To the GW Community:
Welcome to 2020! I hope that your winter break was restful, and that you found time to connect with friends and family and reflect on the new decade ahead.
I approach this year with excitement, not in small measure due to the energy I see in every corner of this institution. I am continuously inspired by the tenacity and curiosity I see at GW, and the potential those qualities offer to this institution and to the world. Thank you.
I have also taken time, as I hope you have, to reflect on the challenges of the past semester, including disturbing, hate-filled acts of anti-Semitism. We have held those involved accountable for their actions consistent with university policy. That said, we know that conduct processes alone are not enough. As an institution, we are strategizing about ways to communicate with our community more effectively and more often when challenging incidents occur. We are adding additional content to our first-year diversity education module, and we are working to create more opportunities for our faculty and staff to engage in meaningful ways with each other and with students about our core values.
These incidents underscore that we—as individuals and as a community—have more work to do as we strive toward “the more perfect union” that our nation set out to become. GW is not alone in this challenge, nor can we ignore it.
I want to begin the year reiterating a statement I have made before: the leadership of this university will not tolerate discrimination or harassment on our campuses.
I remain grateful for the commitment to diversity and respect that I see at GW—thoughtful conversation, shared concern for one another and continued advocacy for our community to be better.
We also have responsibilities as individuals. I implore you to speak out when something is not right, and to continue to care for one another both in our daily interactions and in the policies and structures we create together. In its most noble form Raising High means challenging ourselves to examine our biases and the ways our experiences have shaped our perspectives. In this new year, let us do better together.
In the spirit of looking ahead, I also want to share four priorities for GW as we head into another busy semester.
Complete the strategic planning process and finalize collective ideas to propel GW forward.
The strategic planning process will continue to move ahead this semester, and we are on track to finalize a plan by the summer with recommendations to advance GW toward our aspirations over the next five years. The strategic planning committees will be sharing draft reports in late January on the strategic planning web site and will need your feedback.
Develop a comprehensive plan for our campuses and facilities.
We are developing a master plan for our campuses that will guide our physical growth in the coming years and support our aspirations. We will be guided by ways to create a sense of place and belonging through our physical presence—one that best supports all of you and encourages community.
Advance the strategic initiatives that improve how we live and learn together.
Many students, faculty and staff have made tremendous contributions on the university’s five strategic initiatives to improve the experience on campus for all.
This past semester, we created more community space and improved campus safety, including in our residence halls. Our work will benefit from additional leadership from new GW Police Department Chief James Tate.
We continue to invest in our people as our greatest source of strength. Starting in the fall, employees and their families will benefit from an increased tuition remission rate, up to 100 percent in many cases.
We have prioritized improvements to support faculty research and enhance our medical enterprise, including deepening our relationship with the GW Medical Faculty Associates (MFA). I am pleased to welcome Barbara Bass, who joins GW this week as vice president for health affairs, dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences and CEO of the MFA.
Prepare for the historic celebration of GW’s bicentennial.
We are fast approaching GW’s 200th birthday, which we will recognize during a year-long celebration kicking off in February 2021. Preparations to mark this historic milestone are well underway and will offer opportunities to reflect on GW’s accomplishments, celebrate our aspirations and engage our broad community of students, faculty, alumni, parents and friends around the world. Building stronger connections is an ongoing effort, and I am excited to meet more GW alumni, families, students and friends in cities across the country at GW + You Community Receptions this semester.
As we embark on another semester together, I want to thank you again for your contributions—past, present and future—to our GW community. Each of us, in our direct treatment of one another and in our collective pursuit of a better world, co-create the values of this institution. Let us go forward into a new decade with respect, honesty and openness.
Best wishes for a successful spring semester.
Thomas J. LeBlanc