To the George Washington University Community:
Welcome back to campus! I also want to welcome students who are starting at GW for the first time this semester. We are glad you are here!
I hope your holiday was both restful and rejuvenating. Faculty and staff returned from the first-ever university holiday break between Christmas and New Year’s Day. I have received so many positive comments from staff about it.
I would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that the new university holiday break was a direct result of a larger conversation about how to simultaneously better serve our students and faculty and address the needs of staff.
Previously, on Fridays before three-day weekends such as Labor Day, some offices would dismiss staff early on ad-hoc basis. Because there was no official early dismissal policy, these arrangements created confusion for students and faculty who depended on university services during those times.
At the same time, staff feedback indicated that what they wanted most were not Friday early dismissals, but the week between Christmas and New Year’s off so that they could spend more time with their families.
As a result, we eliminated early dismissals before three-day weekends, as well as birthday leave, and instituted the new university holiday break between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
I hope this arrangement enriches the student, faculty and staff experiences and helps our culture become one that is responsive to the entire GW community.
One of the highlights of the holiday season for Anne and me was hosting students for Thanksgiving dinner. What a treat to have so many students break bread with us in our home. I greatly enjoyed meeting others of you at the F Street House, during faculty lunches, open houses for alumni and parents, and festive holiday receptions.
We did not expect to be welcoming you back during a partial government shutdown. Many members of our GW community may be personally affected or know someone affected by it. If so, a list of available resources was sent out last week via email, and I encourage you to look into them. Please be assured that the university continues to operate normally and will continue to provide updates to our community as necessary.
We had a very eventful fall semester, making good progress on the strategic initiatives.
On culture, our first-ever culture assessment concluded with an outstanding survey completion rate from our faculty and staff. One of our goals is to become better at building a positive environment for all members of GW, and I am confident this assessment will move us forward in that direction. Results were distributed via email and GW Today last week, and I encourage all faculty and staff to read the report.
Also of note was the December restructure of the Medical Faculty Associates. We cannot achieve our aspirations as a preeminent comprehensive global research university without a world-class medical school, and we can’t have a top medical school without a strong and thriving academic clinical practice. This new structure will help the university stabilize the MFA financially and more strategically align the clinical and academic missions.
We completed the first phase of the research ecosystem review, and look forward to completing the second phase this spring, which will focus on research core facilities, big data and high-performance computing, and postdoctoral research and hiring. As a reminder, this review will help us identify ways to better support research leading to discoveries and innovations that continue to put GW on the map.
Finally, last year, I started my tour of visiting GW communities of alumni and supporters around the country, and will continue this spring. Everywhere I go, alumni express how proud they are to be a part of GW. I call these trips my B-12 shots. I get so energized by the spirit of our alumni and friends around the country. In 2019, I plan to take the tour overseas visiting alumni and programs in Asia and Europe.
It’s a brand new year, and there are lots of new books to read, friends to make and knowledge to unearth. As you get started, I wish you a happy and productive spring semester.
Thomas J. LeBlanc