Staff Editorial: Towards the future: a focus on academics

The first in a two-part series examining GW’s new president

On the eve of his inauguration as our University’s 16th president, Steven Knapp has had a whirlwind introduction to the world of GW. In his few short months at the helm in Foggy Bottom, Knapp has been met with challenging circumstances that demanded reasonable and responsive leadership. Thus far, Knapp has met these requirements while ushering in his own agenda for the future of GW.

While Knapp’s acclimation period as had some unexpected turbulence, this first semester is quickly drawing to a close. Now that the introductions and welcome speeches are dwindling down to the official inauguration, it is time for Knapp to tackle the daunting issues facing GW today.

If there is one topic that is, without fail, associated with our University it is the exorbitant costs and whether or not a GW education worth that amount. Knapp should make it a central goal in his term to ensure that four years of academic study at GW live up to the price tag. Of course student life and extracurricular opportunities are important to a college experience, but the most feasible and necessary improvement should be directed towards the academic arena.

Internships and jobs in the District are plentiful and learning experiences in themselves, but a college degree is representative of an institution as well as an individual’s performance. When all is said and done, there are aspects of GW’s academics that must be improved before our institution as a whole can be satisfied with its performance.

The debate has been constant as to whether GW is more aptly deemed a liberal arts college or a trade school. Although it is true that many students are attracted to our school for its strong programs in such prominent areas as political science and international affairs, the smaller departments sometimes get the short end of the deal when it comes to funding and attention. Of course, in the ideal situation, we would be able to establish a balance between supporting the heavily populated department and maintaining the smaller subject areas.

Such equilibrium is difficult to create, and even more challenging to maintain. Knapp should urge the University to focus its attention and resources on the department areas that show the most growth. If smaller departments show promise, they should be encouraged through support from the administration, starting with Knapp. At the same time, all programs should at least be able to exist comfortably, although this will inevitably leave some areas less equipped than others.

Before students can even chose a program of study, they must be provided with adequate advising resources. The larger departments should be given enough staff to handle the influx of people requiring their services. It is unfair to both advisers and students to be put in a situation where the amount of students requiring attention far exceeds the availabity of the staff. Navigating the GW bureaucracy on top of making vital academic decisions is difficult enough for any students, and the advising must be more of a formality, but an actual student-friendly resource.

In addition to helping students in their everyday academic pursuits, the advising department could be an effective way of increasing student involvement in undergraduate research. Knapp’s well-known goal for building up GW as a center for research relies upon committed students drawn to GW for academics in addition to everything else it has to offer. While this page understands and appreciates his emphasis on research initiatives, it would be unadvisable to try and alter the entire tone of the University. A slow implementation of research would be an effective way to develop GW’s reputation as a top-notch academic facility while maintaining the strides it has already made.

There are always things to improve and change at any institution, but a focused attempt to improve academic life at GW would prove a worthy investment for the new administration.

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