Presidential Profile

The Search for the 17th President

[I]t has been my ardent wish to see a plan devised on a liberal scale, which would have a tendency to spread systematic ideas through all parts of this rising Empire…My mind has not been able to contemplate any plan more likely to effect the measure than the establishment of a UNIVERSITY in a central part of the United States, to which the youth…from all parts thereof might be sent for the completion of their Education in all the branches of polite literature; in Arts and Sciences, in acquiring knowledge in the principles of Politics & good Government; and…by associating with each other, and forming friendships.

George Washington, Last Will and Testament, 9 July 1799


The George Washington University, a private urban research-intensive university, located in Foggy Bottom, at the epicenter of the capital of the United States, seeks its 17th president. It is a unique and opportune moment to assume leadership of an institution with a remarkable trajectory.

The university, for most of its history, served the nation by serving its city and its region with both undergraduate and professional schools that trained a great many of the nation’s public, military, and civic leaders. Prominent figures living in the D.C. metropolitan area both attended GW and taught there. In the past 25 years, in concert with a constantly improved and now very prosperous city, GW joined the ranks of great urban universities that have emerged in America’s most vital cities. 

GW built steadily in a remarkable transformation from a regional school to a university with an admirable and much improved national and international reputation. Students and faculty are readily drawn to GW and to D.C. It is a compelling destination for study and the incubation of new knowledge. As global issues become ever more consequential and complex, the academy is a crucial partner for developing ideas and solutions. GW students and faculty are inherently drawn to these real-world challenges and are driven to take on the most important issues of our time. The Washington metropolitan region is a special environment in which to lead this effort. It contains almost all federal agencies, key international financial institutions, including the IMF and the World Bank, research institutes and NIH laboratories, numerous prominent policy think tanks, nonprofits and NGOs, booming private industry, all of the relevant and active interest group associations, and the museums and national cultural institutions that surround the national government and politicians of the country. The great federal funding agencies for the physical, biological, and social sciences, including the NSF, the NIH, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Education are all located in the D.C. metropolitan area, and GW faculty routinely are engaged in dialogue with the most important research funders in the country.

The Washington, D.C., ecosystem has proved attractive and evolving. With increasing momentum, the university has invested in the most consequential areas, recruiting an outstanding faculty, building and creating relevant schools, developing institutes, and encouraging interdisciplinary work. Students find the mix of schools, locations, and issues equally attractive, and the quality and diversity of the student body improves consistently. The university, for the undergraduate class of 2016, had 25,500 applications for a class of approximately 2,500.

The quality of scholarship and research has improved as well. In 2015, the university expended $175 million in sponsored research, a startling increase of more than 80% over the past decade. In the same year, to increase momentum, GW opened a new 500,000 square foot Science and Engineering Hall, which will add fuel to its efforts, greatly improve recruitment, and strengthen emerging, interdisciplinary science and engineering. Similar developments have occurred across the spectrum of scholarly endeavor, from the emergence of a new Cancer Center to the establishment of a world class School of Public Health.  

The university has used its hard-won prominence to raise funds and is expected to complete a $1 billion comprehensive campaign in 2017 during the current President’s tenure. It regularly builds new state-of-the-art facilities. It acquired two additional campuses, one in Northwest D.C. (Mount Vernon) and another in Northern Virginia. It added the school of the Corcoran Museum of Art (directly across the street from the White House), which is now GW’s Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, to its portfolio in 2014. The university regularly establishes new partnerships with local and international organizations to add to its academic distinction.

As it approaches its bicentennial in 2021, GW will require a president who will embrace deeply held university values of public and civic service; engaged, experiential learning; and academically distinguished research and scholarship that focus on some of the most consequential issues of our time. The next president must articulate GW’s compelling and unique identity and simultaneously strengthen its core functions, in all of their dimensions, in service of its mission.  The president will lead a university with a proud tradition and exciting momentum, drawing upon an array of resources in the National Capital Region found nowhere else and powered by the most talented group of students and faculty in its history.

The executive search firm of Isaacson, Miller has been retained to assist in the search. All inquiries, nominations, and applications should be directed to the search firm, as indicated at the end of this document.


The George Washington University was chartered by Congress in 1821 to fulfill its namesake’s vision of a national university that would educate the next generation of citizen leaders. Since its founding, the university’s mission has been to educate students representing diverse perspectives and interests so that they may become well-informed, ethically-grounded citizens. It has served as an engine of social mobility, and the leaders it produced have sought and found creative solutions to society’s most complex problems. The university has thrived, and it is currently ranked No. 56 among National Universities by U.S. News and World Report. Competing with some of the finest public and private research universities nationally, GW is a comprehensive university with broad responsibility for education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

The strong link between teaching and research is reinforced throughout the university. GW uses D.C. as its classroom, and classes routinely take advantage of the university's location by visiting the U.S. Capitol, the Newseum, and President George Washington's Mt. Vernon Estate, just to name a few venues.  GW students have research opportunities with nearly every federal agency and multilateral groups including the National Institutes of Health, the Naval Research Lab, Smithsonian Institution, and the World Bank. Students take full advantage of more than 12,000 opportunities for real-world learning experiences through internships, and more than two-thirds of GW undergraduates and thousands of graduate students have at least one internship before they graduate.

The university’s main campus is in downtown Washington, D.C., four blocks to the west of the White House. The campus, encompassing approximately 43 acres, consists of academic, research, administrative, residence-hall, and student services buildings. In addition to the Foggy Bottom Campus, there are GW campuses in Northwest D.C. (Mount Vernon campus) and Northern Virginia. Both of these campuses add welcome facilities and space and enhance the offerings of the Foggy Bottom Campus.

GW is a private institution consisting of approximately 1,500 faculty members, 10,000 undergraduate students and 17,000 graduate and professional students. It offers hundreds of degrees and certificates, including a baccalaureate in approximately 100 different fields, a master’s degree in 150 fields, and a degree at the doctoral level in 50 different fields.  Few universities of this size have the diversity and breadth of educational opportunities, including internships with local and international organizations, and the well-connected faculty that GW offers.

The university consists of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences (which includes the School of Media and Public Affairs, the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, and the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration), the Elliott School of International Affairs, the Milken Institute School of Public Health, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of Business, the Law School, the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, the School of Nursing, and the College of Professional Studies (which includes the Graduate School of Political Management). Additional information about schools and colleges can be found at

GW has long enjoyed considerable strategic advantages made available by its privileged location. GW has more than 100 prominent visitors to campus each year, from the U.S. president to Supreme Court justices to cabinet secretaries to visiting heads of state. In addition, each entering freshman class experiences an election cycle during its time at GW and the excitement it brings to the capital city. GW is proud of its ongoing commitment to the education of citizen leaders and touts engagement and service as a common value shared by the entire GW community. Over the past six years, students, faculty, and staff have completed 1.9 million service hours in D.C. and around the globe. The university is consistently recognized as a top Peace Corps producer and top contributor to Teach for America. The Aspen Institute’s Impact Careers Initiative reported that GW produced the second-highest number of professionals entering government, education, or nonprofit fields among national universities.

The university’s location has also endowed GW with considerable real estate assets. The university invested systematically in real estate at a time when Washington was less prosperous. The growth and ascendance of Washington, D.C., has provided numerous opportunities to leverage commercial properties like The Avenue and 2100 Penn Ave. to support academic programs. At the same time, GW is limited by enrollment caps set by Washington, D.C., and by the geographical boundaries restricting the land that it can occupy in Foggy Bottom, prompting the university to develop more intensive use of its space in Foggy Bottom and to expand in other areas. In all of its building projects, the university is committed to sustainability. GW was recognized as a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School in 2015 for its sustainability efforts including the construction of several new LEED certified buildings such as the Milken Institute School of Public Health building.

Strategic Plan

In May 2013, the GW Board of Trustees unanimously approved an ambitious new strategic plan to guide the university’s aspiration to become one of the world’s premier research institutions in the next decade. Vision 2021: A Strategic Plan for the Third Century of The George Washington University articulates four themes: innovation through cross-disciplinary collaboration; globalization of GW’s educational and research programs; expansion of programs that focus on governance and policy in the public and private sectors; and emphasis on infusing the ideas of citizenship and leadership into a wide range of programs and activities. An overarching theme of Vision 2021 is a commitment to become a global leader in addressing the challenges facing the world and higher education in the coming decades. For additional information on the strategic plan, please go to

A key feature of the Vision 2021 strategic plan is emphasis on cross-disciplinary work that draws upon and transcends historical discipline-oriented fields and the establishment of a rigorous general undergraduate curriculum. In 2013, GW began admitting students to the university as a whole eliminating barriers that precluded students from taking advantage of the full breadth of the curriculum. The university also launched degree programs in Biomedical Engineering, Law and Society, and Sustainability and implemented policies that made it easier for students to transfer among schools. The number of students enrolled in minors or second majors in multiple schools increased from 676 in 2011 to 1,002 in 2015. In 2014, the university’s expanded its footprint in the arts with a historic arts agreement with the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Corcoran College of Art and Design, and the National Gallery of Art. GW assumed ownership of Corcoran College, now renamed the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design within the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

The strategic plan also called for significant investments to support research, particularly to expand the potential of science and engineering research. The 500,000-square-foot Science and Engineering Hall (SEH) opened in December 2014 and is the largest, most technologically advanced academic building dedicated to these fields in the nation’s capital. The building’s state-of-the-art design encourages collaboration across disciplines and nearly doubled the space dedicated to science and engineering programs on campus. The new building, along with the metropolitan area’s rapidly growing STEM sectors, will play a significant role in the university’s ability to recruit world-class researchers, faculty, and students. In addition to the School of Engineering and Applied Science, SEH houses faculty and students from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, the Milken Institute School of Public Health, and the School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Two other strategic plan themes—expansion of programs that focus on governance and policy in the public and private sectors and emphasis on infusing the ideas of citizenship and leadership into a wide range of programs and activities—continue to be emphasized. The next president will have the opportunity to review the strategic plan with the university community to ensure its continued relevance.


Today, GW welcomes students from every state in the U.S. and from 130 foreign countries. Students are drawn to GW in part because it gives them a front row seat in the theater of history. The “only at GW” experience manifests itself in a student body that is regularly ranked among the most politically active in the nation and is listed by The Princeton Review as No. 1 for “Best Schools for Internships.” In 2016, the yield on admissions was approximately 25 percent, and the median SAT score was approximately 1,300. For the freshman class entering the Fall of 2016, GW received more than 25,500 applications, offering admissions to a little more than 40 percent of applicants. More than 1,500 military students, veterans, and their dependents attended GW during the 2014-2015 school year. GW has about 500 student athletes who maintain outstanding GPAs while competing in a wide variety of sports.

Recognizing the changing demographics in the nation and the world, the university has taken great steps toward increasing diversity on campus. After implementing a test-optional policy in 2015, GW saw an increase of approximately 80 percent in the number of Black students who will enroll as first time undergraduates at GW this fall, and a 13 percent and 8 percent increase in Hispanic and first-generation students, respectively. The university has increased its efforts to establish programs that reduce or even eliminate the unmet needs of students, including a program with the Posse Foundation that covers tuition of diverse students from outside Washington, D.C., and District Scholars, which offers full aid awards to students from D.C. high schools. The university has also shown considerable progress towards its goal to increase international enrollment, with the percentage of international undergraduates enrolling for the first time increasing from 7 percent in 2011 to approximately 12 percent in 2016. The challenge for the next president is to ensure that every student, regardless of their national origin, socio-economic background, gender or race is both successful and excels in the university environment.

In order to support its commitment to access, GW has worked to contain tuition increases while also increasing financial aid significantly in recent years. GW became one of the first universities to embrace a fixed-tuition policy. Since 2004, undergraduates have enrolled under a program whereby a student's tuition is guaranteed to remain at the same rate for up to five years of attendance at the university. The Power and Promise student scholarship fund has raised more than $120 million for scholarships since 2009. Today, more than 60 percent of undergraduates receive financial assistance from the university and 14 percent of undergraduates receive need-based federal Pell Grants.

Graduate schools always have had a prominent role at GW. Successful young adults in business, public service, and civic life who had launched their careers in D.C. turned to GW as their home university. The professional schools responded and prospered, drawing upon their location to attract faculty, including prominent practitioner faculty. They provided an excellent education and connected students with national and international leaders in law, government, policy, management and the health sciences.

The Law School, which just finished celebrating its 150th year, is the oldest school of law in D.C. and is ranked 25th among law schools in the country by U.S. News and World Report. The publication consistently ranks it as a top school for intellectual property law and ranks its part-time program No. 3. The Law School benefits from its proximity to the Department of Justice, Department of State, World Bank, and federal and local courts, and students can broaden their experience through joint degree programs at other GW schools, robust internship and work options, and opportunities for community engagement at 15 legal clinics in D.C.

The Business School continues to enhance its global reputation and reach. The undergraduate and graduate International Business programs are ranked 10th and 15th, respectively, and its Global MBA is ranked 40th by Bloomberg Businessweek. Long recognized as an elite program for international study, the Elliott School of International Affairs is ranked among the Top 10 international affairs programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level by Foreign Policy magazine. The School of Medicine and Health Sciences was the first medical school in the nation’s capital and is ranked 63rd for research and 87th for primary care by U.S. News and World Report. The school recently redesigned its curriculum to link medicine with training in policy and public health, leveraging its location to engage students with national leaders in health policy issues.  The school also boasts excellent health science programs, which are not often found in a medical school but are among the most highly ranked programs in the university.

Recent developments at several of GW’s graduate schools reflect its position as a university on the rise. In the wake of an $80 million transformative gift in 2015, the Milken Institute School of Public Health established its position as an international leader in health policy. The school is ranked among the Top 15 public health graduate schools, and its Master of Health Administration program jumped from 22 to 16 in the most recent U.S. News and World Report ranking. The GW School of Nursing transitioned from a department within the School of Medicine to its own school in 2010 and is now ranked among the Top 50 schools of nursing in the country. Over the past five years, the program has expanded its academic offerings and enrollment has grown by more than 400 students. More than 500 students are enrolled in its online program, which is ranked 13th out of 145 programs nationwide by U.S. News and World Report.

Faculty and Staff

GW has approximately 1,500 faculty members whose primary association is with the university. The university has 95 endowed faculty positions and more than 65 current and former Fulbright Scholars serve on the faculty. Supreme Court justices Clarence Thomas, William Strong, Willis Van Devanter, and John Marshall Harlan all have taught courses at the university. GW makes a point of connecting academia to policy and the workplace and employs a variety of teaching adjunct faculty who are renowned in their fields.

As the university has grown, it has benefited from an advantageous market for faculty.  Washington is an attractive location with its thriving restaurant, museum and cultural scene, ethnic diversity, and easy proximity to recreational areas. GW’s growth and constant improvement has given it the opportunity to hire among the very best young faculty on the market.

GW is committed toward building a more diverse faculty. The faculty is approximately 40 percent women, underrepresented minorities make up approximately 10 percent of the GW faculty, and about 25 percent of faculty identify as part of a minority group. The university has a variety of programs to increase the diversity of faculty and staff hires.

GW has a devoted and capable administrative, athletic department, and support staff to assist faculty and students and to maintain the safety of the entire GW community.


Advancing GW’s research agenda has been one of the university’s top priorities. It has made great strides in federally funded research and the quality and impact of scholarship. GW ranks 83rd in federal research expenditures, according to the latest figures from the National Science Foundation, its highest position ever and 25 spots up from its 2007 ranking. Total research expenditures for fiscal year 2015 were approximately $175 million. GW attributes its rise among premier research institutions to its emphasis on cross-disciplinary collaboration, recruitment of top talent across all disciplines, and investment in research administration. The university has succeeded in utilizing its proximity to the majority of federal funding agencies and other government and regulatory bodies. Faculty across the university serve as experts on federal panels and have the opportunity to meet in person with program officers. In collaboration with GW deans and faculty leaders in their schools, the university has launched key research initiatives such as the Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute, Cancer Center, Computational Biology Institute, Global Women’s Institute, Institute of Neuroscience, and Sustainability Collaborative, among others. GW scientists are increasingly the recipients of large federal grants aimed at addressing some of the world’s most pressing health challenges such as AIDS and diabetes. The university’s investment in the state-of-the art Science and Engineering Hall has paid off by attracting new students and outstanding faculty. Graduate programs in the sciences are blossoming as a result, and stronger collaborations are being forged with nearby government research facilities such as the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, the Naval Research Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and the David Taylor Naval Research Center, among others.

GW’s location naturally positions it for institutional leadership on research and education in the arenas of governance and policy. University faculty collaborate with international governmental research institutes and agencies on advances in scientific and technological policymaking. GW regularly hosts domestic and international experts on campus for roundtable discussions and has been a prominent source of policy recommendations on such topics as the online recruitment of extremists.


Each year at its Commencement ceremony on the National Mall, the university adds approximately 5,000 graduates to its worldwide alumni community, now numbering more than 275,000. GW alumni can be found in every U.S. state, the District of Columbia, and 150 countries around the world. These diverse graduates have many ways to connect with GW through more than 70 domestic and international networks, cross-disciplinary and industry-based professional networks, and student-alumni mentorship and career programs. GW alumni are the institution’s greatest advocates and ambassadors, and they provide substantial financial support to the university.

GW alumni include household names as well as individuals who have made significant contributions in the arts, sciences, media, public health, international affairs, and public service. Notable graduates include basketball legend Arnold "Red" Auerbach BS ’40, MA ’41, former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis BA ’51, Senator Harry Reid JD ’64, former Secretary of State Colin Powell MBA ’71, actress Kerry Washington BA ’98 and Olympian Elana Meyers BS ’06, MTA ’11.

All graduates of GW become automatic members of the GW Alumni Association upon graduation.  An independent 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the GWAA promotes a culture of “Colonials Helping Colonials” among graduates.


The university remains in strong financial condition thanks to careful shepherding of resources, smart endowment management, and strong student demand. As with many universities, GW must carefully control expenses and allocate resources strategically. GW’s operating budget for fiscal year 2017 is approximately $1 billion and the university’s bonds are rated A1 and A+ by Moody’s and S&P, respectively. The university’s endowment in the fiscal year 2014-2015 was $1.616 billion, generating $73.7 million in support of university activities. GW is heavily tuition-dependent and efforts have been underway for the past several years to mitigate the impact of rising costs on students. In 2009, the university launched the Innovation Task Force to identify efficiencies and savings that would be redirected to academic priorities.

GW is now working with a modified RCM (Responsibility Center Management) budget model, which is used increasingly by a number of universities in the U.S. The model gives schools far more control over new tuition revenues from graduate, off-campus, and online programs than they formerly enjoyed. The university also has adopted a five-year budget planning process that is introducing new levels of accountability by each of the deans and within each of the schools and of transparency into the annual budgeting process. These new tools will enable GW to react more nimbly to changes in the marketplace and create a more strategic and aggressive approach to recruiting graduate students and developing educational innovations such as an integrated approach to online instruction.


Current fundraising is built on an ambitious comprehensive campaign launched in 2011: “Making History: the Campaign for GW.” The campaign launched its public phase in 2014, and as of 2016, the university has raised more than $880 million towards its overall goal of $1 billion. GW expects to complete this campaign in 2017. As of September 2016, more than 60,000 total donors have contributed to the campaign, 38,000 of whom are alumni. During the campaign, faculty and staff giving has generated more than $8 million and parent giving has accounted for more than $47 million. Key to the success of the campaign has been the ability of the university to attract gifts from donors with no prior affiliation to the school. A salient example is the combined Michael Milken-Sumner Redstone $80 million gift to what is now the Milken Institute School of Public Health. Philanthropic investments remain vitally important to the goals of supporting students and faculty and raising the university’s overall excellence.


Articulate and execute a distinctive vision for the university

As an institution that has made dramatic strides in quality and stature, GW is a dynamic and still evolving university. The next president will have the opportunity to work with the essential   stakeholders to shape the identity of the institution and to galvanize the community by articulating GW’s unique position in the academy. The president will lead GW to take even greater advantage of its location and relationships with prominent institutions in the D.C. area. It is already an institution that drives policy and public discourse and provides myriad opportunities for students, but there is more potential to be realized. At the same time, GW’s success has catapulted it into competition with a group of well-resourced institutions at a time when higher education is grappling with critical issues of cost, technology, and globalization. In order for GW to maintain its momentum, the next president must leverage the university’s unique position in the geopolitical capital of the world to work on the most important national and global problems across the full range of disciplines – from science and engineering to public policy and business to health care and the law.

The university seeks a persuasive and magnetic public figure who can articulate a clear vision to a wide range of audiences and stakeholders, represent the university to key audiences in D.C., nationally, and around the world and keep the university focused on its strategic goals.   

Enhance the academic distinction of the university and improve the scholarly success of the faculty

The George Washington University has consistently invested in the academic distinction of its faculty. It has recruited eminent senior faculty and promising junior faculty. It invests carefully and productively, building facilities and establishing new schools that compete with some of the best in the world. It is a constantly improving university that operates in a highly competitive environment. It will need to marshal its resources, plan for academic eminence, and strongly encourage cross-school and cross-disciplinary investment.

The next president should constantly raise expectations for academic distinction while teaching and leading the academic community to realize its vision within an environment that will continually challenge available resources. The university in its planning and its administration should consistently encourage deans, chairs, and faculty to pursue innovative opportunities that align with a cohesive university vision. It must connect programs across GW to leverage strengths and to pursue ventures that explore exciting intellectual territories, while cultivating a culture of thoughtful risk taking as it relates to teaching, scholarship, and resource development.

GW needs a president who can inspire the faculty, staff, and student body and can align all the parts of the university to systematically improve the university’s academic standing.

Pursue opportunities for strategic and mission-driven revenue generation and for useful savings for reinvestment

In a time when higher education must re-think its traditional financial model, the next president must lead GW to enhance and align its financial resources with its academic mission. GW has enjoyed consistently strong student demand over the past several years, allowing it to become increasingly selective while also carefully growing enrollment in targeted areas. The university is moving to a modified RCM model to empower its schools. In addition to tuition revenue, which accounts for 60 percent of the university’s budget, GW relies on auxiliary revenues, endowment, and an investment real estate portfolio valued at more than $900 million. Each makes a contribution and supports academic priorities, and the president must ensure that they are contributing optimally to the mission.

Even with these advantages, the next president and his/her administration must find new targets for revenue generation and equally important, for meaningful cost savings. University advancement in critical areas, like student financial aid, faculty recruitment and retention, and the development of new initiatives depends on diligent attention to finance. The university’s diminished ability to increase net tuition and the student headcount cap on the main campus imposed by the District of Columbia create significant pressures, but the schools and the administration also have real and creative opportunities for growth in complementary locations in the District and more broadly in the metropolitan area. The president must strategically incentivize smart investments, demonstrate tactical clarity, empower entrepreneurial deans, make thoughtful decisions to prioritize opportunities, and empower others to find targeted tactical solutions that will add up to significant revenue and savings.

Develop effective systems to manage a complex enterprise and to enable a culture of service

While the next president will play an important external role, he or she also must create an environment conducive to effective internal management, with clear systems that allow for the execution of projects and smooth day-to-day operations. GW has prospered and grown over the years into a diverse and sprawling enterprise. Like all complex organizations, the scale of the university offers opportunities for best practices and consolidation that will lead to more efficient operations and improved service to all of its constituents—students, faculty, and staff. The president will promote a culture of service excellence in support of the educational and research mission. The university will welcome an engaged, consultative leader who addresses issues directly while frequently and openly communicating with faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Recruiting top talent into key positions, streamlining processes and eliminating bureaucracy, and ensuring the high performance of the university administration will be a critical factor in executing difficult tasks and building trust.

Deepen the sense of community and commitment to diversity and inclusion

The university is a cosmopolitan enterprise with a long history of educating students from a broad array of backgrounds in the heart of a diverse and global city. GW always has been a crucial engine of social mobility to local students and military servicemen/women – groups it still proudly serves.

The president will be expected to lead GW’s broad ranging definition of diversity and to provide the leadership that enables high ideals of inclusivity to be achieved with the faculty, the student body, and the staff. The university has taken steps toward increasing diversity on campus in recent years with policies such as test-optional admissions and increased work with national and city programs leading to double-digit percentage growth in applications from first-generation and minority applicants. Work to further diversity – not just through admissions but also through improving campus climate and ensuring student success – will require continued effort and leadership from the president. The centrality of diversity, broadly defined, to the university’s history and mission requires a president who enthusiastically engages with faculty, students, staff, and alumni, listening to their concerns and partnering with them. The future success of GW will depend heavily on the president’s ability to engage the university in meaningful conversation, create a more inclusive environment, and develop ideas to deepen community.

Enhance efforts to improve the student experience and student success

The university must ensure that student services and supports are in place to allow students to extract the most out of their experience and to take advantage of the breadth of opportunities at the university and in the surrounding area. GW brings students to the nation’s capital to take advantage of all of Washington, D.C. Its curriculum champions hands-on learning opportunities and community engagement, and the opportunities for internships are unparalleled. The president should advance opportunities for pedagogical innovation, including the use of technology, to create a more distinctive educational experience that helps students to grow intellectually and to flourish professionally. It is critical that the university increase its retention rate and its 79 percent 6-year undergraduate graduation rate. Progress in these areas will require leadership from the president and a multi-faceted approach that includes admissions, academic support services, financial aid, career services, and academic planning and assessment.

Sustain and grow fundraising

The university has had several recent fund-raising successes and is nearing the completion of the largest fundraising campaign in its history. The next president must build on this success, developing a culture of pride among students and alumni, cultivating additional relationships, and making a compelling case for why support for GW is an investment that benefits the community and the world.


GW seeks an exceptional leader with the vision, leadership qualities, and energy to elevate an already outstanding institution. Although the search committee understands that no single candidate will have all of the ideal qualifications, it seeks candidates with the following experience and abilities: 

  • Proven, Visionary Leadership: A record of imaginative and verifiable success that will inspire and earn the confidence of all the university’s constituents; the proven capacity to weave a compelling and authentic narrative about the institution(s) she or he has served; a record of advancing an organization’s profile and reputation; and a record of leading strategic change through reasonable risk-taking.
  • Academic Distinction and Intellectual Leadership: A strong academic record or equivalent measure of excellence and a commitment to exceptional scholarly inquiry; a deep appreciation of the research mission and the capacity to build research, teaching, and scholarly programs at significant scale; a thorough understanding of and commitment to the undergraduate experience, coupled with appreciation and enthusiasm for stellar graduate and professional education; a commitment to the full range of academic disciplines; a demonstrated respect for academic freedom and diverse opinions on key social and political questions of the day; a dedication to faculty professional advancement.
  • An Exceptional Leadership Style: Excellence in communication, with the ability to energize and inspire faculty, students, staff, parents, alumni, trustees, and external stakeholders; strong political skills indicating an ability to thrive in the D.C. environment and to develop a close working relationship with leaders in the District; a collaborative, inclusive, pragmatic and transparent leadership style, with a willingness to consult and listen; a proven efficacy in working with a governing board.
  • Demonstrated Management Acumen: The ability to build strong management teams; the courage to make difficult decisions and to execute large, ambitious, and fiscally responsible plans; a record of successful administrative leadership of a complex institution; a record of effectively recruiting and retaining strong executives; a deep understanding of the financial complexities of higher education; demonstrated experience in effectively dealing with unexpected circumstances; and an innovative approach to revenue generation.
  • Proven Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion: Broad experience with diverse students, faculty, and communities, and the proven capacity to embrace diversity in all aspects, including the capacity to recruit, welcome, retain, and build an integrated, inclusive, and diverse culture; recognized skill as a gifted communicator about issues related to diversity and inclusion.
  • Dedication to the Student Experience: The desire, empathy, and commitment to be visible and accessible to students, manifesting themselves in communicating clearly and often with students utilizing social media and other technologies; a readiness to listen carefully and follow through in tangible ways so that students believe their voices have been heard. Deep personal commitment to teaching and learning. Understanding of the complexities of student life on college campuses and dedication to improving the student experience so that students feel strongly committed to GW on day one of their enrollment.
  • Commitment to Fundraising: The desire to represent GW with donors and to develop ideas that will support ambitious philanthropic goals; the ability to energize students and alumni to support and champion the entire institution; the capacity to connect with and relate to members of the GW community on a personal level; the ability to listen acutely to others and thus build strong relationships.
  • Personal Character: Uncompromising integrity; the highest standards of ethics and accountability; self-awareness; a style of communication that is values-based, honest, and transparent and operates well under pressure; a charismatic and optimistic personality.


The George Washington University has retained Isaacson, Miller, a national executive search firm, to assist in this search. All inquiries, nominations, and applications, should be directed in confidence to:


John Isaacson, Chair
John Muckle, Vice President
Greg Esposito, Managing Associate
263 Summer Street
7th Floor
Boston, MA 02210

Electronic submission of materials is strongly encouraged.


The university is an Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer that does not unlawfully discriminate in any of its programs or activities on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or on any other basis prohibited by applicable law.