President LeBlanc Addresses Board of Trustees

This year, all board committees and task forces also provided reports during the regular session.

President Thomas LeBlanc
Striving for preeminence is a “goal worth getting up in the morning for,” President Thomas LeBlanc said in his address to the Board of Trustees on Friday. (William Atkins/GW Today)
October 23, 2017

George Washington President Thomas LeBlanc provided his first public address to the full Board of Trustees Friday, sharing an updated aspirational statement that he says has and may continue to evolve as he learns more about the university.

“Framed by our nation’s capital and inspired by our namesake’s vision, we, the members of the George Washington University community, aspire to preeminence as a comprehensive, global research university,” Dr. LeBlanc said. “It’s a simple sentence that I think captures our past, it captures our shared aspiration, and it actually gives us a road map for where it is we are going in the future.”

The statement, Dr. LeBlanc said is informed by his many discussions with all members of the university community—discussions that the president said have been largely positive.

“There are a lot of upsides that we don’t all know,” he said. “So we don’t walk around with a smile on our face as much as we should.”

The latest version provides context to the university’s founding—“We got really lucky; we got George Washington’s vision.”—and emphasizes the importance of the university’s location and how it plays a critical role in GW’s identity and the experience of its students, faculty and staff, Dr. LeBlanc said.

Dr. LeBlanc has previously explained the reasoning behind the aspirations in the statement, and he emphasized again Friday the importance of being a comprehensive university, especially considering the recent investment in  Science and Engineering Hall and the decision to absorb the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design into GW. Dr. LeBlanc added that GW attracts a community from around the world and competes on a global stage, and that the university has research “in our DNA.” Striving for preeminence in these areas is a “goal worth getting up in the morning for,” Dr. LeBlanc said.

The five priorities Dr. LeBlanc has discussed in community meetings remain the same, he told the board before providing a summary of his activities so far this semester. His schedule has been heavy on student, faculty and staff events and meetings, becoming acquainted with the local community, and attending a couple of high-profile campus events. Colonials Weekend was already underway Friday and his inauguration celebration also rapidly approaches.

In other board news:

  • Venessa Perry, M.P.H. ’99, president of the GW Alumni Association, said the group is streamlining its membership and committee structure and will work on aligning efforts more closely with the university to enhance engagement and reach more alumni.
  • Sylvia Marotta-Walters, chair of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, told the board that the implementation of the revised Faculty Code is working well and that the recent faculty task force report on online programs is only preliminary and offers an opportunity for faculty to delve deeper into analyzing and bettering GW’s online offerings.
  • Peak Sen Chua, president of the GW Student Association, highlighted the group’s Top Textbook program and said it will work on a wide range of student issues this year that address the international student experience, campus climate, the academic experience and student-alumni engagement.

This year, all board committees and task forces also provided reports during the regular session:

  • Committee on Governance and Nominations: Chair Grace Speights said a recent board survey showed trustees have a strong commitment to GW and the board has a good committee structure and orientation program. Areas of opportunity included more training on higher education issues, increased transparency on decision-making and more oversight in strategic planning for the university. Various changes already have been implemented to address these issues.
  • Volunteer Engagement Task Force: Chair Roslyn Brock emphasized the importance of an updated and robust database of alumni and ensuring GW has positive interactions with all students and alumni, including by increasing outreach and re-engaging with the community. She said the task force would report recommendations.
  • Executive Committee: Board Chair Nelson Carbonell, B.S. ’85, said the committee met to discuss compensation and university and board goals.
  • Committee on Academic Affairs: Chair Madeleine Jacobs, B.S. '68 and D.Sc. (Honorary) '03, said the committee received updates on the Middle States accreditation process, GW’s international strategy and research progress as well as a report from Milken Institute School of Public Health Dean Lynn Goldman.
  • Committee on Finance and Audit: Chair Ellen Zane, B.A. ’73, said the financial health of the university, including revenues, expenses and endowment performance, remains strong to support the university going forward. Budget planning for fiscal 2019 also has begun.
  • Committee on Medicine and Clinical Partnerships: Chair Ellen Zane said the committee is discussing the relationship between the GW Hospital, the School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) and the Medical Faculty Associates and examining growth strategies for GW’s clinical enterprise to meet the needs of the SMHS.
  • Student Experience Task Force: Chair Ave Tucker, B.B.A. ’77, said the task force has heard a lot about community culture and bureaucracy and how they affect the student experience. The task force will conduct research, hold community meetings, field surveys and develop recommendations to present to the board.

In closing the meeting, Mr. Carbonell said that while the last couple of years have been busy—including the end of a presidency and the selection, transition and onboarding of Dr. LeBlanc—“in the end, we did a terrific job, so kudos to all of you.”

University News


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