GW President Expands University Connections Abroad

President Steven Knapp traveled to London and attended an alumni reception, toured the family home of Winston Churchill and the home of George Washington’s ancestors and met with students, shown above with Dr. Knapp at the Procter & Gamble Family Home.
August 09, 2012

President Steven Knapp’s weeklong trip to London enhances George Washington’s global connections, increasing students’ study abroad, internship and job opportunities.

George Washington University President Steven Knapp met with students, alumni, trustees and institutional partners during a trip to London last week, bolstering the
university’s global relationships and enhancing its existing academic programs and initiatives.

Dr. Knapp kicked off his trip by visiting with more than 150 students, alumni, parents and university trustees, including Trustees George Coelho, M.B.A. ’77, and Michael Hoffman at a GW alumni reception and summer send-off.

Dr. Knapp said he was particularly excited that current students were able to connect with the alumni who have come through GW before them, affording them invaluable networking opportunities and a firsthand look at what it’s like to live and work in London.

“There was a lot of energy at the event. It was one of those rare opportunities where students come to another country and get a chance not just to visit the country but also interact with alumni who live and work there,” Dr. Knapp said. "This was an excellent way to build our lifelong, worldwide community."

Dr. Knapp also participated in meetings related to GW projects and initiatives. He toured Chartwell, the family home of Sir Winston Churchill, and the Churchill War Rooms, a combination of the Churchill Museum and the Cabinet War Rooms, the secret underground headquarters where his staff planned Britain’s military movements during World War II.

GW was recently selected as a research center for the study of the 20th-century leader, to be located in the Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library. The Churchill Centre, a Chicago-based international educational organization devoted to preserving the legacy of Winston Churchill, will establish the National Churchill Library and Center at the George Washington University through an $8 million pledge to the university. The center will open in several stages between 2013 and 2015.

Joined by Churchill’s great-grandson Lt. Randolph Churchill and his two daughters during his tour, Dr. Knapp said he marveled at how intact the Chartwell house is; Churchill’s furniture, photographs, paintings and gifts from royalty and heads of state around the world were on display for visitors to see.

"Chartwell and the War Rooms are treasure troves of artifacts and documents that make them ideal partners for GW's new library and center," Dr. Knapp said. "Our collaboration with these amazing institutions will offer unparalleled opportunities for education and scholarship."

Dr. Knapp also traveled north of London where he toured Sulgrave Manor, the home of George Washington’s ancestors. The manor, which belongs to both the British and American people, remains as a symbol of the peaceful relationship between Great Britain and the United States since 1814, when the Treaty of Ghent marked the end of the War of 1812. Dr. Knapp said the university is exploring the possibility of a symposium on the relationship between the two countries and the significance of Sulgrave Manor for 2014, the treaty's bicentennial.

Dr. Knapp and Mr. Coelho, managing director and global head of venture capital at Good Energies, also attended a special tour of The Crystal, the world’s largest exhibition focused on urban sustainability, created by Siemens in London’s Green Enterprise District. Mr. Coelho serves on the GW School of Business Board of Advisors as well as on the university's Board of Trustees.

“There are a lot of opportunities,” Dr. Knapp said, adding the tour reinforced the importance of urban sustainability, which is the focus of a university-wide initiative. “We’ve made a real push in the area of sustainability.”

Indeed. In the past year, three GW buildings—the Charles E. Smith Center, Lafayette Hall and Ames Hall—were awarded LEED Gold certification. On Earth Day 2012, Dr. Knapp announced a new “ecosystem plan” to enhance the ecosystems affected by the university’s footprint. In February 2012, GW launched a minor in sustainability, and students will be able to begin working toward the 18-credit minor during the fall semester. The same month, Dr. Knapp signed a sustainability pledge to reduce energy use and promote greener college campuses. The pledge, the first of its kind in the nation, is part of a partnership between the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area and the District of Columbia.

The university also has strong connections to Siemens, which moved its U.S. headquarters to the District last year. As a result of a three-year partnership between GW and Siemens, the university hosts the national finals and an award ceremony for the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology, an annual competition for high school students. The competition, started in 1998, is sponsored by the Siemens Foundation and administered by the College Board.

Dr. Knapp also visited several Olympic sponsor houses with a class of 28 GW School of Business students, led by Lisa Delpy Neirotti, associate professor of sport management. Dr. Knapp and the students learned about the role sponsors play in the Olympics. The graduate and undergraduate students are traveling as part of the class “International Experience: Behind the Scenes at the Summer Olympic Games,” one of the university’s many study abroad opportunities. This is Dr. Delpy Neirotti’s 16th consecutive Olympic Games and 11th Olympics with a group of students. The opportunity, Dr. Knapp said, is unparalleled for sport management students.

“It gives them the chance to really learn all the aspects, inside and out, of how a major event like this is put on,” he said, noting students were learning marketing, management and organizational strategies, among other skills. “It’s a great educational experience.”

Dr. Knapp also joined the students and Director of Athletics and Recreation Patrick Nero to watch GW alumnus and former Colonials basketball star Pops Mensah-Bonsu play for Great Britain during a game against Australia.

Mr. Nero, Dr. Knapp and the GW students even had the chance to meet Mr. Mensah-Bonsu after the game.

“We waited outside the locker room area, and he came out and was really thrilled to see so many George Washington students,” Dr. Knapp said. “He lit up when he saw us and was very warm and gracious in greeting all of us.”

Returning home, Dr. Knapp said the weeklong trip has increased students’ study abroad, internship and job prospects; added to existing key efforts like sustainability; and created opportunities around the coming National Churchill Library and Center. London and Washington, Dr. Knapp said, are quickly becoming the “twin capitals of the world,” and GW will continue to play a central role.