Op-Ed: Citizenship and leadership for the 21st century

George Washington envisioned a university that would train students to become citizen-leaders and help forge a student identity that would transcend regional differences and local prejudices. As we embark on a strategic plan for the next decade, we find that Washington’s vision is as relevant today as it was during his own time.

But his vision has global implications; we no longer train citizen-leaders of our country alone, but citizen-leaders of the world.

The theme “Citizenship and Leadership” in the strategic plan reflects a view that the University must determine how best to advance the important areas of intellectual inquiry related to these concepts.

The citizenship and leadership strategic planning task force will think deeply about the issues of citizenship, leadership and civic responsibility, as well as how to create responsible and responsive students who are prepared for their roles in a diverse and globally connected society.

In her commencement address to graduates in 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama said, “We are no longer isolated from what happens on the other side of the world.”

Teaching students to be citizen leaders – to take up the demands of securing our most cherished community values with others – is one of the greatest services we can provide as a University.

The task force will consider an array of questions, including the following: how the University will engage with the communities in which we are embedded; how we train our students as future leaders and responsible citizens; and how the research we produce translates into thoughtful leadership around the issues of individual, corporate and university citizenship.

The fundamental aim is to invest in GW’s capacity to solve globally significant issues in diverse communities by developing and utilizing the social, intellectual and civic capacity of our students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Cheryl Beil is the associate provost for academic planning and assessment, Doug Guthrie is the GW School of Business dean, Steve Lerman is the University provost, Forrest Maltzman is the senior vice provost for academic affairs and planning, Terri Harris Reed is the vice provost for diversity and inclusion, Scheherazade Rehmanan is an Elliott School of International Affairs professor, Brian Richmond is the Department of Anthropology chair and Sara Rosenbaum is the Department of Health Policy chair.

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