GW Community Comes Together to Celebrate during Annual Alumni & Families Weekend

The university invited its people both past and present to campus for a weekend of fun, reconnecting and being inspired together by GW’s future.

October 3, 2023

Two women dancing in a tent

The GW community came together to celebrate all weekend, including at the Kickoff Party Friday night in Potomac Square. (Abby Greenawalt/For GW Today)

The nostalgia had already started to set in even before the George Washington University double alumna Maley Hunt, B.A. ’13, M.P.H. ’16, arrived back on the Foggy Bottom campus—with an all-important first stop at GW Deli, where the knish sign looked the same as did 10 years ago.

Coming into Washington, D.C., from the north after traveling from Wallingford, Connecticut, where she is chief operating officer and residential services administrator at LiveWell, Hunt could feel her buff and blue pride build as the obelisk of the Washington Monument came into view.

“When you drive, and you start to see the monuments, you just get this sense that you’re home and that you’re in such a special place,” said Hunt, who is also a member of the GW Alumni Association Executive Committee. “There’s no feeling like it.”

Hunt and hundreds of other GW alumni returned home for the weekend as the university held its annual Alumni & Families Weekend (AFW), reconnecting the GW community and allowing them step back into the past while getting a glimpse into the present and future.

Friday through Sunday, alumni, friends and families of GW participated in a slew of activities showing off the best the university has to offer—including a sold-out kickoff party at Potomac Square, a multicultural alumni reception, the Vern Harvest on the Mount Vernon campus and residential neighborhood showcases.

“I just love coming back for these events,” said Anjuli Desai, B.B.A. ’03, while posing her two young sons for a photo with mascot George at the kickoff party. Desai, who was back to celebrate her 20-year reunion, met her husband, Jimin Desai, B.B.A. ’05, at GW and was excited to take a stroll through University Yard during the weekend. She and her husband both attended her class reunion on Saturday night.

“The Quad is a special place,” she said. “I always come back and look for my brick.”

On Friday night, actor and comedian Jimmy O. Yang, best known for his roles in “Love Hard,” “Silicon Valley,” “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Space Force,” headlined the GW Program Board’s Annual Fall Comedy Show at the Charles E. Smith Center. The GW Classes of 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2018 all celebrated reunions on Saturday night.

In addition to celebrating, the university showed off its cutting-edge, world-class education and teaching to its community members throughout the weekend. The Best of GW faculty lectures allowed participants to immerse themselves in the GW classroom experience for engaging, student-favorite lectures, and on Sunday, GW researchers and experts participated in a panel discussion about the multifaceted landscape of artificial intelligence.

On Saturday afternoon, President Ellen M. Granberg, who began her tenure as GW’s leader on July 1, held a Presidential Conversation for members of the GW community in Lisner Auditorium.

Granberg, GW’s 19th president, shared her early impressions of the university while welcoming alumni back to campus. She said she has noticed three distinct themes that make GW special:

  • GW’s proximity to the nation’s capital and the unparalleled access to research and internships this creates.
  •  The university’s “remarkable pursuit of impact and intentional focus on making a difference.”
  • And its single greatest strength—the people throughout GW’s community of diverse and talented faculty, staff students, families and alumni.

Granberg also shared that the university’s best days are ahead and that she is excited to continue engaging with the GW community to build upon 200-plus years of excellence.

“When we leverage those strengths, I know we can raise even higher,” she said.

“GW is an amazing place. I could not be more delighted to join you and join your family, and we are so excited about the following years to come.”

While AFW reconnected alums from across the world while engaging important university stakeholders, it also provided parents and family members a chance to come see their student after dropping them off more than a month ago at the start of the academic year.

Some got a glimpse into the strong communities their GW students have already built. In fact, first-year suitemates Danielle Barrow, Maeven Cattanach, Lauren Mazzarelli and Nora Mooney, who live together at Somers Hall on the Mount Vernon campus, took their parents out to dinner together at North Italia restaurant in Foggy Bottom.

People out at dinner
GW suitemates Danielle Barrow, Maeven Cattanach, Lauren Mazzarelli and Nora Mooney went out to eat with their parents at North Italia in Foggy Bottom. (submitted photo)

“We just got a big table—there were 11 of us total,” said Cattanach, an interior architecture major from Waterbury, Vermont. “The four of us kind of sat at one end, and all of our parents were at the other end just talking and finding stuff that they have in common. It was super fun.”

Families play an important role during a student’s GW experience, and Cattanach said it meant a lot to see her parents, Sonya and Shaun, during the weekend’s festivities.

“I’ve never been away from home as long as I have this first month of school,” she said. “It’s been super nice having them come.”

The suitemates also took their families and joined many more at the annual Vern Harvest on the Mount Vernon Campus quad Saturday afternoon, soaking up the sunshine on the nice day while doing all things fall such as pumpkin carving, crafts and snacking on apple cider donuts.

GW photographers William Atkins and Jordan Tovin, as well as Abby Greenawalt captured AFW. Here are some of their favorites: