The Hatchet recently sat down with Dean of Freshmen Fred Siegel to talk about his phobias, heroes, contradictory love for New York City and some of the new initiatives this year for freshman.
Hatchet: What exactly do your responsibilities entail as associate vice president and dean of freshmen?
Siegel: My responsibilities are beyond dean of freshmen, so I need to say that I split my general responsibility between making sure that the freshmen class is properly transitioned to the University to have a great year as well as my responsibility to the Mount Vernon campus as the principal administrator, where I try to ensure that people have a seamless life with all of their GW pursuits as they live and study here. I am also responsible for the Office of Parent Services and Office of International Services.
Hatchet: What message do you have for the incoming Class of 2012? What should its members expect to see in the coming years as the University continues to grow?
Siegel: Become engaged with everything the University has to offer as quickly as possible and connect with the opportunities in Washington, D.C. As the dean of freshmen I encourage students to get to know the University first and then explore D.C. because you have four years to explore D.C. and only one as a freshman.
Hatchet: Is there such a thing as a “typical” day at work for you? If not, then what might one entail?
Siegel: I find nothing “typical” about a day of university life. My days are schizophrenic and peripatetic: I split my time between Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon; I see individual students and participate in larger administrative meetings.
Hatchet: Can you recall a particular experience at GW that is notable for being peculiar or out of the ordinary?
Siegel: Mike Freedman, GW’s vice president for communications, invited me to have dinner with George McGovern several years ago. Senator McGovern was the candidate for whom I cast my first presidential ballot in 1972. It was pretty cool . he was a great guy.
Hatchet: Do you have any notable fears or phobias?
Siegel: I have never jumped out of an airplane, and would never expect to do so.
Hatchet: You have an undergraduate and graduate degree in Classics. Do you have a favorite literary character? If so, who and why?
Siegel: Whether we like Brad Pitt or not, educated people will discuss Achilles for all time, even though Odysseus seems more relevant to contemporary society.
Hatchet: What are some of the new initiatives we will see in the coming academic year as it relates to bringing the new incoming freshmen into the GW fold? What are you personally looking forward to next year?
Siegel: This year’s freshmen class will be slightly larger than last year’s so I will be glad to greet the new folks. We did a set of Sunday dinners in J Street for the entire GW community, and I think most of my colleagues feel that they were successful, so I hope to add to those in some form to add to the sense of community that we had. Students have a lot to say about dining and I think we work hard to make dining as best as it can be because dining is a big part of community.
In winter, I do freshmen game night, I conduct tours of residence halls, and of course in October we will have Colonials Weekend. These are all GW activities and we will try of course to enhance them as best we can. Also, on January 20, 2009 we will of course have an Inaugural Ball, which will be open to everyone at the University.
Another initiative I have is to give freshmen a better understanding of our policies as they relate to UPD patrolling the residence halls, EMeRG and drug and alcohol policies, which have been misunderstood by students in past years. My goal is to get more of the campus administrators in front of students earlier in the year so that everyone understands that my colleagues only care about ensuring that everyone lives in a safe community and has a great freshmen year.
One of the signature initiatives we will have for next year is the GPS (Guide to Personal Success) system. We hope to have about 100 guides so that every freshman will be given one. The guide will be an initial contact person to help the student transition to campus and will be a referral source for issues students may have. They will be there to support students in the broadest possible sense as they become acclimated to the University.
Hatchet: How do you view the status of the University at the current moment?
Siegel: I think it’s a critically exciting time at GW. We have our 20-year campus plan in place and of course a new president who has taken root wonderfully and is very clear about what his priorities are. Also, there is no question that this year, with the upcoming presidential election, D.C. will be the most exciting place to be on the planet for an 18- to 20-year-old student. GW students are very externally focused and there should not be more excitement from election night to inauguration week.
Hatchet: What would be your greatest indulgence?
Siegel: It is not practical, nor particularly healthful, that I enjoy Chinese food as much as I do.
Hatchet: We discussed how Washington, D.C. is undoubtedly the place to be in 2008. But sometimes the hype can become overwhelming. When this happens, where do you go to get away from it all?
Siegel: The Delaware Shore.
Hatchet: And if you had to choose a place to live besides GW, where would that be?
Siegel: As a native Bostonian and ardent Beantown sports fan, I hate to admit that I love NYC.
Hatchet: Do you have any personal heroes or idols of your own that you look up to for support?
Siegel: When I was 12, it was Arnold Palmer. At 16, it was Sherman Walt, the Boston Symphony’s principal bassoonist, arguably the best in the world at that time. At this point in my life, it is surely my dad, who at 91 still enjoys everything life still has to offer.
Hatchet: What ideal experience would lead you to being perfectly content?
Siegel: I’d prefer never to be “perfectly content,” as the rest of my life would surely be downhill from there.