GWALA Celebrates the Graduation of Fourth Cohort

The professional development program was designed to help the university cultivate leadership from within.

April 16, 2024

The fourth cohort of the GW Academic Leadership Academy.

The fourth cohort of the GW Academic Leadership Academy. (Lily Speredelozzi/GWToday)

The fourth cohort of the GW Academic Leadership Academy (GWALA) commemorated a year of hard work at their graduation on Friday afternoon. 

The 23 fellows in this year’s cohort attended the event held at the Corcoran School of Arts and Design along with the deans and leaders of the different schools and units at the George Washington University. 

Provost Christopher Alan Bracey, one of GWALA’s founders, opened the celebration by thanking the leaders for their support of the professional development program. 

“I want to start by thanking the deans and the other major figures here today. This program would be nothing without the support of the schools,” Bracey said. “Each of you is coming out of a school and spending time with us, and it's the deans that normally, by and large, signal to us that you're ready to join us in this professional development endeavor. And I know that the schools are reaping the benefits of this professional development activity, but their commitment to this program has been strong.” 

GWALA was launched four years ago as a program designed to cultivate leadership from within the university by helping participating faculty members develop core competencies such as conflict management and effective communication.

“This program is really a labor of love that began in 2019,” Bracey said. “At the time, I was the vice provost for faculty affairs, and we got this idea that we wanted to create a program that allows you to escape your day-to-day activities and focus on becoming a better version of yourself.” 

Bracey told the fellows he is proud of their hard work in utilizing this opportunity to build relationships across various disciplines and develop a set of skills that are going to make them more effective at their day-to-day tasks. 

Kausik Sarkar, a professor of engineering and applied science, said being part of the GWALA cohort was a wonderful experience and he’s learned skills he’s excited to take back to his classroom. 

“They covered a lot of different facets such as decision making, conflict resolution and engagement,” Sarkar said. “These are all the things that we do in our daily tasks. And yet we are never really taught how to do it. We are very rarely intentional about it. We just wing it in some sense. But it was really revealing to see that, you know, you can be intentional about it. There is a large literature to draw up, to be more effective.”

He said the opportunity also allowed him to connect with other members of the GW community as they spent time learning from each other. 

“It allowed me to know more about the diverse community that GW has, the wonderful people from different departments across the campus, how committed they are to improving the student experience, learning and the overall well-being of the institution,” Sarkar said. 

During the graduation celebration, the fellows gave presentations that reflected their experience in GWALA. Some chose to publish blog posts, while others created poster boards or gave PowerPoint presentations. There were QR codes at each table linking to the fellow’s blog posts and the poster boards were displayed around the room. 

Ahdeah Pajoohesh-Ganji, an associate professor of anatomy and cell biology, wrote on her board that she enjoyed her time with GWALA because it gave her the chance to connect with individuals from different departments within GW whom she otherwise would not have met and she is leaving the program with new tools and insights. 

"Each GWALA session has contributed to my self-discovery, providing me with insights to improve myself,” Pajoohesh-Ganji wrote.