Peter Konwerski: Lessons from my freshman year

I just wrapped up my freshman year as dean of students, and I hope some of my experiences might resonate with what a typical freshman might feel. As I reflect on a great year, there are certainly some lessons I learned that might be helpful as you begin your first year at GW.

1. Come to campus ready to learn. While GW is a highly dynamic place, and Washington is a very exciting city, your job for the next four years is to learn. Immerse yourself in our academic community and study hard. Earn A’s like it is your mission. As a colleague of mine likes to say, a 4.0 is a great reference.

If you ever need help, don’t be afraid to reach out to others. We have a number of services here to help you achieve academic success. I spent my year learning: getting to know a new staff, working to build stronger partnerships and adapting to the pace of issues and demands that come across my desk, e-mail and Twitter feed.

2. Be engaged on campus and in the community. This requires the unique ability to balance all of the opportunities in and out of the classroom. I encourage you to get involved. We have club sports, student organizations, Greek life, volunteer services, an array of jobs on campus and internships in the city. There are a number of ways our staff and other student leaders will work to get you involved, but choose what you do with care, and don’t overdue your activities. During my first year on the job I struggled with the challenge of new opportunities, multiple deadlines and competing priorities as well. College is a chance to set new boundaries and make decisions about how you want to live your life and manage your time.

3. I hope you embrace the independent living and healthy environment we offer at GW. You will have many options at your disposal, and we look forward to helping you make responsible decisions. I encourage you to think carefully about them and consult faculty and staff as well as family and friends whenever you are going through a tough time or if you have a cause for concern. While most of our students make great decisions, when they don’t, nothing is more disappointing to me than the need to separate a student from the community due to a poor personal choice. I faced some difficult decisions this year and burned the candle at both ends at times, but I tried to stay in balance and seek good counsel when facing a challenging call.

As I reflect on my first year, I wish you all the best as you embark on your own first year on campus. We are here to support you, and I look forward to spending the next few years together as you experience all that GW has to offer.

Let’s connect as you begin to study and engage with the University; whether you follow me on Twitter, see me at the gym or take one of my courses, I look forward to meeting you and supporting the many successes I know will come your way!

-The writer is the senior associate vice president and dean of students.

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