As Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service approaches the 2019-20 academic year, the school is developing a vision for the SFS centennial.
Unfortunately, a major fundraising effort has been the Centennial celebration’s main focus so far, along with occasional events such as the recent Lloyd George Lecture. SFS administrators must firmly define academic and student-centric goals of the Centennial while adopting the ideas of current SFS students.
Curious SFS students would be hard-pressed to identify the Centennial’s goals. To search the SFS Centennial’s website only leaves more questions. The events calendar is empty; the “Global Justice Blog” has not been updated in nine months. In fact, the Centennial’s fundraising purpose cannot be found online.
The Centennial’s Facebook page has been inactive since September 2015. The Centennial Vision Committee, formed by SFS Dean Joel Hellman in fall 2015 to guide discussions about the School’s future, has not disclosed the conclusions of these discussions to the Georgetown or SFS communities.
An utter lack of transparency raises important questions about the sources of Centennial funding.
Currently undisclosed projects have relied on fundraising appeals to alumni, including a presentation by Hellman at last April’s John Carroll Weekend, an extended weekend curated specifically for alumni.
Additionally, Hellman expressed his goal of ensuring the “SFS remains the very best place for students to study international affairs and to engage in the world … Your contributions—big and small—are absolutely critical to meet that goal” in an SFS statement directed at alumni donors.
The school must be transparent about how alumni are influencing the Centennial. This editorial board has concerns that donor interests are advanced without consultation of the Georgetown community, concerns easily alleviated by a full disclosure of priorities.
While the School should consider alumni input, the next generation of SFS undergradutes should shape future SFS projects. The SFS Academic Council hosted an “SFS Centennial Vision Dinner and Town Hall” for SFS students in September 2015, but the SFS has not yet prioritized any student suggestions. Open lines of communication between students and administrators, such as a schoolwide survey, are necessary. The group must then publicize the results of this survey to ensure voices of students are heard.
In the meantime, this editorial board has two suggestions for the Centennial’s organizers.
As the de facto home of the SFS, the Intercultural Center is a stain on the school’s image. The building’s inadequate maintenance, severe inaccessibility and poor use of space simply do not serve students well.
The SFS is not responsible for maintaining the ICC, but Centennial funds should be allocated toward a major redesign of the building, focused on creating communal spaces to benefit collaboration. The Rafik B. Hariri building, home to the McDonough School of Business, is designed to build connections between students and serves as a stellar model for a new ICC.
The Centennial should also support SFS students seeking careers in public service, in following with Georgetown’s mission of applying Jesuit values “internationally across the public, private, and academic sectors in pursuit of a better world.”
According to the Cawley Career Education Center’s 2015-16 annual report, 40 percent of Georgetown students found employment in financial services in consulting, while only 13 percent entered government or public service jobs.
The Centennial can promote public service by directing funds to the Walsh Scholars Initiative, founded in 2015 to help SFS undergraduates develop “the professional skillset and network” for public service careers. The Initiative is limited to fewer than 10 students a semester; increased funding would provide resources for more SFS students. A mission of service is intrinsic to the SFS, and careers in pursuit of this mission should be supported appropriately.
The Centennial’s organizers must ensure their goals align with those of the SFS community. Then, they must publicize those goals clearly and widely.
If the SFS is looking for a place to start, a functional, up-to-date Centennial website would serve them well.
The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and is chaired by the Opinion Editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.