Presidential Search, New University Website Headline Board Meeting

More than 100 candidates have been nominated for university president.

Nelson Carbonell
Board of Trustees Chair Nelson Carbonell urged the GW community to nominate candidates to be the university's 17th president. (Logan Werlinger/GW Today)
October 22, 2016

At Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting, Chair Nelson Carbonell, B.S. ’85, provided an update on the university’s search for its 17th president.

He outlined the three phases of the search process: creating a presidential profile, nominating candidates and electing a new president.

To create a presidential profile, the board held 30-plus town hall meetings this fall with a range of university constituents, including students, faculty, alumni, staff and neighbors. The board also met with members of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and the Faculty Consultative Committee, who reviewed the profile prior to it being made public earlier this month.

To date, he said, more than 100 candidates have been nominated. “We have many terrific nominees,” said Mr. Carbonell, who encouraged GW community members to nominate candidates and to submit questions for the interview process via the presidential search site.

The 19-member presidential search committee, led by trustee Madeleine Jacobs, B.S. ’68, D.Sc. (Honorary) ’03, is charged with bringing the board two or more finalists who are worthy next presidents for the institution, he said. As specified in the university bylaws, the board will then elect a president with input from the Faculty Senate Executive Committee and the Faculty Consultative Committee.

Mr. Carbonell stressed that the search is confidential. “Many of the candidates who we will see are sitting university presidents, deans, provosts and academic leaders, and most of those people are not interested in having their names broadcast as candidates for the president of the George Washington University.

“I believe we’ll bring a terrific new leader to the university to continue to build on the great work President Knapp and his administration has done,” said Mr. Carbonell, leading the board in a standing ovation in appreciation of President Steven Knapp.

In his remarks, Dr. Knapp said that GW students’ Princeton Review distinction as the nation’s most politically active takes on special significance in a presidential election year. “What that means on our campus is that students are learning to understand how our political system works and how they can get involved, make a difference and help to change the world,” he said.

Among this fall’s highlights, Dr. Knapp said, was Freshman Day of Service, which had the greatest number of participants in its history—more than 2,500 students, faculty and staff fanned out across all eight wards of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, he said. Service hours at the university have increased from 163,980 in academic year 2009-10 when First Lady Michelle Obama issued a service challenge to the GW community to more than 680,000 last academic year.

Dr. Knapp introduced new leaders with a key role in the university’s academic and student support missions. Professor Christopher Bracey was named vice provost for faculty affairs in August. Mr. Bracey began in the position this fall after serving for four years as senior associate dean for academic affairs at the GW Law School.

Costas Solomou, the university’s new dean of admissions, and Oliver Street III, executive director of enrollment retention, will work to ensure students from a range of diverse backgrounds have access to the university and also the tools and support to succeed once they are on campus.

Dr. Knapp also singled out the recent opening of the Store, a student-run food pantry in District House that addresses food insecurity on campus. Since opening Oct. 1, 234 students have requested access to the Store.. Every day, about five new student requests are received.

Dr. Knapp read letters about the Store written anonymously by students. “You cannot imagine how much RELIEF this gives me,” one student wrote. “I cried at how many options there are and how much people must care to do this,” another wrote.

Lorraine Voles, B.A. ’81, vice president for external relations, and members of the Division of External Relations updated the board on the university’s new main website. The site, which launched in September, was designed and developed completely internally by the Division of External Relations and the Division of Information Technology.

“University websites have become increasingly important in recruiting a high-quality and diverse student body,” said Leah Rosen, B.B.A. ’96, M.T.A. ’02, associate vice president for marketing and creative services.

“The strategy, design and content development were all done in-house,” she said. “We used analytics, market-basket research and stakeholder feedback when making decisions about the site. The goal was to create an easy-to-navigate, mobile-friendly site with a strong visual identity that would tell our GW story.”

Jon Hussey, managing director of digital marketing strategy, said that developing a mobile-friendly site was one of the most important goals in the redesign. Thirty-five percent of GW website traffic is from mobile phones and tablets. When it comes to prospective undergraduate students, that number rises to 50 percent.

Another key goal was enabling users to easily find what they are looking for, whether it’s information on applying, specific schools and programs, or visiting campus. “All of those tasks are now much easier to achieve,” he said.

The new site makes extensive use of multimedia elements, including photos, videos and infographics to draw users in. “We’ve learned that students and prospective students—our primary audience—love photos and videos,” Mr. Hussey said. The site also showcases student and faculty stories in their own words and highlights real-life testimonials from students, often pulling from social media.

Charles Garris, chair of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, provided an update on the senate’s activities, which include a new resolution to enable School of Medicine and Health Sciences clinical faculty to participate on the Faculty Senate. He thanked the board for its inclusive process with the presidential search. “No one can say they have not had the opportunity to voice their opinion,” Dr. Garris said.

Student Association President Erika Feinman discussed the SA’s priorities and progress in accomplishing the goals it outlined last spring. The SA’s efforts to make internships more accessible have resulted in the creation of a new grant fund for students, Feinman said. With the help of Career Services, the SA developed the Student Internship Travel Reimbursement grant, which enables students to apply for up to $300 in reimbursement for travel costs related to their internships.

Priorities for the SA include implementing a first-year forgiveness policy that would enable students to retake a course from their freshman year in which they earned a C or lower; improving student health on campus, including launching a peer support network; and improving the lives of students with unique needs, such as LGBT students and those with disabilities. In addition, Feinman said, a task force that includes students, a trustee and former trustee is examining student representation on the Board of Trustees.

In his remarks, Jeremy Gosbee, B.A. ’98, M.B.A. ’02, president of the GW Alumni Association, said the Colonials Helping Colonials fund dedicated to advancing the Knowledge in Action Career Internship Fund has reached 40 percent of its $100,000 goal. Mr. Gosbee also highlighted the upcoming Alumni Weekend, Oct. 27 to 29, when 2,000 alumni will be on campus for more than 60 events.


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