Here is a view from “the other side of the desk” in response to Stefanie Greenberg’s op-ed on the Mount Vernon experience (“Mount Vernon is not much of an option,” Oct. 1, p. 4). I have been a faculty member at GW for 20 years and this semester, I’m teaching a section of introductory geology at the Mount Vernon campus.
I certainly appreciate the legitimacy of many of Ms. Greenberg’s complaints. This first year at Mount Vernon is a brave new experience for the institution, the faculty and the students. There are certain to be numerous “start-up” problems but hopefully most of these will be resolved quickly and reasonably.
My class, for example, meets in a non-air conditioned lab at 1 p.m. You only can imagine how much of a challenge this has been for all of us during a September with numerous 90-plus degree days.
The ultimate pay-off is extraordinary. I teach a section of introductory geology at Foggy Bottom to a class of 85 students with four separate lab sections taught by two different graduate teaching assistants. At Mount Vernon, I teach the same course to a group of five students in an integrated lecture/lab format.
Last Wednesday, for example, I loaded my Mount Vernon class in a departmental van and spent the afternoon discovering the geology of Roosevelt Island. Mount Vernon, with its small classrooms and small resident population, naturally lends itself to this sort of innovative and individualized instruction.
The peace and tranquillity of the Mount Vernon campus probably resonate more with someone like me on the high side of 50 than with a typical university undergraduate. However, a counter-complaint commonly heard at Foggy Bottom centers on the general lack of quiet spaces for study, especially around exam times.
In my view, incorporation of the Mount Vernon campus and many of its rich traditions is going to turn out to be one of the best decisions GW has made in the last several decades.
I believe Mount Vernon really allows the best of both worlds – the intimate living and learning environment of a small liberal arts-style college with a real sense of community and all the benefits of a large, diverse, urban university only minutes away.
To anyone who has not seen the Mount Vernon campus, I invite you to jump on the shuttle one day soon and have a look.
-The writer is a professor of geology.