University prepares for alumni weekend

GW will welcome approximately 3,000 former students to campus this weekend with new programming, a handful of class reunions and special-interest events as part of its annual four-day Alumni Weekend.

Now in its third year as a separate entity from Colonials Weekend, Alumni Weekend has more than 70 events planned, ranging from campus tours, to an outdoor festival, to the first-ever “State of the University” address from University President Steven Knapp.

Since he was elected University President, Knapp has called alumni relations a focus of his presidency.

“The fact that the President participates in so many activities throughout the weekend adds importance to this event,” Adrienne Rulnick, associate vice president for Alumni Relations and Development, said.

To attract more alumni back to campus, new events have been planned to cater to a variety of groups. Annual events such as the Alumni Achievement Awards, which recognize distinguished Colonials every year, are accompanied with new, special-interest events.

This year’s schedule, which aims to produce fewer time conflicts, includes family-friendly events like the Taste of GW and Family Carnival in University Yard, which will feature food from alumni-owned restaurants including Foggy Bottom favorite Founding Farmers. There will also be discussions, such as a career workshop focused on retirement plans, targeted toward older alumni.

In addition to holding various reunions for graduating classes, a special reunion welcoming back former GW athletes is also planned.

“We try to encompass a wide range of people and program through life stages,” Karen White, senior director of alumni relations, said.

Most of the weekend’s activities are open only to alumni, but there are also events which will merge current GW students with former students, including the GW Alumni Film Festival. The festival will include a screening of two films produced by GW alumni and a comedy night showcasing GW improvisation group receSs and TJ Miller, a recent alumnus and stand-up comedian.

Officials at the Alumni Association said that Alumni Weekend can be a lucrative source for University donations.

“The overall experience often times leads to alumni giving a gift,” White said. “It’s that sense of reconnection.”

But while Alumni Weekend can attract donations, the University maintains that the weekend’s focus is to reunite graduates with a familiar place.

“[Donations are] a goal, but it’s not a primary goal,” Matt Lindsay, director of Alumni Communications, said. “Obviously, we want people to give back financially, but really it’s about having alumni reconnect. We hope it’s not just a one-off weekend, but an extension of connecting people.”

Knapp’s State of the University address, scheduled for the morning of Oct. 3, will include a discussion of Knapp’s vision for the University. Many alumni are less familiar with Knapp than former University President Steven Joel Trachtenberg, who served as the top administrator for almost two decades. Knapp plans to speak about sustainability, GW’s response to affordability and rising tuition, and creating a culture of public service among the student body, White said.

“It’s a great opportunity to reach a larger base,” White said. “It never hurts to have as much information as they can about what their university addresses.”

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