University staff celebrating milestone years of service earn recognition from President Thomas LeBlanc.
By Nick Erickson
Forty-five years ago, Cheryl Beil boarded a train from New York—the destination of a recent one-way plane ticket trip from Sarasota, Florida, to visit family up north—to go to Washington, D.C. Seeking a new opportunity and challenge, she had decided to interview for an open assistant dean of students position at George Washington University.
She admits now she didn’t know much about the university at the time but figured it couldn’t hurt to go through the interview process even if she didn’t get the job. But Dr. Beil ended up connecting with the people during the interview, and they offered her the job the next day. That was 1976. When she said yes to the position, she thought she would stay about five years.
On Dec. 1, she was formally recognized for her 45 years of service to the university at a Career Milestone Awards ceremony held at the F Street House.
“The rest, as they say, is history,” said Dr. Beil, who currently serves as the senior associate provost for Academic Planning and Assessment and assistant research professor of psychology.
She has guided hundreds of students, in her many leadership roles while simultaneously boosting GW’s retention, enrollment and reputation. In addition to her first and current roles, Dr. Beil also has been the inaugural director of the Office of Enrollment Research and Retention and the inaugural executive director of the Office of Academic Planning and Assessment.
Shortly after arriving at GW, she introduced the university’s retention initiative and designed surveys that tracked students’ experiences and satisfaction with their education. In the late 1980s, she co-chaired the university’s first retention task force, which set as its goal to increase retention rates by 5% in five years. It took just three. While it may have seemed bold and ambitious at the time, Dr. Beil credits a one-on-one intervention with students as a strategy that paid dividends. She notified advisors and the student affairs staff of students who were struggling with coursework and interviewed many of them at mid-semester to see how they could work to improve their educational experience.
In addition, she helped develop and for 15 years taught a section of Columbian College of Arts and Sciences (CCAS) Freshmen Advising Workshop, a course designed to help students navigate through their first semester at GW.
Throughout her time at the university, she has made an effort to meet students and assist them with their studies.
“My goal is always to help students achieve their goals, figure out how to overcome possible barriers and provide guidance and support as they wend their way through their education at GW,” Dr. Beil said.
After a 1998 move to Academic Affairs, Dr. Beil developed a university-wide assessment of student learning plan to fulfill the mandate for accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and would later co-chair two Middle States Self-Studies as part of GW’s accreditation process in 2008 and 2018. Currently, she serves as GW’s accreditation liaison officer to Middle States.
Over the years Dr. Beil has served on numerous university task forces, including the development of the University Writing Program; the revision of CCAS’s general education requirement (GPAC); the steering committee for Vision 2021: A Strategic Plan for the Third Century for The George Washington University; and, most recently, on the 2020 Distinguished and Distinctive Graduate Education Task Force, to name a few. In addition, she served as a faculty advisor for first year students in CCAS, for which she received the Excellence in Academic Advising award from CCAS in 2001.
Dr. Beil, who earned a Ph.D. in social psychology from GW, received the 1997 GW Award for outstanding contributions to the university.
While she has worn many hats over the course of 45 years, she has continued to be energized by the faculty and staff around her, and especially the students who give GW the civically engaged reputation it carries.
“We have a very unique group of students who are very political and involved, and I love that students remain active and work for what they believe,” Dr. Beil said.
At the Career Milestone Awards event hosted at his residence Wednesday, Dec. 1, President Thomas LeBlanc thanked all of those who, like Dr. Beil, have devoted so much of their time and effort in making GW what it is.
“We are a strong university in large part because we've got great people who really feel like we're doing something important,” Dr. LeBlanc said. “We are changing lives on a daily basis, whether it's our clinical care in the medical school, or our research that is actually impacting how the world works or teaching and training next generation of leaders. What we do is really important, and whatever your role is here at the university, you're a part of a larger community that makes us go and makes us successful.”
This year’s event combined 2020 and 2021 honorees, as last year’s annual gathering was canceled due to COVID-19 precautions. The recognitions were spread out over two days with three ceremonies per day, honoring employees with five, 10 and 15 and 20-plus years of service. There were 678 employees who achieved milestones in 2020 and 2021, and roughly 250 attended a celebration at the F Street House.
Along with Dr. Beil, facilities director John Kane, senior service worker Donald Gibson and driver Carl Bryant were the longest serving employees honored this year.