Knapp embraces collaboration as consortium chair

Media Credit: Jordan McDonald | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Members of the Consortium of Universities in the Washington Metropolitan Area plan to collaborate on common goals, such as campus safety. University President Steven Knapp became the chair of the organization this summer.

GW’s president is embracing his role as a leader for collaboration among all D.C. institutions.

University President Steven Knapp was named chair of the Board of Trustees for the Consortium of Universities in the Washington Metropolitan Area over the summer for a two-year term. He said in an interview last month that he hopes to strengthen the partnerships between the 14 colleges and universities in the organization by creating more joint programs.

The consortium — which includes GW’s peer schools American and Georgetown universities — allows students to take classes at the other schools within the organization, share library resources and conduct research.

“I think we’re going to look for more ways in which we can have an addition to some of the kinds of collaboration we’ve had, looking for more joint programs that we can develop,” Knapp said. “We do have some programs but it’s not as much as what I think we could do.”

Knapp said the presidents from the member institutions discuss how to handle topics they all deal with, like sexual assault, city legislation related to universities and campus safety. He said the member universities have already been discussing how their campuses relate to their surrounding neighborhoods.

GW’s campus layout, nestled near an established neighborhood, is similar to the campuses of American and Georgetown universities. Knapp said that though GW still has more than a decade remaining in its 20-year campus plan, which acts as a framework for campus development, he can give advice to other officials.

“Some of the others have plans that come up at different times, and we sort of help each other out just in understanding how we approach that,” Knapp said.

Presidents of several of the universities in the consortium said that because they have similar goals and challenges, participating in the organization helps each school improve.

Patricia McGuire, the president of Trinity Washington University in Northeast D.C., called being on the consortium’s board a “learning experience.”

She said she’s found during her 27-year tenure as president at Trinity that discussions about campus planning among the consortium members has been “very instructive” in planning for her university.

“The discussions we have at the consortium’s board help to inform how each president and university thinks about campus planning and ways to engage constituents to get the best possible results for all,” McGuire said in an email.

John Cavanaugh, the president and CEO of the consortium, said in an email that Knapp is a “strong proponent” of collaboration among the consortium’s universities, and will continue to work on expanding cross-registration to more students and increasing opportunities for academic cooperation.

“The consortium has always shared best practices that member institutions develop as a way for all members to learn and support each other,” Cavanaugh said.

Cavanaugh added that Knapp would also like to expand the Consortium Research Fellows Program, which creates opportunities for graduate students to gain research experience in federal agencies.

The program was created in 1981 and pairs local students with agencies like the Department of Defense to gain professional experience. Currently, 60 graduate and undergraduate students from 38 institutions are employed through those partnerships, according to the program’s website.

The goal of boosting research within the consortium mirrors Knapp’s goal to increase GW’s research profile. Research expenditures grew by 11 percent last year, surpassing officials’ expectations.

Scott Beal, the vice president for strategic initiatives for the research program, said he hopes to expand the program to institutions inside and outside of the consortium. To do that, he said officials will need to stress the value of research experience.

“Research opportunities help the students become far more marketable in their careers,” he said. “We’re adding to that.”

Colleen Murphy contributed reporting.

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