Local Elementary Students Test Underwater Robots at Yates Field House

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On June 10, twenty-five fifth grade students from Hyde-Addison Elementary School in Georgetown visited Yates Field House to test their SeaPerch Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) projects in the pool. Rich Munz, the 5th grade STEM teacher at Hyde Elementary, began the project with his students in December 2014. After months of work, all were very excited to test the results of their labor.

SeaPerch is an innovative underwater robotics program sponsored in part by the United States Navy Office of Naval Research and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. The program teaches basic engineering and science concepts with a marine engineering theme. The fifth grade students built their projects completely from scratch using an assortment of PVC pipes, foam, mechanical wires, and batteries. Through the process, the students also learned to safely use tools such as saws and soldering irons.

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Hyde Elementary does not have its own pool, so the Yates staff opened the McCarthy Pool for their students.

“We were happy to let the Hyde students use the pool to test their robots,” said Jim Gilroy, director of Yates Field House. “It’s a great opportunity for the university to partner with our neighborhood.”

Once at the pool, the students worked in groups and diligently made last-minute adjustments to their robots, occasionally calling out “Mr. Munz!” to ask for help. Over the next two hours, the students alternated between testing their projects and making adjustments. By the end, all of the robots were functioning to some degree and the students were enjoying the chance operate their creations all around the pool.

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Through the SeaPerch project, the fifth-grade students completed an advanced curriculum normally meant for middle schoolers. According to one chaperone, the school hopes students will gain a greater understanding of and appreciation for the work that goes into crafting remote controlled and robotic toys.

“The kids had a blast,” Munz said afterward. “This event was the culmination of over seven months of building and preparation. It is great to have Georgetown as a partner as we strive to bring rich STEM experiences to our diverse student population.”

Georgetown Law Student Giving Lecture on DC Historic Preservation Law

Georgetown University Law Center student William King (L’15) has been selected as the winner of the first Dick Wolf Memorial Lecture Prize by the Capitol Hill Restoration Society (CHRS). As the recipient, he will deliver the inaugural Dick Wolf Memorial Lecture on Friday, March 27, 2015, at 7:00 p.m. at the Hill Center, 921 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, Washington, D.C.

In his talk, “Do We Need More Objective Criteria for Evaluating Demolition Permits for Historic Properties?,” King will suggest a modification of D.C. historic preservation law that would provide objectively defined criteria for the Mayor’s Agent to apply when deciding whether to approve demolition permits.

Following King’s lecture, Georgetown Law Associate Dean Peter Byrne, the current Mayor’s Agent, and Law Center Adjunct Professor Tersh Boasberg, former chair of the Historic Preservation Review Board, will join King and members of the audience to discuss King’s proposal.

The Dick Wolf Memorial Lecture is expected to be an annual event to showcase excellence in research and writing on urban planning and historic preservation in the District of Columbia by a student or intern.

Described as “one of the District’s most ardent and effective visionaries,” Dick Wolf (1933-2012) served on the CHRS board for many years, most often as president, and also served on the Committee of 100 of the Federal City. After moving to Capitol Hill in 1964, he worked “tirelessly and effectively” on community planning, historic preservation and sound neighborhood development.

This post has been reposted from the Georgetown University Law Center website.

Georgetown University and DowntownDC BID Begin Research Partnership

Georgetown University has established a new research partnership with the DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID) and will collaborate on research related to economic development, sustainability, placemaking, and other topics of urban planning. Georgetown’s Urban and Regional Planning program at the School of Continuing Studies will serve as an academic partner with the DowntownDC BID.

The partnership with the BID will allow students in the Urban and Regional Planning program to engage with practitioners at the BID through internships and community-based research, applying skills learned in the classroom to policy issues in the Downtown neighborhood. Faculty members will also collaborate with the BID on research projects and work with the BID to share findings.

“DowntownDC is a globally significant case study of how to plan, implement and manage a vital mixed-use urban core. We are keenly interested in advancing the knowledge and professional practices associated with this ongoing story of innovation and success. By building a stronger bridge between the University and the BID, we will advance and disseminate the ideas, tools and strategies of great city-building,” commented Uwe Brandes, Executive Director of the Urban & Regional Planning program.

“The DowntownDC BID is excited to join with Georgetown University, a great, longstanding Washington institution, and we are eager to see what this collaboration will yield,” said BID Executive Director Richard H. Bradley.

The DowntownDC BID has worked with the Urban and Regional Planning program in the past. Bradley spoke to students in the program as part of its inaugural speaker series and the DowntownDC BID recognized Georgetown with a 2013 Momentum Award.

Georgetown Law Students Help Revitalize Affordable Housing Building

Harrison Institute Sierra Cooperative

Students from Georgetown University Law Center’s Harrison Institute for Housing and Community Development helped revitalize and reopen an affordable housing building in Washington, DC earlier this year.

The Sierra Cooperative, an affordable housing building in DC’s Eckington neighborhood, celebrated its grand opening this past January. Two and a half years ago, the building was scheduled for tax sale after long-neglect. At the time, only four of the building’s 20 units were occupied and the building suffered from a leaking roof, rotting wood, and mildew. The building has since been substantially renovated, and residents have purchased the property in accordance with the District’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA).

Initially tasked with averting the tax sale, the Harrison Institute later helped residents develop a financing proposal that was submitted to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation and the Department of Housing and Community Development. These two organizations accepted the proposal and provided funds for the construction.

“The project at the Sierra is a great example of the important work that lawyers can do in low-income communities,” said Professor Michael Diamond, director of the Harrison Institute for Housing & Community Development clinic. “We especially commend the heroic efforts of the residents who fought to keep their home, despite the many obstacles in their path.”

Housing projects like the Sierra Cooperative are the key focus of the Harrison Institute, which provides legal counseling for low-income individuals and community groups. Students provide legal and nonlegal organizational support, represent tenants in financing and purchasing transactions, preserve affordable housing, and provide training and direct assistance for new business.

In addition to creating a positive impact in the community, the Institute provides Georgetown Law students with the opportunity to apply skills learned in the classroom to real challenges facing low-income communities. Students help facilitate the financing, purchasing, and rehabilitating single-family and multifamily housing, and they teach these skills to members of the community. They learn legal expertise and problem-solving skills in a real-world application that embodies the school’s commitment the common good.

Read more about past work of the Harrison Institute and other clients of the clinic.

District Homeless Population Helped by Hypothermia Outreach Team

Georgetown students, faculty and staff have joined forces with a local outreach organization to help keep Washington, D.C.’s homeless population warm during frigid winter nights.

The Hypothermia Outreach Team (HOT), a collaborative effort between the university’s Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service (CSJ) and the Georgetown Ministry Center (GMC), helps prevent unsheltered individuals from getting too much exposure to the cold and encourages them to seek safety in available shelters.

“The goal of the team is to provide direct services to prevent deaths in severe inclement weather,” says Ray Shiu, associate director of CSJ. “GMC itself does outreach but they can’t do it every single night. The idea is to supplement their good efforts and the work they do with the high interest of Georgetown student, faculty and staff volunteers.”

CSJ activates the outreach team whenever the District of Columbia issues a hypothermia alert.

The HOT members then gather at the CSJ office to gather supplies, such as blankets, gloves, hats and food, before canvassing an assigned route designed by GMC.

HOT formed in January 2014 when CSJ was investigating ways to better serve the homeless population in the Georgetown and Foggy Bottom neighborhoods and increase collaboration with their community partners – especially GMC.

More than 25 Georgetown students originally were trained to serve on the outreach team, with about 150 Georgetown students, faculty and staff now ready to help and interest in the program growing.

“We’ve been so happily overwhelmed this academic year with interest from our community,” says Shiu. 

According to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the District of Columbia had 7,748 homeless residents – 1.2 percent of the city’s population – in 2014.

The HOT volunteers usually reach out to 10 to 20 people experiencing homelessness during each outreach session.

“They’ll approach men and women experiencing homelessness, assess if they are adequately dressed and have what they need for the night,” Shiu explains. “But at the same time, the outreach team will encourage them to go inside and utilize the resources the District of Columbia has to offer, such as emergency shelters and warming centers.”

Sarah Sohlberg (NHS’16), a student coordinator for the team, says the group serves a very important purpose – ensuring the safety of Washington, D.C.’s at-risk homeless population.

“The issue of homelessness in Washington is not trivial and it’s not going away,” says the international health major. “Through HOT, we want to ensure that people in our surrounding community are reeving the resources and help they need to survive through the winter, which is the least we can do.”

This story was originally posted by the Georgetown University Office of Communications.

Georgetown Lauded by Carnegie Foundation for Community Engagement

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The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has renewed Georgetown’s prestigious classification as one of the nation’s premier institutions committed to community engagement.

The university is among 361 colleges and universities to receive the 2015 Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement, which extends to 2025.

“These are campuses that are improving teaching and learning, producing research that makes a difference in communities, and revitalizing their civic and academic missions,” says John Saltmarsh, director of the New England Resource Center for Higher Education (NERCHE).

The NERCHE partnered with the Carnegie Foundation to administer the community engagement classification.

Commitment to Common Good

President John J. DeGioia attributes the university’s long history of service and community engagement to Georgetown’s Catholic and Jesuit identity.

“Our commitment to the common good, to engaging productively and positively with our community locally and globally, is at the core of this tradition and at the heart of what we do at Georgetown,” he says.

Strengthening Engagement

Since 2008 – when the university first received the classification – Georgetown has created two new offices dedicated to strengthening community engagement across the university.

The Office of Community Engagement and the Office of Global Engagement support the university’s commitment to the common good by facilitating community engagement activities in Washington, D.C. and around the world.

Georgetown also has developed academic programs that feature community engagement as a major component – including a master’s in global human development, a minor in education, inquiry and justice, a justice and peace studies major, and a Global Social Enterprise Initiative.

Core Educational Purpose

Georgetown launched the Designing the Future(s) of the University initiative in 2013 to explore new ways to deliver education for the 21st century while retaining its core values.

“As we face new challenges in higher education and explore new ways to educate our students, we remain committed to the core purposes of the university – formation, scholarship and the common good – all tenants to which deep and meaningful community engagement is essential,” DeGioia says.

The integration of community engagement in the classroom is a key component of the Carnegie classification.

Countless Examples

Georgetown students engage in service learning opportunities through courses, programs and centers at the university. Numerous faculty and staff members also partner with community organizations through research and consulting projects and serve in leadership roles.

Through these experiences, students and faculty and staff apply their skills and knowledge to communities struggling with some of the world’s greatest challenges.

Service learning extends outside the classroom as well, with students participating in community service activities and service-learning courses through the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching, and Service (CSJ) and through medical and legal clinics at the School of Medicine, the Law Center, among many others.

“This is an institutional recognition of community engagement,” says Andria Wisler, CSJ executive director, “and the process produced countless examples of our commitment to community engagement and social justice through deep community partnerships and creative curricular and experiential learning initiatives.”

Science Comes Alive for Visiting High School Students

Tom Sherman Wheaton High School Visit

In an effort to make biomedical education more accessible to diverse populations, faculty and students from Georgetown University School of Medicine hosted some 70 local high school students December 3rd under the auspices of the Project Lead the Way program.

10th graders involved in the biomedical science program at Wheaton High School, which serves the communities of Wheaton, Rockville and Silver Spring in Montgomery County, Maryland, spent a morning at Georgetown to gain exposure to faculty and students who are involved in medical careers.

Project Lead the Way (PLTW) is a nonprofit organization that provides programs promoting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for students ranging from kindergarten through high school. PLTW delivers programming to more than 6,500 elementary, middle and high schools across the country—including rural, urban and suburban districts, and across all income levels.

Adam Myers, PhD, professor of pharmacology and physiology and associate dean for special graduate programs at Georgetown’s School of Medicine, organized the event. He credits initiatives such as PLTW with helping broaden the pool of people who enter health and medical fields, and ensuring that all who are interested and qualified have opportunities to advance.

“It’s important to train people who are going to take their knowledge back to many different diverse populations and communities. One way to do that is to reach out into those populations and communities and nurture the next generation,” Myers says.

Wheaton High School is among the first in the country to pilot PLTW. Heather Carias, a teacher at the school, says that many science students at the school have identified medical school as a goal, but have never stepped foot on a campus.

“Getting students onto the campus of a premier university opens their minds to academia and may spark additional motivation to work hard in high school, setting their goals for going to college,” Carias says.

SIGNS OF STRESS

The morning kicked off with a presentation by Tom Sherman, PhD, associate professor of pharmacology and physiology, about stress and its physical effects on the body. Sherman says he enjoys interacting with high school students because “everything is new and fresh.”

“There is nothing better than a receptive audience. There is nothing better than telling students about something that takes them to a moment where they say, ‘Oh, I see now!’ You get those moments a lot with high school students,” Sherman says.

And since all 10th graders can relate to feeling stressed, the subject matter really resonates with them, he says.

“There are a number of things that we do unconsciously, such as blinking, sweating, how you look when you are scared. I’m hoping that from this talk they’ll want to have a better a understanding of how their body works at that level,” Sherman says.

Following Sherman’s talk, the teens broke into smaller groups led by graduate students from Georgetown’s Special Master’s Program (SMP) in physiology, a yearlong program tailored to students who want to bolster their academic credentials before applying to medical school.

The groups conducted exercises to measure their own bodily reactions to physical and emotional stress, such as singing in front of their classmates, reciting the alphabet backwards or doing a series of pushups.

“We all have a responsibility to foster intellectual curiosity and leadership in the next generation through mentorship, and this was a chance for the SMP program to demonstrate commitment to that responsibility with the students of Wheaton High School,” says SMP student Mary Jenkins (G’15), who helped coordinate the visit.

FEAR FACTOR

Students were also treated to a program called “Fear Factor” by Benjamin Walker, PhD, assistant dean for diversity and inclusion at the School of Medicine. The concept, Walker says, is to show the students in a hands-on way—using insects and other stress-inducing stimuli—how the brain’s frontal lobe modulates the fear response.

Jenkins, who chaired the science department at Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, Maryland before entering graduate school, says it can be challenging to demonstrate the relevance of science to students at that age.

“I don’t think it ever hurts to see your teacher reach her hand into a container of bugs to demonstrate an acute stress response.”

Myers says the relationship between Wheaton High School and Georgetown will hopefully grow. And this, he says, benefits all involved.

“It is good for our students to be role models and mentors, and for the younger students it shows them that this is something they could be doing in just a few years,” Myers says.

Talia Turner, another Wheaton High School teacher, says the experience was memorable for students.

“We are so grateful to Dr. Myers and Mary Jenkins for putting together such an amazing experience for our students. They really went above and beyond to set up a fun learning environment, and every single one of our students left campus more confident in their knowledge of the nervous system,” Turner says.

ADDRESSING A NEED

So-called STEM jobs are expected to grow 17 percent by 2018—nearly double the rate as non-STEM fields, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Yet more than a million of these STEM jobs are expected to go unfilled due to a lack of qualified workers.

“Students who have gone to good schools and have already been well-prepared to go to medical school represent a very limited population. There are so many others out there that can make contributions—reaching out into the community and into high schools is a way we can increase our reach and effectiveness,” Myers says.

This post was written by Lauren Wolkoff, GUMC Communications, and originally appeared on the Georgetown University Medical Center website.

Georgetown University Sponsors Minority Entrepreneur Event

Five D.C.-area startups pitched their business ideas in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 600 at Technoir 2.0, held at 1776 on December 5. Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business was a sponsor of the event, a pitch competition and networking event for African American and minority innovators and entrepreneurs.

“Organizations like Technoir 2.0 are helping to showcase the wonderful talent that comes from every corner of our community,” said Jeff Reid, founding director of the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative. “It’s important for Georgetown University and the McDonough School of Business to engage with the local community. We’re proud to support efforts that promote economic inclusion.”

Reid introduced Mayor Vincent C. Gray at the event, who gave remarks and has committed to growing the District’s burgeoning tech sector.

D.C. digital marketing firm Ghost Note Agency held the inaugural Technoir event in August, garnering attention from The Washington Post and the local startup scene.

“Technoir 2.0 just reinforces the strong and growing interest in showcasing and funding diverse ideas and companies,” said Steve Jumper, partner and president of strategy at Ghost Note Agency. “We look forward to continuing to host larger Technoir programming that makes tech and startup culture more accessible to those not historically identified with this community.”

Barry Goldsmith, a sophomore studying international business and finance at the McDonough School of Business and a Georgetown Entrepreneurship Fellow, has attended numerous pitch competitions. For him, Technoir 2.0’s presenters stood out for their enthusiasm, energy, and willingness to interact with the audience.

“The environment was positive and action-oriented around helping and growing the community of minority entrepreneurs,” Goldsmith said. “It was refreshing to be a part of a group of people looking to tomorrow to create a better future around entrepreneurship.”

The Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative is a university-wide initiative that aims to build a culture of entrepreneurship at Georgetown through academic and extracurricular education and to connect students with alumni and leaders in the entrepreneurship community. The initiative also provides stipends to students to help grow their businesses after graduation. Georgetown University began a formal partnership with 1776 earlier this year.

This is an updated version of a story that originally appeared on the McDonough School of Business website.

Georgetown Honoring George Jones of Bread for the City


Video by Emma Curran, Georgetown University

Georgetown University is honoring George Jones, CEO of Bread for the City, with the 2015 John Thompson, Jr. Legacy of a Dream Award.

Each year, Georgetown recognizes an upcoming local leader working to solve some of the city’s most pressing challenges with the Legacy of a Dream award. For more than 20 years, Jones has led Bread for the City in its mission to serve vulnerable city residents with comprehensive services that include food, clothing, medical care and legal and social services.

“The fact is that people are hungry or at risk of sleeping on the street here in D.C.,” Jones says. “Oftentimes, it’s difficult for them to find justice in many of the situations they find themselves in. So our lawyers and our food pantry and our medical practice are where we can provide direct physical care. Those services are here to deal with the harsh realities of living in poverty in D.C.”

Jones’ work impacts a city where approximately 19 percent live below the poverty line. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the unemployment rate rises above the national average and, says a report released this month by the Feed America network of food banks, 28 percent of children live with little access to nutritional food.

Jones will receive the award at a ceremony the Kennedy Center on January 15, 2015, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The ceremony will include a free concert with performer Natalie Cole. As part of the award, Georgetown will begin an intensive yearlong partnership with Bread for the City.

In 2014, Georgetown recognized Lecester Johnson of Academy of Hope. The university worked closely with Johnson to bring greater attention to the important issue of adult education, and to support AoH’s significant growth and expansion, which included transition to a public charter school.  Among other things, the university provided executive education to AoH executives, including Johnson; consultation with university experts on issues including benefit plans, strategic communications, and an on-going facilities search; and provided a venue for AoH’s 2014 graduation ceremony.

Mary Brown, executive director of the D.C. Promise Neighborhood Initiative and formerly executive director of Life Pieces to Masterpieces, received the award in 2013. Read more about George Jones and his work with Bread for the City, and about the Legacy of a Dream Award.

Biology Professor Honored as D.C. Professor of the Year

Heidi Elmendorf

Heidi Elmendorf, associate professor of biology at Georgetown University, has been honored as District of Columbia Professor of the Year from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The award recognizes Professor Elmendorf’s innovation in the curriculum and her leadership in community-based and experiential learning. Elmendorf is director of undergraduate studies in biology and director of science education outreach. In that role, Elmendorf assists professors seeking grants from the National Science Foundation to demonstrate the broader impact of their research.

Elmendorf co-founded the biology of global health major with Anne Rosenwald, another award-winning biology faculty member. A gateway course for the major requires students to develop and defend a series of communications-intensive science projects, including scientific research proposals, science policy white papers, public service announcements, and educational projects. The course is intended to understand real world scenarios affecting science research and policy.

In addition, Elmendorf has been a leader in community-based learning for over a decade. She created a course called RISE&Teach, a three semester program for upperclass undergraduates majoring in the sciences or mathematics to student-teach in public and public-charter high schools. Students in the course are required to demonstrate mastery of the content and the impact of their teaching in the classroom. This year students have taught at Dunbar High School and at Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools. Elmendorf is the 5th Georgetown University professor to win the award.

Past winners have included Joan Riley, associate professor of human science and nursing (2009); James Sandefur, professor and chair of the department of mathematics and statistics (2008); Joseph Neale, professor of biology (1998); and the late Monika Konrad Hellwig, professor of theology (1988).

Read more about Professor Elmendorf and the D.C. Professor of the Year award.