President DeGioia reflects on the previous semester
On Wednesday evening, President John DeGioia held his biannual conversation with campus media. Over the hour-long discussion, DeGioia discussed a wide variety of subjects, including the capital campaign, the campus plan, campus safety, Georgetown’s major construction projects, diversity initiatives, and the University’s international programs. Next week, the Voice will offer complete analysis of President DeGioia’s press conference.
Before taking questions, the president reflected on the broad themes of his fall semester:
“It was a great fall, I just think we had a terrific fall. For me, it was kind of driven by a couple of big things. We had to launch the public phase of the campaign. That was really quite an extraordinary weekend for us. It was us at our best and I was glad we were able to have such an inclusive experience with so many, including the big tent on the front lawn. Our fundraising success has continued very well, we’re over the halfway mark in the campaign, at the halfway mark. We feel very encouraged by the generosity of our community. We’re just going to keep at it, our highest priority is scholarships, support for financial aid. Given the challenging nature of the economy I don’t think we could have a more important priority- that priority emerged over roughly 8 years of planning going back to 2003, but certainly characterized all of the years of our quiet phase- that was our most dominant priority. We actually went out publicly with that priority in the quiet phase in a series of town halls across the country, where I talked about what we call the 1789 Scholarship Imperative, which is our way of characterizing the financial aid piece.
I think there were other issues that dominated my time- the relationship with the community and our engagement in the city was part of that. This is our cycle, to submit our campus plan and we’ve completed our public hearing on November 17th. And we have our final filing of documents this Friday, and on February 9th we have a read-out from the Board of Zoning where they think they’re going to come down in terms of the conditions for Georgetown, and we’ll expect some time later this spring, maybe mid-April, maybe May, that will be our expectation that we’ll get a written report, and that will give us a sense of the position of the Board of Zoning. But I think as you know, this was a three-year effort, but also really it’s not a episodic experience, it really is a full immersion for ten years with deep engagement with the community and lots of conversation. It just becomes particularly focused in roughly the final two years of that ten-year period where you deeply engage in the formal submission of documents to various city agencies and the like. So we went through that.
It was interesting for me this fall…I assumed the chairmanship of the consortium of Washington universities. And our mayor and our city council both raised issues of overall importance for us as universities. I actually pulled together a meeting with the mayor which took place on December 19th, and it was a terrific meeting, I was very very pleased with the very good conversation we had with the Mayor about the role universities play in the city, we’re just very encouraged by his recognition of the importance that universities have for the life of the city. Per capita, this is America’s #1 college town. There are other cities that have more colleges and more college students but they also have bigger populations…We’re America’s College Town.
Then I guess we also had some local things that we’re dealing with. I was very pleased with the leadership of my colleagues, Chris Augostini and others- I know Todd [Olson], you’re going to be doing one this month, Hoya Roundtables, I think those have been terrific in terms of strengthening the communications between our students and our senior leadership. We’re also going through a very important process….We go through our formal accreditation of the main campus this spring, and it’s every ten years, you spend a good part of the ten years on it, but you really spend a lot in the last year. The chair of our visiting team was here in November, was here for a two-day visit, and the whole team will come in the first of April, and so we’re looking forward to that. I have some experience being in that role- I’ve chaired two accrediting teams in the last three years. I chaired the accreditation last year for Villanova University and the year before that Harvard University. So these are intense experiences, whether you’re on the visiting team or the university being visited. We’re ready and we’re looking forward to it.
Finally this weekend we’re excited about our Martin Luther King Day celebrations. And next week the whole MLK celebratory week, but Monday night is always a special night at the Kennedy Center. Each year we honor someone with the John Thompson Legacy of a Dream award and we also put together a choir, the ‘Let Freedom Ring’ choir, with our choirs and also with choirs from the local churches, we call it the ‘Let Freedom Ring’ Choir, and they’re ready to go. Usually we have a celebrity who joins them, and we have Bobby McFerrin. Mr. McFerrin was a visiting faculty member here, about ten years ago, and spent the fall with us, and it was fantastic. So I can only imagine what it’s going to be like with him on Monday night. But those were just a few reflections, let’s get started.”
Photo: Tim Markatos