Officials hope that if hundreds of parents and alumni return to the classroom this weekend, they’ll be more inclined to support GW.
During the annual Colonials Weekend celebration, alumni and parents can choose from 10 faculty lectures on topics ranging from esports to the Supreme Court – up from two options last year. Faculty said the lectures help parents and alumni connect with GW by getting a glimpse of the student experience – which can prompt them to provide more financial or volunteer support.
Matt Manfra, the senior associate vice president of alumni relations and annual giving, said officials wanted to expand the “Classes Without Quizzes” sessions because alumni and parents can feel what it’s like to be a student at GW. He said the office will obtain feedback from attendees at all events to make adjustments for next year.
“Opportunities to meet with and learn from GW faculty have been and will continue to be a key part of our Colonials Weekend programming,” he said.
He declined to say how many attendees are expected for the classes.
This weekend’s events will be the second installation of a combined parents and alumni weekend, which officials implemented last year to encourage more alumni to interact with current students and their families.
Faculty said the lectures will give alumni and parents a glimpse inside the classrooms at GW, which could help them forge closer connections to the University and make them feel more inclined to donate.
Carly Jordan, a biology professor, said when she was first approached to host a session for Colonials Weekend, she told officials that she does not lecture. Instead, Jordan uses a learning model called “flipped learning,” where students are expected to learn basic terms and equations on their own time and spend class time getting help from the professor when they are thinking critically in group projects and with challenging questions, she said.
Jordan said she hopes to show parents and alumni during her course on concepts about evolution that by using small group discussion and other forms of interactive learning, GW is on the cutting edge of teaching methods.
“GW faculty are looking at evidence-based teaching reform,” she said. “We teach in a way that really supports learning.”
Chemistry professor LaKeisha McClary’s talk will focus exclusively on the flipped learning teaching style, she said. Many science and math departments at GW, including physics and engineering, have adopted the methodology because of its effectiveness, she said.
She added that if parents of first-year students understand why professors use the flipped learning style, they can help their students adjust to the more advanced learning technique.
“If more parents are able to know what this is about, they can maybe help reinforce what I’m teaching in class in the sense that, ‘Oh the reason she’s doing this is because…,’” she said. “It’s kind of a culture shock coming from high school where you’re lectured at.”
Lisa Delpy Neirotti, a professor of sport management, said her lectures – which she has hosted during Colonials Weekend a few times during her more than 20 years at GW – have attracted large audiences because sports is a popular subject. Neirotti said she changes the topic of the discussion every year, but telling parents and alumni about her specialty shows them that GW faculty are leaders in their fields.
She said the lectures are also an opportunity for parents and former students to get to know her and build relationships, which could lead to increased support of GW.
“It’s a good opportunity for them to realize we are real people and are doing real work,” she said.
Joanna Spear, a professor of international affairs, said her lectures at Colonials Weekend have become more popular over the years and have had greater attendance. She said her discussion this year will focus on Brexit – Britain’s impending exit from the European Union – a topic that is constantly in the news but one that people may not fully understand, which could attract parents and alumni.
She said the sessions allow attendees to observe GW’s teaching styles and topics, motivating them to give back to the school.
Spear added that more course offerings could mean that University President Thomas LeBlanc – who has served in his role for just more than a year – wants to demonstrate GW’s success.
“We’ve got many important schools here doing important work, and he wants to show that to the world,” Spear said.