Following U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s foreign policy address Friday, hundreds of students, professors and administrators packed the Elliott School of International Affairs building to celebrate its inauguration.
University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg and his predecessor, former President Lloyd Elliott, the school’s namesake, joined Powell in the ceremonial opening of the school in a brief ribbon-cutting event before the speech, which was closed to the public.
At the inaugural, attendees enjoyed ice cream, cake and music from two a capella groups in the building’s second floor gallery. Trachtenberg and ESIA Dean Harry Harding spoke to the crowd about the history of international affairs at GW and the new building’s significance.
The $72 million facility, which officially opened last April, features two 300-person lecture halls and offices for Elliot School faculty and staff.
Harding said that while the 1957 E Street building will add to the school’s attractiveness, “the quality of the students and the quality of the faculty are what really matter.”
The new building will help the administration significantly, Harding said. Previously, the school’s administrative offices were spread out, which made it hard for the staff to communicate. Now, “morale is up (and) coordination’s improved,” he said. The school was previously based in Stuart and Lisner halls, which are now used by the law school.
Trachtenberg said the school’s location, a stone’s throw from the State Department, was not a coincidence.
“We wanted it in the very center of the action,” he said. ” (But) we wanted it far enough from the State Department so people know it’s independent.”
Harding said he hopes that the school’s new building and location will attract more speakers of Powell’s stature and influence.
“This is making us a much more important venue, (but) one can’t expect the secretary of state to come every month,” Harding said.
Junior Andrea Peterson, the Elliot School’s representative at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, took the opportunity to meet Powell.
“It was a great honor,” Peterson said. “Colin Powell is a very impressive person and he also has a genuine smile.”
Many Elliott School students said the building’s location is an added bonus for international affairs students.
Andrew Ringa, a first-year graduate student, said it’s appropriate for the school to “be so close to the State Department.”
Freshman Oliver Truong said he prefers taking classes in the Elliott school than in other buildings.
“You actually want to go to class here,” he said. “In Phillips they pull in chairs. It’s much more crowded (there). Here it’s more well spread out.”