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Nelson Carbonell

Board of Trustees chair Nelson Carbonell asked all full-time faculty Monday to respond to a survey that will shape the final steps of the Faculty Code review.

Those responses, which he announced in an open letter to faculty, mark the final chance for faculty to weigh in over the governing rules, which cover issues from the tenure process to the University’s shared governance model.

“The highest quality faculty is driven by the caliber of its individual members, their leadership, the environment in which they work and their motivation and engagement,” He wrote. “As the Task Force formulates its recommendations, I want to encourage all of you to participate in this important dialogue through the survey or through our website.”

After six months of meetings with about 600 professors, Carbonell laid out his original broad findings at a Faculty Senate meeting earlier this month, which included creating a University-wide tenure committee and focusing on academic freedom issues.

He also called out the body for a culture of bullying between tenured and non-tenured professors from providing feedback during the review process.

“There’s a lot of bullying here. There are things that happen here that would get you kicked out of fourth grade. And it’s intolerable,” Carbonell said on the Faculty Senate floor. “We have heard over and over again that research and clinical faculty feel like second-class citizens.”

In about three weeks, Carbonell and a small committee of professors will return to the Faculty Senate, which is made up of about 30 tenured professors, with the official recommendations. The senate will need to approve them before any changes are final.

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Board of Trustees chair Nelson Carbonell said he will push trustees to interact more with the GW community through dinners this year. The involvement comes during a national push for stronger board governance. Hatchet File Photo

The University’s highest governing body is looking to shed its traditionally inaccessible reputation by connecting with the thousands of people its decisions impact most: students, faculty and alumni.

Board of Trustees chair Nelson Carbonell, who officially took the helm this month , said he plans to connect with more faculty this fall, before turning to student outreach in the winter and alumni this spring.

“I’ve encouraged Board members to get out and talk to people, not just sit in a boardroom and make decisions,” said Carbonell, who also served six years as the board’s vice chair. He said the Board will host faculty and staff events, such as dinners. He added that there would be more details in the next few months.

Carbonell, a CEO and business strategist, has reached out to students as the face of GW’s senior class gift campaign over the last two years, donating more than $100,000 through matched gifts. He’s also stressed transparency while leading a committee last fall that handled GW’s response to the discovery of decade-long admissions data inflation.

The Board ended its annual dinner with members of the Faculty Senate about a decade ago, professor Anthony Yezer said. Since then, the Board’s interaction with faculty has dropped to “about zero.”

“Faculty will always meet with the trustees – junior partners in a law firm want to socialize with the senior partners – but the amount of interaction is due to whatever the administration and the trustees want,” Yezer said.

The previous board’s chair, Russ Ramsey, also sought to increase student and alumni input and hosted 10 students at a dinner in 2007. He also pledged to increase the University’s endowment and decrease tuition.

Carbonell has said he is looking to give the typically slow-moving University a jolt, and move the 36-member Board away from rubber stamping administrators’ decisions. The shift reflects the national higher education landscape, as boards sought more direct oversight after scandals at Pennsylvania State University and University of Virginia.

Board can no longer focus solely on “big-picture issues as endowment, succession planning, capital campaigns and academic reputation,” University Business Magazine wrote last year. Instead, “substantially more time will be devoted to evaluating mergers, acquisitions and business development options” like the kind of international partnerships GW has looked to forge.

Ellen Zane, the Board’s newly elected vice chair, said the communication will help the board “understand the issues from the people who are closest to them.

“We don’t have a magic wand and we need to be realistic recognizing there are limitations to what we can ‘fix,’ improve or change,” Zane said. “But we need to better understand the challenges of others and celebrate their accomplishments as well.”

University President Steven Knapp said the Board’s primary functions are to be legally responsible for the institution and help develop a strategic vision. But because the members come from different “walks of life” and occupations, Knapp said their life experiences will help GW grow.

“They’re raising questions that if you’re in the middle of managing something, you don’t always have the ability to come up from air and take a broader look. The more they know about the University, the more helpful they can be,” Knapp said.

- Cory Weinberg contributed to this report.

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Nelson Carbonell, an 11-year-long member of the University’s Board of Trustees, will be the group’s chairman for the next three years. Hatchet File Photo

The six-year vice chair of the University’s highest governing body was elected to steer the group Friday.

Alumnus Nelson Carbonell, a fierce advocate for the University’s burgeoning science and engineering focus, has served on the Board of Trustees for 11 years and will replace Russ Ramsey as chair starting in July. Carbonell now leads committees on finance and the Science and Engineering Hall.

Carbonell, who will serve a three-year term, graduated from the School of Engineering and Applied Science in 1985 on a full scholarship. He has matched the giving rate of seniors who donate to the senior class gift for the past two years, shelling out $101,000 to the University’s need-based aid program, the Power and Promise Fund.

He was also part of the committee that handpicked University President Steven Knapp in 2007, luring him from Johns Hopkins University.

Carbonell, a Rockville, Md. native, is the president and CEO of Snowbird Capital, a Virginia-based company that provides capital for mid-sized businesses. He also ran the popular dot-com startup Cysive before it collapsed in 2003.

Alumna and Board member Ellen Zane will serve as the vice chair. She is also the vice chairman of the Tufts Medical Center Board of Trustees and an assistant professor at Tufts’s medical school.

Lawyers and alumni Weston Burnett and Mark Chichester will join the board for the next four years. Terry Collins, former adviser to the president of Boeing Network and Space Systems, was also elected to the Board on Friday.

This post was updated May 18, 2013, 10:34 a.m. to reflect the following:

Correction appended

The Hatchet incorrectly spelled the former Board chairman’s last name. It’s “Ramsey,” not “Ramsay.”

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Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees Nelson Carbonell said he hoped his '50/50 challenge' encouraged graduating seniors to become part of an alumni network of philanthropy. Francis Rivera | Photo Editor

More than half of the Class of 2012 donated to the senior class gift fund this year, matching a challenge posed by a Board of Trustee’s member and bringing in a record $92,000 in the graduates’ honor.

Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees Nelson Carbonell presented the Senior Class Gift Committee with a $50,000 check Thursday, after the graduates met his 50 percent participation rate challenge, surpassing past years in participation and total funds raised.

This year, a total of 50.3 percent of seniors chipped in to the fund, up from last year’s 43 percent.

Seniors this year gave about $15,000 more than the Class of 2011 donated last year at this time. After graduation last year, the Senior Class Gift campaign brought in another $13,000, bringing the total raised to $90,000.

The trustee’s donation will go toward the Power and Promise fund, the University’s need-based aid program created in 2010. Carbonell, who attended GW on a full scholarship, said that he feels his gift is going toward an important cause.

“It means everything to me. It’s why I do what I do here,” Carbonell said.

The committee reached 50 percent participation Wednesday night with 45 more graduates putting down cash at the senior barbecue.

Soon-to-be-graduates crowded Kogan Plaza to attend the Class of 2012 Toast and Senior Class Gift Presentation on Thursday. Francis Rivera | Photo Editor

Senior Class Gift Coordinator Victoria Hartman said her committee’s message this year was that no student has a typical GW experience, encouraging seniors to donate to whatever organization or department they identified most with on campus.

“There is something that I think everyone has connected to at GW, that gives them reason to give back,” Hartman said.

A breakdown of the fundraising is not yet available, Hartman said, but added that donations seemed to be equally split between schools and departments, student life, and scholarships and student aid.

Hartman gave her gift to the Power and Promise fund because, like Carbonell, she receives financial aid.

“I want someone to have the same experience that I had and be able to come to GW even if they don’t have the capital,” Hartman said.

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More than 100 University and community representatives marked the official groundbreaking of the much-anticipated Science and Engineering Hall Thursday evening, ushering in an era dedicated to innovation and rising scientific prestige.

University President Steven Knapp ceremonially kick-started the four-year construction process with the words, “on your mark, get set, turn,” as he and more than a dozen academic and financial supporters of the project lifted dirt with golden shovels.

The $275-million building – located at 22nd and H Streets at the site of the former University Parking Garage – represents the most expensive property in GW’s history. By bringing science courses in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences under one roof, the structure aims to elevate the level of interdisciplinary research and attract high-quality faculty and students.

Knapp recalled images of the “dinosaur-like creature” that tore down the garage over the last six months, looking forward to the eight stories and 480,000 square feet of state-of-the-art teaching and research space that will open in 2015 after more than two decades of planning.

“The building is very carefully and imaginatively designed to support not only the departments that are going in there but collaborative research space where students and faculty will be able to work together in state of the art facilities,” he said.

David Dolling, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, said he felt tongue-tied to watch the beginnings of a building he called “a catalyst for change” that seeks to upgrade GW’s outdated science facilities.

“I’ve been here three years and there’s not a day, a moment, that I have not been thinking about this building and what it’s going to do for GW and for the School of Engineering and Applied Science,” he said. “So this is the end of one phase, but it’s the beginning of the most important one.”

Chairman of the Board of Trustees Russell Ramsey asked attendees to take a moment to reflect on how far the University’s most recent construction project, The Avenue, has come.

University President Steven Knapp leads more than a dozen academic and financial backers in officially commencing construction on the Science and Engineering Hall Thursday evening. Ashley Lucas | Hatchet Photographer

“I think you’ve all heard me say that the whole idea of vision, without execution, is hallucination,” Ramsey said.

“What we’re seeing here today is not the beginnings of execution. This is the culmination of lots and lots of not just months but years and in some cases decades of planning and thinking,” he said.

After the Faculty Senate voted in 2004 to make the construction of new facilities for science and engineering a priority, the Board of Trustees – the University’s highest governing body – approved the project in October 2010. The D.C. Zoning Commission green-lighted the project in July 2011, after repeated challenges from Foggy Bottom’s primary advocacy groups, which questioned the long-term effects of the project on the neighborhood.

Nelson Carbonell, vice chairman of the Board of Trustees and head of a special committee on the Science and Engineering Hall, said he took members of the Board on tours of campus science facilities, including Corcoran Hall and Tompkins Hall, to demonstrate the need for new resources.

“The one thing that connects generations of GW engineers and scientists is we studied in really crummy facilities and it made us scrappy,” Carbonell said.

As an alumnus of GW’s electrical engineering program, Carbonell urged future science and engineering graduates to “keep that scrappy feeling” as the building brings the University’s science profile to new heights.

Sophomore Winslow Sheffield, a systems engineering student, said the ceremony signaled the culmination of faculty and student-led efforts, especially the work of Campaign GW, an organization of students that helped lobby for the building at zoning hearings.

“The University has been trying to build up science programs for years and today we can see the change in science and engineering,” Sheffield said.

In striving to transform GW into a top-tier research institution, Knapp stressed the importance of making a commitment to excellence in science and engineering as a way to “undergird the strength” the University has developed in policy, the humanities and the arts.

“I think this project is absolutely integral to everything that we are trying to achieve for the University,” he said.

A combination of debt, revenue from The Avenue and fundraising will finance the complex. Senior University officials seek to bring in at least $100 million in fundraising to support the building.

“This will be the largest academic building on our campus. That is certainly true. And I can guarantee you it will be the largest

science and engineering building within six blocks of the White House,” Knapp said.

Sisters Liduvina and Clara Manrique, who have lived near campus in Saint Mary’s Court for two years, were excited to witness the groundbreaking after attending months of zoning meetings for The Avenue and the Science and Engineering Hall.

“To see it on paper, then to see it in fruition, it’s just a glorious feeling,” Liduvina Manrique said. “I can’t wait till 2015. I’ll be here.”

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