Thomas LeBlanc emphasizes need to integrate experiences between multiple campuses.
By Ruth Steinhardt
George Washington University President Thomas LeBlanc held the latest in a series of community meetings on the Mount Vernon Campus Thursday night, reiterating his commitment to the administrative priorities he has previously identified and answering questions specific to the Mount Vernon experience.
After a brief introduction by men’s soccer team captain Christian Lawal and Board of Trustees Chair Nelson Carbonell, B.S. ’85, Dr. LeBlanc took the stage before several dozen students and community members.
Before taking audience questions, Dr. LeBlanc recapped his experience prior to arriving at GW and laid out the five areas on which he intends to focus during his presidency: improving the undergraduate experience, supporting and leveraging research, evaluating resource-raising abilities, rehabiliting the partnership between the GW Hospital, the School of Medicine and Health Sciences and the Medical Faculty Associates and reforming GW’s institutional culture.
Dr. LeBlanc said he plans to be on the Vern frequently, and that he has taken the Mount Vernon Express between campuses to get an idea of what commuting students, faculty and staff experience.
“You are an important part of GW and I can’t experience GW without being out here,” Dr. LeBlanc said.
Dr. LeBlanc emphasized that much of his job is to listen to and learn from his GW constituents.
“I did not come here with a fixed template in which I’m trying to squeeze this 200-year-old distinguished institution,” he said.
Rather, he said, he considers it his job to gather “data points” and work to make necessary changes.
“If you keep telling me things that would make [your experience] easier, then we’ll keep chipping away at anything that continues to make it hard,” Dr. LeBlanc said.
For example, Dr. LeBlanc said that while Mount Vernon was “the classic bucolic college campus,” he had also heard about its limited food options and lack of social life at night.
“We need to focus very much on what life is like out here, and we need to bring events out here,” he said. “We’re very conscious of the importance of the shuttle and we’re going to do whatever we can to make that maximally convenient.”
Dr. LeBlanc also took questions on need-based aid for international students, fossil fuel divestment and community relations between the Vern and its neighbors in Washington’s Foxhall neighborhood.
One student said he wanted to triple major, but that restrictions in the registrar’s office only permit students a maximum of two majors and two minors.
Dr. LeBlanc immediately made a pledge: “I’m going to move heaven and earth to either change that or know the reason why.”
“We should never constrain our students’ academic aspirations,” he said.