GW Today’s Top 15 of the Fall 2015 Semester

Appointment of Reuben E. Brigety II to Elliott School deanship tops list of most-read stories.

GW Today
December 14, 2015

This fall was a semester of novelty at the George Washington University, with new leaders, new research and exciting visitors capturing Colonials’ attention. The campus also was caught up in national and international upheavals: Civil rights, national security and religious strife headlined the conversation. GW Today staff gathered 15 of our most-read stories for a quick look back at a big few months.


1.  Ambassador Reuben E. Brigety II Named Elliott School Dean
GW welcomed several new leaders this semester, including Dr. Brigety, U.S. representative to the African Union and the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, as dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs; RaShall Brackney, a 30-year veteran of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, now chief of the George Washington University Police Department; and longtime arts advocate and educator Sanjit Sethi, inaugural director of the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design.

2. Using Ancient DNA, Researchers Unravel the Mystery of Machu Picchu
The work of Brenda Bradley, associate professor of anthropology, at Macchu Picchu topped the list of popular research stories. Others included cancer epidemiologist Kim Robien’s commentary on the World Health Organization’s report on red meat diets and chemist Peter Nemes’ receipt of the Beckman Young Investigator Award.

3. Introducing the Class of 2019
The new crop of Colonial freshmen made headlines with stories on Welcome Week’s celebratory kickoff, First Night at Mount Vernon , move-in day, and Freshman Day of Service .

4. GW Office of Safety and Security Updates Community after Release of Unverified Terrorist Video
In November, equilibrium on campus and around the world was rocked by terrorist attacks in Paris that killed at least 129 people. The community processed the tragedy and honored the victims of that and other terrorist attacks with a vigil for peace and the annual Interfaith Dinner. When subsequent videos were released that seemed to threaten attacks on Washington, D.C., Senior Associate Vice President of the Office of Safety and Security Darrell Darnell responded with reassurances that there was no “credible threat” to D.C. or GW.

5. Provost Lerman to Step Down
After five years as provost, Steven Lerman announced that he would step down in December. Following a yearlong sabbatical, he plans to return to GW as a member of the faculty and the A. James Clark Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering. Forrest Maltzman stepped up as interim provost, while Teresa Murphy will serve as deputy provost

6. Jon Stewart to Anchor Colonials Weekend
The announcement that retired Daily Show host Jon Stewart would visit GW for Colonials Weekend excited fans, who turned up in droves for two sold-out performances. Mr. Stewart wasn’t the only pop culture phenomenon to visit Foggy Bottom this semester: “Slumdog Millionaire” star Freida Pinto spoke at the Milken Institute School of Public Health to commemorate International Day of the Girl, “Reading Rainbow” host Levar Burton discussed the legacy of American slavery and songstress Janelle Monae caught up with GW Today after her energetic set at Alumni Weekend.

7. Alumna Becomes Advocate, Inspiration For Those With Disabilities
The story of Alexa Dectis, B.A. ’15, a former child actor turned aspiring lawyer who lives with Type II spinal muscular atrophy, put the spotlight on the work of Colonials past and present. Hers was one of a series of widely read profiles that also included Eric Bremen, a dual degree student who blends a passion for sustainability with a flair for entrepreneurship.

8. Standardized Test Scores Will Be Optional for GW Applicants
GW made national news with its announcement that most applicants for undergraduate admission will no longer be required to submit SAT or ACT scores. Intended to remove barriers for historically underrepresented students, the policy change has been adopted by a growing number of schools.

9. GW Students Prepare for Historic Papal Visit

Trending Today: Papal Visit from The George Washington University on Vimeo.

GW had a front row seat when Pope Francis made his much-anticipated September visit to Washington, D.C., the initial stop on his first visit to the United States. Members of the GW community lined Pennsylvania Avenue to watch the passing of the papal motorcade, and senior Gerard Gayou, the president of GW Catholics, participated in the canonization Mass at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

10.  Benefits Task Force Releases Long-Term Report
A task force created by George Washington President Steven Knapp released long-term recommendations regarding faculty and staff benefits in December. The task force’s findings emphasized communication, engagement and a focus on health benefits. A September study by global consultant Mercer that ranked GW employee benefits in the middle compared to those offered at 17 peer universities.

11.  ‘Hands Up’: SMPA Student’s Film Puts a Lens on Black Lives Matter
The Black Lives Matter movement continued to make its mark on GW, as at campuses across the country. SMPA student Zinhle Essamuah, B.A. ’15, documented the upheavals in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore through Manheim-Sterling research project. As issues of race continued to dominate national news, GW President Steven Knapp responded to November events at Howard University and the University of Missouri with a call to continue the dialogue.

12.  A Banner Fall Semester Continues for GW Sports
The wins kept coming this season for GW athletes. Men’s and women’s basketball have high aspirations , backed by feats like the men’s triumph over No. 6 Virginia in November, the program’s biggest upset since it defeated No. 1 Massachusetts in 1995 and 1996. Both men’s and women’s soccer won A-10 regular season titles in dramatic fashion this fall, and GW sailing completed the most successful fall season in program history.

13.  Behind the Scenes of District House
Readers were eager for an inside look at the project, poised to become GW’s second-largest residence hall. The 12-story building, slated to open fall 2016, incorporates and expands the existing Crawford, West End and Schenley residence halls.

14.  Making History
Making History: The Campaign for GW is now well over the $800 million mark as it continues toward its billion-dollar goal to support students, enhance academics and break new ground through research. GW raised $232.2 million in fiscal year 2015, making it the largest fundraising year in the university’s 194-year history.

15.  CIA Director: Possibility of a Cyber Attack ‘Worries Me at Night’
In October, the second annual “Ethos and Profession of Intelligence” public conference on national security brought the leaders of four major national security agencies, including John Brennan of the Central Intelligence Agency, to Lisner Auditorium to discuss challenges and advances in their field. Other security experts on campus included National Security Advisor Susan Rice, who addressed the U.S.-China relationship in anticipation of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s September visit. GW and its institutes have become major contributors to the discussion around national security and the fight against extremism. In December, the Program on Extremism released a report on ISIS in America that garnered national attention.