Exiting administrator leaves legacy of Vern growth

The associate vice president and chief administrative officer will leave the University at the end of the month after two decades devoted to boosting the freshman profile and playing a key role in the integration of the Mount Vernon Campus.

Fred Siegel, who will assume an administrative post at Claremont Graduate University in California, has worked intermittently at GW in various top-level roles focusing on admissions and student life.

“I love this place. I think it’s a fantastic, dynamic University that does a great job for the students who come here,” he said.

He joined the University in 1991 as assistant vice president for enrollment management and director of admissions, spending six years on strengthening the quantity and quality of applications. After working as associate provost for enrollment services at the University of Delaware, he returned to GW in 2003 as dean of freshmen and administrator for the Mount Vernon Campus, where he resided with his family until 2010.

Though the Vern “was still a new phenomenon for GW” at the time, Siegel said he sought to integrate the campus into mainstream life at GW.

“I feel we made great progress with that, progress that continues to this day,” he said.

Siegel recalled sitting on the sidelines of the Vern’s soccer field with his wife and daughter cheering on the Colonials in 2004, when the men’s team won the Atlantic 10 Conference Championship, and feeling a “great sense of community” that day.

In his tenure as an administrator for the Vern, Siegel drove the improvement of transportation services and dining facilities. Since then, the campus has become home to about 700 students, several sports teams and dozens of classes.

Former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg called Siegel “one of the leading tacticians in the country on the subject of undergraduate admissions,” praising his ability to attract a diverse and growing pool of students.

During Siegel’s time at GW, the University witnessed a tripling in applications, climbing from about 6,000 to about 21,000 in the last 20 years. The quality of applications has also increased, with stronger high school grades, SAT scores and increasing matriculation rates among applicants.

Siegel said he still remembers the day Trachtenberg came into the admissions office to celebrate the 10,000th application GW received in a single year.

“It was a day that was very proud for the entire admissions staff,” Siegel said.

When Siegel first came to GW, the admissions office was struggling to attract applicants during a period of declining numbers of high school students. Despite this “challenging time,” Trachtenberg said he was glad to have the “always smiling” Siegel on his side.

Senior Vice Provost and Senior Vice President of Student and Academic Support Services Robert Chernak described Siegel as a “multifaceted professional,” noting his “tremendous impact on the retention rates of the freshman class.”

“We can find another person to fill the role he performs, but we cannot replace him,” Chernak, a colleague and friend of Siegel since the 1970s, said.

Siegel, one of few remaining administrators hired during Trachtenberg’s tenure as president, transitioned from his visible dean of freshmen role into the lower-profile role of chief administrative officer in 2010, where he oversees international services, parent services and veteran services.

As dean of freshmen, Siegel took personal interest in each entering class, challenging himself each year to the shake the hand of 1,000 freshmen.

Senior Aria Varasteh, who had Siegel as a Guide to Personal Success during freshman year, described him as “one of the few genuine characters on this campus.”

“I’ve never felt like he’s trying to hide anything,” Varasteh said, noting that they were always able to have honest conversations without the “barrier you always feel within the administration.”

Another student personally influenced by Siegel was Colby Anderson, a recent graduate who now serves as an assistant in the Office of Alumni Relations and Development – a job he said he never would have considered without Siegel’s influence.

“Siegel was approachable in ways that other University administrators were not. Students knew they could go to him with problems as important as having financial aid trouble to something as mundane as being homesick,” Anderson said. “When he leaves, the University will be losing one of its best assets in Student and Academic Support Services.”

In his new position as vice provost for student and enrollment services at Claremont Graduate University, Siegel seeks to “combine all of [his] experiences” and make a change with his family as his daughter begins her freshman year of college.

“I’ve aspired here toward the end game of my professional life to be responsible in some institution for both student services and enrollment,” he said.

Siegel emphasized the progress the University has made in recent years toward improving the student experience and becoming a top-tier research institution, especially with the upcoming addition of the Science and Engineering Hall.

“It will be clear in the marketplace that GW will be considered the No. 1 research university in D.C.,” he said.

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