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Georgetown’s Growing Downtown Presence: Undergraduates on the Capitol Campus

In 2013, the School for Continuing Studies moved downtown to 640 Massachusetts Avenue NW, close to a Metro stop, and surrounded by Federal agencies employing staff seeking advancement. The school serves a need not completely fulfilled on the Hilltop campus, the training of post-baccalaureate adult learners, seeking to reskill for a career shift or advancement within a career. The school has thrived under the leadership of Dean Otter, with impressive additions of new programs at the Master’s level. Location is part of the ingredient for SCS to serve its population, as well as nimble injections of online education well-suited to the full-time employee. From an institutional perspective, this move taught us important lessons about how Georgetown can achieve its goals beyond the Hilltop Campus.

Later, we established the CALL (Capitol Applied Learning Labs), sited in the 500 First Street building, which houses a set of interdisciplinary faculty-led centers from the Law Center, the Main Campus, and the Medical Center. The CALL is part of a larger strategy of attempting more integration of the internship experiences of current Hilltop Campus undergraduate students into their academic work. The CALL students live downtown, participate in internships during the day and pursue a full load of courses at the CALL facilities, some of which are relevant to their intern experiences. Of course, COVID put a damper on much of the ambition of the program, but it is headed back with vigor in the fall. We’ve already learned of the great promise of siting the CALL downtown, convenient to many intern experiences and creating an immersive academic program as a wrap around. We can enrich the undergraduate experience through a CALL experience.

Similar logic applies to the future move of the McCourt School of Public Policy from the Hilltop to a site adjacent to the Law Center. The growth ambitions of the School cannot easily be fulfilled in the 100 or so acres on the already-densely-filled Hilltop campus. A new building, purpose-built for the public policy school, can occur on the Capitol Campus. A public policy school at the foot of Capitol Hill, in proximity to many Federal agencies, and with convening spaces for policy discussions with convenient public transportation, has strong potential to achieve faculty ambitions for the school. As part of this, the faculty of the School are interested in mounting an undergraduate public policy major, a junior-senior year curriculum designed to be completed after two years on the Hilltop Campus.

Other faculty are interested in locating additional new undergraduate programs on the Capitol Campus.

All of these activities imply that more Georgetown undergraduate students will have experiences away from the Hilltop campus. To prepare for this, two initiatives are now in progress.

The first is a new building Georgetown is constructing on 55 H Street NW. It will be a residence hall. Its design places emphasis on sustainability, consistent with university-level goals to respond to the aspirations of Laudato si’ , to address sustainability in all its initiatives. The planned opening of the residence hall is Fall, 2022.

Below is the architects’ rendering:

Below is a recent photgraph of our progress:

The residence hall will house as many as 470 students, in single bedroom, apartment style facilities. There are spaces for support staff. There are meeting spaces and an exercise space. Individual floors can be devoted to graduate or undergraduate students through restrictions on the programmable elevators.

In the early years, we anticipate that this building will house both graduate and undergraduate students, but as the number of undergraduates increases on the Capitol Campus, it may evolve to a residence only for undergraduates.

The second is a task force of colleagues that are central to supporting student needs, now meeting to propose how to provide on the Capitol Campus all of the functions now provided to undergraduates and graduate students on the Hilltop. They will create iterative proposals for organizing these functions, seeking wide stakeholder input over the coming months.

The presence of undergraduates on the Capitol Campus, in new programs enriched by the downtown location, must be carefully planned with staff, students, and faculty engaged in how to maximize the richness of the four-year experience of the student. We are at the beginning of this journey and have much to learn from our community.

One thought on “Georgetown’s Growing Downtown Presence: Undergraduates on the Capitol Campus

  1. I am glad to hear Provost Groves mention the School of Continuing Studies as an integral part of the University’s Capitol Campus initiative, for the very reasons he cites. As a newer and non-traditional school, SCS is sometimes overlooked by the rest of the Georgetown community, but though the good work of its dean and leadership group, has in fact grown into a substantial, respected and effective part of the University.

    Most importantly, SCS serves a segment of the potential student population which the University might otherwise miss: post-baccalaureate working adults who, for varying reasons, are unable to take advantage of Georgetown’s traditional professional and graduate schools, though frequently part of the “rank and file” backbone of the DC workforce. As such, they constitute one of the more socio-economically diverse bodies of matriculants in the University, including large numbers of military. They consistently prove themselves worthy of Georgetown degrees by successfully completing the School’s rigorous programs. By enhancing their skills and opportunities, SCS quietly but effectively advances Georgetown’s core mission.

    To fully unlock the School’s potential, the University should allow and direct SCS to offer degrees and programs related to public policy and administration, government, politics, economics and perhaps even international relations. It currently does not do so, presumably because of jurisdictional boundaries between it and other Georgetown schools and departments. That leaves a huge hole, as those are the very programs from which many of the School’s prospective adult learners and their DC employers could most benefit, and probably most want.

    There must be reasonable solutions to such jurisdictional issues which would make appropriate distinctions and satisfy all interested parties, as there previously were between SCS and the Business School. Because they serve different segments of the student population, SCS and Georgetown’s traditional schools complement more than compete with each other. The Capitol Campus initiative is the perfect opportunity to work out such matters, set SCS off on what could be its most successful course yet, and amplify the overall contribution of “Team Georgetown” to education and the public good.

    Bill Kuncik, SCS ’17

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