News and Analysis

A new higher education report found that colleges are increasing their efforts to retain students by more closely monitoring student progress.

A report from The Chronicle of Higher Education found that many colleges are focusing their efforts on advising, orientation and other programs to make sure students stay with the institution and graduate. Private institutions, a category which includes GW, have an average retention rate of about 79 percent, the report found.

Center for Student Engagement Director Tim Miller said in an email that there are “several factors” that make up retention efforts at GW, including the work of residence advisers in residence halls, advisers who work with student organizations and “outdoor education and leadership programming.”

“All programs within the CSE are focused on helping students find their place and sense of community,” Miller said in an email. “It is important to offer a range of opportunities for students to find a point of connection and the CSE helps facilitate these connections.”

The report found that private colleges and universities concentrate their retention efforts on first-year programs and seminars for freshmen. GW offers programs like the Women’s Leadership Program and dean’s seminars tailored specifically for freshmen in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

The study also found that many institutions are putting an increased focus on advising, but “all institutions
report that faculty and students are only moderately happy with advising.” In 2014, the Columbian College dropped its “express advising” sessions, and this year a pair of students involved in the Student Association pitched peer advising in the Columbian College after three advisers left GW earlier in the academic year.

More than a quarter of private colleges and universities said in the report that they would want to add financial distress monitoring and summer bridge programs to their retention efforts. The study also found that all public and private institutions included in the study used orientation programs to boost retention.

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Updated: May 22, 2015 at 1:17 p.m.

A “drunk and disorderly” white man with a gun was spotted in front of Whole Foods Market late Thursday.

The suspect “dropped a black pistol on the ground, picked it up while yelling at people in the area” in front of the Whole Foods on the 2200 block of I Street, according to a GW alert sent around 11 p.m. Thursday. He was 5 foot 8 inches and around 25 years old, wearing black shorts and a red Washington Bullets tank top. He was accompanied by a woman with brown hair and a medium build, according to the alert.

University Police Department and Metropolitan Police Department officers were canvassing the area around 10:15 p.m. when two individuals not affiliated with the University reported that a suspect “approached and verbally harassed them while they were sitting in the outdoor dining section” at Whole Foods, said University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar. She said the suspects left, and upon return, continued to verbally harass the individuals and the male dropped what “appeared to be a plastic pistol.”

Csellar said the suspect had not yet been apprehended Friday morning.

Earlier in the evening on Thursday, officials sent out an emergency alert for an attempted armed robbery in front of Strong Hall. Csellar confirmed that the two events were not related.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
Due to an editing error, The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the first emergency alert was sent for an armed robbery attempt in front of South Hall. The armed robbery attempt was reported in front of Strong Hall. We regret this error.

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Updated: May 22, 2015 at 1:15 p.m.

A student reported an attempted robbery by four or five high school-aged people in front of Strong Hall around 10 p.m. Thursday night, according to a GW alert.

The male student, who suffered minor injuries from the incident, was walking on G Street by Strong Hall aroudn 9:10 p.m. when he observed the suspects watching him and refused the group when they tried to make contact with him, said University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar. She said one of the suspects “grabbed and punched the student” and another waived a pistol. The student reported the incident at around 9:20 p.m. to the University Police Department after he went home.

The suspects were black and wore jeans, jackets and ball caps. One of them was wearing a black puffy jacket and an earring, and had a pistol, according to the alert sent to students shortly before 10 p.m. No additional descriptions of the other suspects were given in the release.

The suspects were last seen fleeing westbound behind Strong Hall on the 600 block of 21st Street, and officers from UPD and the Metropolitan Police Department searched the area for the suspects, according to the alert. Csellar confirmed Friday morning that the suspects have not been located.

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University President Steven Knapp and a former U.S. representative co-wrote an op-ed in Roll Call on Wednesday to convince the federal government to increase research spending in developing medicines to combat illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease.

Knapp and former Rep. Rush Holt, D-NJ, who’s now the chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, focused on the importance of approving President Barack Obama’s plan to funnel more money into federal medical research and development to keep up with other countries’ research plans.

Obama proposed a nearly 9 percent increase for next fiscal year in funding research that the National Institutes of Health would conduct for Alzheimer’s disease. The increase is possible because Obama plans to forgo the spending caps that the Budget Control Act enacted in 2011.

The two also wrote about spending more on innovation in other areas, like sustainability.

“Of course, adequate federal funding is not the only ingredient of a productive scientific research effort, but it is a necessary ingredient,” they wrote. “Increased U.S. support for R&D would set the stage for economy-boosting innovations, especially in the areas of advanced manufacturing, clean-energy technology, climate-change research and neuroscience.”

Knapp and Holt, who is also the executive publisher of the Science family of journals, wrote that other countries are beginning to lead in medical research because of America’s plateaued spending on research and development. China created a plan in 2011 to invest twice as much as the U.S. in life science research over the next five years — and that amount is four times what the U.S. spends in that area as a percentage of gross domestic product.

About 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, and the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved any remedies for it in the past decade, Holt and Knapp wrote.

The op-ed cited the University’s steps toward lowering its carbon emissions. GW created a goal in 2010 to derive 10 percent of its energy from low-carbon technologies by 2040.

GW’s Executive Director of Sustainability Kathleen Merrigan announced at a Faculty Senate meeting in February that she wants the University to secure more federal grants from the government for research projects related to sustainability.

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Thursday, May 21, 2015 10:44 a.m.

Jon Stewart to headline Colonials Weekend

Comedian Jon Stewart will perform at Colonials Weekend on Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of Comedy Central

Comedian Jon Stewart will perform at Colonials Weekend on Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of Comedy Central

Satirical news host, author and film director Jon Stewart will perform at Colonials Weekend in October, according to a University release.

Stewart, host of “The Daily Show,” will headline two shows on Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Ticket prices will range from $50 to $99.

“What comes after you retire from ‘The Daily Show’? A pair of performances at GW’s Colonials Weekend,” Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski said in a release. “We’re excited that Jon Stewart will bring his tremendous wit and talent back to the university to celebrate with GW families, students, alumni and friends on what is sure to be a memorable evening.”

Stewart, who has led the satirical news show since 1996, announced this year that his last day of hosting “The Daily Show” will be Aug. 6. Stewart has won 20 Emmy awards since the show began.

Stewart headlined Colonials Weekend in 2005 and 2009, and last came to campus when he debated political commentator Bill O’ Reilly in 2012.

Actor and comedian Seth Meyers performed at Colonials Weekend last year.

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High school students and teachers will soon be able to use GW’s curriculum on Malala Yousafazi’s memoir with an update designed specifically for them, according to a release Wednesday.

The guide, created by the Global Women’s Institute in partnership with Malala Fund and the publisher Little, Brown and Company, had originally provided an outline for college professors to connect students with Yousafzai’s memoir “I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban,” but a second version will also target high school students.

““Malala’s message of equality and the importance of education needs to be heard by people of all ages,” Mary Ellsberg, the director of the institute, said in the release. “By providing this additional material we are reaching more students at a crucial age, when they are starting to learn about the world around them and can take on the important role of being aware, global citizens.”

The guide, which is available for free online, centers on eights themes from the genre of memoir to religion.

The University launched the curriculum in November, about a year after faculty announced plans to create the program. Yousafazi’s father spoke at GW in Novemeber to celebrate the guide’s release.

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D.C. Fire and EMS responded to reports of smoke at the Gelman Library Starbucks on Monday. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

D.C. Fire and EMS responded to reports of smoke at the Gelman Library Starbucks on Monday. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Updated: May 18, 2015 at 12:15 p.m.

D.C. Fire and EMS responded to reports of smoke in the Gelman Library Starbucks on 21st and H streets at about 6 a.m. Monday, a spokesman confirmed.

Oscar Mendez, a public information officer at D.C. Fire and EMS, said a transformer in the electrical room was “causing issues” and creating smoke. There were no injuries or transports from the scene and “everything was under control,” Mendez said.

About five fire trucks and an ambulance responded to the scene. The employees were evacuated.

Jeanine Marie, Brandon Lee and Robin Eberhardt contributed reporting.

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GW Law School Dean Blake Morant congratulates graduates and their families. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

GW Law School Dean Blake Morant congratulates graduates and their families. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

At the GW Law School commencement ceremony in the Smith Center on Sunday, graduates learned they could be anything from attorney general to a lawyer for a major corporation.

Keynote speaker Bobby Burchfield, a 1979 alumnus and partner at the D.C. law firm King and Spalding, listed former GW law students like U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Barbara Keenan and Senator Harry Reid as examples of what graduates could accomplish.

1. Lawyers are not lab mice

Burchfield, who has argued at the Supreme Court and served as general counsel on George H.W. Bush’s reelection campaign, shared a popular joke about lawyers being unethical and untrustworthy.

“People love to make fun of lawyers. Did you hear that research laboratories have replaced mice with lawyers? Yes they have,” he said. “The lab workers get too attached to the mice and there’s some things that mice just won’t do.”

Burchfield said that although there are many stereotypes about the profession, lawyers can also be national leaders who use their work to help others. He added that graduates needed to find their “moral compass.”

2. Bringing the ‘royal jelly’

Graduate speaker Helen Clemens reminisced about her law school orientation, where a guest lecturer told students that if they wanted to be successful, they would have to “bring the royal jelly.”

“He never quite explained what he meant by this,” Clemens said. “I think that I might have been the only person in the room that understood the analogy he was trying to make.”

Clemens said that as a beekeeper, she knew that royal jelly is a nourishing food that honeybees produce for their young in order to make them strong.

“I think that what that lecturer was trying to say that day was to always bring the best that you can and to give others the best of yourself,” she said. “Although his meaning may have been a little bit lost that day, and that catchphrase is something we’ve chuckled about since, I’m so grateful I am graduating with a class of students that have most certainly brought the royal jelly.”

3. Honoring a classmate

Law school dean Blake Morant asked the audience to join him in a moment of silence for Mark Lee, a fourth-year law student who died in December.

“He was a great classmate, an extraordinary son and a friend to many,” Morant said.

As Lee’s family joined Morant on stage to accept a Certificate of Commendation on Lee’s behalf, they received a standing ovation from the audience.

4. A memorable connection

Morant closed the ceremony by telling the Class of 2015 he felt a special bond with them because they were graduating during his first year as dean.

“You’re my first class and we will always be connected as a result of that,” he said. “It’s like my children leaving the nest.”

Morant said he was reminded of his own law school commencement, during which one of his fellow graduates’ 100-year-old grandmother played the foghorn.

“While the trumpets will hopefully not sound out quite so loudly today, we joyously and enthusiastically salute this Class of 2015,” he said. “As you go forward, please remember that with the knowledge you have gained of the responsibility to use the law, to help others and build a better world for all.”

Like these photos? You can purchase your personal photo from this graduation ceremony online at:

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Surgon General Halley Rogers | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told medical school graduates to work within their communities to make health care a more proactive field. Halley Rogers | Hatchet Staff Photographer

An electric guitar solo kicked off the School of Medicine and Health Sciences ceremony on Sunday – in lieu of singing, Class of 2015 graduate Justin Palanci strummed his way through the national anthem.

During the ceremony, professors cheered for Palanci, Dean Jeffrey Akman honored a student who died in September and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy delivered an inspiring speech.

1. Honoring Navdeep Kang

Akman led the graduates and their guests in remembering Kang, who would have graduated with the Class of 2015. He was given a posthumous degree, which his father accepted. Murthy and student speaker Ashley Alker both spoke with admiration of Kang in their remarks.

In his fourth year of medical school at the time of his death, Kang wanted to specialize in the field of psychiatry.

2. From a culture of treatment to prevention

Murthy urged the new class of doctors to work with their communities to make health care more proactive. He advocated for a shift to healthier lifestyles to prevent diseases.

He also told graduates to address social disparities, like income, race and class, which can affect the public’s access to health care.

“Health equality is a civil rights issue,” Murthy said.

3. Remember your ‘anchors’

Murthy told the Class of 2015 to think of their family members and friends while in the medical profession.

When Murthy co-founded his first nonprofit, VISIONS, funders pulled their money from the organization soon before the HIV education program was set to launch in India. He said he relied on donations from his community to “cobble together” enough money to start the program anyway.

“Honor the people in your life who are your anchors,” Murthy said.

Like these photos? You can purchase your personal photo from this graduation ceremony online at:

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Updated: May 17, 2015 at 4:18 p.m.

Thousands of graduates gathered on the National Mall for University-wide Commencement Saturday morning. As expected, their degrees were conferred and they got bits of advice from University President Steven Knapp and a fellow graduate and keynote speaker Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook. But there were a few surprising moments, too.

Here are some of the most unexpected moments of Commencement:

1. Honorary degree recipient uses heimlich

Knapp introduced honorary degree recipient, Anthony Fauci, a world-reknowned HIV/AIDS researacher and expert on infectious disease. Knapp listed a long string of Fauci’s accomplishments, like recieving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008 and serving as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

But Knapp said Fauci’s latest accomplishment was saving a life Saturday night at the annual Commencement dinner with administrators, trustees and guests.

“Last night your medical expertise was in full evidence at the annual Commencement dinner where you saved a life by skillfully deploying the Heimlich maneuver. It’s true,” Knapp said.

2. Swap your phone

Tim Cook opened his address with a simple reminder for graduates and guests: Silence your cell phones.

For members of the 20,000-person crowd who do not have an iPhone, Cook had a surprising suggestion.

“If you don’t have an iPhone, please pass it to the center aisle. Apple has a world-class recycling program,” Cook said.

University President Steven Knapp introduces Commencement speaker and Apple CEO Tim Cook. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

University President Steven Knapp introduces Commencement speaker and Apple CEO Tim Cook. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

3. Graduates react with emoji

When Cook took the stage, four graduates raised posters with fist emoji. Each poster had one emoji of a different skin tone.

Apple updated the emoji application last month offering several skin tones instead of the traditional yellow option.

4. Cook captures the moment

During his speech, Cook boasted about the iPhone’s ability to capture any moment, because people are always able to snap a photo with a camera in their pockets. Before finishing his speech, Cook took a photo on his iPhone of the Class of 2015. Several graduates posted selfies with Cook after the ceremony.

“I’d like to take one photo of you, because this is the best view in the world,” Cook said.

Like this photo? Find your own personal photo from the ceremony at:

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