An Evening on the Hill

GW President Thomas LeBlanc and university leadership gathered with alumni who serve in Congress, staff members and others who work in politics and government.

President LeBlanc and Gil Cisneros
GW President Thomas LeBlanc and Rep. Gil Cisneros, D-Calif., B.A. ’94, were among the attendees at this year's Capitol Hill Alumni Reception. (Harrison Jones/GW Today)
July 01, 2019

By B.L. Wilson

George Washington University alumni serving in Congress and staffers on Capitol Hill gathered Tuesday at the Rayburn House Office Building for GW’s annual networking reception featuring remarks from elected officials and GW President Thomas LeBlanc.

“I love that once a year I get to say to people in my meetings, ‘Excuse me, I have to leave. I have a meeting on the Hill,’ ” Dr. LeBlanc told the filled banquet room.

Ten alumni are serving as members of Congress, including Reps. Gil Cisneros, D-Calif., B.A. ’94; Neal Dunn, R-Fla., M.D. ’79; Darren Soto, D-Fla., J.D. ’04; and Susan Wild, D-Pa., J.D. ’82. Each offered remarks to the attendees, reflecting on their time at GW and the university’s growth and success.

In his remarks, Mr. Cisneros said politics had not been on his agenda when he entered GW on an ROTC scholarship.

"One thing led to another, and I'm happy to be here. I’m happy to be a GW alum," he said. “It’s very important to me. It’s where I became an adult and learned to take care of myself.”

Mr. Soto said it was heartening to see the increasing engagement by GW graduates in the legislative process.

He credited courses in environmental and employment law at GW with giving him a “really huge and strong background being here at the Capitol.”

Ms. Wild spent nearly 35 years practicing law after graduating from GW before serving as Allentown, Pa., solicitor and running for Congress.

“I had such great professors who really brought so much to the classroom,” Ms. Wild said. “I really think of many of them often as I’m going through a deliberative process,” for example, she said, in committee hearings when she is questioning witnesses.

GW has become a multigenerational experience for the families of some members of Congress.

Ms. Wild’s son is being taught by at least one of the professors she had. Dr. Dunn’s son is attending GW's School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

“GW has maintained its reputation, and I’m proud of the things you continue to accomplish,” Dr. Dunn said.

Jake Sherman, B.A. ’08, who received the university’s Recent Alumni Achievement Award in 2018, served as the evening’s emcee and talked about how his time at GW studying journalism and working at The Hatchet prepared him for his career as a senior writer at POLITICO and political analyst on NBC and MSNBC.

Jake Sherman

Jake Sherman, B.A. ’08,  served as emcee. He said his GW experiences prepared him for his career at POLITICO. (Harrison Jones/GW Today)

He noted that there were many other GW alumni in newsrooms throughout the nation’s capital.

“This room filled with people is quite representative of my experience both in politics and in journalism in D.C.,” he said. “There are GW grads everywhere, whether they’re members of Congress, aides, lobbyists, political operatives, Republicans, Democrats—you name it—all over the city.”

Mr. Sherman, a member of the GW Athletics Advisory Council and a basketball season ticket holder, introduced Dr. LeBlanc as “a relatively new Colonial who is one of [the team’s] biggest fans.”

Dr. LeBlanc briefed attendees on progress GW has made in its strategic initiatives, including, within the student experience, the renovation of Thurston Hall.

He said that GW is working on strategies to grow a world-class faculty, including how to recruit, retain, promote and acknowledge them.

As an example of faculty achievement that bolstered the university’s research mission recently, he pointed to the Milken Institute School of Public Health's study of the death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico that made headlines all over the world.

“We want to continue to recruit the faculty, the graduate students and undergraduate students and create the ecosystem that allows that work to continue,” he said. 

Dr. LeBlanc said one of the main pillars in the university’s upcoming strategic plan would involve strengthening science, technology, engineering and mathematics to prepare students for an increasingly technological society.

GW wants to ensure that all students acquire “the skills necessary for the quantitative analysis of data using technology,” Dr. LeBlanc said.

GW Alumni

GW alumni had the opportunity to mingle and network at the reception. More than 280 alumni work on Capitol Hill. (Harrison Jones/GW Today)

Tuesday’s event, hosted by GW’s Offices of Alumni Relations and Government Relations, was an opportunity for people who work or aspire to work on the Hill to meet and network with each other. More than 280 GW alumni work on Capitol Hill.

“When I came [to GW] as a freshman, people asked me what my dream job was. I would say press secretary on the Hill, so to be able to be doing that now is pretty incredible,” said Matilda Bress, B.A. ’19, a press secretary and digital director in the office of Rep. Harley Rouda, D-Calif.

Politics and Society


Thurston Renovation Moves forward with Design Approval, Funding

May 17, 2019

The Board of Trustees approved a proposal for the renovation of Thurston Hall.

Alumni Meet, Network on Capitol Hill

June 28, 2018

Members of Congress, Hill staffers were among GW alumni who attended the annual reception that included President LeBlanc.