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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

Faculty Town Hall -- Spring 2007

Gonda Theater
Georgetown University
January 19, 2007

Good afternoon. I am grateful for this opportunity to be together and to have a dialogue with you on a variety of projects and issues. It is my intention to devote the bulk of our time together to conversation. I look forward to hearing what's on your minds and to responding to any questions you have.

I will begin with some brief comments from a broad perspective, about Georgetown's place in higher education and some of the issues in which I believe we as an institution should engage more deeply in the immediate future.

National to Global

I talked with you in September about, and you may have heard me speak in other contexts about a significant shift in Georgetown's standing that took place over the course of several decades, 1965 to 1995, when we evolved from being an excellent regional undergraduate university to a national research university.

Many elements constituted this transition: a national admissions strategy, tuition pricing decisions and the implementation of a full-need, need-blind admissions policy, building a residential campus, the invitation to join COFHE, and our first capital campaign to name a few. We had an opportunity earlier this week to celebrate the life of former provost Don Freeze, who contributed so much to this development. I won't go into detail about the strategy involved, because many of you are already familiar with the story.

We now face a similar defining moment for Georgetown; a moment that demands that we respond to issues and opportunities that are truly global in nature. The higher education historians of the future may look back at this period as a time when some of America's great universities made a transition by decision, but also by necessity from being national universities with an international character to being truly global institutions.

What does it mean to be a global institution? This is a question we are all wrestling with in different ways.

Many of our faculty are deeply engaged on crucial global issues-- colleagues like:

  • John McNeill, whom we recently honored with an appointment as University Professor and whose recent books on environmental history include a volume on soil and one on epidemics and geopolitics;
  • Carol Lancaster, whose latest book explores foreign aid;
  • Andrew Natsios, who is President Bush's Special Envoy on Sudan;
  • Jim Feinerman, who is deeply engaged in China;
  • Bob Drinan, who is an eminent figure in human rights law;
  • Carl Dahlman, whose work focuses on the global economic effects of rapid advances in science and technology;
  • and the many colleagues who are working to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

I could go on and on, but at its core, we know that building and sustaining a faculty of globally engaged scholars is a major part of what it means to become a global institution.

Another part involves what we might call "institutional agency," by which I mean the resources, capabilities, and potentialities that accrue to Georgetown by virtue of its location in Washington, DC; its participation in multiple global networks as a Jesuit Catholic institution; and its powerful network of 140,000 alumni-- many of them well placed in government, business, and academe around the world.

How do we utilize our institutional agency to respond to the opportunities, needs, and threats presented by the forces of globalization? These are institutional questions that faculty, senior administrators, trustees, and potential investors must address together.

As we explore further the question of globalization and our response, I have had the opportunity to engage the perspectives of a broad range of faculty. Over the course of the past semester, more than 50 of you have joined me for one or another in a series of lunches to discuss the topic of globalization.

I have also had a chance to engage with many of you on other aspects of shaping our global strategy and on specific dimensions of our global work.

Many faculty are involved in our Globalization Steering Group, an ad hoc Board committee that is identifying key issues to frame our response to globalization.

I have had the chance to work closely with others of you on specific projects-- like our efforts in HIV/AIDS, global health policy, universal literacy, and interreligious understanding, and deepening our presence and relationships in specific countries. These have been productive conversations, and I am grateful to you all for sharing your insights.

These discussions have been crucial in helping us deepen our capacity to evaluate promising international partnerships that will continue to be brought forward to us.

For example, I have just returned from a trip to China for which Professor of Sociology Dennis McNamara joined me working to deepen further our relationships with the Central Party School, Renmin University, and other institutions. We had previously signed agreements with the Chinese Scholarship Council and Fudan University.

This past semester, we also launched a collaboration with Bethlehem University, and we continue to explore other possible relationships in Israel. We also formalized collaborations with St. Andrews in Scotland and Queens University, Belfast. And our campus in Doha is flourishing in its second academic year. All of these efforts have benefited from the extensive engagement of faculty in partnership with campus and University leaders.

I would argue that we are learning by doing that as a University we have shown the adaptive ability to respond to specific immediate opportunities while at the same time fostering dialogue about the overarching question that globalization raises. As we move forward, we will continue to pursue opportunities for this kind of academic engagement around the world.

Strengthening Our Own Community

While maintaining and advancing Georgetown's academic quality in the decades ahead requires a global emphasis, and the institutional agility to seize opportunities, this new opportunity-- or imperative, depending on how you see it-- raises a new question, namely: What does it mean to be the core community of a global institution? This is a question that informs our larger lives as citizens in community in a globalizing world, but I also think it as relevant for close-knit higher education communities like ours.

I'd like to offer a few preliminary thoughts, in anticipation of hearing some of your ideas, today or at a later time.

First, of course, this means continued ability to recruit and retain the very best faculty and students, with a core emphasis on excellence in undergraduate education. We continue to attract very strong applicants.

  • At the Law Center, while it is early to asses, the quality of the applicant pool appears stronger this year than last year, which had been the school's strongest year ever. Two law applicants in 10 nationwide apply to Georgetown, but of the strongest applicants nationwide, 6 in 10 apply here.
  • In the medical school, applications are up 17 percent over last year to 10,642 for 190 places in the class, while nationwide applications are up only 8 percent. This year's applicants are again academically very strong and have even stronger records of community service and health care experience than last year.
  • In undergraduate admissions, Georgetown received 4,500 early applications this year, an increase of nearly 500 over last year. Regular decision applications were due on January 10, and Charlie Deacon estimates the total applications this year at 16,400, breaking the 16,000 mark for the first time in our history. This is a significant increase over last year's total of 15,045 and also well exceeds the previous all-time high of 15,495 in 2002.

Next fall's entering class, we expect, will sustain the standards recent classes have set. As you know, last fall Georgetown's 22nd Rhodes Scholar was named, along with two George Mitchell Scholarship winners, and two Marshall Scholarship winners. Just recently, another student was awarded the Lionel Pearson Fellowship in classics. We have outstanding students here who truly make the most of all our community has to offer.

As you also know, two key issues for us to address in the years ahead to continue to attract the most talented students are the related matters of access and affordability. I will say more about a specific aspect of this shortly, but for now I will just reiterate that bolstering the financial aid endowment will be a key component of the next campaign, and that we will continue to give the most careful attention to access and affordability issues.

  • With respect to faculty, I could spend our entire time together recounting your recent achievements and still not do justice to your work:
  • You continue to attract notable external support for your research and to make discoveries that truly make a difference in human life.
  • You receive important recognition from your peers and leading organizations in the Academy.
  • You publish a remarkable number of books and articles that receive wide recognition and make important contributions to so many fields.

This is a remarkably vibrant community of scholars, and building resources for faculty support is also a chief priority for the coming years.

In terms of enhancing our academic programs, there is also much important work under way.

  • The McDonough School of Business is making strides-- with construction on the new facility begun; an outstanding performance in recent rankings, in which the graduate program is advancing significantly; and a systematic effort ongoing that focuses on how best to structure the school to put both the graduate and undergraduate programs in the best possible position.
  • With strong leadership from Rob Manuel, we have been awarded a $3 million grant to fund new programs in entrepreneurship education.
  • We continue to move forward in planning for the sciences, with a broad range of faculty deeply involved.
  • A group of faculty are finalizing a report on the status of issues raised a decade ago in the Intellectual Life Report, work that will help us strengthen even further the undergraduate academic experience.
  • We are launching the new O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, with its development led by Larry Gostin, Bernard Liese, and others.
  • We have recruited a strong new leader for the Medical Center in Howard Federoff, who joins us in April, and we have launched the search for a permanent Director of the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.
  • And we are about to begin an exploration of how to build most effectively on the ascent of the Georgetown Public Policy Institute-- where, incidentally, the number of applications has increased steadily for the past seven years, nearly doubling-- an exploration to ensure that the University solidifies its place among the nation's leading homes of public policy research and education in the years ahead.

Engagement in the District

So our community is being strengthened and sustained in notable ways, and I am deeply grateful to all of you for your work to ensure the vitality of our community here in Washington.

But I believe that the strength of our community, the strength here at home that enables us to provide leadership at a national and global level, also involves in a central way our place here in Washington. Not just the benefits we derive from our location, which are extraordinary, but also our responsibility as an institution to contribute to the District.

Many of you are also deeply involved in this work and have been for years. Jim Slevin provided extraordinary leadership in promoting both faculty and student engagement in living out our social justice mission through service to and solidarity with the residents of the District. Sam Marullo, Wally Mlyniec, Kathleen Maas Weigert, Phyllis Magrab, Craig and Sharon Ramey, and so many others continue to provide outstanding leadership. I can't tell you how grateful I am for this work.

As we consider what this moment demands of us, it is clear that attention to the District is a pressing moral concern. You all know the situation... the high rates of cancer, HIV/AIDS infection, and illiteracy and the low rates of high school graduation and still lower rates of college matriculation.

Many of you are addressing these crises:

  • Jeanne Mandleblatt oversees The Capital Breast Cancer Center, a partnership with MedStar that offers crucial services to underserved populations.
  • There is currently a bill before City Council that would add to mandatory inoculations of District girls the vaccine that Dick Schlegel developed that prevents cervical cancer.
  • Numerous faculty at the Medical Center and across the University are actively involved with programs in the District to treat HIV and AIDS and prevent further infection.
  • Our Center for Social Justice continues long-standing work in efforts to promote literacy and is working with faculty to ensure that community-based learning opportunities in our curriculum both serve the city in the best ways possible and meet rigorous academic standards.
  • The Center for Minority Educational Affairs continues to assist District students in preparing for college.

But it is clearly imperative to engage still more deeply in work to promote college access, by bolstering the quality of K-12 education and by supporting students throughout those years, by enabling them to imagine for themselves future possibilities that include a college education and all of the opportunities that education offers.

There are certain obvious opportunities for Georgetown to make a greater contribution, and I'll mention just a few. But I also welcome your thoughts on how we might deepen further our commitment to our neighbors in the District.

Initiatives like Georgetown's Institute of College Preparation, led by Charlene Brown-McKenzie, are crucially important. Many of you are familiar with this six-year program that prepares District boys and girls for college, with 92 per cent of participants enrolling in college. This program serves an area of the city where only 1/3 of students graduate from high school, and one in 20 receives a college degree. A natural next step would be to expand this program, which has already proved successful, to include still more students.

During the past three months under the guidance of Provost Jim O'Donnell, a group of Main Campus and University leaders has been developing ideas for what they call the Ward 7 Initiative. This is an effort to expand some of our successful education programs in this ward of the city, with the support of the Superintendent of Schools, who has asked us to provide this ongoing leadership. Ultimately, we expect this project to result in the signing of a formal MOU articulating the specific ways that Georgetown can expand our work in the public schools academic programs.

Finally, I'd like to mention another opportunity that will allow Georgetown to deepen our engagement in the city. As an institution, we have agreed to assist in a variety of ways to strengthen the resources relating to the renovation of parks and fields here in the District. The first project will be a major renovation of Eastern High School. This is an effort that we hope will significantly help the DC Public Schools and the community of Washington, because, the reality is, our children simply do not have the opportunity for physical education, team competition, or outdoor play that they need and deserve.

These are just a few of the ways in which I look forward to taking our engagement in the city to another level in the coming years, at the same time that we continue to strengthen our core academic community and respond to the set of challenges that globalization presents. I am grateful for the opportunity to share these thoughts with you today, and I look forward to our discussion.

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