“If you could bring change to Georgetown’s campus, what would you do?” This was the bold call with which ReImagine Georgetown used to attract applications from students, faculty and staff. Each year since 2007, Students of Georgetown Inc., the Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union and The Hoya united to give up to $10,000 in grants to projects that sought to“ReImagine” our university in some way. This grant program represented the very best of Georgetown; it leveraged the assets and capabilities of three of the largest and most influential student groups and helped advance the entrepreneurial spirit so embedded in the Georgetown experience. It is thus extremely unfortunate to see it come to an end.
The track record of grant recipients was clearly mixed. A large number of projects, probably too many, either never got off the ground or were discontinued only a year after the disbursement of the funds. The Georgetown University Murals Initiative, which received $3,000 one year ago, has apparently failed to paint a single mural. But for every failed project there were at least one or two resounding successes. D.C. Students Speak, an organization seeking to promote student involvement in local D.C. politics, received its initial funding from ReImagine Georgetown. Breaking the Bubble now has access to benefits under the Student Activities Commission and continues to take students on frequent trips across the District. Last year, Winter Hoyaland decorated Healy circle with a Christmas tree and various holiday decorations and plans to do so again this year.
But perhaps no RIG grant has had a bigger impact than the one allocated to the founders of the Georgetown University Farmers Market. Established in spring 2011, the market has grown exponentially and become a Georgetown staple, weather permitting, every Wednesday afternoon. The initiative is a clear example of innovative transformative leadership that has truly “ReImagined” this campus.
So why did The Corp, GUASFCU and The Hoya cancel the grant? In an article in The Hoya, (“ReImagine Georgetown Discontinued,” A1, Oct. 18, 2013) the leaders of the respective groups each listed their reasons. GUASFCU CEO Chris Kelly excused the discontinuation by noting: “I think the challenge is that you take some of the busiest people on campus, and you add on another responsibility”. Killing a brilliant and successful idea simply because of its difficulty is not just unfortunate, it is unacceptable.
A grant program such as ReImagine Georgetown could never exist without flaws. Due to the nature of grant initiatives, some projects are bound to be utter failures. And a lack of institutional continuity will always lead to difficulty with oversight. Students might not have brilliant, lasting ideas every single year. But none of these problems warrant the discontinuing of an initiative that brought Georgetown the Farmers Market. One resounding success like that every few years compensates for a plethora of failures.
The entrepreneurship demonstrated by students sets Georgetown apart from peer institutions within the United States and around the world. It is this entrepreneurial spirit that led to the establishment ofGUASFCU, the world’s largest student-run credit union, and The Corp, the world’s largest student-run business. ReImagine Georgetown afforded students the opportunity to think bold, and maybe to create the next Corp or GUASFCU; the next institution that redefines this university. If ReImagine Georgetown was not working to the satisfaction of the leaders behind it, then it was time to reimagine how the funds were allocated as well as the follow-up process. But this was not the time to make the abrupt decision to discontinue a project so embedded in the entrepreneurial spirit of Georgetown.
Christopher Stromeyer is a senior in the School of Foreign Service. He is a member of The Hoya’s Editorial Board.