GW’s newest students include employees of Boeing, Nokia and the CIA, who the University is training through a consulting initiative called GWSolutions.
Owned by GW, the company consults and helps design educational curriculums for private companies and government agencies.
Company CEO Roger Whitaker said GWSolutions, which incorporated last August, has found a way to take the University’s resources and use them in innovative ways.
“It was like we were sitting on a gold mine and we didn’t know how to format it,” said Whitaker, dean of GW’s College of Professional Studies.
He explained that while various institutions provide pre-packaged courses and curricula for businesses and government agencies, a company that tailors curricula to the specific needs of an organization is a novelty.
“We want to know what’s keeping our clients up at night, what needs do they need to meet at their company?” said Whitaker, who served in the Peace Corps in Africa and founded the American College of Sofia in Bulgaria. “Then we customize a learning solution to fit their needs.”
The firm recently designed a public diplomacy course for the Kuwaiti Information Office, the public relations arm of the Kuwaiti Embassy.
Kuwaiti Information Office employee Tahani Al-Terkate said the hands-on courses, which included sessions in front of television cameras, changed her life “big time” and qualified her to be a diplomat in D.C.
Whitaker said GWSolutions often draws upon the expertise of graduate instructors from GW’s business and engineering schools.
Duke University’s Fuqua College of Business is the only other school in the nation that offers similar services, said both Whitaker and David Miller, director of business development for Duke Corporate Education, Inc.
GWSolutions’ services range from two-day consulting stints with instructors to customized curriculum designs.
Professors can earn extra income from teaching or consulting through GWSolutions.
Whitaker said the company offers other benefits to professors.
“If a professor is teaching a customized course to people at the Chamber of Commerce and then comes back and teaches a business course at GW, well he’s just gained some incredible experience in the field,” Whitaker said.
GWSolutions may also benefit GW students. Whitaker anticipates that although some of the company’s profits will go back into GWSolutions to fund future activities, a good deal of it will be used to improve the University.
“It is another source of revenue for the University. No one will benefit other than those affiliated with GW,” Whitaker said.
Students seemed intrigued by the idea of the GW company, but many were still guarded about the idea of another University business venture.
“It may not be good if it became high profile, because it would create too much of a corporate environment here at school,” junior Jade Nestor said.
“On the surface it seems more respectable than all the property buying they do,” junior Nate Barcic said. “But it may set a precedent for other ventures, and the University could lose its academic focus.”
Although GWSolutions already boasts a list of more than two dozen clients, it has not yet generated profits and does not expect to this year. Any income the company has earned so far has gone back into fueling the company’s growth.
The company can borrow a limited amount from the University but does not receive grants. GW provided $5,000 to create GWSolutions, which is not financed by any other investments.
Courses that are not specially designed are offered through GWSolutions’ Center for Professional Development, which has been around since 1964.
The Center offers courses in a range of fields from public relations to legal assistant to applied engineering.
GWSolutions is set to offer courses this summer for government agencies to make their Web sites accessible to disabled employees and comply with the federal Disabilities Act.