Posted Sunday, August 12, 11:00 p.m.
University President Steven Knapp has been on the job for less than two weeks but this small number has little bearing on his lofty aspirations for GW.
Knapp is still familiarizing himself with the University’s strengths and weaknesses but said his initial plans for the faculty and students include promoting interdepartmental collaboration on research, building relationships with relevant District institutions, building a community of Colonials – present students and alumni included – and settling into life on the same block as 1,000 of GW’s finest incoming freshmen once he moves into a newly renovated Alumni House.
“There is a really strong aspiration here – from the Board of Trustees, from the faculty, from those individuals who wrote to me once my appointment was announced – to become a more visible research institution,” Knapp said. “There is a lot of research going on here already, but it may not be as well appreciated outside the University as it should be.”
Knapp said he hopes to advance this goal by encouraging professors to work with colleagues in different departments and by promoting the University’s relationship with the federal government, the local government and D.C.’s plethora of museums and great libraries.
“Yes, I have some ideas, but I need to test those ideas against what’s already going on at GW. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel or anything,” Knapp said.
Public health, law and engineering are three fields where Knapp said interdepartmental collaboration already takes place. However, he added that the most important part of arranging collaborative research opportunities is knowledge of his faculty members’ strengths and interests.
“That is one of the most important things I have to do in terms of my learning curve here is to really get to know faculty in much greater detail and their work in greater detail than I have been able to do from a distance,” Knapp said.
The University recently hired Adrienne A. Rulnick as associate vice president for Alumni Relations and Annual Giving, and Knapp said he hopes her appointment will jumpstart his goal to build a network of GW alumni who not only give back to the University financially but who also give back to the University’s current students directly.
“I want to bring alumni (back to Foggy Bottom) who have connections related to the potential careers of our current students,” Knapp said. “We have to catch up to fact that GW is a nationally and internationally recognized institution. Our alumni relations do not yet reflect that.”
Knapp said building a sense of community among Colonials past and present is as important as promoting the University academically.
“When someone joins GW as a student, I want that individual to feel like they are part of a lifelong and increasingly a worldwide community of Colonials.”
As Knapp prepared to leave his former position as provost at Johns Hopkins University, he said he felt good about the state in which he left the university because he felt he had accomplished many of the goals he has now set out to accomplish at GW.
“Johns Hopkins gave me a good background for moving into a situation like this where a university with strong aspirations has the opportunity to advance in a number of areas and to do so in a challenging urban environment,” Knapp said. “If you want to imagine a position that would be a good training ground for (my position as University president at GW, Johns Hopkins) was a good place to be.”
Knapp said his colleagues at Johns Hopkins were friendly as he was preparing to move to D.C. and hoped that they did not act so cordially because they were glad to see him go.