“We aspire to preeminence as a comprehensive global research university,” said GW’s new President Thomas J. LeBlanc, who officially started Aug. 1. He shared this “collective aspiration” with program directors and senior staff in the College of Professional Studies on September 25, and has been repeating it frequently around Campus. He explained the phrase as a work in progress that may change, but he intends it to be a guide for where GW is going under his leadership. He developed it in response to information he has heard from others since transitioning to GW from the University of Miami.
He told the CPS leadership group he has been working hard to “get a feel for the institution,” since he was hired in early January, by coming to GW at least once a month for meetings with diverse stakeholders. He immediately set to work trying to figure out what was distinctive about GW, and what he needed to understand for him to make an impact at the University. He said he has been doing a lot of listening to students, faculty, as he feels it is pretentious to decide the “direction of the ship” by himself as a newcomer.
The visionary phrase is helping guide his decisions. He said he recognizes we can’t do everything as an institution---it is about choices. GW has an operating budget around $1B a year and an endowment of about $1.8B, with about half of that in DC real estate. While GW is unlikely to open an international campus in the efforts to be global or have a dental school to be comprehensive in our academic offerings, GW’s resources do allow us to focus on identified priorities and innovative initiatives. He sees GW’s administrative priorities initially focusing on:
- Improving the overall undergraduate student experience: While GW has a strong reputation for undergraduate education, especially in areas like political science and international relations, student engagement is very siloed, and no one really sees the whole student experience, like how is the food and how user-friendly are transactions with service departments around campus.
- Evaluating development efforts and alumni relations: Thanks to former GW President Knapp the $1 billion-dollar campaign goal was reached. He will continue evaluating how GW’s aspirational goals will be supported through development efforts.
- Expanding and measuring research successes: Research is in GW’s DNA. He is taking a closer look at success stories, measurements, and opportunities.
- Strengthening GW’s partnership with three distinct medical entities, the GW Medical School, Medical Faculty Associates (MFA) and GW Hospital.
- Aligning GW culture with preeminence: He recognizes that GW’s culture needs to be better aligned with the goal of preeminence. He has found GW to be risk adverse, overly bureaucratic, focused on finances, and not ideally service oriented.
During the meeting CPS Dean Eskandarian shared comments about CPS’s activities, including current academic offerings and locations. Eskandarian also noted the College’s strong performance on the Graduation Survey given to students to evaluate their experience at GW. CPS performed very well, with students giving top marks to the academic excellence of CPS programs and faculty expertise.
Faculty asked questions about his plans to support working professionals and his thoughts on trends in continuing and online education, as well as university-wide topics like mental health services or the desire for high-profile, winning athletics teams at GW.
While GW may never aspire to have a Division 1 football team or expand our academic offerings to veterinary medicine, the College of Professional Studies and the university have many opportunities to build on GW’s strengths and strategically pursue innovative opportunities.
As President LeBlanc said in his address to the Board of Trustees last week, “Striving for preeminence is a goal worth getting up in the morning for.”
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 Oct. 20. Nelson Carbonell, GW Board of Trustees Chair, is seated to the left of President LeBlanc (William Atkins/GW Today).