Fall Faculty Town Hall 2012

Georgetown University
ICC Auditorium
September 20, 2012

Good afternoon.  It’s always a pleasure to meet with you at the beginning of each semester.  I’m grateful for this opportunity to talk about your exceptional work here on the Hilltop…and about our shared mission as a University.

This is an extraordinary time in higher education…and an extraordinary time for Georgetown.  Over the past several years—a period of great economic uncertainty—we have been deeply focused on work that has positioned us to take advantage of physical, technological and global opportunities available to us. 

I’d like to spend some time talking today about these opportunities—about our future…but first I’d like to update you on some of the latest developments on our campuses.

In Memory

First let us take a moment to recognize those members of our community, our friends and colleagues, who we have lost since last we met. 

We lost Fr. Gerry Campbell, Georgetown’s President from 1964-1969 and a longtime member of our Jesuit Community.  He led Georgetown through a time of great consequence for our world, our nation, and our University.  During his time as President, we established both the Faculty Senate and the Committee on Rank and Tenure.  Gerry lived most of the last thirty-five years right here in our community.  He brought out the best in us as a University and in those of us lucky enough to have known him.

Dr. Barbara Stowasser, who had been a member of our community since 1966, passed away since the last time were together for a Town Hall.  She was respected throughout our University and beyond, having served as Chair of the Department of Arabic and Director of the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies.  Her enduring contributions to Quranic interpretation and the study of gender and Islam will continue to shape our academic community.

And Fr. Peter Steele, S.J., who first came to Georgetown as visiting professor in English in 1994…then on sabbatical in 1997…and in recent years, as a Distinguished Scholar in Residence, passed away at his home in Australia over the summer.  Those of you who knew Peter, knew his love of language and poetry—a gift he shared with so many members of our community.

Our Medical Center community also lost three longtime members who made deep and lasting contributions to our University and to the field of medicine:

Dr. George Schreiner, a 1946 graduate of Georgetown’s School of Medicine, founded our nephrology division and pioneered dialysis.
Robert Ledley founded the National Biomedical Research Foundation and brought it to Georgetown in 1970.  He developed the whole-body scanner, known as the CT scan, and with it, revolutionized the practice of radiology.
 Lastly, Dr. Zofia Zukowska, a former professor and chair of Physiology and Biophysics, passed away last spring.  She discovered the neuropeptide that mediates the connection between obesity and stress.

The contributions each of these individuals made to our community are indelible.  We will miss them, and their friends and families remain in our thoughts and prayers.


I wish to welcome Bob Groves, who began serving as Provost at the beginning of this semester.  Bob joined us from the U.S. Census Bureau, where he oversaw the successful 2010 Census.  A long-time member of the faculty at the University of Michigan, he is now in his sixth week, and I know how pleased we all are, Bob, to welcome you here into our community.

I’m also deeply appreciative of Wayne Davis and the Search Committee for their work in identifying the very best person to guide the academic life of our Main Campus.

I wish to express my gratitude to Walter Rankin who is leading our School of Continuing Studies while we plan a search for a new dean…as well as to Jim Parenti, who in addition to continuing his service as SCS Senior Associate Dean has also assumed the role of Chief Administrative Officer during this same period.

We’ve also welcomed Jay Gruber as our new Chief of Police at the Department of Public Safety.  Jay came here from the University of Maryland, where he worked in various public safety roles during his 25-year career there.  Jay, we’re so pleased you could join us.

At the end of the summer, Karen Frank, retired as our Vice President for Facilities and Student Housing.  A member of our community for nearly 25 years, her work was critical in helping us through the largest capital expansion in our history over the last decade as well as developing our sustainability initiatives.  I am grateful to Frank Tiscione, who is serving as interim VP while we search for a long-term replacement.


Our fundamentals are strong.  A central aspect of our continued competitiveness is the strength and diversity of the new students we welcome every year.

Year after year, we have been setting new admissions records with larger and more diverse applicant pools, and the Class of 2016 continued that trend.  With more than 20,000 students [20,115 exactly] applying for 1,580 spots, we set our lowest admissions rate in 30 years, at 17 percent.

At SFS-Q, with 84 students, we welcomed the largest and strongest incoming class.

In the face of declining applications nationwide, our Law Center saw a drop in applications. Yet, nearly 60 percent of the top applicants in the country applied to Georgetown, and this year’s class also has the highest median GPA in the Law Center’s history.

Applications to our Medical School remained strong.  Nationwide, about one in four medical school applicants applied to Georgetown.  With more than 11,700 [11,733 exactly] applications for 196 spots, we once again are among the most selective and competitive medical schools in the country. 

Our business school’s MBA programs, saw an increase in applications – 5 percent for our full time program and 16 percent for our evening program – in a year when 12 of the top 17 Business Schools saw a drop in applications.

This year, our graduate programs have also been growing more competitive and selective with applicants to our graduate school surpassing 10,000 for the very first time.

Our student body has never been stronger.  Our faculty has never been stronger.  In order to continue to support you and your work, we are planning and preparing for the strategic growth of our University.

Let me now turn to some of the issues that will frame this work.

Campaign Update

As you know, last October, we launched the public phase of For Generations to Come: The Campaign for Georgetown.  This past year was one of our most successful fundraising years in history[1].  We raised $179 million in new commitments.  This is 30 percent higher than our average fundraising totals over the past five-years.  Last year’s success put our progress toward the campaign’s $1.5 billion goal at $919 million – more than 60 percent of the way there, and we expect to pass the $1 billion mark by the end of this fiscal year.

As you know, two-thirds of the campaign goal is set aside for student and faculty excellence to support scholarships, research, new chairs and faculty lines.  I’m glad to report progress on these priorities since our last Town Hall. 

For scholarships, we have raised more than $201 million of our $500 million goal.  In the spring, I shared with you our commitment to undergraduate scholarships through our 1789 Imperative, funding 1,789 scholarships of $25,000 every year through philanthropy. These scholarships are critical to ensuring access and affordability so that the very best students can come to Georgetown.

Of all of our priorities, we’ve made the most progress on supporting faculty and academic excellence.  We have raised more than $420 million of our $500 million goal, and we have funded 32 new faculty chairs, moving us closer to our goal of 75 by the end of the campaign.  Once we reach our goal, we will set a new target for faculty and academic excellence.

These are all exciting developments here at Georgetown.  I’m proud of the work we have accomplished together as a community…This work has placed us in a position of strength in American—and global—higher education.  As I mentioned earlier, this is an extraordinary time in higher education, full of opportunities for universities to more deeply and more widely fulfill their missions. 

I will get to what this means for Georgetown.  But first, I think it is helpful to step back and look at the context of this moment…at the challenges of this time:

This is the context in which we are operating…in which we are planning—thoughtfully…carefully… deliberately—for our future.  It is worth recognizing during these past four, very challenging years, how Georgetown has fared.  We have:

So within the challenging context of our economy and of higher education at this moment in time, we have fared better than many of our peers.  

People ask me why.   It’s because of the strategic, measured planning we have been engaged in, steadily, for these years…and it is also because we have remained committed to academic excellence throughout these challenges.  We have even identified opportunities within these challenges. 

And because of this work we have been doing—and will continue to do—we will be able to meet the challenges of our current day and of our future.  We will be able to seize opportunities that further your great work, and further our shared mission.

Strategic Growth

Over the past several years, we have been deeply engaged with our neighbors and the City of Washington in discussions about our University’s goals for growth and plans for the future.  As these conversations progressed, several things became clear:

First, to remain committed to enrollment growth particularly for our Graduate programs, we have to look beyond our Main Campus footprint.  While, we have fostered exceptional work here on the Hilltop for 223 years, in order to remain competitive, and to provide our faculty and students with the tools necessary for their work, we must find more room to grow. 

Second, our short-term commitments can and must match our long-term goals.

And third, deep, ongoing engagement with our neighbors and city officials is another critical component of our growth.  Our long-term goals are in alignment with those of our community and our growing city, and these shared goals make us strategic partners.  This means we all benefit—together, as members of this D.C. community.  

While we recommit to this partnership, it is not new and in fact has historical roots.  From our founding, back at the birth of our country, Georgetown has been a strategic partner with this city.  This partnership has been lived out through meaningful, sustained and enduring commitments.  We believe that our recommitment to this partnership will continue to produce—and even expand—exciting opportunities and benefits for all of us, including our students.

These principles – commitment to continued growth; sustained engagement with our community; and long-term planning—have most recently been reflected in in the development of Georgetown Downtown, the planned move of 1,100 of our School of Continuing Studies students to DC’s vibrant Chinatown neighborhood.  By late 2013, we will open a four-level, 91,000-square-foot space for programs in Continuing Studies. 

The benefits of this endeavor are far reaching: 

Another component of our long-term master planning is the search for our “Next 100 Acres.”  I want to be clear that the phrase, “the next 100 acres,” is a working concept.   It is our recognition that our growth is constrained on our current footprint.  I also want to be clear that we are in the most preliminary stages of this thinking.  In order to turn this recognition into a working plan, we will need your engagement.

One of the challenges we face, is, of course, finding a large plot of land in the District that is open for development.  In order to identify the plot of land and the neighborhood that is right for us, we have joined forces with Forest City Washington—an urban land-use and development company that has played a role in revitalizing the neighborhood around the National’s stadium and DC’s Southwest Waterfront near Arena Stage—to help us with this process.  They understand the complexity of large-scale development and land acquisition within D.C.  They will help us to assess our institutional strengths and challenges, and to aggregate the information we are collecting from our community, to best determine our needs for the next 100 acres.  

Another aspect of our partnership with Forest City will be felt here on the Main Campus, through strategic and comprehensive planning to maximize the use of our existing spaces—including buildings like Reiss—based on the needs of our community. 

Again, this collaboration is in its initial stages, and a critical component of this process is your input on what the next 100 acres should provide.  In the coming months, we will be identifying specific ways we hope you will consider becoming engaged in the essential thinking and academic planning that will guide our physical growth plans.

Capital Projects

While we seek new ways to grow into the future throughout the city, we also remain focused on enhancing the physical spaces here on the Hilltop.

We recently opened Regents Hall, which we named in honor of the philanthropic support of some of our most committed alumni, our Board of Regents.  We will officially dedicate this building on October 4th.  This $100 million, 154,000-square-foot building is the new home of our Biology, Chemistry and Physics Faculties.  It provides state-of-the-art research and teaching facilities, including laboratories and community spaces designed to facilitate interdisciplinary research, collaboration, and learning.  It will also house the Institute for Soft Matter Synthesis and Metrology. 

The building features sustainable building elements – like automatic lights, a water-recycling system, bamboo paneling, and recycled white boards.  We’re hopeful that later this fall, the building will be awarded the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or “LEED,” Gold Award.   

Regents Hall represents our deep commitment to strengthening opportunities for research across our community, and we are looking forward to seeing the ways that it will support the work of our faculty and students. 

We realize that there is still more to do to improve research infrastructure and processes, and we’re currently engaged in the assessment of the technological needs of our departments.  Working with faculty, we have also identified key areas where University Administration can strengthen faculty research by offering support on critical parts of grant proposals, including budget development, hiring, and purchasing, and are actively working to find the best solutions.

We are also building, planning and fundraising for our next capital projects, all of which will be exclusively funded through philanthropy.  We continue to make progress on our new retreat center, the Calcagnini Contemplative Center in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia—thanks to a generous gift from Arthur (C ’54) and Nancy Calcagnini…as well as on the restoration of Dahlgren Chapel, the spiritual heart of our campus.

We’ve received all approvals necessary for the Intercollegiate Athletics Center, and are actively raising funds for its construction.  The IAC is critical to maintaining the competitiveness of our athletics programs and the excellence of our student athletes, who total nearly 800.

We are also moving forward with plans for the New South Student Center, which we hope to complete in 2014.  We now have nearly 5,000 undergraduates living on-campus.  We are truly a residential community.  We need additional space to support the lives of our students and a renovation of the former dining hall in New South will provide much needed space. 

Perhaps the greatest endorsement of this endeavor is that students have committed $2 million from the Student Activities Fee Endowment, a fund they have built up over the years, to the cost of the project, and have been actively engaged in the design of this space.

The work at New South is a critical element of our efforts to become a more comprehensive, living and learning undergraduate campus, one which, in the future, will house significantly more undergraduates in new, desirable on-campus housing.  This effort is a direct response to what we have heard from our students about the kind of undergraduate campus and experience they seek, and is a result of our work to remain highly competitive, attracting the best and brightest students.

As part of this work, we are also exploring the addition of graduate housing as well as the best ways to add faculty and staff housing onto 36th Street, and improving transportation options and traffic flow in and around campus. 

Many of you have seen and maybe even used Capital Bikeshare bicycles outside the main gates.  Most recently we have added five Zipcars to campus – right in front of McDonough Gymnasium.


Another area to which we’ve devoted considerable attention in recent months is how technology can improve university learning.  There is no doubt that learning can take place—that  powerful experiences can happen—through digital platforms.  We need to learn what material yields itself to an online presentation and what does not. 

I’d like to highlight some of the ways Georgetown has already been involved in technology-enhanced learning and in the ways we continue to explore how we deepen our engagement in the online space:

We have learned that many of the tools we need to find the Georgetown “way” for technology-enhanced learning may be attained best by joining with other universities to share costs.  We are in conversations with various platforms to determine the most appropriate ways to develop Georgetown’s presence in this space.  We are looking for a partner that shares our educational values.  Our guiding principles in this discernment of how we position ourselves are:

We have work to do together to determine how best to respond to these new opportunities.  We know that to follow these principles we must make new investments in our campus technical and human resources infrastructure.  We will do so.  In order to do this, our process must have input from across our University, and from both faculty and students.  We must bring the same kind of care we brought to the Middle States accreditation process, to our campaign planning, and to the planning of our capital infrastructure.  Our deans and Provost Groves have been working closely together to develop a set of guiding principles for our presence in digital higher education.   

On a parallel track, we as a university, have been modernizing our technological infrastructure.  We will make some immediate investments so that when the right opportunity at the right moment presents itself, we will be prepared.  We will be able to enter this space with the appropriate strategy and resources in place to ensure that our digital presence serves and furthers our mission.


As an American research university and as a Jesuit institution, another part of our mission is to engage the world.  For the last several years, faculty leaders from across the University have been engaged in vital work that has expanded our reach across the globe.  Through your scholarship and research, many of you have made significant contributions to global questions and issues…and through your work in the classroom, you have provided an exceptional education to talented students from around the world. This work includes:

The defining characteristics of all of our global engagement initiatives are:

In addition, we have a unique competitive advantage because of our academic strength, our mission and identity, and our location here in Washington, D.C., to take advantage of the opportunities to engage the world in a way that very few other universities can.


As we move through the Fall semester, these are some of the issues—and the exciting opportunities—we will engage together.   We have a position of strength which will enable us to identify the right opportunities for our engagement.  We are in this position because of the exceptional work that you—our faculty—and our administration and staff have been committed to, tirelessly, for these past several years. 

This is an exciting time.  An extraordinary time.  And I look forward to our continued work together.

Thank you again for being here this afternoon.   I’ll be happy now to answer your questions.

[1] Second most successful year after FY2009, which included the $75 million McDevitt gift.

[2] Rampell, Catherine.  “Where the Jobs Are, the Training May Not Be.”  New York Times.  1 March 2012: A1. Print.  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/02/business/dealbook/state-cutbacks-curb-training-in-jobs-critical-to-economy.html?_r=0

[3] Williams, Erica; Leachman, Michael; Johnson, Nicholas.  “State Budget Cuts in New Fiscal Year are Unnecessarily Harmful.” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  28 July 2011. http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3550

[4] McMillan, Carolyn.  “Regents endorse state budget amid fiscal uncertainty.” University of California Newsroom.  18 July 2012.  http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/article/28047

[5] Baum, Sandy; Ma, Jennifer.  “Trends in College Pricing 2011.” The College Board.  2011. http://trends.collegeboard.org/downloads/College_Pricing_2011.pdf

[6] Ibid.