A Competitive Vision for University Growth
Published: Friday, September 14, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 14, 2012 00:09
With negotiations for the 2010 Campus Plan at a virtual standstill this spring, university leadership had an epiphany. Rather than continue to quibble with uncompromising neighbors over short-term proposals, the administration decided to broaden its vision for the future and explore opportunities for the growth of graduate programs across the District. This new perspective did not just provide a breakthrough at the campus plan negotiating table; it created the possibility for a new era of university expansion — physical, to be sure, but also academic and conceptual. The Editorial Board of The Hoya sat down recently with University President John J. DeGioia and Chief Operating Officer Chris Augostini, who provided insight into the “next 100 acres.”
Expansion Invigorates Image
Georgetown’s pursuit of satellite campuses across the D.C. metropolitan area is a momentous step forward in the university’s development. The process may take more than 20 years to complete, but it signals a commitment by the university to remain competitive as a top-tier institution.
Georgetown has long benefited from its balance of undergraduate and graduate academic opportunities. Many graduate programs feel cramped on the main campus, so relocating some of them to new spaces will provide more opportunities for growth without detracting from the Hilltop environment.
Initial discussions have explored expansion into underdeveloped areas of the District. The establishment of new Georgetown campuses elsewhere in D.C. would alleviate local tensions while building partnerships in blossoming communities.
“We are part of the fabric of this city … and we would be a crucial partner for the development of Washington,” DeGioia said.
For the university, expansion is not simply a luxury. Students in executive programs can have a difficult time attending school in our affluent and isolated community, and a move downtown will improve their access to public transportation and affordable housing. Popular and successful programs in the School of Continuing Studies will be able to continue to grow and offer a service that DeGioia says is in high demand.
“We want to contribute to the needs of the community, but we wanted to do it in a way that responded to the competitive pressures of being effective at it,” DeGioia said. In doing so, the university’s reputation — in D.C. and beyond — stands to get only stronger.
The fact that this announcement coincided with campus plan talks should not be interpreted as a compromise. If it was in fact part of a bargain, it has remarkably mutual benefits. “Once we came to this realization and were guided by longer-term thinking, that enabled the community, the District and the university to come together,” Augostini said.
Plans for expansion are not an alternate strategy for the university. They do mark a shift, but that shift points in a direction that serves all aspects of the Georgetown experience.
Undergraduates Not Overlooked
With all this talk of expanding professional and graduate programs, as undergraduates we can’t help but wonder: What about us?
One might worry that with so much focus on graduate development, the university’s attention is shifting away from the undergraduate experience. After reviewing the impact of this proposal, we are relieved and grateful to say that undergraduates remain at the center of the university’s long-term planning.
“Whatever we develop here would be designed to ensure that we sustain the commitment to undergraduate education,” DeGioia said. “The heart and soul of this place for 225 years is the undergraduate experience.”
Graduate students and professors are a valued resource in undergraduate education, and there are no plans to disrupt that relationship. DeGioia clarified that Ph.D. programs with corresponding undergraduate departments would likely stay on campus or at least maintain easy access to it, and we appreciate the university’s foresight in this regard.
What’s more, some of the space vacated by departing graduate programs is expected to serve undergraduates. “First and foremost, we want to make this a far more residential campus,” Augostini said. “And that doesn’t just mean beds.”
Whether freed-up venues are converted into housing or social space, the changes will address concerns that have been a longstanding cause for contention in town-gown relations. There has been pressure to push students back on campus for years, but only through this plan can such a move be well received by both sides.
The announcement of a development plan spanning multiple decades raises an important question for current students. It’s hard to feel strongly about campus construction that won’t be completed until after graduation; it’s even more difficult to take interest in construction that will serve future generations. But a Georgetown education is more than a four-year transaction, and it would be selfish and unproductive if each class of students stalled the administration with demands tailored to its immediate needs.
We are permanently invested in this university, and for that reason, these plans deserve our full support. Students past, present and future should be grateful that the university has ambitions for a greater role in the District and in higher education.