientific project design,<br />

grantsmanship, and publication is primarily the responsibility of the Chief<br />

Scientific Officer. This responsibility is delegated at least in part to specific<br />

Center directors. Mechanisms for this area include mentoring teams for<br />

individual faculty members (particularly assistant professors); grant preview<br />

processes; and editorial assistance by the Scientific Editor.<br />

2. Faculty development in the general areas of leadership and<br />

management is primarily the responsibility of the Chief Scientific Officer. This<br />

responsibility is delegated at least in part to specific Center directors. Some<br />

aspects of the Good to Great initiative led by the Chief Strategy Officer are<br />

relevant for VARI faculty. An external faculty coach (Dr. M-F. Chesselet) has<br />

been retained by the CSO for long-term advising, particularly for woment<br />

faculty. External leadership workshops and programs may also be useful<br />

experiences for developing leadership and management capabilities in VARI<br />

faculty.<br />

3. Faculty development in teaching (planning, preparation, pedagogy,<br />

assessment) is largely the responsibility of VAIGS. Mechanisms include<br />

occasional workshops on pedagogical principles and practices, and individual<br />

coaching for course directors and instructors. The Assistant Dean for curriculum<br />

holds lead responsibility for designing and running these development<br />

activities. Postdoctoral associates and research scientists who participate as<br />

instructors in VAIGS courses will also need and benefit from appropriate<br />

preparation and practice to ensure an excellent quality of instruction for VAIGS<br />

students.<br />

4. Given the broad diversity of prior experiences and training, and the<br />

wide-ranging needs and desires of faculty to expand their capabilities, we set<br />

no specific goal for faculty to participate in development activities. Specific<br />

recommendations or mandates may arise during the annual performance<br />

review process in which the Dean and cognizant Center Director participate.<br />

C. Diversity in faculty ranks: The faculty of VAIGS are formally hired by VARI,<br />

appropriately given that their primary priority is to conduct and direct innovative and<br />

impactful research programs. The institute has expressed its long-standing<br />

commitment to a diverse workforce and to equal opportunity employment practices.<br />

The VARI faculty now is exceptionally diverse with respect to country of origin; roughly<br />

75% were raised, educated, or recently employed outside the US. However, the VARI<br />

faculty do not have significant representation by members of populations<br />

underrepresented in biomedical sciences (using NIH definition); we presently have no<br />

African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, or Hawaiian-Pacific Islander<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 18

faculty. Nearly a third of VARI faculty are women, but none of them are among the 18<br />

full professors.<br />

VAIGS recognizes that graduate students often seek and thrive in environments<br />

where they see models among the faculty that reflect the student’s origins (whether<br />

that be nationality, race, ethnicity, first-generation, socio-economic status, and the<br />

like). The authority and responsibility for hiring faculty falls to VARI led by the Chief<br />

Scientific Officer, who is strongly committed to providing equal opportunities for those<br />

from wide-ranging backgrounds. To enhance the school’s effectiveness in recruiting<br />

and developing young scientists from diverse and underrepresented populations,<br />

VAIGS is committed to supporting VARI efforts to recruit, support, and retain faculty<br />

from an even richer diversity than at present. The challenges in this effort should not<br />

be taken lightly; the roots of this matter are deep and complex.<br />

D. Faculty review, reward, recognition: The increased effort in VAIGS activities by faculty<br />

should be appropriately recognized and rewarded within the VAI faculty appointment,<br />

review, compensation, reappointment and promotion processes. Given the priority of<br />

faculty expectations in the research realm, reappointment and promotion depend<br />

almost exclusively on evidence of research productivity and excellence. Faculty<br />

contributions to VAIGS are recognized in the annual performance review process,<br />

which is a component of the annual merit pay consideration. VAIGS has recently<br />

established an Excellence in Graduate Education award as a way to recognize and<br />

celebrate superlative work in teaching, mentoring, and service to the school.<br />

Additional mechanisms should be established to acknowledge and to encourage the<br />

excellent work that faculty do in supporting the mission and students of VAIGS.<br />

VI.<br />

Student support programming<br />

VAIGS is committed to supporting student success in ways that maximize effective and<br />

efficient development of their capabilities as biomedical research leaders. Support for<br />

non-academic aspects of their development are as essential to that as their academic<br />

preparation. In many ways, the functions of student support will grow in direct proportion<br />

to the number of students. For the next six years, the following areas will get particular<br />

attention and effort:<br />

A. <strong>Orientation</strong> and on-boarding: As the size and complexity of the incoming cohorts<br />

increases, dedicated efforts in support of the on-boarding and orientation of VAIGS<br />

students must be a high priority.<br />

1. We expect that the fraction of our student body that comes from<br />

national or international origins will increase. Assisting their relocation to<br />

Grand Rapids and their adjustment to life in this country and community will be<br />

essential to get them off to a good start in the graduate school. Partial financial<br />

support for relocation costs will be a standard part of the offer of admissions.<br />

Assistance in finding housing, getting Social Security numbers, procuring drivers<br />

licenses, and the like are vital steps in that adjustment.<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 19

2. <strong>Orientation</strong> has already expanded to two weeks prior to the start of Fall<br />

semester. During this time, students complete safety training exercises, explore<br />

their strengths and those of their classmates, become aware of institutional<br />

policies and procedures, and meet with faculty members as potential lab<br />

rotation advisers. Continuous review and improvement of orientation plans<br />

will ensure that these activities are effective and as efficient as possible.<br />

3. A Survey of Prior Knowledge (SOPK) was designed as a means to<br />

discern which fundamental concepts were well-understood (or not) by<br />

students in the incoming cohorts. This probe was subsequently modified to be<br />

more of a self-tutorial on those fundamental concepts. Teaching faculty and<br />

academic advisers have not fully and effectively used the insights from SOPK,<br />

nor have student responses been evaluated for whether they do or do not have<br />

the expected foundation. Moreover, the scope of the research at VARI has<br />

changed considerably since SOPK was last substantially overhauled. Our GOAL<br />

is to review and revise the SOPK by Fall 2020 to as to ensure that enrolled<br />

students have a common base of understanding of fundamental concepts<br />

before beginning the VAIGS curriculum.<br />

4. From time to time, VAIGS faculty have considered offering “boot<br />

camps” for incoming students, as a way of ensuring either a common base of<br />

knowledge or a common base of technical skills. To this date, we have not<br />

reached consensus on the highest priority for the goal of such a activity.<br />

Moreover, the logistic questions have not been resolved (when to start, how<br />

long should boot camp last, who would design and lead those experiences).<br />

This notion should be considered along with the curriculum revision project.<br />

B. Student well-being:<br />

1. Mental, emotional health: Numerous recent reports describe the high<br />

frequencies and levels of stress, depression, anxiety, and other concerns with<br />

mental and emotional health among graduate students. Helping students<br />

recognize, respect, and address the significance of these factors will help them<br />

be healthier, happier, and more productive. VAIGS staff assist students in stress<br />

management and in conflict resolution. VAIGS staff do not serve students as<br />

therapists but can help recognize issues that should be addressed with the<br />

support of external professionals. The frequency of these issues among VAIGS<br />

students will likely scale in direct proportion to the number of students, and so<br />

increased staff support will be needed to accommodate these needs. The<br />

capabilities of faculty members to recognize and respond to these needs<br />

should also be more thoroughly developed and regularly enhanced.<br />

2. Financial literacy – for both personal and professional applications. A<br />

concern common among higher education professionals is that students are<br />

often ill-prepared to manage their own personal financial situation. A<br />

professional development concern for VAIGS is that students who become<br />

research leaders will need to know now to plan and manage budgets for<br />

research projects, including personnel, materials and reagents, travel and<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 20

publication costs, and grant management. VAIGS has already initiative a small<br />

program to foster financial literacy for personal matters (e.g., budgeting, credit<br />

card debt, student debt, mortgages, and retirement savings). Whether through<br />

Student Support or through a Professional Development course, additional<br />

attention should be given to a program of professional financial literacy.<br />

C. Career planning and preparation: The 2013 NIH Biomedical Workforce Report make<br />

abundantly clear the fact that relatively few PhD graduates would find long-term<br />

positions as faculty in research-active academic institutions. The NIH BEST grant<br />

program helped build examples (at selected institutions) of good practice in supporting<br />

students in considering a broader range of career options and of preparing students to<br />

enter and to succeed in non-academic career placements. For the past several years,<br />

VAIGS has organized a Career Day with guests from a wide range of career paths all<br />

stemming from doctoral programs in disciplines related to molecular and cell biology.<br />

Still, we often find that students delay active preparation and searching for next<br />

positions until later than optimal for a smooth transition from completion of degree<br />

into subsequent position. Concerted partnership between VAIGS student support<br />

staff, Human Resources staff (particularly the Postdoc Program coordinator), and<br />

thesis advisers for VAIGS students will be needed to further enhance students’<br />

planning and preparation for timely transition to excellent subsequent positions.<br />

D. Internships and external opportunities: Effective preparation for careers beyond that<br />

of principal investigator as a faculty member in an academic environment requires that<br />

students have opportunities to gain knowledge, skills, and experience in these areas.<br />

1. Teaching experience: training and practice: Graduate students in many<br />

disciplines and institutions often get some experience in professional activities<br />

outside of the laboratory. For many, these are teaching experiences, most<br />

often as teaching assistants for undergraduate courses. Given that VAI does not<br />

offer undergraduate courses, teaching experiences for VAIGS students will<br />

inherently be in partnership with nearby institutions. Some pathways have<br />

been implemented for particular students in recent years, but we do not yet<br />

have a robust plan for providing the educational foundation and practical<br />

experience needed to give our students sufficient training as teachers. Our<br />

GOAL is to establish a robust and effective program of pedagogical and<br />

educational courses and experiences in partnership with local institutions, with<br />

specific opportunities implemented by Fall 2020 and a regular menu of<br />

opportunities established by Fall 2021.<br />

2. An emerging theme in graduate education, including in biomedical<br />

fields, is that of internships in non-academic settings as a way for students to<br />

discern whether this path is well-suited to their interests and strengths, and for<br />

them to gain relevant experience in those settings. Short-term internships (1 to<br />

6 months) in a partner organization is one way to achieve those goals.<br />

Partnerships based on research collaborations will benefit the faculty (as thesis<br />

adviser) as well as the student. This plan has several complexities, including the<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 21

elation of the internship work with that of the dissertation; finding suitable<br />

internship hosts for VAIGS students; building mutually-acceptable models of<br />

the learning outcomes and experiences for such internships; establishing the<br />

financial support for these internships; and evaluating the effectiveness of<br />

individual internship experiences and the internship program overall. Our GOAL<br />

is to establish primary learning outcomes and objectives for internship<br />

programs by Fall 2020; securing commitments from several key partners by<br />

Summer 2021; and initiating such experiences by fall 2021.<br />

3. One key concern with both teaching assistantships and industry<br />

internships is the impact on the time to degree completion, and the resulting<br />

impact on the cost of supporting the student. The implementation of Individual<br />

Development Plans early in graduate training may help plan for the right time<br />

and manner in which to integrate these experiences into the overall education<br />

for a given student. Thesis advisers and advisory committees should actively<br />

engage in discussions of the students’ long-term goals and the means that will<br />

best prepare them for success in achieving those goals, given the standards of<br />

the discipline for the doctoral degree.<br />

E. Assessment plans: Our accreditation requires (and best practices in education expect)<br />

that non-academic goals (as well as academic goals) will be defined clearly; that<br />

achievement of those goals will be assessed regularly; and that such assessments will<br />

result in changes for improving those aspects of the students’ experience. These<br />

assessments must both gauge student growth and program effectiveness. The<br />

academic assessment for VAIGS is well-rounded and robust, as demonstrated in the<br />

2018 Assurance Argument for reaffirmation of accreditation. Our assessment of nonacademic<br />

aspects of student growth and of program effectiveness are not at the level<br />

consistent with best practices. To that end, our multi-step GOAL is to have an nonacademic<br />

assessment plan developed by December 2020; to define outcomes and<br />

standards by Summer 2021; to collect and analyze initial data by August 2021; and to<br />

demonstrate how such data lead to changes in student support design and planning by<br />

August 2022.<br />

VII.<br />

Student outcomes<br />

A. Statistical targets: Some aspects of successful student outcomes can be captured in<br />

cumulative statistics. Indeed, the Higher Learning Commission expects that its<br />

accredited member institutions set specific goals for retention and completion. These<br />

goals help the faculty and program administrators keep a focus on appropriate<br />

indicators of student success, which should be the primary objective of an institution<br />

of higher education. Other indicators of student success are more specific to the field<br />

of biomedical research, including measures of research productivity and impact. To<br />

that end, we will strive to achieve the following GOALS up to and including 2025:<br />

1. Retention (year 1 to year 2): 95%<br />

2. Completion to PhD = 80%, to PhD or MS = 90%<br />

3. Time to degree: 5.2 + 0.2 years<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 22

4. Productivity: at least one first-authored paper for every PhD graduate;<br />

an average of two first-authored papers for the collective graduates; and an<br />

average of five authored / coauthored papers per graduate; all assessed at the<br />

date of one year following the dissertation defense.<br />

5. Career placement rate in a relevant scientific position of >95% within 6<br />

months of graduation.<br />

6. Core Competencies surveys: for any given competency, at least 80% of<br />

students in any given cohort will meet the target level as judged by their thesis<br />

adviser. Graduating students will demonstrate heightened to exceptional<br />

competence in at least 90% of the competencies, with no competency assessed<br />

at a level lower than advanced.<br />

B. Alumni outcomes: The real fruits of the graduate school will be evident in the lives and<br />

careers of our alumni. To be sure, their paths and their success will be influenced by a<br />

number of factors beyond the graduate school, and so we cannot claim sole credit or<br />

responsibility for their success or lack thereof. Nonetheless, it is appropriate to set<br />

goals for the long-term impact that our alumni have in biomedical research leadership.<br />

We will strive to achieve the following GOALS up to and including 2025:<br />

1. Initial placement: our GOAL is that at least 95% of VAIGS graduates will<br />

secure a career-advancing position (in research-related setting or further<br />

education) within six months of graduation.<br />

2. For those graduates who progress to postdoctoral positions, our GOAL<br />

at least 25% will be successful in securing individual postdoctoral fellowships or<br />

positions on postdoctoral training grants.<br />

3. Periodic surveys of alumni will not only track their subsequent career<br />

positions but will also assess their retrospective reflections on how well VAIGS<br />

prepared them for their career paths and positions.<br />

4. Five-year: our GOAL is that by their fifth anniversary of graduation, 60%<br />

of our graduates who undertake postdoctoral positions will transition to longterm<br />

stable employment (as faculty in academia or as research leaders in<br />

industry, or comparable positions). Likewise, 60% of our graduates who<br />

initially take non-postdoc positions will have accepted promotions from their<br />

initial placements to positions of higher leadership responsibility.<br />

5. Ten-year: By 2025, seven of our graduates will reach their 10-year<br />

anniversary of graduation. Specific numeric goals are hard to set for such a<br />

small group. We will monitor their record of publications, patents, products,<br />

clinical trials, and other outcomes of their work as evidence of their impact on<br />

the biomedical research community. We expect that some graduates will<br />

progress to leadership positions in their professions and institutions.<br />

6. By 2025, we expect to have an alumni body of approximately 60. We<br />

will continue to serve these alumni through regular communications about the<br />

graduate school, sharing stories of alumni success, and hosting visits and<br />

seminars by alumni. An open question is whether that group will have sufficient<br />

critical mass and initiative to be self-sustaining, or if VAIGS staff will continue to<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 23

coordinate these relationships. Obviously, this number will continue to grow<br />

and so the staff effort in supporting the alumni relations will also grow (albeit<br />

not proportionally).<br />

VIII. Assessment and accreditation:<br />

As an institution of higher education, VAIGS has a responsibility not only to design and<br />

execute an appropriate curriculum and training plan for its students, but to assess<br />

whether in fact students have achieved the learning outcomes defined for the program.<br />

VAIGS also has a responsibility to determine whether its activities and operations are<br />

effective. These twin goals of assessing student learning and program effectiveness both<br />

contribute to an overall commitment to continuous improvement. Continuous<br />

improvement is particularly essential for a PhD program in the field of molecular and cell<br />

biology in which concepts, approaches, methods, and models are changing rapidly. Since<br />

its inception, VAIGS has been able to respond nimbly to new opportunities and needs<br />

based on assessments of student learning and of student and faculty satisfaction.<br />

Evidence that VAIGS has done this well in the past ten yearsis noted in the reports<br />

following accreditation site visits. We must ensure that assessment activities provide<br />

sufficient and actionable insight in an efficient manner and must guard against<br />

unnecessary, uninformative, or redundant measures.<br />

A. Assessment of Student Learning:<br />

1. The VAIGS curriculum continuously evolves as the problems underlying<br />

the SABR curriculum change from year to year and as Special Topics courses<br />

explore new concepts and areas of research. Vigilance in defining appropriate<br />

student learning outcomes and in implementing effective means of assessing<br />

the achievement of those outcomes will be important in order to establish<br />

evidence that students actually learn what faculty intend to teach. Our GOAL is<br />

that every VAIGS course will have robust mechanisms of formative assessment<br />

reflecting to each student whether they are achieving the desired outcomes,<br />

and of summative assessment providing evidence of student learning and<br />

justifying the grades given to students. A related GOAL is for the Curriculum<br />

Committee to use the evidence of student learning outcomes to guide the<br />

continuous improvement of course design and executions.<br />

2. Core Competencies: VAIGS has defined and refined a set of 19 core<br />

competencies in the domains of knowledge, research, communication, and<br />

professional practice. We also have a rubric describing the achievement of each<br />

of these competencies at levels of expertise ranging from Beginner to<br />

Exceptional. This rubric is used formatively by thesis advisers and students as<br />

frequently as they deem beneficial. Our GOAL is to sustain our practice of<br />

gathering student and mentor assessments annually so as to demonstrate<br />

overall effectiveness in developing each of these competencies. A related<br />

GOAL is to use evidence of student learning outcomes to guide the<br />

improvement of overall curriculum or program design.<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 24

3. Comprehensive exams and dissertation/thesis defenses: These are<br />

critical and summative assessments that determine whether a student<br />

progresses to candidacy status or warrants the doctoral degree. These<br />

judgments should be based on clear and explicit expectations and on sound<br />

evidence as to whether students meet or exceed those expectations. Our GOAL<br />

is that every comprehensive exam report and every thesis or dissertation<br />

defense report will include explicit evidence that justifies the decision made by<br />

the examining committee.<br />

4. Thesis Advisory Committees: the use of Individualized Development<br />

Plans (IDPs) has become widespread in doctoral education and are now<br />

required for recipients of federal predoctoral fellowships. One GOAL is to<br />

incorporate essential elements of IDPs into the TAC committee reports (by Fall<br />

2020), with review and updating of the IDP at least annually. We will sustain<br />

our practice of requiring TAC meetings at least twice a year (every six months).<br />

To ensure that these meetings bear fruit, our GOAL is that every TAC report will<br />

cite explicit evidence of and recommendations for student progress in<br />

academic, research, and professional development activities.<br />

5. Student Performance Review: as the number of students expands<br />

dramatically over the next five years, the effort by faculty and program<br />

leadership in assessing overall progress of each individual student will scale<br />

directly. This annual “big picture” review is important to ensure that each<br />

student is meeting appropriate milestones towards timely completion of their<br />

degree or, if not, that appropriate measures are put in place to address the<br />

factors affecting such progress.<br />

B. Assessment of student growth in non-academic and co-curricular activities, and<br />

assessment of student support programming, are detailed under Theme VI of this plan.<br />

C. Iterative environmental scans: In addition to formal period program reviews (next<br />

section), VAIGS has established a pattern of regular surveys of faculty and student<br />

satisfaction. Faculty surveys have been conducted early in even-numbered years and<br />

student surveys in odd-numbered years. This pattern ensures that VAIGS and VAI<br />

leadership (staff, faculty, executive, and board levels) have timely insight into the<br />

aspects of the program that are working well and into aspects that call for attention or<br />

action. These surveys also provide insight into the culture of the institute and<br />

graduate school that extend beyond formal aspects of program review.<br />

The performance of the VAIGS Dean is evaluated on an annual basis by the<br />

<strong>Board</strong> of Directors, based largely on the accomplishment of annual goals, information<br />

in reports at <strong>Board</strong> meetings, and interactions with <strong>Board</strong> members during those<br />

meetings. In addition, the Dean is reviewed on a periodic basis (typically every 5 years)<br />

using a broader “360 degree” review process that gathers input from students, faculty,<br />

VAIGS staff, and other VAI staff with whom the Dean interacts. This review provides<br />

the <strong>Board</strong> with additional insight on the effectiveness of the Dean in the broader<br />

environmental context of the institute as a whole.<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 25

D. Program Review: 2021. VAIGS has performed an overall program review on a cycle of<br />

approximately every five years. This pattern fits with best practices on most university<br />

campuses for oversight and planning for academic programs. The last review was<br />

done during the 2015-16 academic year, with a report issued in August 2016. That<br />

report includes more than 90 recommendations for sustaining and improving all<br />

aspects of the program. The next cycle of program review is slated for 2020-2021.<br />

1. The last program review cycle was comprehensive, encompassing the<br />

curriculum, degree requirements and activities, faculty, students, staff and<br />

resources. The review was accomplished by a VAIGS staff team (Dean,<br />

Associate Dean, and Evaluation Specialist) with occasional input from the<br />

faculty Graduate Program Committee and data from the Enrollment and<br />

Records Administrator and other faculty committees. Our GOAL is to revise the<br />

program review procedure by Summer 2020 to improve the structure and<br />

process of the review. This committee<br />

2. We note that a review and proposed revision of the curriculum is slated<br />

for the 2019-2020 academic year (see Section III). Given that, the 2020-21<br />

Program Review should incorporate but not repeat the curriculum review.<br />

3. The last Program Review report was conducted internally, with external<br />

(off-site) review of the final report by graduate school deans from two<br />

Michigan universities. For the upcoming Program Review, our GOAL is to enlist<br />

a team of three external reviewers to conduct an on-site review in Spring 2021<br />

which will encompass: (i) a review of the report written by the internal<br />

program review team; (ii) a site visit to determine whether the report summary<br />

and recommendations are supported by available evidence and are consistent<br />

with input from internal constituents; (iii) endorse (or refute)<br />

recommendations incorporated into the internal team report; and (iv) propose<br />

additional recommendations for enhancing the effectiveness of VAIGS in<br />

meeting its mission.<br />

E. Benchmarking: One way to assess the success of the VAIGS program is to compare its<br />

inputs and outcomes with those of similar programs in other institutions. The<br />

Graduate Program Committee has identified doctoral programs in several types of<br />

institutions to which VAIGS should be compared. The Committee also identified a<br />

number of parameters for making those comparisons. Our GOAL for the coming<br />

period is to establish processes for obtaining the data from those comparison<br />

institutions, at a frequency of every three to five years, so that evaluations of our<br />

relative program effectiveness can be based on evidence. A second GOAL is to join the<br />

Coalition for Next Generation Life Scientists, a collection of institutions who have<br />

pledged to post at their home website a set of statistics and program outcomes that<br />

will allow prospective students (and others) make fair and evidenced-based<br />

comparisons. VAIGS and the VAI Postdoc Program will work together to join the<br />

Coalition by the end of 2019 and to post our relevant data on the VAI website in 2020.<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 26

F. Accreditation: <strong>2023</strong>-24. VAIGS was initially accredited by the Higher Learning<br />

Commission in November 2013. Accreditation was reaffirmed in May 2018 following<br />

submission of an Assurance Argument and a site visit by a team of peer evaluators.<br />

The next formal review for reaffirmation of accreditation is slated for the <strong>2023</strong>-2024<br />

academic year. Of the three VAIGS staff who were principally engaged in the<br />

preparation and planning for the last reaffirmation cycle, two are now gone from<br />

VAIGS and the third (Dean) may conclude his service prior to the upcoming cycle.<br />

Therefore, it seems wise to build the capacity among faculty to effectively prepare for<br />

and execute the upcoming review process. Given this essential need, our GOAL is to<br />

establish a new faculty standing committee for Assessment and Accreditation (in 2019-<br />

2020); to educate and equip those faculty (2020-2022); and to guide the development<br />

of the Assurance Argument and the preparations for the site visit (<strong>2023</strong>-24) in<br />

conjunction with VAIGS executive leadership.<br />

IX.<br />

Undergrad and Internship Programming<br />

The undergraduate and internship programming driven by and through VAIGS<br />

contributes in valuable ways to the life of the school and the institute. These programs<br />

foster the interest of young scientists in biomedical research as a focus for their future<br />

education and career. Many VAIGS students have been drawn to apply to the school<br />

through their internship experiences or through their participation in the regional<br />

undergraduate conference. These programs also fulfill a commitment of VAIGS as a<br />

trusted partner in the local academic community, which benefits the institute overall.<br />

A. Internships:<br />

1. The lead program in our internship portfolio is the summer<br />

undergraduate internship, a large portion of which are supported by a longstanding<br />

and generous gift from the Meijer Foundation. Our GOAL is to expand<br />

the SIP program by 2025 as the number of VARI faculty grow, such that 80% (or<br />

32 of the projected 40 faculty) will host a summer undergrad interns in any<br />

given year. To support this goal, we will seek renewed and expanded funding<br />

from the Meijer Foundation by 2022, augmented by philanthropic support from<br />

other donors. In addition, we anticipate that 20% (or 8 of the 40 faculty) will<br />

host summer interns supported on laboratory funds. Given our mission of<br />

training biomedical research leaders, we now set a GOAL that 75% of the<br />

summer interns will assert a plan to pursue graduate school in a related<br />

discipline following their experience at VARI. To achieve this goal, faculty will<br />

be encouraged to be thoughtful in recruiting and selecting summer interns who<br />

show genuine interest and potential as future scientists. In addition, activities<br />

should be designed and implemented that would further enhance the interest<br />

and inclination of interns to pursue advanced degrees.<br />

2. One avenue to fulfill the mission of developing biomedical research<br />

leaders is to foster the training of physician scientists. To entice and encourage<br />

medical students to pursue research as an active component of their practice,<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 27

our GOAL is to support four medical student research internships each summer<br />

(i.e., 10% of the VARI laboratories). We will seek philanthropic support for<br />

these internships, which to this point have been internally funded.<br />

3. Certain US subpopulations have long been underrepresented in<br />

biomedical research training and career paths. The commitment of Van Andel<br />

Institute to equal opportunities impels us to address this issue in part by<br />

supporting the pipeline that leads young people from those populations to<br />

consider, engage, and thrive in their development as research leaders. Prior<br />

efforts by VAIGS have partnered with other organizations (e.g., UNCF) to<br />

promote internship opportunities at VARI. These efforts have had some initial<br />

success and individual impact but the greater goal remains unmet. Our GOAL is<br />

that 20% of the summer interns each year would be drawn from URM<br />

populations, and that 75% of those interns will assert a plan to pursue graduate<br />

school in a related discipline. We will pursue this goal with more locally and<br />

regionally-focused internship recruitment strategies; with more explicit<br />

financial support for travel and housing; and with community mentors that<br />

help prepare a path towards professional positions in biomedical science.<br />

B. Over the past 20 years, VARI has offered and supported internship opportunities for a<br />

small and select population of high school students, initially through the GRAPCEP<br />

program and more recently through the Academy of Science, Technology, Engineering<br />

and Mathematics (ASTEM) in the Grand Rapids Public Schools. Our GOAL is to<br />

evaluate and re-envision the purpose, scope, activities, target population, and funding<br />

mechanism for high school internship opportunities. The approach might include close<br />

partnership with new or current high school programs of Van Andel Education<br />

Institute.<br />

C. For 13 years, VAIGS has coordinated the annual West Michigan Regional<br />

Undergraduate Science Research Conference (WMRUGS). This event now draws more<br />

than 400 faculty and students from more than 20 regional colleges and universities for<br />

a day of scientific discussions including keynote speaker, student speakers, poster<br />

sessions, and grad school / job recruiters. Our GOAL is to sustain this program with<br />

enhanced long-term sponsorship or philanthropic support. Any significant expansion<br />

of this program (in numbers of participants or posters) may require consideration of a<br />

new venue. Expanding the institutions who participate in the organizing team may<br />

broaden the impact of this program and also open up new avenues for financial<br />

support.<br />

X. Governance, Staff, and Physical Space<br />

A. <strong>Board</strong> of Directors: the VAIGS <strong>Board</strong> of Directors presently comprises seven members.<br />

Since its inception in 2005, the <strong>Board</strong> has included one representative each of various<br />

constituencies, including the VAEI <strong>Board</strong> of Trustees, the VARI <strong>Board</strong> of Trustees, the<br />

local medical community, the regional higher education community, the state research<br />

universities, and the national biomedical research and education community. The<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 28

<strong>Board</strong> periodically assesses its own effectiveness and processes. GOALS for the<br />

upcoming period include:<br />

1. As part of the 2021 Program Review process, conduct a review of the<br />

<strong>Board</strong> effectiveness, and consider whether to adjust the size of the <strong>Board</strong> or<br />

the constituencies that are represented.<br />

2. <strong>Orientation</strong> of new <strong>Board</strong> members is typically conducted by the VAIGS<br />

Dean and the Chair of the VAIGS <strong>Board</strong> in conjunction with the VAI general<br />

counsel. This orientation should continue to use materials from the<br />

Association of Governing <strong>Board</strong>s of Colleges and Universities in setting forth<br />

the obligations and opportunities for <strong>Board</strong> members and best practices for<br />

fulfilling their fiduciary role in overseeing the school.<br />

3. Given that most of the VAIGS Directors are external to the institute,<br />

they have relatively few opportunities to interact directly with VAIGS faculty,<br />

staff, and students. The practice of having a meal with selected faculty or<br />

students prior to each <strong>Board</strong> meeting is beneficial but may not be optimal in<br />

ensuring that <strong>Board</strong> members have a good sense of the culture and<br />

atmosphere of the school. New mechanisms for fostering such interactions<br />

should be conceived and implemented by 2020.<br />

4. The Dean of VAIGS reports to the VAEI Trustees at their February and<br />

September meetings but does not routinely attend meetings of the combined<br />

Trustees (VAI, VARI, VAEI) in December and June. Reports on VAIGS activities<br />

and plans can be conveyed by the chair of the VAIGS <strong>Board</strong> of Directors, who is<br />

also a Trustee of VAEI, or by the Chief Scientific Officer who is the<br />

administrative supervisor of the VAIGS Dean.<br />

B. Faculty governance:<br />

1. The VAIGS faculty bylaws authorize six standing committees<br />

(Admissions, Comprehensive Exam Organizing, Curriculum, Graduate Program,<br />

Student Performance Review, and Undergrad / Internship Programs). Whether<br />

these are the right committees, of the right size, with the appropriate mandate,<br />

should be considered during the 2019-2020 academic year. For several faculty<br />

committees (Admissions, CEOC, SPR), the workloads will increase in proportion<br />

to the number of students, and so an increase in the number of members may<br />

help share the workload. A faculty committee focused on Assessment and<br />

Accreditation may be important in conducting the upcoming Program Review<br />

(2021-2022) and in preparing for the next reaffirmation of accreditation (<strong>2023</strong>-<br />

2024). Our GOAL is to revise the Bylaws to reflect these needs by Fall 2020.<br />

2. The faculty bylaws should also be revised to more clearly define which<br />

actions or decisions are to be made by the faculty body as a whole and which<br />

can be appropriately delegated to standing committees.<br />

C. Staff structure and number: The substantial growth in student numbers<br />

(approximately tripling the number of students from Fall 2018 to Fall 2025) will require<br />

an expansion of the operational support provided by VAIGS staff for students and<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 29

faculty. Some functions of the staff will grow in proportion to the number of students,<br />

whereas other functions will not. The principal GOAL is to fulfill the operational and<br />

administrative functions at a level of excellence that enhances student success and the<br />

effectiveness and efficiency of faculty effort. For some functions, that will mean hiring<br />

additional staff members.<br />

1. Enrollment and Records: To admit cohorts of 16-20 students, we will<br />

need to expand the number of applicants (from 70 to 150-200) and the number<br />

of interviews (from ~20 to 50-60). In addition to more effort from faculty in the<br />

recruiting and admissions efforts, staff effort will be expanded to support the<br />

recruiting and admissions efforts by Fall 2022. Given the efficient processes<br />

established for maintaining student records, we do not anticipate the need for<br />

significant new staff effort in that area.<br />

2. Student affairs: The staff effort in the area of student affairs will grow<br />

significantly as the number of students increases. This includes supporting<br />

student transitions to Grand Rapids, orientation, regular one-on-one meetings,<br />

career planning and preparation, promoting student professional development,<br />

and guiding students in stress management and conflict resolution. We<br />

anticipate the need for an additional professional with training and experience<br />

in student affairs / social work.<br />

3. Teaching staff: with the larger first-year cohorts anticipated in this plan,<br />

additional teaching staff or instructors will be needed to support the inherently<br />

small-group based structure of our problem-based learning curriculum. Section<br />

V articulates this need for increased instructional effort in teaching, and also<br />

several ways to address that need. One approach to reduce faculty teaching<br />

load is to hire a VAIGS Teaching Specialist to serve as a preceptor for those<br />

SABR or other course sessions when the class is divided into two discussion<br />

groups. Another option is to develop postdocs and research scientists as<br />

instructors for some courses; this option would bring the additional staff<br />

burden of training these inexperienced teachers to function at the level of<br />

excellence expected for the VAIGS courses .<br />

4. The increase in recruiting/admissions and in student support services is<br />

likely to require additional administrative assistance for calendar scheduling,<br />

event planning, travel arrangements, document preparation, and the like.<br />

5. Senior academic leadership: The VAIGS Dean is the chief executive,<br />

academic, and administrative officer of the school. The Dean’s responsibilities<br />

include strategic vision and planning, budgeting, policy development and<br />

implementation, accreditation, <strong>Board</strong> reporting, faculty workload and review,<br />

staff management, and external relations. In addition, the Dean holds certain<br />

responsibilities that will increase in proportion to the number of students. The<br />

Dean is the academic adviser for all first-year students, and writes annual<br />

student performance review letters for all students (based on drafts from the<br />

SPR committee). The dean meets with external members of thesis advisory<br />

committees and with external examiners for comprehensive exams and<br />

dissertation defense committees. The Dean addresses issues of academic<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 30

performance or professional conduct. Additional senior academic leadership<br />

(as assistant or associate deans) will be needed to help share the increased<br />

workload as the Graduate School triples its student population. This may take<br />

the form of expanding the effort devoted by the current Assistant Dean;<br />

engaging additional faculty as Assistant Deans for specific roles; or hiring VAIGS<br />

staff to fulfill these responsibilities.<br />

6. It is not unreasonable to anticipate that a transition in top leadership<br />

for VAIGS might take place during the next strategic plan period. The present<br />

Dean has served for more than 13 years (since May 20<strong>06</strong>), more than double<br />

the average tenure for leaders of higher education institutions. The current<br />

Dean is now 62 years old and so is approaching an age when retirement could<br />

be considered. The Dean, as with all VAI employees, holds an at-will<br />

appointment that can be severed at any time with or without cause by the<br />

VAIGS <strong>Board</strong> of Directors. The <strong>Board</strong> and senior leadership in the institute are<br />

encouraged to foster both internal leadership development and to<br />

contemplate processes for seeking new leadership from outside VAI in the<br />

event that a transition will take place within the next five years.<br />

D. Physical Space considerations: The graduate school offices, teaching rooms, student<br />

carrels, and storage space presently occupy approximately 1900 ft 2 on level 5 East.<br />

Expansion of the graduate school to approximately 80 students will require additional<br />

teaching, office, study space, and research space. This need is well-illustrated by the<br />

fact that the projected student body of 80 would fully occupy the equivalent of 20<br />

research bays! The Chief Scientific Officer and the Chief Operations Officer, with input<br />

from the Chief Finance Officer and the Director of Facilities, have in mind a capital<br />

expenditure in 2021 to support a substantial revisioning of new facilities for VAIGS.<br />

Our GOAL is to design the facilities in 2020 and to construct the new facilities by<br />

August 2021 for use by the incoming cohort that fall. These new facilities will include<br />

the following considerations:<br />

1. Teaching space: with incoming cohorts of 16-20 students each year, and<br />

with the ongoing commitment to small-group Problem-Based Learning, VAIGS<br />

will need dedicated access to:<br />

a. one teaching room with sufficient seating / table space for 25-40<br />

persons, equipped with suitable IT and AV equipment.<br />

b. three discussion rooms with sufficient seating / table space for 8-12<br />

persons, equipped with suitable IT and AV equipment.<br />

2. Study space: first-year students need individual study carrels through<br />

the second semester, after which they will transition to desk space within their<br />

thesis adviser’s research space. The number of carrels will need to increase<br />

from 9 at present to as many as 16 by 2021 and to 20 by 2025. Additional study<br />

carrels (5-10) are needed for students preparing for comprehensive exams.<br />

3. Research space for dissertation research by VAIGS students will be<br />

derived from the space allocated to their thesis adviser. Given that<br />

computational biology will likely represent an increasing dimension of VARI<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 31

esearch, this student research space may not all be contained within the “wetlab”<br />

space of VARI; specific areas may be established to bring computational<br />

scientists into close proximity.<br />

4. The Graduate School offices will need to expand to house the additional<br />

staff who support students and faculty of the larger school (see section XI.C<br />

above). This space will include at least seven offices and six cubicles for VAIGS<br />

staff. The space should also include a small conference room (6-8 persons) for<br />

non-class meetings convened by VAIGS Dean and/or staff. A student wellness<br />

room (presently occupying room 50<strong>03</strong>) is also important as a location for<br />

private phone calls, quiet meditation and stress relief, or small-group<br />

conference.<br />

E. Grad Student Association<br />

1. Two faculty standing committees (Admissions, Curriculum) each have<br />

one student members. The experience of serving on such a committee has<br />

been deemed valuable and enriching by most of the students who participate.<br />

A proposal to appoint student members to additional standing committees<br />

(Comprehensive Exam Organizing, Graduate Program, Undergrad & Internship<br />

Programs) should be considered during the 2019-2020 academic year.<br />

2. To date, student members of faculty standing committees have been<br />

appointed by the Graduate Program Committee, after securing approval from<br />

the student’s thesis adviser. A proposal to allow the Graduate Student<br />

Association to nominate students to serve as members of standing committees,<br />

pending approval by the Graduate Program Committee, should be considered<br />

during the 2019-2020 academic year.<br />

Reputation, public interaction, and innovation dissemination<br />

Although this section is not set up as a formal theme of the strategic plan, a key factor in the<br />

long-term success of the graduate school will be finding appropriate and effective ways to tell the<br />

story of the remarkable work being accomplished at VAI and to share the innovative approaches and<br />

practices developed at VAIGS for educating biomedical research leaders.<br />

One of the challenges faced by VAIGS in its first dozen years is raising the awareness of its<br />

existence in the minds of prospective students and of the faculty who advise them regarding their<br />

graduate school search. Within the universe of higher education, VAI is a powerful but relatively new<br />

and small institute whose scientific reputation has grown exponentially in recent years. Knowledge of<br />

the graduate school and its innovations must also expand so that more well-qualified students from a<br />

wide range of backgrounds and institutions will consider applying. This effort will depend on strong<br />

collaboration with VAI Communications and Marketing colleagues.<br />

Some aspects of reputation-building are associated with explicit recruiting strategies outlined<br />

in Theme I. These efforts can be augmented by making regular practice of introducing the graduate<br />

school to every seminar speaker that comes to VAI, and by VARI faculty mentioning the graduate<br />

school whenever they given a talk at a university of college. The reputation will also grow as our<br />

graduates take positions and then promotions into leadership roles at institutions around the<br />

country.<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 32

Institutional support for promoting awareness and reputation of VAIGS is also essential for<br />

eliciting interest among prospective students and among potential donors or benefactors. Close<br />

collaboration with the VAI Development team will be essential for this effort. The Graduate School<br />

should be included regularly in VAI promotional and advertising campaigns and at informational or<br />

development events to which VAI supporters are invited. VAI representatives, including the VAIGS<br />

dean, should speak often at local or regional organizations such as the Econ Club, Rotary Club, and<br />

the like.<br />

Relationships with regional partners are also important for reputation, recruitment, and<br />

operational reasons. The Dean and other institutional leaders should devote sufficient attention to<br />

building and maintaining relations with key leaders (presidents, provosts, deans, chief academic /<br />

operations / finance officers, …) of local and regional universities and hospital systems.<br />

Finally, the story of educational innovation at VAIGS and the successful outcomes of those<br />

innovations should be told in the professional literature. Perspective pieces should be published in<br />

leading scientific journals, either as initial submissions or in response to papers put forth by others.<br />

Evidence-based reports of the success of our approaches and tools should be published in the<br />

professional education literature for others to examine, critique, and consider for their own use.<br />

These articles can be reflected in seminars presented to educational leaders of biomedical<br />

institutions (e.g., comprehensive cancer centers). VAIGS faculty and staff should take on leadership<br />

roles in organizations (such as CABTRAC, AAMC-GREAT, and the like) that promote thoughtful,<br />

innovative, evidence-based developments in graduate education.<br />

The vision for VAIGS, as with the vision for VAI overall, is not simply to build an attractive and<br />

effective institution of research and higher education, but to have a discernable positive impact on<br />

human health and well-being well beyond our own walls or location. The strategic plan laid out here<br />

provides a blueprint for achieving considerable progress towards that vision in the next six years.<br />

Selected Resources<br />

1. A. Leschner and L Scherer (eds.), 2018. Graduate STEM Education for the 21 st Century.<br />

National Academies Press .<br />

2. Committee on the Next Generation Initiative, 2018. The Next Generation of Biomedical and<br />

Behavioral Sciences Researchers: Breaking Through. National Academies Press.<br />

3. G.E. Walker, et al., 2018. The Formation of Scholars: Rethinking doctoral education for the<br />

twenty-first century. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.<br />

4. S. Tilghman et al., 2012. Biomedical Research Workforce Working Group Report. National<br />

Institutes of Health. D. Ginsburg, et al., 2014. Physician-Scientist Workforce Working Group<br />

Report. National Institutes of Health.<br />

5. S.T. Ortega and J.D. Kent, 2018. What is a PhD? Reverse-Engineering our Degree Programs in<br />

the Age of Evidence-Based Change. Change, the Magazine of Higher Learning 50:30-36.<br />

VAIGS Strategic Plan 2025 Page 33

VAIGS Faculty<br />

VAI Research / VAIGS Faculty<br />

VAI Research Faculty<br />

Peter Jones, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hon)<br />

Stephen Baylin, M.D.<br />

José Brás, Ph.D.<br />

Lena Brundin, M.D., Ph.D.<br />

Nick Burton, Ph.D.<br />

Hong-yuan Chu, Ph.D.<br />

Gerry Coetzee, Ph.D.<br />

Juan Du, Ph.D.<br />

Yvonne Fondufe-Mittendorf, Ph.D.<br />

Stephanie Grainger, Ph.D.<br />

Rita Guerreiro, Ph.D.<br />

Brian Haab, Ph.D.<br />

Michael Henderson, Ph.D.<br />

Scott Jewell, Ph.D.<br />

Rusty Jones, Ph.D.<br />

Connie Krawczyk, Ph.D.<br />

Peter Laird, Ph.D.<br />

Heidi Lempradl, Ph.D.<br />

Huilin Li, Ph.D.<br />

Evan Lien, Ph.D.<br />

Wei Lü, Ph.D.<br />

Darren Moore, Ph.D.<br />

Sara Nowinski, Ph.D.<br />

Gerd Pfeifer, Ph.D.<br />

Andrew Pospisilik, Ph.D.<br />

Scott Rothbart, Ph.D.<br />

Hui Shen, Ph.D.<br />

Xiaobing Shi, Ph.D.<br />

Matt Steensma, M.D.<br />

Piroska Szabó, Ph.D.<br />

Tim Triche, Ph.D.<br />

Steve Triezenberg, Ph.D.<br />

Hong Wen, Ph.D.<br />

Bart Williams, Ph.D.<br />

Evan Worden, Ph.D.<br />

Tao Yang, Ph.D.<br />

Qiang Zhu, Ph.D.<br />

VAIGS Faculty<br />

Mary Adams, M.Sc.<br />

Sarah Bodbyl, Ph.D.<br />

Carrie Graveel, Ph.D.<br />

Galen Hostetter, M.D.<br />

Mary Winn, Ph.D.<br />

VAIGS Adjunct Faculty<br />

Paul Stephenson, Ph.D.<br />

SMS, <strong>2023</strong>-02-22

VAIGS Graduate Students 2022-<strong>2023</strong> Academic Year – By Cohorts<br />

<strong>2023</strong>-02-21 (TC)<br />

Menusha<br />

Arumugam<br />

(Steensma)<br />

2017-2018<br />

Eric<br />

Cordeiro-<br />

Spinetti<br />

(Rothbart)<br />

2017-2018<br />

Lauren<br />

McGee<br />

(Steensma)<br />

2017-2018<br />

Bailey<br />

Tibben<br />

(Rothbart)<br />

2017-2018<br />

Alix<br />

Booms<br />

(Coetzee)<br />

2018-2019<br />

Shelby<br />

Compton<br />

(R. Jones)<br />

2018-2019<br />

Dylan<br />

Dues<br />

(Moore)<br />

2018-2019<br />

MD/PhD<br />

Joe<br />

Floramo<br />

(Yang)<br />

2018-2019<br />

Rae<br />

House<br />

(Steensma)<br />

2018-2019<br />

Ariana<br />

Kupai<br />

(Rothbart)<br />

2018-2019<br />

Nadia<br />

Dehghani<br />

(Guerreiro/Bras)<br />

2019-2020<br />

Patrick<br />

Dischinger<br />

(Steensma)<br />

2019-2020<br />

Leena<br />

Kariapper<br />

(Worden)<br />

2019-2020<br />

Alysa<br />

Kasen<br />

(Henderson)<br />

2019-2020<br />

Vladimir<br />

Molchanov<br />

(Yang)<br />

2019-2020<br />

Brandon<br />

Oswald<br />

(Laird)<br />

2019-2020<br />

Alfredo<br />

Reyes-<br />

Oliveras<br />

(Haab)<br />

2019-2020<br />

April<br />

Rickle<br />

(Lempradl)<br />

2019-2020<br />

Nathan<br />

Spix<br />

(Laird)<br />

2019-2020<br />

MD/PhD<br />

Elshaimaa<br />

Ali<br />

(Wen)<br />

2020-2021<br />

Lauren<br />

Duimstra<br />

(R. Jones)<br />

2020-2021<br />

Ellen<br />

Griggs<br />

(Lempradl)<br />

2020-2021<br />

Lauren<br />

Harmon<br />

(Triche)<br />

2020-2021<br />

Vanessa<br />

Howland<br />

(Moore)<br />

2020-2021<br />

Mitch<br />

McDonald<br />

(Pospisilik)<br />

2020-2021<br />

Andrea<br />

Parham<br />

(Pospisilik)<br />

2020-2021<br />

Richard<br />

Cassidy<br />

(Fondufe-<br />

Mittendorf)<br />

2021-2022<br />

Svetlana<br />

Djirackor<br />

(Shen)<br />

2021-2022<br />

James<br />

Eapen<br />

(Shen)<br />

2021-2022<br />

Mehrshid<br />

Faraji Zonooz<br />

(Guerreiro/Bras)<br />

2021-2022<br />

Abigail<br />

Godec<br />

(Steensma)<br />

2021-2022<br />

MD/PhD<br />

Thomas<br />

Goralski<br />

(Henderson)<br />

2021-2022<br />

Sofia<br />

Ievleva<br />

(Du)<br />

2021-2022<br />

Yanqing<br />

Liu<br />

(Rothbart)<br />

2021-2022<br />

Paige<br />

Matusiak<br />

(Zhu)<br />


VAIGS Graduate Students 2022-<strong>2023</strong> Academic Year – By Cohorts<br />

Shantinique<br />

Miller<br />

(Worden)<br />

2021-2022<br />

Kate<br />

Thurlow<br />

(Rothbart)<br />

2021-2022<br />

Xiao<br />

Wang<br />

(Burton)<br />

2021-2022<br />

Riley<br />

Wedan<br />

(Nowinski)<br />

2021-2022<br />

MD/PhD<br />

Ebenezer<br />

Asiedu<br />

2022-<strong>2023</strong><br />

Rafael Bena<br />

de Araujo<br />

2022-<strong>2023</strong><br />

Samuel<br />

Daniels<br />

2022-<strong>2023</strong><br />

Arkajit De<br />

2022-<strong>2023</strong><br />

Cameron<br />

Forton<br />

2022-<strong>2023</strong><br />

Jamie Park<br />

2022-<strong>2023</strong><br />

Xinyu Ye<br />

2022-<strong>2023</strong><br />

Natasha<br />

Zandstra<br />

2022-<strong>2023</strong><br />

<strong>2023</strong>-02-21 (TC)

VAIGS Graduate Students 2022-<strong>2023</strong> Academic Year – Alphabetical<br />

Elshaimaa<br />

Ali<br />

(Wen)<br />

2020-2021<br />

Menusha<br />

Arumugam<br />

(Steensma)<br />

2017-2018<br />

Ebenezer<br />

Asiedu<br />

2022-<strong>2023</strong><br />

Rafael Bena de<br />

Araujo<br />

2022-<strong>2023</strong><br />

Alix<br />

Booms<br />

(Coetzee)<br />

2018-2019<br />

Richard<br />

Cassidy<br />

(Fondufe-<br />

Mittendorf)<br />

2021-2022<br />

Shelby<br />

Compton<br />

(R. Jones)<br />

2018-2019<br />

Eric<br />

Cordeiro-<br />

Spinetti<br />

(Rothbart)<br />

2017-2018<br />

Arkajit De<br />

2022-<strong>2023</strong><br />

Nadia<br />

Dehghani<br />

(Guerreiro/Bras)<br />

2019-2020<br />

Patrick<br />

Dischinger<br />

(Steensma)<br />

2019-2020<br />

Svetlana<br />

Djirackor<br />

(Shen)<br />

2021-2022<br />

Dylan<br />

Dues<br />

(Moore)<br />

2018-2019<br />

MD/PhD<br />

Lauren<br />

Duimstra<br />

(R. Jones)<br />

2020-2021<br />

James<br />

Eapen<br />

(Shen)<br />

2021-2022<br />

Mehrshid<br />

Faraji Zonooz<br />

(Guerreiro/Bras)<br />

2021-2022<br />

Joe<br />

Floramo<br />

(Yang)<br />

2018-2019<br />

Cameron Forton<br />

2022-<strong>2023</strong><br />

Abigail<br />

Godec<br />

(Steensma)<br />

2021-2022<br />

MD/PhD<br />

Thomas<br />

Goralski<br />

(Henderson)<br />

2021-2022<br />

Ellen<br />

Griggs<br />

(Lempradl)<br />

2020-2021<br />

Lauren<br />

Harmon<br />

(Triche)<br />

2020-2021<br />

Rae<br />

House<br />

(Steensma)<br />

2018-2019<br />

Vanessa<br />

Howland<br />

(Moore)<br />

2020-2021<br />

Sofia<br />

Ievleva<br />

(Du)<br />

2021-2022<br />

Leena<br />

Kariapper<br />

(Worden)<br />

2019-2020<br />

Alysa<br />

Kasen<br />

(Henderson)<br />

2019-2020<br />

Ariana<br />

Kupai<br />

(Rothbart)<br />

2018-2019<br />

Yanqing<br />

Liu<br />

(Rothbart)<br />

2021-2022<br />

Paige<br />

Matusiak<br />

(Zhu)<br />

2021-2022<br />

<strong>2023</strong>-02-21 (TC)

VAIGS Graduate Students 2022-<strong>2023</strong> Academic Year – Alphabetical<br />

Mitch<br />

McDonald<br />

(Pospisilik)<br />

2020-2021<br />

Lauren<br />

McGee<br />

(Steensma)<br />

2017-2018<br />

Shantinique<br />

Miller<br />

(Worden)<br />

2021-2022<br />

Vladimir<br />

Molchanov<br />

(Yang)<br />

2019-2020<br />

Brandon<br />

Oswald<br />

(Laird)<br />

2019-2020<br />

Andrea<br />

Parham<br />

(Pospisilik)<br />

2020-2021<br />

Jamie Park<br />

2022-<strong>2023</strong><br />

Alfredo<br />

Reyes-Oliveras<br />

(Haab)<br />

2019-2020<br />

April<br />

Rickle<br />

(Lempradl)<br />

2019-2020<br />

Nathan<br />

Spix<br />

(Laird)<br />

2019-2020<br />

MD/PhD<br />

Kate<br />

Thurlow<br />

(Rothbart)<br />

2021-2022<br />

Bailey<br />

Tibben<br />

(Rothbart)<br />

2017-2018<br />

Xiao<br />

Wang<br />

(Burton)<br />

2021-2022<br />

Riley<br />

Wedan<br />

(Nowinski)<br />

2021-2022<br />

MD/PhD<br />

Xinyu Ye<br />

2022-<strong>2023</strong><br />

Natasha<br />

Zandstra<br />

2022-<strong>2023</strong><br />

<strong>2023</strong>-02-21 (TC)

Hooray! Your file is uploaded and ready to be published.

Saved successfully!

Ooh no, something went wrong!