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Returning Troops Find Good Company With GW Veterans

When junior Kevin Blanchard began college at GW, he wasn’t fresh out of high school like most of his classmates—he’d already fought in a war. Blanchard, 25, was a U.S. Marine Corps corporal in Iraq, where he lost his left leg to a roadside bomb.

Beginning college “was quite a transition,” Blanchard says. “I wished everyone knew about me, but I didn’t have the energy to tell them.”

More than 300 veterans attend school at GW, and in addition to struggling with social adjustments, they must navigate the University’s housing, tuition, and academic systems to find assistance for their unique situations. This past fall, Blanchard and senior Wade Spann, 26, a former Marine wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq, began weaving a network of student veterans to provide support.

With the help of fellow GW student Brian Hawthorne, Washington, D.C., director of the national group Student Veterans of America, the network has grown into a formal student organization called George Washington Veterans. These students meet weekly in the Marvin Center lobby—where they can often spot new recruits by their camouflage bags—to discuss veteran-related issues and share their stories. “It’s a relief to have someone else you can relate to, and for a lot of guys, just talking helps,” says Spann, who has become an advocate for veterans’ mental health after losing two military friends to suicide last year.

Since the group’s formation, other veterans have surfaced; some came by word of mouth, others through a connection to the group’s Facebook page. GW Veterans is made up of a core group of 10, with anywhere from 20 to 30 others involved in various ways.

GW economics professor Robert Trost, who served for two noncombat years in the Marine Corps in 1969 to 1971, is the group’s faculty adviser. “Veterans definitely need a lot of help getting integrated back into [civilian] society,” Trost says. “It wasn’t until I talked to Kevin and Brian that I appreciated what they’re going through and realized we need to do something about this.”

The network provides camaraderie and also contacts for social and professional life. During the fall semester, the vets brought two events to campus. In October, they sponsored Ask a Vet, a question-and-answer session about military life and transitioning to civilian life. In November, they sponsored a Veteran’s Day barbecue that featured speakers, military-inspired push-up contests, live bands, and a wreath-laying ceremony.

The group also advocated for and won University participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program, part of the new GI Bill effective in August, in which private colleges and universities voluntarily waive up to half of veterans’ tuitions, and Veterans’ Affairs matches the same amount waived by the institution (see sidebar). “GW was the first school to accept the GI Bill after WWII,” Spann says. Now, the tradition continues.

They asked for a veterans’ affairs staff person on the Foggy Bottom Campus, and their request was granted. In February, GW graduate student Megan Keller signed on as GW’s veteran services coordinator to serve as a liaison to student veterans and help raise awareness in administrative departments about student veteran issues. Keller will improve veterans’ communications, initiate working groups, research student veteran practices at other schools, and make referrals to GW agencies for veterans’ counseling and personal needs. The vets are now hoping for a veteran resource center—an on-campus home base for veterans to discover housing options, navigate class scheduling, and receive other college-life counseling.

They may soon see their dream come true: With Trost’s help, the group is applying for a $100,000 grant from the American Council on Education and Wal-Mart to get the ball rolling.

Next year, Blanchard hopes campus veterans can be mentors to incoming freshmen veterans, he says. Since the group’s formation, he notices more vets around campus, walking together or chatting. It’s a small victory in the scheme of things, he says, “but it’s big for us.”

GW Veterans would like to connect with alumni veterans. Please contact the group via e-mail at

—Carrie Madren

GW Continues GI Bill Tradition

Former senator John Warner; Brian Hawthorne, GW student veteran and representative of the Student Veterans of America; and Tammy Duckworth, MA ’92, assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs join GW President Steven Knapp in announcing a new program that will allow free tuition for Yellow Ribbon veterans who attend GW as undergraduate students.

Jessica McConnell

Veterans who want to pursue a higher education will now have an easier time financing it thanks to GW’s participation in the Post-9/11 GI Bill’s Yellow Ribbon Program, effective in August. Through the program, private colleges and universities provide tuition assistance beyond what is provided in the base GI Bill rate of compensation. Undergraduate veterans who qualify for the program will attend GW for free, while graduate students will receive a significant discount. The program will be available to as many as 360 veteran students next year, a number that is expected to cover all qualified veterans who attend GW. To qualify for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Yellow Ribbon program a veteran must have at least 36 months of active duty service post-9/11.

At an April ceremony to announce the program, GW President Steven Knapp was joined by Tammy Duckworth, MA ’92, assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, former senator John Warner, and Brian Hawthorne, a GW student veteran and representative of the Student Veterans of America.

“We know that the next generation of veterans at GW will make our campus—and our nation—stronger than ever,” Dr. Knapp says. “With this investment in future leaders of our nation, we are honoring our veterans, and we are proud to stand with them and their families.”

Under the plan, GW will pay 50 percent of remaining tuition and fee costs for undergraduates after base GI Bill benefits are applied, an investment of approximately $18,000 per year per veteran. The VA will contribute the other 50 percent of remaining tuition and fees. For graduate programs, GW will pay up to $3,800 per year per veteran and the VA will match this amount. The average admitted Yellow Ribbon qualified graduate veteran will attend GW’s graduate programs at a 55 percent discount. All GW graduate programs will participate. Overall, GW estimates its investment at approximately $2.5 million for the next academic year.

“This is a historic occasion for the future of our country,” Duckworth said at the event. “The Post 9/11 Bill will provide new opportunities that are essential to our veterans, our workforce, and our economy ... giving [veterans] the opportunity to find a new way to serve.”


Renowned Writers Share Their Craft

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward P. Jones began his GW professorship in January with a public reading of his novel The Known World.

Jessica McConnell

Last fall, English professors compiled a wish list of sorts: If they could have any modern literary great join the faculty, who would it be?

After careful consideration, the professors hashed out their top two choices—Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Washington, D.C., resident Edward P. Jones, and José Muñoz, a professor of performance studies at New York University with expertise in Latino studies and literature.

The GW English professors got their wish, and now both writers will take a semester-long turn as a visiting professor.

The new position, the Wang Visiting Professor in Contemporary English Literature, was made possible by a gift from Albert Wang and his family. The gift, of which the professorship is a part, is one of the largest philanthropic commitments to the English department. It also includes support for the Wang Endowed Fund in English Literature and Literary Studies, an annual series of lectures by prominent authors and scholars.

The selection process to fill the two professorships wasn’t made public, says Professor Jeffrey Cohen, chair of the Department of English. Instead of a call for applications, the department members crafted an A-list of possible visitors. “We wanted to choose the very best people to fill the two positions,” Dr. Cohen says, “and we wanted a creative writer and a literary scholar.”

“The possibilities were endless,” he continues, but once they narrowed their focus to an emphasis on diversity within contemporary English literature, Jones and Muñoz were the clear top choices. Luckily, Dr. Cohen adds, the authors both said “yes.”

Jones, who won a 2004 Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Known World, began his spring semester residence in January with a full schedule. He led a literary reading group for undergraduates, gave public readings, and taught an advanced creative writing course, offering students one-on-one suggestions on short stories or novel chapters before they presented to the larger writing workshop group. Jones says he doesn’t make assignments. “If you want to be a writer, you go out and write,” he says.

The soft-spoken author says he is honored to be sharing his craft. “I’ve never been given this title [professor] before; It’s a distinguished position,” Jones says.

Cohen hopes the addition of Jones to the English faculty will emphasize the strengths in African-American literature. He believes Dr. Muñoz, who will be in the position this fall, will do the same for building strengths in Latino studies. Jones’ residence on campus has already “brought an excitement about writing and about literature,” Dr. Cohen says. “For his inaugural reading there was standing room only.

“Not only is Jones a world-renowned writer, but he also is a part of our own city of Washington, D.C. He is the most celebrated novelist we have had in residence at GW,” Dr. Cohen continues. “Studying with him will provide our students an invaluable experience—one that we hope they’ll remember long after they graduate from GW.”


Political Communications Expert Named Vice President for External Relations

Lorraine Voles, BA ’81, is vice president for external relations.

Jessica McConnell

In 1980, Lorraine Voles, BA ’81, was guiding students as a residential adviser in Thurston Hall. Now, 29 years later, Voles is back on campus guiding GW’s communications staff as vice president for external relations, a newly created role that combines communications and government relations functions into one division.

“It was always my goal to work for an institution or organization in Washington, D.C., whose mission I could get behind, so GW is the perfect place,” says Voles, who assumed her position Feb. 2. “I have heard so much about the strength of GW students and the amazing energy on campus. The position is perfect and is a really exciting opportunity for me.”

Voles, who has more than 25 years of leadership experience in corporate and political communication, most recently served as senior vice president of communication and marketing services for Fannie Mae. She has worked in every presidential campaign since 1984 and has served as press secretary for Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), deputy press secretary for former President Bill Clinton, director of communications and chief spokes­woman for former Vice President Al Gore, and director of communications for then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.). She also advised Hillary Clinton on her 2006 reelection campaign and presidential bid.

“Lorraine Voles brings from the national stage the skills and strategic insights that will enable us to strengthen our government and community partnerships and elevate awareness of GW,” says President Steven Knapp. “An alumna herself, she will help us build better communication channels with our lifelong and worldwide community of 225,000 alumni.”

Voles, who hails from New York, says she fell in love with Washington, D.C., during her time at GW and became “addicted” to the fast-paced, grueling campaign lifestyle. The parallels between politics and higher education, including team­work and an emerging emphasis on new media, attracted Voles to the GW position. “Political work is amazing because it involves being a part of something larger than yourself, and it’s the same with a university,” she says. “You are a part of a larger, dynamic group of people who have diverse interests but one unified goal, and that is to advance the university’s mission.”

Voles also draws on public relations experience from her time serving as senior counselor for Porter Novelli and as an independent consultant for a variety of organizations, including the Democratic National Committee Convention, the Smithsonian Institution, and America Votes.

A transfer from Iona College in 1979, Voles joined GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences as a junior and says she loved her classes. “My professors treated us like professionals and expected us to write and source like professionals. I developed great skills that I still have today,” she says.

Voles says she’ll work with the University faculty and staff to continue raising GW’s external profile.

“GW has such an impact, not only in the country but around the globe,” she says. “It’s also an exciting time to be on such a unique college campus that is so close to a new administration. It was an opportunity too good to pass up.”

—Julia Parmley

Touring a National Treasure

Alumnus shows students Library of Congress’ riches

A tour of the Library of Congress allowed students to admire the building’s remarkable artwork and architecture.

Rick Reinhard

As they perused the personal collection of one of our nation’s founding fathers, GW students took a break from their textbooks to learn another kind of literary lesson.

Stacked in the Library of Congress’ brimming bookshelves are the eclectic volumes of Thomas Jefferson, whose nearly 6,500 books—which explore everything from political philosophy to beekeeping—were purchased in 1815 to begin what has become the world’s largest library.

“Jefferson wasn’t a collector,” the docent says as students peer through the preservation glass. “He had a curious mind. He was truly interested in everything.”

Just a few miles from the Foggy Bottom campus, about a dozen GW students tapped into a uniquely Washington experience in March as they toured the Library of Congress. They strolled through the magnificent domed reading room, gazed at its art-filled halls, and examined one of its most prestigious rare book collections.

Their guide, alumnus Malcolm O’Hagan, Doctor of Engineering ’66, a docent at the library for about two years, organized the two-hour visit to share the library’s gems. A retired lobbyist for the electrical manufacturing industry, Dr. O’Hagan now audits GW English classes and says he wanted to connect an unparalleled world resource to the classroom.

“It’s such a treasure here,” Dr. O’Hagan says. In class, students may read old works, “But here they get to see rare books, they have a chance to look at the beautiful illustrations. I was hoping it would pique their interest.”

The Library of Congress, which occupies three buildings on Capitol Hill, boasts more than 138 million items on about 650 miles of bookshelves. The collections include more than 32 million books and other print materials in 470 languages; more than 61 million manuscripts; the largest rare book collection in North America; and the world’s largest collection of legal materials, films, maps, sheet music, and sound recordings. As if that’s not impressive enough, the library’s halls and its reading room are artistically stunning. The Thomas Jefferson Building, constructed in 1897, is considered one of the most remarkable pieces of architecture in the nation’s capital.

GW English students got an exclusive look at a rare book collection during the tour. Alumnus Malcolm O’Hagan, Doctor of Engineering ’66, (back row, second from left) was their guide.

Rick Reinhard

When they weren’t admiring the colorful hallways and mosaic ceilings, students stepped into the reading rooms reserved for members of Congress and got an up-close look at the donated rare book collection of American businessman Lessing J. Rosenwald. In an exclusive viewing, Library of Congress curator Daniel DeSimone showed GW students some of Rosenwald’s most prized volumes, using the woodcuts, engravings, and sketches to explain the evolution of text illustration. A rare edition of a book from Dante’s Divine Comedy included original engravings by Italian Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli, while a copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem The Raven displayed the artistic work of French painter Édouard Manet.

The participants—mostly undergraduate English majors, one PhD student, and one English alumna who signed up for the trip through an announcement on the English department’s blog—say the tour reminded them of their unique opportunity to explore in a resource-rich city.

“Sometimes it’s so easy to stay on campus,” senior Madeleine Starkey says, “but this was a way to connect students to the resources that D.C. offers.”

“I think a lot of people assume Washington’s resources are for international affairs or political science majors,” senior Rosemary Tonoff adds. “But this was a perfect example of what is out there for those in the humanities.”

Dr. O’Hagan, who focused on science and engineering in college and graduate work, says he is now reveling in his GW English courses, where he has deep discussions with other students about literature. After the Library of Congress tour, Professor Jeffrey Cohen, chair of the Department of English, believes the students will have even more to talk about.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity. It’s one thing to say to students, ‘Read the poems of William Blake,’” Dr. Cohen says. “It’s quite another to see the text up-close as a work of art.”

—Jaime Ciavarra

Katzen Cancer Research Center Opens

Myrtle Katzen cuts the ceremonial ribbon for the new Dr. Cyrus and Myrtle Katzen Cancer Research Center on April 2 with Dr. Cyrus Katzen and President Steven Knapp.

Those suffering from cancer in the D.C. metropolitan area now have expanded services, more treatment options, and a comfortable place to receive clinical care, thanks to the new Dr. Cyrus and Myrtle Katzen Cancer Research Center. On April 2, a ceremonial ribbon cutting at The George Washington University Medical Center’s Medical Faculty Associates building dedicated the center, which adds cancer care resources to downtown Washington, D.C., and expands GW’s cancer research capacity.

Dr. Cyrus and Myrtle Katzen founded the center through a $10 million gift to the GW Medical Center.

The Katzen Center brings the most up-to-date technology and treatment options to patients being served by the GW Medical Center. It offers patients more convenience in scheduling and receiving their cancer treatment because of cancer infusion chairs and clinical rooms. GW has also added more nurses and administrative staff to accommodate an increase in patients.

The center features an “inspired by nature” organic design to create a calming, healing environment for patients. The center also fosters scientific research and advanced education. To carry out this mission, the center is equipped with four infusion chairs set aside to be used specifically for cancer research. The facility and expanded space will allow for more clinical research to take place at GW, which will expand the research agenda of the Medical Center’s cancer division.

Finding Footprints Among Fossils

In a Kenya desert, beneath layers of sand and mud, GW Associate Professor of Anthropology Brian Richmond and colleagues unearthed a set of 1.5 million-year-old human ancestor footprints believed to be the earliest evidence of modern upright walking.

This footprint of an early human ancestor, Homo erectus, looks much like our own modern feet. (At left) A digital model shows the depth of the footprint.


Scientists say the discovery, which was uncovered last summer and reported in a February issue of the journal Science, likely shows steps left by the species Homo erectus, a direct ancestor of modern humans. The prints—roughly a men’s shoe size nine—revealed a big toe aligned with other toes and an arch in the foot that indicates a spring ligament, which puts a spring in the step and makes walking more efficient, the hallmark of a modern human stride. They were found embedded in what was once muddy soil, along with tracks of ancient birds and antelopes in the Ileret area in northern Kenya.

A group of 10 scientists from around the world worked on the site, including Dr. Richmond, Matthew Bennett of Bournemouth University, Jack Harris of Rutgers University, and David Braun of the University of Cape Town. With the help of a few dozen students, Kenyan experts from the National Museum of Kenya, and hired helpers, the scientists excavated some 2,000 square feet of desert.

“We were actually looking for fossils in this area because we’d found some fossils on this hillside, and we wanted to see if there were more in the ground,” Dr. Richmond says.

To read the geology of the area, they cut a staircase of long steps into the hillside. One of the geologists noticed a jagged edge between a layer of mud topped by a layer of sand, suspecting deep animal footprints sunken in once-soft mud.

“We excavated all the sediment above it down to that layer and looked carefully,” Dr. Richmond says. They found a collection of deep animal prints—hoofs, bird prints, and paws—and of more shallow footprints made in firmer mud, which preserved better details.

“Once we knew to look for fine-grained mud with sand over top of it, we found two other places with tracks,” Dr. Richmond explains. Among the animal prints, Dr. Richmond and other scientists noticed human prints, identified by the foot shape and toes that look much like our own today. They uncovered three human prints on one level and about 20 on another level.

It turns out that these ancient footprints are the second oldest in the world—after the 3.75-million-year-old prints found in Laetoli, Tanzania—making this one of the most important discoveries regarding the evolution of human walking.

Some 1.5 million years ago, there were four species of humans living, three of which were known to have lived in that African valley. Of these three, Dr. Richmond and his team believe these prints were from Homo erectus because it was the only species big enough to leave tracks.

“There were a lot of questions about when we started walking just like we do today,” Dr. Richmond says. “We walk in a very efficient way, using less energy per mile than any other animal of our size.” Humans have long strides, and as we take steps, weight shifts up to the big toe for pushing off to the next step, he explains.

“It’s a hallmark of human anatomy and human condition, and we can see that 1.5 million years ago that it was already present,” Dr. Richmond says.

Since the footprints are preserved in mud—susceptible to the same natural elements as they were 1.5 million years ago—Dr. Richmond and his team reburied the prints with sand and made a wall with truckloads of cobblestones to help stabilize the hill.

Excavations lasted for one summer month in both 2007 and 2008. Richmond and his team are planning a return trip in 2009, when they’ll follow the footprints, which continue under the stone wall.


Prominent Brain Expert Signs on as Vice President for Research

World-renowned scientist Leo Chalupa is GW’s first vice president for research.

Jessica McConnell

Brain researcher Leo Chalupa is fascinated with the connections and complexities of brain and nerve development.

“The brain is the most complicated organ in the world,” he says. “There are 18 different areas of our cortex that process vision, more than what is devoted to language.” Nothing is more interesting, he says, than discovering why the brain is the way it is.

As of April 1, the scientist has brought his renowned expertise, experience, and curiosity to GW as the University’s first vice president for research.

“Dr. Chalupa is an accomplished scientist and administrator who brings a wealth of experience and strategic vision to this important new position,” GW President Steven Knapp says. “He has the skills and insight needed to work across the University’s many disciplines, building our research infrastructure and advancing GW’s reputation as an internationally recognized research institution.”

An expert in the visual system, Dr. Chalupa was most recently distinguished professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology and chair of neurobiology, physiology, and behavior in the College of Biological Sciences at the University of California, Davis. At UC Davis, Dr. Chalupa researched visual system development, the part of the central nervous system that allows for sight, and how brain functions change in response to natural growth or disorders.

Dr. Chalupa first arrived at UC Davis as an assistant professor in 1975 and since then has secured grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health, Japan’s Society for the Promotion of Science, the Human Frontiers Science Program, the Fogarty Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He has also co-edited three books, written more than 150 journal articles, and received the title of distinguished professor, an honor given to less than 1 percent of university faculty.

Dr. Chalupa and his research team made significant discoveries about the visual system, including learning that millions of nerve cells produced in the visual system in early development are lost when the brain reaches full maturity, and that early connections formed between areas in the visual system are less precise than those formed at maturity.

At UC Davis, Dr. Chalupa served as interim dean of the College of Biological Sciences, where he tripled the faculty count and quadrupled the funding as director of the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience, which he founded in 1992. He also has created three other centers at UC Davis: the Mind and Brain Center, the Brain Imaging Center, and the Center for Visual Sciences. Dr. Chalupa also travels more than 100,000 miles a year to give lectures and conduct research in countries around the world, including Italy, France, Australia, Turkey, Israel, and Japan.

“Science is an international business,” Dr. Chalupa says. “Traveling allows me to collaborate with research partners around the world and have a little fun, too.”

As GW vice president for research, Dr. Chalupa will foster collaboration between the academic and medical areas of the University and augment research initiatives at the Virginia Campus. He also plans to train faculty members in grant writing and increase partnerships with national research laboratories and institutes.

“With two decades of experience reviewing federal and nonfederal grants, Dr. Chalupa has developed a keen sense of how the academic and federal government research communities function,” says Donald Lehman, executive vice president for academic affairs.

“I’m excited and ready for the opportunity to enhance the University’s research presence,” Dr. Chalupa says. “We know a lot, but our ignorance about how disorders are formed and can be corrected is still quite vast,” he continues. “GW already has an outstanding reputation, and I am confident things will continue to move in the right direction. It’s going to be fun. I’m a big believer in having fun and being effective.”

—Julia Parmley

George Welcomes…

Supreme Court Justice David Souter discussed the significance of the humanities to our national culture during a symposium March 9 at the Jack Morton Auditorium. GW hosted the event, which was sponsored by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Jessica McConnell

Microsoft Chairman and co-founder Bill Gates urged Americans to fight global poverty and champion education and health care during a Dec. 3 policy address at GW’s Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre. Gates is co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a philanthropic organization.

Jessica McConnell

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia served as a panel judge for GW Law School’s 59th annual Jacob Burns Van Vleck Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition on Jan. 22.

Jessica McConnell

GW’s Black Student Union, George Washington Williams House, and the Multicultural Student Center on Jan. 19 hosted U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus for the 111th Congress, to speak about her autobiography Renegade for Peace and Justice: Congresswoman Barbara Lee Speaks for Me.

Jessica McConnell

President Barack Obama oversaw the installation of Eric H. Holder Jr. as the nation’s 82nd attorney general during a ceremony at Lisner Auditorium on March 27. Holder received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from GW in 1998, was a GW trustee from 1996 to 1997, and served as a member of the GW Homeland Security Policy Institute Steering Committee.

Jessica McConnell

Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin, BBA ’45, was inducted into the GW School of Business Sports Executive Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Charles E. Smith Center on March 9. Pollin and his wife, Irene, who have owned the team for 45 seasons, hold the distinction of being the longest-tenured owners in the NBA. They are pictured here receiving the award from President Steven Knapp, along with GW School of Business Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs Lawrence Singleton (back left) and GW Chairman of the Board of Trustees. W. Russell Ramsey, BBA ’81 (back center).

Jessica McConnell

NBA Commissioner David Stern spoke about Pollin at the event.

Jessica McConnell

Leading the Way in the Blogosphere

A Sampling of ESIA Scholarly Blogs:

Brook Hailu Bershah
Africa Beyond the Headlines

Amitai Etzioni
Amitai Etzioni Notes

Henry Farrell
Crooked Timber

Marc Lynch
Abu Aardvark

Sean R. Roberts
The Roberts Report on Central Asia and Kazakhstan

David Shinn
The Official Blog of Ambassador David H. Shinn

Academic discourse is flourishing in cyberspace, as an increasing number of professors discover the benefits of blogging. GW faculty members are a prominent force in the fast-growing scholarly blogosphere, generating widespread discussion around the globe through their broadly read blog (Web log) sites.

Two pioneers in the field are Marc Lynch, associate professor of political science and international affairs, and Henry Farrell, assistant professor of political science and international affairs. Bothstarted using in 2002.

Dr. Lynch, then a professor at Williams College in Massachusetts, launched his influential Middle East politics blog, Abu Aardvark, in September 2002. The site, now hosted by, has become the go-to spot for journalists and policymakersand receives some 2,000 hits a day.

Dr. Farrell co-founded the group blog Crooked Timber that same year, when he was working at the University of Toronto. Today the site, which he describes as “a left of center academic blog,” receives some 10,000 unique visitors a day and was recently rated the 33rd most powerful blog in the world by The Guardian. Dr. Farrell also contributes to The Monkey Cage, a group blog providing commentary on political events and issues. Dr. Farrell and Monkey Cage blogging partner John Sides, assistant professor of political science at GW, will be joining forces again this spring to launch a blog site focusing on political science matters of interest to foreign policy professionals.

Both Dr. Lynch and Dr. Farrell were drawn to the blogosphere by the freedom and flexibility of the new medium as well as the opportunity to build an online community. “It seemed like a fun thing to do and a great way to get involved in the foreign policy debate,” says Dr. Lynch, noting that the blogosphere was crying out for Middle East experts at the time. “I had no idea that six years later I’d still be doing it or that it would be so central to my work.”

Blog-related success stories abound. Dr. Farrell credits his presence in the blogosphere with helping him land his job at GW. “A GW political science professor, who was one of my blog readers, told me about the job opening and invited me to visit,” he explains. Dr. Lynch says that his blog led to the publication of his first foreign affairs article in a professional journal: “After reading my blog, the editor asked me to write an article,” he says.

Seven of their Elliott School colleagues have also jumped on the bandwagon, attracted by the rapid, lively interchange and expansive reach of the academic blogosphere (see box). A case in point is Adjunct Professor of International Affairs David Shinn, BA ’63, MA ’64, PhD ’80, former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso. An expert on the Horn of Africa and China-Africa relations, he recently launched The Official Blog of Ambassador David H. Shinn to showcase his numerous media interviews and policy-related writings.

“I see the blog as a way to influence, however modestly, the policy environment,” he explains. Dr. Shinn says that his blog is “catching on in the Somali and Ethiopian diasporas,” as well as “getting a fair number of hits from readers in Europe and a growing number in Africa.”

Dr. Farrell and Dr. Lynch have enjoyed witnessing the growth, as well as rapid-fire changes, in the academic blogosphere this decade. “In the early days, blogs challenged the establishment and now more and more they are becoming part of the establishment, with many of the more prominent blogs being absorbed into the mainstream media,” Dr. Farrell notes.

“Blogging removes the filter of editorial boards and offers immediate feedback and criticism, which is in stark contrast to the slow feedback of traditional scholarly journals,” Dr. Lynch says. “You post something on a blog and get dozens of high quality comments within minutes. When you have something of value to add to the discussion, you can make an immediate impact.”

As blogs become a more widely used and respected tool in the academic world, the unease of early days is fast evaporating. “I blogged under a pseudonym until 2005, when I received tenure,” says Dr. Lynch, cautious that posting politically sensitive issues online could jeopardize his career. “A number of tenured, respected academics are now blogging, and I get a sense that the numbers are continuing to grow as more and more people see the benefits of it. The value of academic blogging is so high and the cost is so low that I believe we’re going to see a lot more of it in the coming years.”

—Jamie L. Freedman

$3 Million Gift Boosts Law School Public Interest Programs

Alan B. Morrison

Renowned attorney Alan B. Morrison will lead GW Law School’s public interest and public service law program thanks to a $3 million gift from the Annette M. and Theodore N. Lerner Family Foundation. The new position builds on GW’s expertise in public service and public interest law.

Morrison teamed up with Ralph Nader in 1972 to found and direct the Public Citizen Litigation Group, the litigating arm of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. Morrison has argued 20 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He received his undergraduate degree from Yale College and his law degree from Harvard Law School. In between his studies, he served as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy. In 2004, Morrison retired from Public Citizen to work at Stanford Law School as a senior lecturer on administrative and public interest law. He has taught at several law schools including Harvard, American University, New York University, Tulane University and China’s Fudan University.

GW Law is known for its public interest law programs, and there are many student involvement opportunities. Through the Jacob Burns Legal Community Clinics, students and faculty members have assisted thousands of community members during more than 35 years of service. The GW Law Pro Bono Program recognizes students’ dedication to providing free legal services to those in need. Other initiatives include faculty-and-student-run public interest projects in fields varying from animal welfare law to environmental protection to criminal justice reform and prisoners’ rights.

The gift from the Annette M. and Theodore N. Lerner Family Foundation has endowed the new position. Under the leadership of GW Law alumni Theodore N. Lerner, AA ’48, LLB ’50; Robert K. Tanenbaum, JD ’82; Marla Lerner Tanenbaum, JD ’83; as well as Judy and Mark Lerner, BBA ’75; and Edward and Debra Cohen, Lerner Enterprises has become the largest Washington, D.C.-area private real estate developer and is also the managing principal owner of the Washington Nationals Baseball Club. Ted Lerner has served on The George Washington University Board of Trustees and Executive Committee. Previous gifts from the Lerner Family Foundation funded the Annette and Theodore Lerner Family Health and Wellness Center at the University and the Theodore N. Lerner Hall at the Law School. Robert Tanenbaum is a current member of The George Washington University Board of Trustees. The Lerner Family Foundation provides support to many local and international organizations.

Construction Work Progresses at Square 54

Square 54 at 2200 Pennsylvania Ave. will house a grocery store, 84,000 square feet of retail shops, 333 apartments (13 percent will be affordable workforce housing), an open courtyard, and 440,000 square feet of commercial office space. The new development is expected to generate income for the University as well as meld community and campus. The 2.6-acre Foggy Bottom site was the former address of the GW Hospital before the hospital’s move across 23rd Street. Square 54 also incorporates green building elements, such as a 26,000-square-foot green roof. Construction began in May 2008 and has focused on excavation with an estimated completion in early 2011.

Going Green: GW Creates Sustainability Office

The greening of GW has brought about eco-changes great and small. Big changes include the first “green” commencement in May, two U.S. Green Building Council LEED certified residence halls under construction, a new renewable energy institute, and a commitment to an energy-efficient appliance policy.

Smaller changes involve getting students to turn off lights in dorm rooms and setting out more clearly marked recycling bins.

Anchoring this momentum is the establishment of the Office of Sustainability, which opened its doors this winter. The idea is that the office will coordinate the University’s sustainability efforts, “from procurement, to environmental management, to new construction projects,” says GW President Steven Knapp.

Meghan Chapple-Brown, who has nearly 15 years of experience in sustainable development in corporate and nonprofit organizations, was appointed as the office’s first director in February. She works with presidential administrative fellow Joshua Lasky, BA ’07.

“Sustainability is more than just about the environment; it is about creating a global system that can sustain human beings now and in the future,” Chapple-Brown says. “GW could potentially play a more significant role in dialogue with governments about sustainable policies.”

The new office is reviewing and revising University operations such as energy efficiency, water use, and transportation systems to make them more environmentally sound.

Also on the new office’s agenda is overseeing the creation of a comprehensive climate neutrality plan at GW—a requirement of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment signed by Dr. Knapp in 2008. With his signature, Dr. Knapp pledged that GW would take a number of concrete steps toward minimizing global warming emissions. So far the University has committed to three immediate actions aimed at reducing greenhouse gases. The first step is to conduct an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, and, within the next two years, develop a plan to reduce its carbon footprint.

“The climate commitment specifies that we must meet a series of benchmarks within a certain timeframe,” Lasky explains. “For example, we have one year to trace all of GW’s sources of emissions, both direct and indirect, to determine our environmental impact, and two years to develop a plan to achieve a net emission on this campus of zero. That’s a very tall order, but we’re committed to it.”

Eco-Competitions Boost Green Living

The University sponsored a community contest to design art for the Foggy Bottom recycling truck.

Jessica McConnell

Eco-friendly living is no longer just a virtue. This spring at GW, it was a matter of winning and losing.

Two simultaneous contests, GW’s Eco-Challenge and the national RecycleMania competition, challenged GW students to take shorter showers and recycle class notes.

The University-wide Eco-Challenge pitted 38 residence halls against each other in a race to the greenest. In the September-through-April competition, residence halls tried to “out-save” each other by slashing energy and water usage. Contestants were encouraged to air-dry laundry when possible, unplug cell phone chargers and other adapters when not in use, and turn off the faucet while brushing teeth.

This year, the competition yielded massive results: Residence halls collectively saved 1,890 kilowatt hours of electricity and 1.5 million gallons of water, average student electricity dropped by 12.7 percent. Building JJ—the University’s green living and learning community—came out on top, reducing electricity usage by 60 percent per person and water consumption by 59 percent per person, during a pilot project from mid-February through mid-April 2008.

“I think the competition has worked—kids love competition, or else you wouldn’t see that kind of dramatic improvement,” says Nancy Giammatteo, director of planning and environmental management, who put stickers on dorm light switches reminding students to turn off lights.

At the same time, students bolstered recycling efforts in hopes of winning the national RecycleMania competition. Some 510 universities across the country vied for top honors by recycling the highest percentage of plastic, paper, aluminum, and cardboard. The 10-week competition—from January through March—determines winners in categories such as overall recycling rate and gross tonnage of recycling.

Students sorted through 25 bags of trash to reclaim recyclables and demonstrate how much of our “trash” can be recycled.

Jessica McConnell

GW ranked 50th out of 292 schools competing in the Gorilla Prize category, which recognizes the larger schools that recycle the highest gross tonnage of combined paper, cardboard, and bottles and cans. Out of A10 schools, GW came in first place in the Grand Champion category—which combines trash and core recyclable materials to determine a school’s recycling rate as a percentage of its overall waste generation— recycling nearly 22 percent per person. New this year, the competition included faculty and staff, and all three campuses.

To raise recycling visibility, the University painted a lush garden scene onto the side of GW’s Foggy Bottom recycling truck. Further spurring on the mania were eco-art contests and basketball half-time recycling competitions.

To demonstrate GW’s recycling potential, students and staff held a public waste sort in Kogan Plaza. “They had 25 bags of trash, collected from all over campus, and wound up with only 10 bags of trash in the end because they sorted out boxes of paper, glass bottles, plastic bottles, and aluminum cans,” Giammatteo says.

GW is making recycling progress, Giammatteo says, but “we’re not finished, we’re at the 25 percent level for Foggy Bottom—recycling 25 percent of our total waste—but we’re going for a 30 percent goal.”


Zoom in on GW’s New Institute for Nanotechnology

Imagine moving, manipulating, and researching materials a million times smaller than a pinhead and 20,000 times smaller than a grain of ragweed pollen. At the new GW Institute for Nanotechnology, it’s all in a day’s work.

The institute is part of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Science and home to 16 faculty members with backgrounds ranging from mechanical engineering to environmental engineering, biochemistry, and more.

Nanotechnology is the science of building tiny machines and functional structures on the scale of atoms and molecules. The emerging field of nanotechnology has applications from medicine, to electronics, to improving water quality worldwide, says David Dolling, dean of GW’s School of Engineering and Applied Science and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. “National laboratories, federal agencies, and private sector corporations all recognize the as-yet untapped potential for discoveries,” Dolling says, “and we believe that our engineers and scientists will be among those who unlock some of its exciting secrets.”

The institute, which will offer new research opportunities and courses for students, is supported through special endowment funding designated for academic programs with the potential for a high level of intellectual distinction.

Nanotechnology researchers manipulate natural and man-made materials with dimensions less than 100 nanometers. For scale, it would take 800 of these 100-nanometer particles placed side by side to equal the width of a human hair.

Michael Keidar, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and his researchers have already developed microscopic plasma jets that can potentially target individual biological cells to reduce tissue damage during laser surgery.

The new field of nanotechnology has exploded in the past decade, spurred by scientific advancements and new technology, including a scanning electron tunneling microscope and the atomic force microscope. The field will make way for new discoveries in mechanics, electronics, energy, the environment, and health care.

GW researchers hope to establish a new microscopy facility with state-of-the-art instruments for faculty and student use, and forge partnerships with the National Institutes of Health and other institutions. A new seminar series also brings nanotechnology experts to campus, and professor Jon Silver started a journal club in which faculty and students discuss nanotechnology publications.

“We want to develop new knowledge in the field,” says Professor of Mechanical Engineering Ryan Vallance, “as well as educate students about how to research and use nanotechnology.”

— JP

National Crash Analysis Center Grant Renewed

Reducing fatalities and injuries on the nation’s roadways has been the mission of the National Crash Analysis Center (NCAC) on GW’s Virginia Campus for the past 17 years. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration has recognized the center’s efforts with a five-year, $19 million grant.

The grant will fund the NCAC’s research and development of advanced crash analysis technologies, and it marks 15 years of collaboration with the Federal Highway Administration. Chartered in 1992 as part of GW’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, the NCAC is a collaborative effort among GW, the Federal Highway Administration, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Using the funding, the center’s researchers will work toward several objectives, including conducting advanced crash research to assist researchers and engineers in resolving transportation safety and security issues; applying advanced research methods and techniques for the development and evaluation of vehicles, road features, hardware, and infrastructure protection systems to improve safety and security; advancing crash analysis methods and computer simulation and modeling technologies; and conducting full-scale crash and component vehicle impact testing to produce data to improve highway and vehicle safety and physical security.

School of Engineering and Applied Science Dean David S. Dolling says the grant “reflects the confidence that our partners have in our ability to continue producing state-of-the-art crash analyses and other life-saving research.”

The NCAC’s 40-member staff conducts vehicle safety and biomechanics research, highway safety and infrastructure research, and simulation and advanced computing research at GW’s Virginia Campus and runs full-scale crash testing and composite and material tests at the Federal Outdoor Impact Laboratory in McLean, Va. The center also houses the National Crash Analysis Center Library, the largest and most comprehensive source of crash test data and vehicle safety reports in the nation.

Cancer Gala Honors Leaders, Raises Money

Above from left: Rachel Brem, director of breast imaging and intervention, professor of radiology, and vice-chair, Department of Radiology, GW Medical Center; Robert Siegel, professor of medicine, director of the Division of Hematology/Oncology, chair of the board of directors of the Dr. Cyrus and Myrtle Katzen Cancer Research Center; Jeanette A. Michael, JD ’75, former executive director, D.C. Lottery and Charitable Games Control Board and a member of the GW Board of Trustees; GW President Steven Knapp; Diane Knapp; and Steven Patierno, executive director, GW Cancer Institute.

Nearly 550 people attended the Sixth Annual GW Cancer Gala April 25 at the Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C. This year’s honorees were Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D–Mass.), Dr. Rachel Brem, and Jeanette A. Michael, JD ’75, who received the Cancer Compassion Award, the Commitment to Overcoming Cancer Award, and the Spirit of Life award, respectively. CNN’s lead political anchor and host of The Situation Room, Wolf Blitzer, served as master of ceremonies on the night and Grammy-award winning guitarist duo Al Petteway and Amy White provided the evening’s entertainment.

The annual gala honors leaders in the fight against cancer and raises funds for research and treatment, and critical cancer programs in the D.C. metropolitan area, such as free prostate cancer screenings and the GW Mammovan. D.C. has the highest cancer rate in the nation, and GW plays a pivotal role in addressing this issue through crucial community outreach, superior clinical services, groundbreaking research, innovative academic programs, and vital policy work.