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Box 571014

37th & O St, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20057

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Phone: (202) 687.6400



The Front Lines

This is an unusual week on many university campuses. Many, including Georgetown, have no classes ongoing. Students, on the whole, are not on campus. Of course, there are some graduate students continuing their research work, in libraries and laboratories. But the majority of students are at home or elsewhere.

There are some faculty in their offices on campus. A few have been here throughout the break, finalizing grades, powering through very active attention to their research, and finalizing the syllabi for their spring term courses. But, on the whole, faculty are working from home and communicating via email and other internet-assisted means to their colleagues.

There is a group of Georgetown community members who disproportionately are present on campus. They serve diverse functions, from building operations to public safety, but this post is about those who are on the front lines of the academic mission of the university.

Educational programs are organized into units that we call “departments,” “programs,” or “areas.” These programs have a variety of functions; they are homes for faculty and students; they structure the content of learning experiences. There are curricular structures for each degree, requirements and course sequences, and student deliverables to demonstrate proficiency in the learning outcomes. These units have scores of courses to design, document, organize, and offer each semester. Many of the units have ongoing research programmatic activities, with student research assistants, material needs, and financial operations.

Walking the campus this week, there are a set of academic colleagues who are physically on campus. They have titles like “administrative assistant,” “administrative officer,” “office assistant,” and “program coordinator.”

When students are on campus, they are truly the front-line of curricular support. Students inquiring about what programs entail come to them. Students seeking to speak with faculty in the department, encounter them first. Faculty seeking assistance at assembling materials, organizing Canvas sites, seeking contact with other units, work with them. Administrative units (registrar, financial aid, student affairs, financial operations) often depend on them as interfaces to students and faculty. They teach students and faculty new administrative procedures introduced in the University. They help organize convenings arising as part of the academic mission. They handle travel and other off-campus activities of faculty and students. As many of our courses involve experience-based, out-of-the-classroom features, these administrative staff become key logisticians to fulfill the educational goals.

For people outside of Georgetown, seeking to contact someone in the unit, these colleagues are their first contacts. They “answer the phone” of the academic program. They, thus, are the face of our educational units to those outside. They make the initial important impression of Georgetown to the caller.

On a week like this one, this staff is the sole presence in some of our educational spaces. They’re busy preparing for next week, when all the students hit campus, classes begin, and all the bumps of the first few days of a semester are encountered.

They don’t deliver the education; they make the education possible. Little that faculty and students do together happens without their commitment.

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Office of the ProvostBox 571014 650 ICC37th and O Streets, N.W., Washington D.C. 20057Phone: (202) 687.6400Fax: (202)

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