Having managed the committee of faculty, deans, administrators and fellows responsible for recommending future Presidential Administrative Fellows for final selection by University senior leadership, there is a great deal more to the PAF program than what Logan Dobson alludes to in his recent Hatchet column.
In my view, there is hardly anything “normal” about most GW students I know; they are educated, active, driven and dedicated. Yet despite having a good pulse of life on our campus, I am excited every year to meet new seniors from all corners of our community who, during the two interview rounds we arrange, impress and amaze our committee with their accomplishments. These applicants have truly made the most of their GW experience and apply to stay at GW not only to earn a graduate degree, but also to contribute to the ongoing evolution of their alma mater.
Of course it would be natural for some of our current cohort of fellows to come from identifiable student leadership roles like the Colonial Cabinet or our University Hearing Boards before becoming PAFs, but they also include former varsity athletes, veterans, international and transfer students, as well as student organization leaders in student government and fraternity and sorority life.
In addition, like many students at GW, members of the current PAF cohort have performed undergraduate research, interned in federal and local government offices, studied and worked at home and abroad, held jobs in various media outlets and corporate entities, led alternative spring breaks, started nonprofits, performed on stage and served their community. Those are the type of academically accomplished, well-rounded leaders we seek to select.
Over the years, as a direct result of their keen insights and perspective as former undergraduate students, PAFs have been involved in supporting a number of critical University priorities. Most recently that has included staffing the Innovation Task Force, opening the Office of Sustainability, launching the Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service, and managing class gift campaigns. In earlier eras, PAFs helped start the GW TRAiLS program and served on the committees working to get our undergraduate research fellowships off the ground.
In terms of service, another hallmark of the GW experience, the last PAF cohort of just 17 students contributed 1 percent of all the hours served – 1,150 hours collectively – toward the Michelle Obama Service Challenge, and several served as learning partners on Alternative Breaks trips. This year they are all mentoring local high school students in the college application process.
Additionally, the PAFs meet together weekly and participate in a number of administrative, service and ambassadorial projects, working as a team to drive change at the University. I can assure you, the PAFs are made up of a team of diverse, passionate and extremely talented individuals who care not only about the future of GW, but also about making a difference in the world beyond GW.
Through academics, ambassadorship and service to the campus and community, PAFs gain a variety of leadership experiences that will prepare them for their future endeavors, while administrators are able to tap into a wealth of knowledge for the time the students are enrolled. The Presidential Administrative Fellowship serves as a win-win situation for both administrators and for the graduate students, and I encourage any student who is opinionated, engaged and passionate about their alma mater to compete for the Presidential Administrative Fellowship in the future.
GW experience, coupled with real work insight about their alma mater, is what makes this program so special for students.
Peter Konwerski is the dean of students and a senior associate vice president.
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