Inauguration Preparation, Vaccine Updates Highlighted at Faculty Senate

Provost M. Brian Blake also presented a report on research.

GW Tempietto
January 19, 2021

The George Washington University has been preparing extensively in recent days for any events that could impact the Foggy Bottom campus and to continue to protect the safety of the university community, President Thomas LeBlanc told the Faculty Senate Friday.

Anticipating a large security presence in the area as well as checkpoints, roadblocks and restrictions on movement, campus operations will be very limited until after the presidential inauguration, with access only for residential students and essential on-site staff to support them through Jan. 20.

The university designated this year’s Inauguration Day as a university holiday and is making other operational adjustments to further limit campus operations. GW will continue to provide text and email updates to the university community through Campus Advisories.

“Our institutional message over the coming days through the inauguration I hope is very clear. If you do not need to be on campus, do not come to campus,” Dr. LeBlanc said. “The safety of our community is our foremost priority. It has been throughout the pandemic, and with the added concerns around the inauguration, it is driving every action we take.”

Dr. LeBlanc also recognized the difficult impact recent events, including the riots at the Capitol, are having on the GW community.

“I understand the impact that these events are having on our students, our faculty and our staff, and I want to reinforce the continued importance of using our teaching and research mission in service of the public good and in service of democracy, especially when it’s under threat like this,” Dr. LeBlanc said. “This is the role of higher education, and there’s a special place for GW in that role in these difficult times.”

Also Friday, Dr. LeBlanc shared an update on vaccine availability and distribution, emphasizing that the university has not been allocated vaccine to distribute to the GW community.

While GW Hospital and the Medical Faculty Associates are serving as distribution points for the vaccines, distribution is limited per the priorities established by DC Health guidelines only.

The GW community can refer to the COVID-19 vaccine website for more information about the process for vaccine administration in their state of residence. Given the guidance of GW’s experts and the unknowns about vaccine availability in the future, community members should not wait for a university initiative to provide the vaccine and should accept the vaccine through whatever source becomes available first, Dr. LeBlanc said.

The beginning of the distribution of the vaccine is providing reason for optimism about the months ahead, Dr. LeBlanc said.

“I’m personally looking forward to more conversations this semester about our steps toward normal, including our planning for the fall when we expect that we will be back in person to the fullest extent possible,” Dr. LeBlanc said. “As always, we’ll be listening to our experts, continuing to monitor public health conditions and making our decisions with safety as our foremost priority.”

Later this month, the university plans to welcome an additional 1,000 residential students to the Foggy Bottom campus, and officials are prepared to integrate them into all of the university’s public health protocols, including regular testing, Dr. LeBlanc noted, which is critical in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.

Research report
In the annual report on research, Provost M. Brian Blake said the past year saw the highest sponsored research activity in GW history, continued upward trend in production of books and publications and impact in citations, a record year in invention disclosures and patents, and faculty across all disciplines and schools received impressive national recognition and led in important discussions.

“I’m proud, I’m honored, to serve given these amazing outcomes over the past year,” Dr. Blake said.

Notably, the university has more than 90 active scholarly and research projects related to COVID-19.  The university also serves as a clinical trial site for the Moderna vaccine.

Some areas for development, Dr. Blake said, are in creating a university-wide, forward-looking research strategy; improving pre- and post-award processes; optimizing resources in people, funding, space and activities; enhancing facilities; and elevating a multidisciplinary focus.  Dr. Blake also shared progress on recommendations from the research ecosystem review and updates on the success of the University Facilitating Fund.

This semester, the university will host the GW Research Showcase April 12-16 and the New Venture Competition on April 15.

Dr. Blake and Vice Provost for Enrollment and Student Success Jay Goff also provided an overview of the work of the Future Enrollment Planning Task Force. The task force, which includes administrative, academic and faculty leadership, recently issued fall 2021 new undergraduate class profile recommendations. The goal is enrolling the best new student class possible given current environmental factors, and the objectives, in part, include ensuring a safe campus environment, supporting a critical mass of students to create a lively and engaging community and maintaining or improving students’ academic profile and diversity levels.

“I think these are really good guidelines for us and have been helpful for us in terms of guiding our discussions and keeping us focused in terms of what things are most important to our student experience and enhancing our student success rates,” Mr. Goff said.

Other business

  • Dr. Blake said he is excited to soon welcome the new dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs. He added GW is in the beginning stages of the search for a vice provost for research, and he will charge a faculty-led search committee in the coming weeks.  Additionally, Dr. Blake has asked School of Nursing Dean Pamela Jeffries and Professor and Faculty Senate member Jason Zara to co-chair the Post-COVID Academic Innovation Task Force.
  • Dr. LeBlanc noted bicentennial celebrations will begin with a virtual kickoff ceremony on Feb. 9, the university’s Charter Day.
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