LONDON – University President Steven Knapp met GW students for high tea in England last week, but his second trip overseas as GW’s leader was more than just scones and Earl Grey.
Knapp met parents, alumni, donors and institutional partners in London and Paris during his weeklong trip abroad. The trip was part of a continued effort to increase alumni donations and the sense of a global alumni community after visiting Seoul, Beijing and Hong Kong at the end of last semester.
“(Potential donors) want to see the president himself before they make a significant gift,” Knapp said in an interview at the London School of Economics.
Knapp said GW already has a strong global, grassroots alumni network, but that he is working on “institutionalizing the relationship with alumni.” He started this process by hiring Venilde Jeronimo as the first ever executive director of international development for GW.
Knapp said he was aware that institutionalizing the process requires funding, which is why his trip included many meetings with past as well as prospective donors.
Leaving GW on Jan. 3, Knapp traveled first to Paris where he met with leaders from Sciences Po, one of the leading French institutions for social science, which has an educational relationship with GW.
“(The objective) is the strengthening and deepening of the connection with institutions where GW students study,” Knapp said.
He added that it is important for a university president to meet face-to-face with the leaders of partnering institutions in order for the two institutions to understand the partner’s goals and resources. GW and Imperial College London are collaborating on medical research for poverty induced diseases, such as Hookworm disease, which Knapp said many other medical institutions neglect.
By meeting with GW’s educational partners, Knapp also said he has access to first hand knowledge of GW students’ experiences abroad.
“It is important to get it in real time – first hand and not just as it is reported to me,” he said.
Knapp’s other goals include increasing the percentage of alumni who donate to the University from 11 to 20 percent and creating a computer system that could track alumni as they move and travel.
GW students abroad in England who attended the high tea at Charing Cross Hotel said they enjoyed meeting with Knapp, Jeronimo, Dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs Michael Brown, and Laurel Price Jones, the vice president for advancement.
“It was just wonderful to meet them in such an informal environment,” said Kateryna Kharovska, a junior studying abroad at the London School of Economics.
Junior George Blair, who is also studying abroad at LSE, said the gathering allowed him to see a different side of Knapp.
“It definitely humanized him,” Blair said.
While in Paris, Knapp also held a reception for GW alumni in France. The reception, which he said included more recent graduates than anticipated, was one of Knapp’s favorite parts of the trip.
“The way people came together at that event – they were so enthusiastic about developing a stronger alumni network in Paris,” he said.
Knapp is currently planning a trip to visit U.S. cities with large concentrations of alumni this spring. On the trip, Knapp said he plans to continue developing an international alumni community, but “a little bit closer to home.”