George Washington President Steven Knapp Announces Final Year

Dr. Knapp to complete 10 years of service to the university.

June 7, 2016

President Knapp's Accomplishments collage

George Washington President Steven Knapp Tuesday announced that he will not seek to renew his contract as president when it expires at the end of July 2017. Dr. Knapp will continue to serve as president through the next academic year, during which the university is expected to conduct a national search for his successor.

In a message to the GW community, Dr. Knapp gave thanks to the many across the university with whom he has worked to advance the university’s academic mission.

“I cannot overstate my gratitude to the countless groups and individuals who, these past nine years, have done so much to ensure our collective success,” Dr. Knapp said.

Board of Trustees Chair Nelson Carbonell praised Dr. Knapp’s contributions as president.

“Nearly 10 years ago, the Board of Trustees made a transformational decision to hire Steve Knapp to lead the George Washington University,” Mr. Carbonell said. “He has served ably with integrity and foresight and has forever changed the university’s trajectory.”

Dr. Knapp became the 16th president of the George Washington University in August 2007. His priorities included enhancing the university’s partnerships with neighboring institutions, expanding the scope of its research, strengthening its worldwide community of alumni, enlarging its students’ opportunities for public service and leading its transformation into a model of urban sustainability.  

“I am grateful for the opportunity to have played a role in what we have accomplished together these past nine years, from spectacular new buildings to groundbreaking institutional partnerships to innovative programs that bring together the contributions of multiple disciplines to address the world’s most pressing challenges,” Dr. Knapp said.

“I am all too aware that nothing I have accomplished would have been at all possible without the dedicated efforts of the many faculty, staff and students who shared my appreciation of what this university means to our nation and the world.” 

Dr. Knapp emphasized in his message that he anticipates an active year ahead.

“The work of my final year as president is clearly defined,” Dr. Knapp said. “I will concentrate on supporting the deans as we rapidly approach the conclusion of our $1 billion ‘Making History’ campaign. I will continue to focus on building our worldwide and lifelong community of GW alumni. And I will seek new ways to make good on the university’s promise to ensure that every student we enroll has the fullest possible opportunity to succeed so that he or she can go forth from the university fully prepared to change the world.”

The Board of Trustees is expected to announce in the coming weeks plans for a search for the next president of the George Washington University. Mr. Carbonell emphasized that the next president will build on a strong foundation.

“Steve’s commitment to growing research, academic excellence and diversity has made GW a vastly different and better place than when I was a student,” said Mr. Carbonell, B.S. ‘85. “As we prepare for the beginning of the university’s third century in 2021, Steve has set us on the right course—upward. He will leave a lasting legacy, and we will miss his leadership.”

Growth as a World-Class Research Institution

Among his many accomplishments as president, Dr. Knapp has catalyzed the university’s continued growth as a world-class research institution, helping GW move up the National Science Foundation’s list of top research institutions from 108 in 2007 to 83 in 2014. The university also earned recognition as a top-tier research institution by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

He shepherded the development and implementation of the university’s ambitious strategic plan, Vision 2021, which is guiding the university as it approaches its 200th anniversary. Fostering cross-disciplinary research and collaboration has been a key focus of implementation of the plan, including the creation of the GW Cancer Center, the Global Women’s Institute, the Computational Biology Initiative, the Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute and the Urban Food Task Force.

Dr. Knapp also oversaw the planning for and construction of Science and Engineering Hall, which has significantly increased the university’s capacity for cutting-edge research.

The state-of-the art research and teaching facility opened in 2015, doubling the space available at GW for science and engineering and bringing together researchers across disciplines to encourage collaboration and innovation. He also created a cabinet-level position, vice president for research, to lead and coordinate research efforts and improve the university’s infrastructure that supports research. 

Making History

In June 2014, Dr. Knapp publicly launched George Washington’s most ambitious fundraising campaign ever, Making History: The Campaign for GW, to carry the university into the future envisioned by the strategic plan. The campaign is on track to meet its goal of raising $1 billion by 2018 to support students, enhance academics and break new ground in addressing the world’s most pressing challenges.

He also announced in March 2014 the largest donation in the university’s history, three gifts totaling $80 million from the Milken Institute, the Sumner M. Redstone Charitable Foundation and the Milken Family Foundation. In honor of these transformative gifts, the GW Board of Trustees unanimously approved the renaming of the School of Public Health and Health Services as the Milken Institute School of Public Health and the establishment of the Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness. Dr. Knapp also led the dedication of a new home for the Milken School, bringing its departments together under one roof for the first time.

School of Nursing

Dr. Knapp presided over the creation of the School of Nursing and joined with its inaugural dean in advocating for and securing approval of an innovative partnership with the community college system of the Commonwealth of Virginia that is helping to address the state’s nursing shortage and the primary-care shortage in rural and underserved communities. Dr. Knapp also dedicated state-of-the-art skills and simulation laboratories for the School of Nursing on the university’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus.

Service Leadership

Dr. Knapp led a significant increase in public and community service, solidifying service to others as a hallmark of the university’s culture. He organized the committee that would become the Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service. Together with student leaders, he mobilized students, faculty and staff to respond to First Lady Michelle Obama’s passionate challenge to increase community involvement. During the 2015-16 academic year, GW amassed 658,350 service hours, more than 6.5 times the original goal of 100,000 Mrs. Obama issued in 2009. 

Dr. Knapp also helped launch Freshman Day of Service, which has become the signature kick-off of the GW student academic experience, during which incoming students participate in service throughout all eight wards of Washington, D.C. The university has also developed social entrepreneurship opportunities for students, including hosting the Clinton Global Initiative University in 2012, creating a social entrepreneurship track of the annual GW Business Plan competition and launching the Steven and Diane Robinson Knapp Fellowship for Entrepreneurial Service-Learning.

Access and Success

One of Dr. Knapp’s top priorities has been expanding access to a George Washington education to students from all backgrounds and ensuring the success of all GW students. During his tenure, Dr. Knapp made moderating tuition increases a priority. Following his participation in a White House Summit on expanding higher education opportunities for low-income students, he launched a university-wide Task Force on Access and Success. 

A key recommendation of the task force was implemented in 2015 when the university announced the adoption of a test-optional policy for undergraduate applicants, meaning it would no longer require most undergraduate applicants to submit SAT or ACT test scores. In the first year since implementing the test-optional policy, GW has seen a significant increase in applications from students who are from underrepresented groups, including African-American, Latino, international students and first-generation college students.  

The university also launched the District Scholars Award, a grant that will expand access to lower-income District of Columbia high school students, and formed partnerships with the Posse Foundation and Say Yes to Education.

Diversity and Inclusion

To ensure that the university realizes its commitment to inclusiveness, Dr. Knapp formed the President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion in September 2010 to encourage and facilitate thoughtful discourse about these multifaceted and complex issues.

He also created the position of vice provost for diversity and inclusion, which has now expanded to vice provost for diversity, equity and community engagement. In the wake of incidents at the University of Missouri and Howard University, Dr. Knapp encouraged open dialogue, sought feedback from students and participated with multicultural student leaders in a forum at Howard University. The university also conducted its first climate survey on issues of diversity and inclusion, the results of which will be shared in the coming months with students, faculty and staff.  

Global Engagement

Under Dr. Knapp’s leadership, the university has sought to increase its global engagement. This has included expanding partnerships with neighboring institutions such as the State Department, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which has for several consecutive years held its Spring Meetings on the university’s Foggy Bottom Campus.

Dr. Knapp also created a new position, senior associate provost for international strategy, to lead the university’s efforts to capitalize on the unique opportunities created by GW’s location.

The university also is focused on increasing the number of international undergraduate students and ensuring that those students have the support they need to be successful at George Washington. In addition, the university became host to the GW Confucius Institute, which promotes the study of Chinese language and culture and is the first of its kind in the nation’s capital.

Model of Urban Sustainability

Through myriad efforts encompassing research, advocacy and operations, Dr. Knapp has set the university on a course to become a model of urban sustainability. Since joining the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2008, George Washington has embarked on numerous campus initiatives that have the university on track to meet its 40 percent carbon reduction target by 2025—ahead of schedule. The centerpiece of these efforts is the innovative Capital Partners Solar Project, a unique collaboration between GW, the George Washington University Hospital and American University.     

Dynamic Arts Hub

Dr. Knapp spearheaded the groundbreaking collaboration with the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the National Gallery of Art under which the Corcoran College of Art and Design was transferred to the George Washington University, and the university assumed ownership of the iconic home of the Corcoran on 17th Street. In October, the university welcomed the inaugural director of what is now known as the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design within the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Knapp also was instrumental in the formation of a unique partnership with the world-renowned Textile Museum, which led to the creation of a new cultural hub on the Foggy Bottom Campus—the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum—and the building of a state-of-the-art conservation and collections center on the university’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus.

Building Community

Dr. Knapp worked closely with Student Association leadership to bring Student Health Services and the University Counseling Center together in a unified Colonial Health Center, located in the Marvin Center on the Foggy Bottom Campus.

He also spearheaded the renovation of Gelman Library, creating a modern entryway opening on Kogan Plaza and new features to enhance learning and research experiences. Further improvements have included the renovation of Ames Hall and the construction of West Hall on the university’s Mount Vernon Campus, renovations to Ross Hall and the construction of South Hall and District House on the Foggy Bottom Campus.

Entrepreneurial Culture

President Knapp in 2009 launched the Innovation Task Force, an effort to identify savings and new sources of revenue to support academic priorities. As a result of this effort, $34.5 million of ITF-generated funds are currently part of the university’s operating budget that would not be otherwise, supporting GW’s core academic mission.

He also oversaw the adoption of a new budget model that gives more autonomy and flexibility to the university’s deans and initiated efforts to reduce the size of the central administration and improve administrative processes across the university. 

Strengthening Partnerships

One of Dr. Knapp's earliest commitments as president was to strengthen partnerships with neighboring institutions and the D.C. government. He currently serves as chair of the board of trustees of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area, a nonprofit educational association of 14 member universities committed to the advancement of higher education in the Washington metropolitan area. He also is chair of the president’s council for the Atlantic 10 conference and co-chair of the Age-Friendly DC Taskforce. 

Dr. Knapp serves on the boards of the Economic Club of Washington; the Greater Washington Urban League; the Federal City Council; the Northern Virginia Technology Council; the Greater Washington Board of Trade (ex-officio); the World Affairs Council-Washington, DC; the National Symphony Orchestra and the Washington National Cathedral Chapter.

He is also a member of the executive board of the Maryland-DC Campus Compact, the executive committee of the Council on Competitiveness, the steering committee of the Global Cities Initiative–Greater Washington and serves on the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment Second Nature steering committee. 

Internationally, Dr. Knapp serves as chair of the academic advisory committee of the US-China Strong Foundation. He is a member of the board of trustees for Al Akhawayan University in Ifrane, Morocco; the advisory council of Americans for UNESCO; the Kenjin-Tatsujin advisory board of the Ashinaga 100 Year Vision Council; and the advisory board of the Confucius Institute U.S. Center. He is also a member of the Council of Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban) and an honorary advisor to the Sulgrave Manor Trust.

Dr. Knapp is a fellow of the Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the American Academy of Religion, Council on Foreign Relations, Business Higher Education Forum, Modern Language Association and the National Humanities Alliance.