Knapp visits Olympics, travels to build alumni network

University President Steven Knapp traveled to Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics the weekend of Feb. 19, one of many trips Knapp has taken to try to build a GW network in cities around the world.

Although his home on campus sits at the corner of 20th and F streets, Knapp has spent much of his presidency travelling across the country and around the world to strengthen connections between alumni and help the University reach its fundraising goals – one of the tasks the Board of Trustees hired him to do.

“One of the things I’ve been doing is going around the world and meeting with students, alumni, parents, prospective students, and future students to kind of get the GW message out there and make a connection,” Knapp said.

“I think to connect the University with this is a way to kind of get the word out about all the exciting things that are happening at GW,” he added.

Since starting his term in August 2007, Knapp said he has set out to shift the University’s focus toward alumni relations and fundraising. This was further emphasized, he said, with a new associate director for alumni relations and development, Adrienne A. Rulnick, who began working at GW at the same time Knapp started.

“Our alumni attract students to the University and they also contribute financially to support the University,” Knapp said.

The effort to reach out to alumni and spread awareness about GW isn’t limited to the Western Hemisphere. Last November, for example, Knapp traveled to Hong Kong for a global panel and reception.

“That was my fourth trip to Asia since I started just two and a half years ago,” he said. Addressing support abroad, Knapp said interest in the University is promising.

“I’ve gone to receptions in places like Hong Kong where we’ve had several hundred people show up to a reception because they’re interested in learning about the University,” he said. “Then what we do is follow up by having alumni organizations there in the city.”

Knapp said that other locations he has traveled to with large concentrations of alumni and prospective students abroad include the Middle East, Europe and the Dominican Republic. Within the U.S., Knapp has made several visits to cities like Miami, New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

“The idea is to get to know the kind of community there,” he said. “We have about 220 thousand alumni around the world. In my first couple years [as president] I’ve interacted with about 30,000 of them.”

In addition to hosting a reception for student alumni in Vancouver, Knapp is also attending the Olympics to support GW alumna Elana Meyers, now a graduate student at GW, as she participates in the bobsled competition.

“It’s pretty exciting to have one of our students and alumni competing here,” he said.

Knapp said Meyers is the kind of alumna the University wishes to maintain a network with, for both the benefit of GW and its students.

“The reason we’re doing this is because I think alumni are important to the University,” Knapp said. “I’ve talked a lot about creating a worldwide, lifelong community for alumni with the University. One of the real benefits of going to a university like this is if you graduate, if you got a city anywhere in the world you’ll have a community of fellow Colonials that you can connect with.”

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