The face of GW’s relationship with its surrounding neighbors will step down from his position at the end of the month, amid a brewing battle with the neighborhood over upcoming development projects.
Michael Akin, the assistant vice president for the Office of Government, International and Community Relations, is credited with building GW’s office of community relations over his 12-year-long career at GW.
He began working in the office of community relations in the early 2000s at a time when the relationship between GW and the neighborhood was strained, often due to former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg’s expansionist policies.
Akin’s connection with the University first began in 1999, when he arrived at GW as a freshman. In 2001, he stepped into GW’s office of government relations as an intern, working directly with Assistant Vice President for D.C. Government Relations Bernard Demczuk. The University asked Akin to stay on while the school launched its first community relations office. In 2004, he became the director of the office.
“It is sad to leave a place that has been your home and your family for so long,” Akin said. “But I think that it’s the right decision and I’m really excited about the work that I’m going to be doing.”
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Asher Corson said Akin was a positive force for GW’s relationship with the Foggy Bottom and West End community and served as the best line of communication with GW.
Akin served as a consistent face for the University and was always available to engage in a conversation over an issue, even if both parties had opposing opinions, Asher said.
“I hope that our paths will cross again in the future,” Corson said. “I think Michael has done a very good job with a very difficult task and I respect him tremendously for it.”
Akin said he is confident his colleagues will remain engaged with the neighborhood after he leaves GW and that the University as a whole is committed to community relations.
“My belief is town-gown tensions by their very nature can’t be solved. But they can and they must be managed effectively,” he said. “We’ve built this toolbox that helps us manage our community relations better.”
April 15 will be Akin’s last day at the University, before he moves on to Reingold, a strategic communications firm based in Georgetown, where he will lead the group’s new community and government relations division.
“If I’m going to spend 10 years doing something, there should be some results in that that I’m proud of,” Akin said. “Whatever comes in life, this is still that kind of achievement that I know I’m going to be really proud of.”
Demczuk also worked closely with Akin throughout his GW career. The two first met over coffee to discuss D.C. politics when Akin was a sophomore, and now, Demczuk said, they are close friends.
“He started out as my mentee while he was a sophomore, then he became my intern, then he became my assistant, then he became my colleague, then in the last year he has become my boss,” Demczuk said.
Demczuk said he was Akin’s best man at his wedding and will continue to be his best man socially even after he leaves GW.
“He is a vessel brimming at the top with energy and talent and it will be very hard to fill that empty vessel when he leaves,” Demczuk said.
Vice President of External Relations Lorraine Voles said Akin has been an asset for GW and has built a strong community relations team.
“GW has been such a big part of his life for so long, even though he won’t be working at this University in a professional capacity every day, my hunch is he will still be involved,” Voles said.