GW has one of the best relationships with the community around it of any university in the United States, according to a recent study released by Westfield State College.
GW ranked 24th in the study, conducted by Westfield President Dr. Evan S. Dobelle, and was the only D.C. school to make the list.
The study ranked schools based on factors including the length of involvement with the community, real dollars invested, faculty and student involvement in community service and a quantifiable increase in positive recognition of the institution.
“It is exciting news,” Michael Akin, executive director of government, international and community affairs, said in an e-mail. “Hundreds of schools were considered and we were the only DC school to make the top 25.”
To rank the schools, representatives of Westfield State College conducted on-site interviews and evaluations took more than a year to complete, according to a document on the survey’s methodology.
David Lehrman, a commissioner for the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A, which includes Foggy Bottom, said he has seen relations improve year after year.
“I’m glad to hear GW is ranked in the top 25 because I’ve seen how hard they work being sensitive to the community. Since 1992, when I moved here, I have seen the steady learning curve and relationship curve with the University and the community,” Lehrman said. “If you look at the University 17 years ago, when I came here, and you look at the rapport with the community now, it’s like night and day.”
The study commended GW for its Center for Excellence in Public Leadership, mentioning specifically the University’s FRIENDS group, a committee of community members and students, faculty and staff that meet monthly to discuss issues and participate in events together. The study also referenced the GW Hospital, which “provides care to thousands of D.C. residents as well as surveying city health trends,” according to the study.
Rebecca Coder, an ANC 2A commissioner, said she thinks the University does a great job with community relations, and felt the school should have been ranked higher.
“I give GW a lot of credit because the school has championed with the neighborhood to address town and gown relations. This is something that other schools have not done. When students arrived, there is the code of ethics and neighborhood training program in how to relate to the neighborhood,” Coder said.
The community and the University have clashed on issues before; most recently the ANC 2A protested the University’s campus plan and successfully challenged the methodology GW uses to count students. However, Lerhman said the major contentions between the community and the University have been smoothed out as GW representatives have made more of an effort to reconcile issues.
“I think what you’re going to find you have some really angry people who saw the University as almost villainous years ago. You really don’t see that anymore. Now you see a desire to work with the University, and find some way to be collegial together in solving the problems together,” Lerhman said.
Akin said that while the ranking is an honor, the community is largely responsible for the town/gown relations.
“While we are certainly appreciative of the recognition, credit must be shared with our active and involved neighbors,” Akin said. “Their constructive engagement is a key part of our mutually beneficial community relationship.”
Though GW was the only D.C. school to make the list, Georgetown and Howard both received honorable mentions on the list’s “honor roll.”