November 19th, 2010
My family and I recently spent the evening viewing African animals, glaciers, icebergs, and choreography by Professor of Dance Maida Withers. In the Washington, D.C. premiere of Farewell, the End of the World as We Know It OR Dancing Your Way to Paradise, Withers dramatically performed a multi-media piece that reflected her ongoing interests in ecology and the environment.
Conceived, choreographed, and performed by Withers, the piece was illustrated by visually delightful images from across the globe that flashed behind her as she danced. I was intrigued by the international influences and fascinated by the resulting composition. With other members of the Maida Withers Dance Construction Company, Withers has performed sections of this project in New York and Salt Lake City as well as abroad in Nairobi, Kenya, and Rio de Janerio.
If you’re on campus this weekend, be sure to catch Fall Danceworks, which will feature choreography by faculty, including Withers, and students. Performances will continue November 19, and 20 at the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre.
November 10th, 2010
Philosophy Professor Paul Churchill, Dean Barratt, Makwei Mabioor Deng, and Evan Faber.
I recently met an incredible young man named Makwei Mabioor Deng, GW’s first Banaa Scholar. Originally from a village in the southern Sudan, Deng and his family fled to the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya where they lived for 16 years. Deng came to GW via the Banaa scholarship program in 2008 and is now majoring in philosophy with aspirations of law school.
On top of his full load with GW, Deng recently completed a book in Dinka, the language spoken by the more than three million Jieng people in the Sudan and across the globe. His efforts will help transition Dinka from an oral language to a standardized written language, and his book has the potential to introduce written language the Jieng people.
Banaa was created by recent alumni Evan Faber, BA ’09, Justin Zorn, BA ’08, and a few of their fellow students activists during their time at GW. Arabic for “build” or “create,” Banna provides a free education to Sudanese students in the United States on the condition that they will return home to improve their country. Its mission is to improve the conflicts in Dafur and Sudan by empowering peacemakers both within and without of the countries.
GW is currently accepting applications for an additional Banaa student to begin in Fall 2011. I encourage you to learn more about Banaa.org and their efforts and view the video about Deng’s experience thus far.
October 28th, 2010
Photograph by Zain Shah.
Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance Dana Tai Soon Burgess opened his new performance Charlie Chan and the Mystery of Love last Friday to much anticipation thanks to a feature story in The Washington Post. In this autobiographical piece, Dana’s choreography reveals a glimpse into his childhood in Santa Fe, where he grew up watching and admiring Charlie Chan on television. The fluid movements of his dancers were exquisite and brought to life this profound coming-of-age story. Dana’s play received rave reviews this week by The Post’s Sarah Kaufman, who concluded that “with this work, [Dana Tai Soon Burgess] deserved to be crowned poet laureate of Washington dance.”
October 22nd, 2010
Last weekend, the campus was bursting with students and their parents, siblings, grandparents, and friends. Colonials Weekend is a time for families to visit, spend some time with their Colonial, and learn more about GW. This year’s festivities included live music and performances, pumpkin carving at the annual Octoberfest on the Mount Vernon Campus, and two performances by comedian Jimmy Fallon.
At the Parent’s Association Advisory Council meeting, I chatted with parents about our academics and the improvements we’ve made to our advising system. They were pleased to hear that we’ve doubled the number of professional advisors now available to undergraduates. On Saturday morning, nearly 500 parents and students stopped by the Dean’s Breakfast to socialize with members of our faculty and administration. I spoke to them about the special academic opportunities we offer our students, such as the Dean’s Seminars for freshmen.
It was an all-around great weekend, and I appreciate the efforts families made to join us and their students on campus for the festivities.
July 15th, 2010
Jody Schlagel, Richard Schlagel, and Dean Barratt.
Recently I had lunch with Elton Professor of Philosophy Emeritus Richard Schlagel and his wife Jody. Professor Schlagel, with Jody’s support and stylistic critiques, just authored a new book, Seeking the Truth: How Science has Prevailed over the Supernatural World View. This sweeping intellectual history compares the world views of science and religion and traces them back to the ancient Greek philosophers and the early threads of the Judaic and Christian religions. He talks about the origins of today’s science disciplines—chemistry, geology, evolution, physics—and then argues that modern scientific inquiry is clearly a fundamental doctrine underlying democratic societies and an educated citizenry.
Over lunch, the Schlagels and I discussed how Seeking the Truth offers a perspective consistent with the doctrine of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences: An educated individual must have a broad knowledge of the humanities, the arts, the sciences, and the social sciences.
I highly recommend this book and the many others written by our talented faculty.
June 30th, 2010
Shakespeare Theatre Company Director Michael Kahn, Dean Barratt, and Academy for Classic Acting Director Gary Logan.
The Academy for Classical Acting is GW’s one-year intensive MFA program that is a collaborative undertaking with Washington, D.C.’s Shakespeare Theatre Company. This year’s students are finishing their year of study by performing two plays in repertory: King Lear by William Shakespeare and The Malcontent by John Marston.
DC area alumni were invited to join in a reception on opening night to learn more about the Academy for Classical Acting from our Shakespeare Theatre partner Michael Kahn. Guests also received a brief synopsis of King Lear from Academy Director Gary Logan. I personally had the opportunity to attend both performances, and I was completely carried away into Shakespeare’s time with stories that are still so relevant for today. Performances of both plays continue this week; you can find more details and reserve tickets at: http://www.shakespearetheatre.org/academy/index.aspx.
May 19th, 2010
Last week, I attended the annual spring luncheon of the George Washington University Heritage Society, which recognizes individuals who generously support GW through a bequest intention or other form of planned gift. GW President Steven Knapp, Diane Robinson Knapp, and Heritage Society Chairman Eugene Lambert, BA ’57, hosted the celebration in the elegant setting of the St. Regis Hotel. It was a lovely event that featured a talk by Professor Leslie Jacobson, Director of Columbian College’s Academy for Classical Acting, and a fabulous performance by actors who had been students in the program.
The Society welcomed this year 40 new members, many of whom are Columbian College graduates. Thank you for your support and continued faith in the work of Columbian College and the University!
View the Heritage Society Luncheon Program.
May 14th, 2010
Michelle Obama volunteers with GW students.
Inside the halls of Columbian College, the classrooms have gone dark and the stairwells are quiet. Quite a contrast to the outside where students carry bursting bags and boxes to the curb, parents tour through Kogan Plaza and University Yard, booksellers collect used text books, and professors rush to their offices to finish their grading.
Another semester has come to a close and though the students’ work is done, faculty and staff continue to bustle as we prepare for this weekend’s Commencement and Columbian College Celebration.
All of GW, and indeed most of Washington, is a buzz about our Commencement keynote speaker, First Lady Michelle Obama. Last fall, Mrs. Obama challenged GW students to complete 100,000 hours of community service this year and in exchange she would deliver the keynote speech at Commencement.
I am so proud and thrilled that more than 3,800 GW students, faculty, staff and members of the Board of Trustees rose to the First Lady’s challenge and completed community service projects—including painting Habitat for Humanity homes; giving a make-over to a Washington, D.C. high school on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; and taking “alternative spring and winter break” trips to rebuild homes in New Orleans, comfort the sick in Ecuador, and provide educational assistance to Sudanese refugees in Nashville. This weekend, Mrs. Obama will honor GW’s service tradition and all our amazing graduates.
To our departing graduates, congratulations to you all! Be proud of your accomplishments and please keep in touch with your friends at Columbian College. We wish you the best in all your future endeavors!