GW Community Reflects on Campus Strengths

Students, faculty and staff discussed their vision for GW’s future during a series of Strategic Campus and Facilities Master Plan workshops. Members of the university community can also submit feedback online.

Strategic Campus and Facilities Master Plan workshop
During the workshops, participants were asked to draw on large maps the routes they take in their daily walking routes through the Foggy Bottom campus. (Harrison Jones/ GW Today)
February 07, 2020

Members of the George Washington University community had the opportunity to provide input on the university’s first-ever Strategic Campus and Facilities Master Plan during a series of workshops last week.

The Strategic Campus and Facilities Master Plan will aim to reflect the voice, promise, and prominent sense of place of the GW community. 

The plan will articulate the vision and guiding principles for GW’s physical development, and establish standards for a unified campus identity that creates a sense of place and belonging on GW campuses. This process will align GW’s physical design with the university’s values and the broader strategic planning effort.

As part of the conclusion of the analysis phase, the university hosted community planning workshops attended by more than 200 students, faculty and staff.  Information gathered will help prepare for the next public engagement phase in April.

"This participatory process is going to drive the future and vision of the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses," said Susi Cora, director of campus planning and a member of the Strategic Campus and Facilities Master Plan committee, at a Wednesday workshop. "These workshops are intended to be collaborative, interactive and high-energy, so [we’re] truly appreciative to you giving your time for this effort so we can work toward a Strategic Campus Facilities Master Plan."

The university is working with Cooper Robertson, an architecture and urban design firm that is partnering with the GW community throughout the planning process. Brian Shea, a director with the firm, said the goal is to build on GW’s current strengths and make “beautiful places that people want to enjoy.”

"Every university has a different physical, academic, social and cultural makeup," he said. "What we’re trying to do is understand the physical culture of George Washington. We’re trying to understand... what are the unique or essential qualities of the place."

The recent workshops were held for different audiences in the GW community, including undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty and staff, residential advisers, and community members who live and work on the Mount Vernon campus. In alignment with Cooper Robertson’s guiding principles, the workshops were created to “listen first” so the firm can understand the uniqueness of GW’s campus as they consider the information gathered and work to craft potential solutions to consider in the next phase of this planning effort.

"We started this process by listening to develop understanding and empathy—no campuses are alike and we know we have to listen first to the community and then create potential solutions," Mr. Shea said. "A good idea is a good idea no matter where it comes from and we know the GW community has some of the best insights into how we can best position the university for the future."

Strategic Campus and Facilities Master Plan

During the workshops, participants were asked to identify buildings on a large map of the Foggy Bottom campus that reflect the “heart of campus” as well as the best of “new GW” and “old GW.” (Harrison Jones/ GW Today)

During the sessions, participants were asked to draw on large maps the routes they take in their daily walking routes through the Foggy Bottom campus. They were also asked to draw the route they would take if they were sharing it with a prospective student. Then engagement shifted by asking participants to identify buildings on the map that reflect the “heart of campus” as well as the best of “new GW” and “old GW.”

Following this exercise during a Wednesday workshop with faculty and staff, representatives from Cooper Robertson said there were common themes across all sessions: a desire for more green space and improvements in community gathering spaces including Lerner Health and Wellness, the Marvin Center and Gelman Library.

Emerging impressions were noted following the workshops. Students, faculty, and staff all echoed the need for more places where students can gather to enhance their sense of community as well as eat, socialize and study. Some attendees also said there should also be designated space for faculty and staff as well, enabling them to more easily form bonds with individuals across the university.

Attendees also expressed concerns about electric scooters parked on walkways, a lack of bike lanes in Foggy Bottom and car traffic on H Street. Several attendees said they would like to see H Street between 21st and 22nd streets NW become a pedestrian-only corridor.

Accessibility resonated in each session, with multiple attendees recommending that existing buildings be made more accessible—in particular, historic buildings and townhouses that house various offices across Foggy Bottom. Others said they would like to see more designated space for adjunct faculty to meet with students on campus, and for the university to prioritize placing entire departments together as future plans develop.

Sustainable themes were also voiced in each of the sessions including improved landscaping and pedestrian pathways as well as increased renewable energy, stormwater retention, green rooftops, and LEED certification.

During specific workshops for students, undergraduate attendees said they would like GW to improve the learning experience by enhancing existing classroom facilities and creating more meeting/study spaces so as to advance learning opportunities and facilitate more interdisciplinary connections. Graduate students shared a desire for improved knowledge sharing of university resources for students using satellite campuses.

Cooper Robertson plans to continue collecting feedback through additional planning sessions for the university community and Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon neighbors. Information about these sessions will be communicated later in the spring as they are scheduled. Members of the GW community unable to attend workshops are also invited to submit feedback.

The Strategic Campus and Facilities Master Plan is aligned with the university’s broader strategic planning effort and also will support and enhance GW’s goals and future aspirations. As the Strategic Campus and Facilities Master Plan Steering Committee collects feedback it also will collaborate with the four strategic planning committees to ensure the processes inform one another.

Following the timeline of the broader strategic planning process, the university will present the main elements of the Strategic Campus and Facilities Master Plan to the Faculty Senate and Board of Trustees. You can learn more about the Strategic Campus and Facilities Master Plan online.

University News


Strategic Plan Committees Release Interim Reports

January 27, 2020

All members of the university community are urged to review the reports and provide feedback to advance GW.