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A Semester Full of Discovery and Celebration

Groundbreaking research and high-profile speakers made up an exciting fall at GW.
December 19, 2013

Fall 2013 was a time of major accomplishments and celebrations across the George Washington University community. Among the highlights are the following.

Strides in Research

The beginning of the semester marked momentous accomplishments in research funding. Over the course of one month, the university received more than $13 million in grants from federal agencies to support eight research projects within the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, the School of Public Health and Health Services, the Elliott School of International Affairs and the Graduate School of Education and Human Development.

Fall was also a time for major discoveries. In November, GW Professor of Classics and Anthropology Eric Cline and a team of excavators gained international media attention after unearthing what could possibly be the oldest wine cellar in the Near East. The wine cellar was uncovered this past summer at a 75-acre site in northern Israel, the capital of a Middle Bronze Age Canaanite kingdom that dates back to approximately 1700 B.C., where some of the earliest-known Western art in the eastern Mediterranean has already been found.

Other research findings included Professor of Biology Alex Pyron’s work on snakes, which showed that contrary to popular belief, the ancestors of snakes and lizards gave birth to live young rather than laying eggs. An international team of scholars that included GW researcher Aida Gomez-Robles studied ancient teeth and discovered that the species suspected of being the ancestral link between modern humans and Neanderthals actually is not a match.

University Recognition

GW was recognized as one of the top 20 medium universities that contributed students to Teach for America’s 2013 teaching corps. Approximately 7 percent of GW graduates applied to Teach for America, and 37 of them were selected for this year's incoming corps. Over the last 23 years, 317 GW alumni have worked as Teach for America corps members.

The Office for Study Abroad was also recognized among the top 25 university study abroad programs in the nation by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in the annual “Open Doors” report. The report highlights universities that support the growing number of international students studying in the U.S. each year and offer opportunities for American undergraduate and graduate students to supplement their education through study abroad programs.
 
Innovative Learning
 
The Global Women’s Institute took steps to deepen students’ understanding of women’s rights issues by announcing it would create the “I am Malala” curriculum with its educational partner the Malala Fund. The nonprofit was established to honor 16-year-old Malala Yousafza, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and advocate for girls’ education rights. The curriculum developed by GWI and the Malala Fund will focus on themes such as the importance of a woman’s voice, how education empowers women, global feminism and political extremism.
 

Faculty Highlights

The semester was full of faculty achievements. Keith Crandall, director of George Washington University’s Computational Biology Institute, was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for his contributions to phylogenetics and evolutionary biology, particularly for broad applications to natural history and infectious disease studies.

Dean of the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education of Human Development Michael J. Feuer was installed as the president of the National Academy of Education. The research- and professional development-focused organization is made up of 200 elected members representing education, research, policy and practice. 
 
Ferid Murad and Akos Vertes—two of George Washington University’s scientific pioneers—are among the 143 innovators named 2013 fellows of the National Academy of Inventors. The distinction is awarded to academics who have created or facilitated outstanding inventions that have made an impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society.
 
Notable Visits
 

University students also got an insider’s look at a major global organization when GW hosted the International Monetary Fund’s weeklong annual meeting. Several seminars and events were open to students to teach them how the IMF works with more than 188 countries to foster monetary cooperation, promote economic growth and reduce poverty around the world. To kick off the meeting, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde provided an address on campus and gave students an opportunity to ask her questions about today’s increasingly globalized economy. The week before Ms. Lagarde’s address, World Bank leader Jim Yong Kim spoke to and answered questions from a GW audience about his organization’s efforts to minimize global poverty and how the university community can help.

Ms. Lagarde and Dr. Kim weren’t the only prominent leaders who made their way to Foggy Bottom this semester— Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Sen. Tim Kaine, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, B.A. '85, and former FDA Commissioner David Kessler were among the notable speakers and political figures who visited and addressed the GW community.

A conversation series led by the School of Media and Public Affairs featured Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow and business mogul Ted Leonsis. SMPA also organized a discussion of foreign affairs during “America’s Changing Role in the World and How the Press Covers It," which featured journalists Thomas Friedman, Gwen Ifill and Andrea Mitchell.

The “Newsmaker Series,” a new partnership between Lisner Auditorium and D.C. bookstore Politics & Prose, brought authors like Elizabeth Smart, John Heilemann, Mark Halperin and Doris Kearns Goodwin to campus, too.

Vice Premier of China Liu Yandong, the highest-ranking female government official in China, visited the university this fall, where she met with President Steven Knapp, toured the GW Confucius Institute and attended a celebration in Charles E. Smith Center. The university’s Confucius Institute promotes the study of Chinese language and culture and is the first of its kind in the nation’s capital.

GW’s Institute for International Economic Policy hosted the Office of the United States Trade Representative for a series of dialogues to accompany the third round of negotiations between the United States and the European Union for what could become the world’s largest free trade partnership.

The university also hosted the 30th annual International Churchill Conference to honor the legacy of Sir Winston S. Churchill in November. The event commemorated the partnership between the university and the Churchill Centre to establish the Churchill Library and Center, an archival collection to be housed at the Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library. The project will include a reading room and exhibit space, as well as an endowed professorship and curatorship. Before the conference, a formal dedication of a bust of Sir Winston Churchill took place at the U.S. Capitol, and was followed by a gala, dinner and presentations examining the world leader’s contributions.

Leaders representing the Peace Corps and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Small Project Assistance grant program, a collaborative effort to fund cross-continental development, at the George Washigton University in December. More than 1,100 GW students have served in the Peace Corp since 1961.

An Improved Campus

The university celebrated several renovation projects across campus. President Steven Knapp, university leaders and friends of The Textile Museum gathered in October to honor the museum’s 88-year history as it prepared to move to a new museum on the Foggy Bottom Campus, set to open next year. Dr. Knapp, trustees and friends also came together for a topping-off celebration to mark the completion of the highest point of the Science and Engineering Hall.

The GW community gathered during Veterans Day to dedicate the renovated and relocated Veterans Memorial Park, which was moved in front of the Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library entrance at Kogan Plaza. A wall that prominently displays the park name in silver as well as insignias for all five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces was also added. Veterans Memorial Park and the wall are gifts funded by GW Board of Trustees member Mark Shenkman, M.B.A. ’67.

A sleek, newly renovated Gelman Library greeted students returning to campus after summer break. The library was updated just in time for fall to offer students a modern entryway opening on Kogan Plaza and new features to enhance learning and research experiences, including laptop bars, a multimedia lab and a data visualization room.

GW also completed the world’s first walkable solar-paneled pathway on the Virginia Science and Technology Campus. The pedestrian sidewalk boasts a solar-powered trellis and 27 slip-resistant, semi-transparent walkable panels with photovoltaic technology that converts sunlight into electricity.

Colonials Spirit

The GW community also celebrated Gelman Library’s improvements at a formal grand opening during the university’s annual Colonials Weekend. More than 4,200 students, family and friends of GW came to campus for three days filled with activities including a fall celebration, lectures and a concert in the Charles E. Smith Center featuring the Fray.

Former Colonials showed off their buff-and-blue pride during Alumni Weekend. Approximately 2,100 alumni flocked to campus for a Cyndi Lauper concert, class reunions and the annual Taste of GW food festival on University Yard.

GW Athletics enjoyed a great start to the year. The men's basketball team currently boasts a 10-1 record for the season.

The university also organized its annual Freshman Convocation and Day of Service. Freshmen participated in 40 service projects at schools, community centers, parks and veteran retirement facilities throughout all eight wards of Washington, D.C.

Student Newsmakers

GW students participated in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon in California as part of Team Capitol D.C., which represented D.C.-area universities for the first time. The team’s 700-square foot Harvest Home was named one of the top 10 projects in the competition.

The student-led a cappella group, the GW Troubadours, decked the halls early with a special holiday performance at the White House. The group was also conferenced in to sing for White House Staff on Air Force One, rounding out a semester of celebrations and unique only-at-GW moments.