Fall Semester Full of Significance

Prominent visitors, new interdisciplinary initiatives and an updated visual identity mark fall semester.
December 19, 2012

Fall semester 2012 was a whirlwind of new initiatives, esteemed visitors, awards and activities for students, faculty members, alumni and the entire George Washington University community.

The university started a number of interdisciplinary initiatives and was recognized for producing large numbers of Fulbright scholars and Teach for America participants, and for its accessibility and outstanding services for military veterans. Notable visitors included comedian Jon Stewart, commentator Bill O’Reilly, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and National Science Foundation Director Subra Suresh.

The significant new interdisciplinary initiatives launched during the fall semester included the Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders Initiative (AND), Global Women’s Institute (GWI), the Cybersecurity Initiative and the Urban Food Task Force. The AND initiative will apply a multidisciplinary approach to conducting scientific research, improving treatment and fostering effective policy. The GWI is a university-wide initiative that promotes and supports the rights of women and girls worldwide. The institute’s mission is to improve knowledge on the myriad issues affecting women by partnering with organizations and universities across the globe to develop a body of rigorous evidence.

The Cybersecurity Initiative, chaired by former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, focuses on applied research to address the nation's cyber vulnerabilities and to help frame cyber priorities for President Obama’s second term and for Congress. The Urban Food Task Force strives to identify and recommend ways to support scholarship, instruction and information on sustainable urban food policies, healthy eating and food preparation.

The university’s updated visual identity was unveiled in August, featuring a new George Washington portrait and logo. Two years of university-wide research and design input went into the updated identity, which is bolder and more modern than previous designs.

First-year students started the semester by affirming their commitment to service at the fourth annual Freshman Day of Service. During their second week as GW students, nearly 2,400 members of the class of 2016 worked at 35 recreation centers, parks and other service sites throughout the District of Columbia. Donna Brazile, who serves as the Democratic National Committee’s vice chair of voter registration and participation, was the keynote speaker at an academic convocation ceremony that started the day of service. GW’s Freshman Day of Service coincided with the National Day of Service and Remembrance, which honors 9/11 victims and pays tribute to first responders and others who served in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.

George Washington also hosted a number of events related to the 2012 presidential election and current political issues. On Sept. 18, former presidential candidate, Utah governor and U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman visited and spoke about his work in Asia and what he learned from his time on the presidential campaign trail. The discussion, sponsored in part by the Sigur Center for Asian Studies, marked the second visit to campus for Mr. Huntsman, who also spoke to GW students in October 2011.

In an event called  “Opportunity Nation 2012,” prominent political commentator Arianna Huffington, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick; Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa; Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.; Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; singer and activist Jordin Sparks; “Washington Post” columnist Michael Gerson; and Judy Woodruff, senior correspondent for PBS Newshour all visited campus to discuss the “opportunity gap” that disproportionately affects young adults and to propose solutions that will improve educational opportunities and pipelines to jobs.

On Oct. 8, “The Daily Show’s” Mr. Stewart went head to head with conservative political commentator Mr. O’Reilly of “The O’Reilly Factor” at Lisner Auditorium in “Rumble 2012,” a mock political debate that nonetheless touched on numerous current issues, including the national debt, funding for public television and access to birth control.

Frequent POLITICO-GeorgeWashington University Battleground Poll updates in the weeks leading up to the presidential election kept the GW community attuned to the latest predictions. The poll is distinguished from other surveys by its presentation of separate analyses from top pollsters representing both sides of the aisle, and is a nationally recognized series of surveys. The George Washington University Global Media Institute, affiliated with the Graduate School of Political Management and the School of Media and Public Affairs, serves as the university’s home for the partnership.

And on Election Day, former Colonials fared extremely well, with nine alumni being elected or reelected to Congress. These include House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

In October, current and past Colonials celebrated everything that makes GW unique at Colonials Weekend and Alumni Weekend. Colonials Weekend, which also paid tribute to the university’s 100 years in Foggy Bottom, featured a concert by rock group Train, while Alumni Weekend was headlined by Earth Wind & Fire—with a special performance by President Steven Knapp on the conga drums.

The university, its students and its faculty were recognized for diverse achievements during the fall semester. GW was recognized as 13th in the nation among medium-sized universities for sending the most graduating seniors to work for Teach for America. The university was also honored for being a top Fulbright Scholar-producing institution, with eight alumni and four graduate students winning the prestigious awards for the 2012-13 academic year. GW was also named a “military friendly” institution by G.I. Jobs magazine for the fourth consecutive year.

GW received a record-breaking $134 million research grant from the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to conduct a clinical trial examining the long-term effectiveness of several glucose-lowering medications for treatment of people with type 2 diabetes. The grant, awarded to John Lachin, professor of biostatistics, epidemiology and statistics, sets a record as the largest sum the university has ever received.

Numerous prominent speakers visited campus during the fall semester. National Science Foundation Director Subra Suresh spoke about the future of science and engineering innovation, and documentary filmmaker Ken Burns brought a preview of his new documentary “The Dust Bowl” to Lisner Auditorium. Award-winning authors Sebastian Junger and Salman Rushdie both visited campus and spoke about their work. Outgoing Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., discussed the state of the nation’s security in an event sponsored by the Homeland Security Policy Institute.

And George Washington University is consistently looking toward the future. A groundbreaking ceremony for the George Washington University Museum included Dr. Knapp; Provost Steve Lerman; Albert H. Small, donor of the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection; and representatives from The Textile Museum, which, under a partnership agreement, will become part of the new museum in 2014. Dr. Lerman also unveiled the draft of GW’s new strategic plan, which the community has been working on collaboratively for more than a year. The plan centers on four themes: innovation through cross-disciplinary collaboration, globalization, citizenship and leadership, and governance and policy, and focuses on the concrete actions the university will take to achieve its vision in coming years. 

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