As the clock struck 10 on Friday morning in downtown Washington, D.C., George Washington University President Ellen M. Granberg and her wife, Sonya Rankin, stepped out of their residence at the F Street House and basked in the sight of first-year students and their parents equipped with bins, suitcases and boxes packing the sidewalks.
Just as Granberg and Rankin had six weeks earlier, when Granberg began her tenure as the university’s 19th president on July 1, the students had arrived in D.C. about to begin their GW adventures.
“This is so fun,” Granberg said as she made her way down the steps. “What a treat.”
“I know! I love it,” Rankin replied.
And off they went, across the street to greet the line of people waiting to check-in at Thurston Hall. Clad in GW polos, they shook hands and struck up conversation with the students they will be championing and their family members.
The energy and excitement level was palpable as they made their way through asking first-year students and families about hometowns, fields of study and connecting on any level. Granberg, in fact, was delighted to meet a parent who went to the same high school she did in California.
Granberg and Rankin, along with Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Colette Coleman, would also make their way to Potomac House, Mitchell and Guthridge halls on the Foggy Bottom campus on Friday before stopping at Somers, Hillsides and West halls on the Mount Vernon Campus on Saturday. They knocked on residence hall doors—roughly 2,500 first-year and transfer students arrived over the weekend—striking up conversation and letting students know they are often out walking the Foggy Bottom campus and to not hesitate to say hello.
In between residence hall visits on Friday, Granberg, Rankin and Coleman also stopped by the Office for Student Success Welcome Reception, which featured both new and returning GW students who are Posse, Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, District, Cisneros, Chicago and/or Say Yes to Education Scholars.
“I have been really impressed with how open and accessible they are,” said Kevin Blanks, M.A. ’21, who is pursuing his Ph.D. in English and is also a mentor in the Office for Student Success. “Their message comes across as ‘we are here for you, we support you, and we have an open-door policy.’”
Move-In weekend is always an exciting time at GW as it marks the start of the academic year and welcomes in a new class of future leaders and problem solvers. Aided by a gift from Mother Nature that included comfortable temperatures considering the time of year, the campuses were buzzing throughout the weekend welcoming students and their families who have chosen to Raise High.
“It’s a mixture of very excited and a little sad, just since this is my first one to go away to college, but I’m just thrilled for her,” said Richard Wetzel, whose daughter, Janey, moved into Thurston on Friday. “She loves D.C. and the campus, and the neighborhood around GW is just kind of electric. It’s really exciting here today.”
The Wetzels drove from Kansas City, marking another theme of Move-In weekend as the parking lots featured a diverse set of state license plates.
While not coming from as far as Kansas City, first-year biology major Jada Traynor and her family traversed south on I-95 from just outside Philadelphia. Her enthusiasm more than passed the vibe check for Move-In day.
“I’m super excited, even just being in the city, it feels so real now,” said Traynor, who moved Friday into Potomac House and, of course, received a greeting from Granberg and Rankin. “I’m ready to meet new people and am super excited to meet my suitemates and my roommate. Yeah, I’m just super excited.”
Students and families had plenty of events to choose from once they unpacked their bags. Saturday morning started with a New Families Orientation Kickoff, while New Student Orientation on Sunday afternoon featured a keynote speech from Amanda Ripley, journalist and New York Times bestselling author of “High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out.”
“Empowering Community: GW Strong” was the theme for orientation as it celebrated the people, support systems and opportunities that make the GW community a place to learn, grow and thrive.
On Sunday night, new students unwound with a Buff and Blue Kick-off Pep Rally at the Charles E. Smith Center for a high-spirited welcome from university administrators, student leaders and New Student Orientation leaders.
Events will continue throughout the week and into the start of the semester, including the signature First Night on Friday, an annual community carnival event with inflatables, food and giveaways. Wednesday is Kickback on the National Mall with food and lawn games at Henry Bacon Ball Field just steps from the Lincoln Memorial.