When Amazon announced last month that it would open one of its two new headquarters in Arlington County, Va., it polarized residents. Excitement about opportunities for unprecedented economic growth were matched by legitimate fears of skyrocketing housing prices.
Several weeks ago, I found myself riding in an Uber with an ecstatic Crystal City, Va. resident. As we talked, he told me over and over about the life changing opportunities he thinks Amazon’s HQ2 will bring. I initially found his optimism startling, given the negative talks of gentrification and congestion likely to harm many Virginia and D.C. residents. Showing no fear of this, he welcomed the fact that the business could help rebrand the area and create 25,000 new jobs.
With Amazon’s new headquarters in Crystal City located only a few miles and five Metro stops away from campus, this should be an exciting time for students. If talk of the D.C. area transforming into an East Coast Silicon Valley proves true, the location will offer new employment and internship opportunities for students in a variety of majors beyond political science and government, which D.C. is typically known for.
When looking at the influence Amazon’s first headquarters has had on the University of Washington in Seattle, the company’s success has been shared by the university, and GW may be able to reap similar benefits. The university has a partnership with Amazon called UW + Amazon Mentors Program. Students accepted into the program are given networking opportunities, advice and guidance to help launch their careers post graduation.
In addition to the academic partnership, Amazon also supports the school in other ways. In 2012, Amazon endowed two $1 million professorships in computer science and engineering at the University of Washington. Most notably, Amazon donated $10 million to build another computer science and engineering building for the program to double enrollment in 2016.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has often cited the importance of utilizing universities in proximity to the company’s headquarters to recruit both employees and interns.
GW is in the right place at the right time during this change. With University President Thomas LeBlanc highlighting the need for GW to achieve preeminence in science, technology and engineering fields, the Amazon headquarters could help propel GW’s science programs into the spotlight through research collaborations and student involvement.
Similar to the way many students and faculty choose GW for its close proximity to opportunities in government, the University could in the future attract students based on the chance to be involved with the new Amazon headquarters and other technology innovators. If more companies follow Amazon to Virginia, as Facebook and Google did in Seattle, the region could be transformed, with nearby GW making up an integral part of the new landscape of technology job opportunities in the region.
With Amazon moving into the neighborhood, GW should be quick to capitalize on its new neighbors and create partnerships with the company. Because of its close proximity to the new headquarters, GW will be able to attract top students and faculty in fields which have historically been less prominent on campus and make the University more well-rounded.
While the introduction of Amazon to the region is complicated and likely will exacerbate problems like congestion and gentrification, it equally has the potential to transform the D.C. region to a technology hub, while hopefully taking GW and its students along for the ride.
Jacob Tafrate, a freshman majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
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