The board heard updates about campus activity and planning, new initiatives and the bicentennial.
The George Washington University has been taking more steps this semester to safely increase campus activity while moving forward on important initiatives on diversity and academic planning for a post-COVID world, President Thomas LeBlanc told the Board of Trustees on Friday.
The university welcomed additional residential students to campus this semester and plans to be back in person to the fullest extent possible in the fall, Dr. LeBlanc said. The university also announced this week that, while plans for virtual commencement celebrations continue, it is exploring all options for a safe in-person component to graduation.
“We have continued to fulfill our core teaching and research mission… and we’ve been able to take increasingly encouraging steps toward a return to ‘normal’ in recent weeks,” Dr. LeBlanc said.
Safety has remained a priority throughout the pandemic—the university recently increased its COVID-19 testing capacity, continues to enforce public health measures and is monitoring vaccine distribution closely—and especially in recent weeks in the wake of the events at the U.S. Capitol and in preparation for the presidential inauguration.
“We owe thanks to all of the students, faculty, staff and leadership in our community for their resilience and support of one another during these challenging times,” Dr. LeBlanc said. “We especially owe a debt of gratitude to those who have been on our campus, working overnight and on the weekends, on the frontlines, to protect our health and safety. We can’t say thank you enough.”
Many members of the GW community also have been involved in the university’s Moderna vaccine trial site, managing vaccine administration for the D.C. community and providing expertise on or serving in the Biden administration, Dr. LeBlanc noted.
Dr. LeBlanc also said he has been meeting in various forums with faculty, staff, students, families and alumni throughout this academic year, and he said that engagement among the community has been strong, particularly around initiatives of diversity, equity and inclusion, events like the Black Heritage Celebration and efforts to discuss academic innovations that have emerged through the pandemic. An upcoming Sustainability Summit with broad GW and external participation will discuss current and new sustainability commitments, and other uniquely GW events will be announced soon.
“As we continue to move through the semester, all of our staff and faculty are working hard to create only-at-GW moments and to support a high-quality academic experience for our students, both online and on campus,” Dr. LeBlanc said.
Board of Trustees Chair Grace Speights, J.D. ’82, also thanked the GW community.
“I want to express appreciation for our faculty, who continue to innovate through virtual instruction and ensure that our students continue to receive a great education,” Ms. Speights said. “I also want to acknowledge our students, who continue to make GW proud.”
Ms. Speights shared the board’s appreciation for Dr. LeBlanc and university leadership as well.
“On the completion of the February board meetings, including a comprehensive update on the status of the university, the Board of Trustees commend President LeBlanc and his leadership team for the great work they continue to do managing effects of the pandemic to secure the university’s future,” Ms. Speights said. “The university leadership has the deepest appreciation and gratitude of the board.”
In other recent developments, Dr. LeBlanc noted the university’s financial position continues to support the core academic mission, and independent reports from S&P and Moody’s were important external validations of the university’s financial strength. The university recently reinstated the base retirement contribution for faculty and staff and provided promotion-related increases for recently tenured and promoted faculty. Fundraising also has been strong, Dr. LeBlanc said; the university announced recently $22.5 million in gifts for student financial assistance.
This year also is significant because it marks the university’s bicentennial, which will provide many more opportunities for the GW community around the globe to come together virtually to celebrate GW’s historic past and exciting future, Dr. LeBlanc said.
Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Donna Arbide and Interim Vice President for Communications and Marketing Sarah Baldassaro provided an overview of the university’s plans for marking the bicentennial.
The bicentennial focuses on celebrating GW’s generations of progress, GW’s global impact and its commitment to leading to a greater world. The university will host eight months of events to celebrate the milestone, beginning Feb. 9 with an Opening Ceremony kickoff.
“This unique and historic anniversary is an opportunity to remember, reflect and celebrate GW’s 200-year rich history while at the same time building excitement about our future and GW’s contributions to building a greater world,” Ms. Arbide said.
- The university is currently modeling several scenarios for next academic year given the uncertainty surrounding the ongoing pandemic, with the intention to be back in person to the fullest extent possible this fall. The board approved a range of tuition options in light of this evolving situation, limiting any increase in the total cost of attendance to less than three percent for incoming undergraduate students. The university will make a determination and announce tuition for the 2021-22 academic year in the coming weeks.
- The board approved two new Ph.D. programs in the Milken Institute School of Public Health: global health sciences as well as health and biomedical data science.
- The board approved a revised statement of ethical principles, retitling it Code of Ethical Conduct and making other updates.
- Faculty Senate Executive Committee Chair Arthur Wilson said the senate has been active this year, participating in regular updates on the response to the pandemic, shared governance, enrollment, diversity and other topics.
- GWAA President Richard Jones, J.D. ’84, said the GWAA has two goals this year: increasing and measuring GW alumni engagement as well as increasing the funds raised through the annual giving program. The GWAA also is involved in planning bicentennial events and special recognition for alumni this year.
- Student Association (SA) President Brandon Hill emphasized the importance of transparency and trust between the SA and student body, and he said the SA is committed to working collaboratively with university leadership and the board to enhance the student experience.