Incoming University President Thomas LeBlanc and the Class of 2021 will experience their first year at GW together.
LeBlanc will officially start his job as University president August 1, just before incoming freshmen arrive on campus. From a memorable experience studying abroad to his classic rock playlist, LeBlanc said that he encourages every freshman to find a way to build a community at GW and to stop by his office this year.
“I would encourage every freshman student to experience as much of the University as possible,” he said. “And stop by the president’s office sometime and tell him how you’re doing.”
LeBlanc was chosen to replace current University President Steven Knapp in January after a presidential search committee vetted candidates beginning last fall.
Like many freshmen, LeBlanc will be moving to F Street this year. Although he won’t be moving into Thurston Hall, he will be just a block away in the F Street House.
LeBlanc most recently served as executive vice president and provost at the University of Miami, where he was also a professor of computer science. At Miami, LeBlanc balanced the University’s $3.3 billion budget – more than $2 billion larger than GW’s. When he arrives, LeBlanc will have to deal with GW’s debt, which surpassed it’s endowment in 2016 but officials say is decreasing thanks to payments like the ones this year totaling $160 million.
Although Leblanc is coming from a STEM background as a computer science professor at Miami and a dean in the College of the Arts, Science and Engineering at the University of Rochester, he hasn’t always lived in the U.S.
The incoming president said that his high school study abroad experience to Brazil was one of the most “transformative” experiences of his life. During his year abroad, LeBlanc said he was able to soak in the culture from all directions by picking up a new language, eating exotic food and listening to all types of music. The experience also taught him life lessons he will carry with him in his new position, he said.
“This experience made me acutely aware of the importance of education for increasing social mobility,” he said. “It also made me especially sensitive to the challenges that international students face when they come to the U.S.”
Studying abroad is one of the many things LeBlanc said he urges students to do during their time at GW. If you don’t have a chance to go out and see the world while you’re stationed in Foggy Bottom, students should see as much as they can at GW, he said.
In addition to the life lessons LeBlanc took away from his time in Brazil, he also nurtured his love for music and picked up some new favorite artists, like musicians Caetano Veloso and Chico Buarque.
LeBlanc said his playlists include everything from classic rock hits by Led Zeppelin and The Who to opera and classical music that his uncle introduced to him.
LeBlanc added that music is one thing that brings his family together. In addition to the recommendations passed down from his uncle, LeBlanc shares his love for music with his sons. He said his sons keep him up-to-date with today’s popular songs, but they can still crank up the oldies and enjoy them together.
“Music is a great way to create community through shared experiences like concerts and other forms of live performance,” LeBlanc said.
As University president, Leblanc said that he wants to help students achieve their aspirations and the way to work towards that is to experience everything.
“Take courses in a variety of fields. Join some student groups. Stop by for office hours and talk to your favorite teacher,” he said. “Go hear outside speakers. Attend at least one basketball game. Have brunch at the Mount Vernon campus. Visit the local museums.”