During its first meeting of the 2018-19 academic year, the board focused on the student experience and other university priorities.
As the new academic year ramps up and Colonials Weekend approaches, student excitement seems “extraordinarily high” this year, George Washington University President Thomas LeBlanc said Friday in remarks to the Board of Trustees.
Documenting accomplishments to date of the university’s five strategic initiatives, Dr. LeBlanc first highlighted the student experience, noting an enhanced organizational support structure, diversity and inclusion efforts, new shuttles and dining options, a student syllabus bank and academic resources. At the same time, the university just recorded its strongest first-year retention rate since 2010.
“We want students who come to GW to graduate,” Dr. LeBlanc said, adding the first step on that path is to “come back as a sophomore.”
Meanwhile, with new research leadership and a review of the university’s research ecosystem in progress, Dr. LeBlanc commended GW’s faculty on their ongoing work and in particular the Milken Institute School of Public Health’s recent research on excess deaths in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
Trips around the country to meet GW community members and donors also continue at full speed, and enthusiasm remains strong, Dr. LeBlanc said. Last year, the university raised more than $115 million, which is the fourth highest one-year total in the history of GW.
“I’m optimistic that will set a benchmark that we will continue to try to exceed,” Dr. LeBlanc said.
Finally, the university continues to have “productive” conversations with GW Hospital and Medical Faculty Associates to create a sustainable future. And in one of the latest strategic initiative developments, GW launched a faculty and staff culture assessment survey and will next be reviewing and reporting back to the community its results.
Reporting on the board’s new Committee on Strategic Enrollment, Chair Ave Tucker, B.B.A. ’77, said the group is beginning to learn about GW’s enrollment practices and strategies and will ultimately develop some guiding principles for GW over the long term.
“The beauty about this is we have a very good enrollment process right now,” Mr. Tucker said.
Volunteer Engagement Task Force Chair Roslyn Brock, M.S. ’89, updates the board Friday on the group's discussions. (William Atkins/GW Today)
The Volunteer Engagement Task Force also continues to meet and discuss values and tenants of a new GW Alumni Association that engages all alumni regardless of where they are in their life, said Chair Roslyn Brock, M.S. ’89.
“It’s clear that alumni engagement is a priority,” Ms. Brock said. “The new Alumni Association will have to be modern and one that recognizes the uniqueness of George Washington.”
In the near term, the task force will work with the university to develop a strategic plan that guides the association’s work, Ms. Brock said.
In his remarks, Board Chair Nelson Carbonell Jr., B.S. ’85, said the board’s annual dinner with faculty was a highlight and “terrific event” for the two groups to engage with one another. Mr. Carbonell also held a moment of silence to remember trustees emeriti Luther W. Brady and Sheldon S. Cohen, who died earlier this year.
Commenting on a protest during the meeting when students urged the university to divest from fossil fuels, Mr. Carbonell said the GW community may not “always agree on every issue.”
But, he added, “I am confident that we all agree that free expression is the foundation of our university and essential to our academic mission.”
Student Association President Ashley Le outlines her administration's priorities for the upcoming year. (William Atkins/GW Today)
In other board news:
- Student Association President Ashley Le updated the board on her administration’s priorities this academic year, including a first-year program to help students adjust to and succeed at GW; awareness, education and solutions to food insecurity; and discussions on the university’s guiding principles and values.
- In her remarks, Sylvia Marotta-Walters, chair of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, said shared governance is “alive and well here at GW.” Dr. Marotta-Walters said the senate this year will continue to be involved in updates to the Faculty Code, reviews of the research ecosystem and Title IX policies and efforts around institutional culture.
- The board approved tuition rates for 2019-20 as well as a new doctoral program in health policy.
- The board approved emeritus status for Professor H. Henry Teng and approved tenure for Amber Musser, associate professor of American studies; Jeanne Geiger-Brown, professor of nursing; Y. Tony Yang, professor of nursing; and Adnan Hyder, professor of global health.
- The board welcomed new members. In addition to those announced in May, the board also welcomed as a trustee Peter Harrison, who has more than 30 years of experience building and operating global technology-enabled services companies. Mr. Harrison, who has a bachelor’s degree in software engineering from the University of Birmingham, UK, previously was the chief executive officer at Snag.