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July 2013

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Strengthening Field Experience and Changes in Leadership

Message from the President


In our February newsletter I emphasized our greater focus on accreditation in light of the recent site visit and the enthusiasm for our progress. I can’t help but feel optimistic over the improvements we’ve made in the past 18 months.

As we press forward on all fronts, a few items on our checklist have become increasingly more important to me personally as key components of our institutional mission. Enriching our field experience requirement, aligning it with accreditation standards, and broadening our reach with pre-college feeder institutions are areas that I feel need our attention.

In my own education, I was fortunate enough to have an internship as my required field experience that both set a fire and left a lasting impression on my psyche. In my case, it was the sobering opportunity to see how the UN functions up close and personal in both New York and Istanbul. Binding agreements were being prepared that would have coerced several developing nations into recognizing same sex marriage and restricting family size in order to receive financial assistance. As GW students invited by United Families International, we threw ourselves into the fray by applying our understanding of parliamentary procedure, diplomacy and principles of good government. In the end, we were able to negotiate amendments to those policies in a way that significantly neutralized their negative consequences. I worked with some amazing people and the experience provided invaluable lessons. This direct application of my education in the real world brought the principles from all my years of study and simulations at George Wythe to life—cementing the lessons firmly and securing my ideological path. This internship was not just the capstone of my undergraduate years, it launched a new beginning in my commitment and my sense of urgency to move the cause of liberty. I would like to see every student at GWU given a similar if not better opportunity in their field experiences.

Although some students may be able to find such opportunities on their own, having the university arrange the majority of these in advance can help ensure that they are powerful and effective. Because internships are a graduation requirement, consistency in their criteria also becomes an accreditation issue that needs attention. Arranging a robust menu of these opportunities and pre-approving them will both satisfy this accreditation need and meaningfully enrich the education of our students.

Many pivotal and influential organizations and businesses across the nation are eager to provide these experiences, and arranging opportunities in as many states as possible would be ideal. Nurturing these business and political relationships, however, will be time consuming. To this end, I have asked for the opportunity to cultivate those relationships by serving in an ambassadorial role as the Business and Government Affairs Liaison for the board of trustees.

Setting up these alliances will require a significant commitment of time and attention, and so I have asked that my official duties be realigned so that I can give this greater priority. In February I requested that a new interim president be appointed to replace me, and in our May board meeting we nominated and unanimously voted to appoint Shane Schulthies to fill this role, beginning June 15th. Many of you have heard Dr. Schulthies lecture and have been inspired by him. He is a truly great mentor. He has served diligently as a capable Provost and has skillfully handled administrative responsibilities when I have been away on assignments. He is also committed to the cause of liberty and the statesmanship needed to preserve it.

What many of you may not know is that his most compelling desire to advance his own education through a pursuit of the liberal arts came years after earning his PhD at BYU. This led to Dr. Schulthies becoming a part-time student at George Wythe. Eventually, he left a tenured faculty position at his alma mater where he had been named teacher of the year by his department (among other awards in teaching and research) to join our on-campus faculty. Since then, he has increasingly become a keystone of our administrative and academic leadership by both serving on the Board of Trustees and as Provost. His work ethic, authenticity and dedication are an inspiration to all who know him.

In summary, I have worked with Dr. Schulthies for many years and have always been impressed with his unwavering moral character and his commitment to freedom and good government. He possesses a superb understanding of how a classical liberal arts education can change individuals and society, especially when mentored with an emphasis in leadership. An exemplary model of how to lead with integrity, confidence and humility, he is deeply committed to the mission and vision of GWU. He is someone who I both admire and utterly trust.

Meanwhile, as I prepare for my next responsibilities to expand our alliances, I will remain available intermittently through the summer and on faculty part time to assist in the transition.

There is other news that is worthy of addressing as well. At the end of April we held our first Statesmanship Invitational in which we blended the online and on-campus environments. Four teams of students participated in the same simulation—two teams on campus, and two online. Those students who quickly learned to navigate both environments convincingly demonstrated to the others what it takes to be effective. I believe all were enriched by the experience. The important and difficult lessons in leadership and diplomacy learned in this format broke new ground for our students, underscoring the increasing necessity they will face of adapting to a rapidly changing global communication environment. As the world accelerates its adoption of these technologies for holding meetings, negotiations and political collaboration, our graduates will be well prepared.

Having completed our first full year since adding our online classrooms, the results have exceeded our expectations. Our original hope was to create an environment of learning that replicated the intimate personal interaction students experience on-campus. This past year has proven that online classes can be surprisingly powerful, effective, and even personal.

This is not to say that brick and mortar classrooms will ever be entirely replaced. But I do believe that we will all discover surprising benefits from gradually blending online and on-campus experiences. In this vein, I have begun consulting a number of secondary educational institutions in various states as they develop and execute their own online programs. The more our students come to us prepared both academically and technologically, the more we’ll be able to accomplish once they begin their studies here.

In conclusion, I am delighted with the progress we have made in the past 18 months, especially as we advance toward accreditation. Staying this course, I am confident that with Dr. Schulthies at the helm our momentum will only increase. I look forward to continuing this progress as we develop new allies across the nation to enrich our students’ field experiences and better align our graduation requirements. This is truly an exciting time to be engaged in the cause of liberty. What we have at GWU is exceptional. Anyone who has experienced our classroom environment has come away moved and inspired by the learning that takes place. We are moving forward steadily and it is an honor and a privilege to participate in this noble purpose.



Andrew Groft was appointed President of George Wythe University in February 2009. In the past he served as Provost and as a mentor at GWU. A popular speaker with youth and adults, he has taught, consulted and presented for businesses, schools and academic and governmental forums throughout the United States, Europe, Africa, and Asia.