Nonstop Semester for George Washington

December 18, 2011

Ground breaking for Science and Engineering Hall, Clinton Global Initiative University and high-profile speakers dominated the fall at GW.

The George Washington University was at the center of it all this fall semester.

A Nobel laureate graced campus. The president, cabinet secretaries and a Supreme Court justice sparked discussions and debates. Officials broke ground on what will be a state-of-the-art academic building and renovated existing ones.

And in September, former President Bill Clinton announced GW would be the 2012 host of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U). Next spring, 1,200 students will flood campus for a three-day conference filled with leaders, using what they learn as a springboard for implementing a specific plan—a “Commitment to Action”—that makes a difference in a community. (Students have until Jan. 17 to apply here.)

Shortly after President Clinton’s announcement, GW made its own Commitment to Action with GW + Phones = Hope. The initiative, which was launched with an event on campus that included Chelsea Clinton and Christy Turlington Burns, aims to collect 20,000 used cell phones by March. The phones will be recycled to help fund health mobile technology programs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nepal. (Click here to find out how to donate.)

George Washington students demonstrated their commitment to helping others at the university’s annual Freshman Day of Service on Sept. 11. More than 2,300 GW freshmen participated, painting, gardening and cleaning in public schools and veterans’ retirement homes to fulfill this year’s theme of “Beautifying Schools, Building Community.”

GW also continued this past semester to draw a wide cast of high-profile visitors, from leading public servants to award-winning authors.

On World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, GW hosted President Barack Obama, along with U2’s Bono, musician Alicia Keys, CNN’s Sanjay Gupta and a number of politicians and HIV/AIDS experts. At the event, President Obama promised to commit more money for HIV/AIDS programs and provide antiretroviral treatment to an additional 2 million people across the globe by 2013. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, as well as Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, spoke via satellite. They emphasized the importance of HIV/AIDS education and supporting antiretroviral treatment in the neediest communities.

A trio of speakers, who touched on issues including race, inequality and the economy, also came through the Foggy Bottom Campus. In September, World Bank President Robert Zoellick discussed the economy and inequality; just a few months later, democratic intellectual Cornel West, as the keynote speaker of the GW University Writing Program’s “Democracy and Public Argument” conference, shared a similar message in an address about poverty and the concentration of power and wealth.

Author Toni Morrison, a Nobel laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner, discussed race and read from her 2008 novel, A Mercy. GW dedicated a bench in Ms. Morrison’s honor.

Caroline Kennedy spoke in September at GW’s Lisner Auditorium about her mother Jacqueline Kennedy’s, B.A. ’51, love for her family and strong opinions on politics. She detailed her favorite excerpts from recently released audio conversations between her mother and historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

Some of the country’s most influential decision-makers were also on campus this semester. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and former secretaries Michael Chertoff and Tom Ridge, in a discussion moderated by Admiral Thad Allen, M.P.A. ’86, spoke about the security challenges facing the nation in a post-9/11 world. The next month, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia headlined the GW Law Review Symposium, setting the stage for a series of discussions on constitutional interpretation.

Food and the future of creative cuisine took center stage when two of the world’s most acclaimed chefs, José Andrés and Ferran Adrià, shared the spotlight and swapped culinary tales in September at Lisner Auditorium.

In addition to well-known guests, GW opened its campus to families and friends during Colonials Weekend this year. Theater and dance performances, pumpkin carving, a show by comedian Bill Maher and live music filled the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses.

Meanwhile, a few new additions or revamped buildings gave GW’s Foggy Bottom Campus a facelift. Whole Foods opened up shop in The Avenue in September as a key component of GW’s 2007 Foggy Bottom Campus Plan to “Grow Up, Not Out.” The store—along with its neighbors including Roti, Sweetgreen and Circa—instantly became a campus hot spot. In another expansion of eating options, GW officially reopened the J Street eatery, redesigned after the university worked with the Student Dining Board to include new, healthy food options.

Another addition to campus, although currently not much more than a swath of freshly dug earth, will be the Science and Engineering Hall. University officials broke ground on the state-of-the-art building’s site in October. It’s expected to be complete by 2015 and will nearly double the amount of space available at GW for science and engineering.

On the Mount Vernon Campus, the university is completing renovations to Ames Hall. Formerly used for campus life and student support space such as the campus dining hall, Ames Hall will now incorporate academic classrooms, informal student gathering spaces, faculty offices and departmental spaces for the University Writing Program and University Police Department. The Mount Vernon Campus will also house the University Honors Program main administrative offices, housing and some courses starting in fall 2012.

This year marked the 20th anniversary of the Virginia Science and Technology Campus; GW President Steven Knapp announced during the celebration in October that Ali Eskandarian, B.S. ’79, Ph.D. ’87, senior associate dean for strategic initiatives and research in the College of Professional Studies, will now serve as the new VSTC dean.

Dr. Knapp and Martha Finnemore, professor of political science and international affairs, were recognized in October when they were inducted as members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS), one of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies and a leading center for independent policy research.

The Innovation Task Force, which is working to make GW more effective, efficient and innovative, also made strides this semester. Following two university-wide Showcases of Ideas and feedback from the senior leadership team, six new ideas have been selected for implementation. They include implementing a paperless strategy and optimizing the use of Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon residence halls year-round. Of the initiative’s $60 million goal, $43.4 million in recurring savings and revenue enhancements have been identified so far. GW community members can submit new ideas for consideration here.

This fall also marked the inauguration of a new curriculum package in the Columbia College of Arts and Science. Courses representing the fundamental elements of perspective, analysis and communication are now required as part of the new curriculum.

And the momentum isn’t likely to stop. Next semester’s highlights include the Clinton Global Initiative, to be held March 30 to April 1, and a series of events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the university in Foggy Bottom.

Only at GW: Visitors to GW this Fall

The Beginning of the End of AIDS: World AIDS Day 2011

GW+Phones=Hope Kickoff Rally

GW Breaks Ground for Science and Engineering Hall