The Digital Townhouse Buddy System

Times of global stress and personal isolation can be really damaging for mental health, and in the midst of that, it can be super helpful to have folks checking in with you and making sure you’re holding up alright. Or honestly just being there as a person who *isn’t* your family to talk to! That’s why we’ve established the Digital Townhouse Buddy System! If you’re interested in taking part, sign up below.

Digital Townhouse Discussion Forums (Fora?)


Miss the beautiful feeling of sitting in the townhouse and talking about everything and nothing? Well we can’t necessarily recreate that virtually…but we can certainly try our bests! And we are indeed going to do so. We are opening up the blog and the Facebook page for discussions from the serious to the whimsical and from the intimate to the trivial. Some examples:

I’m working on my thesis and I’m having trouble conceptualizing what Plato might say about sustainability. Does anyone have any thoughts on Plato, or honestly on political philosophy of sustainability in general?

Okay, but for real: how much wood could a woodchuck chuck (assuming this woodchuck could chuck wood).

Does anyone have tips for good virtual communal streaming apps? My partner and I were watching Love is Blind together before all this, and we want to keep it up!

Mario (the Nintendo plumber) joins the UHP as a part of the class of 2024. Who and what does he write his final Origins paper on? What grade does he receive?

I’m feeling really alone right now. I’m not really close with anyone in my family, and it’s been a rough time mental health-wise. Anyone have good tips for loneliness right now?

Regardless of what you want to discuss, we will also be REWARDING starting discussions! The first person in a given week to start a discussion on the Blog AND the Facebook page that receives more than three unique replies will receive a coveted Townhouse Token! That’s right– the first eligible post on the blog gets a token, and the first eligible post on Facebook gets a token.

How do you post on the blog? Well, you see the “Submit a Post” link right up top there? Click on that! Then type give your name, type the question, and make sure to select “Digital Townhouse Discussion” in the Categories section (so we know you’re not a random person asking about Mario). Then submit!

How do you post to the Facebook page? Go to the Facebook page, then write a post! And ta-da, you’ve posted to the Facebook page!

Now go forth, dear UHPers, and DISCUSS!

Riddle of the Day 3/25

Here we are, UHPers! Our first Riddle of the Day. We’re posting this on Tuesday, but this is officially our riddle for tomorrow– which means you’ve got some extra time to answer it! Answer in the comments below (or on Facebook). The first correct answer will receive a Townhouse Token, as will the most creative wrong answer. Anyway, here it is:

The more you take of me, the more you leave behind. What am I?

Townhouse Tokens

Welcome to the Townhouse Tokens page! Townhouse Tokens are a part of the Digital Townhouse Project during this virtual learning time– a small piece of motivation for you to stay participating in community in these bleak times. You can earn tokens through the Riddles of the Day, through our Weekly Contests, through participating in discussion…all sorts of ways! Perhaps there are even more we haven’t thought of yet! Anyway, here’s the reward structure:

1 Token: a small UHP notepad
3 Tokens: a larger UHP notebook
5 Tokens:
a UHP travel mug
5 Tokens: a UHP t-shirt
8 Tokens: free attendance at a UHP event (Student-faculty dinner, the hike, etc.)
10 Tokens:
 free lunch with one of the UHP staff
15 Tokens: 
recognition as a Townhouse Paragon, honored in the NewsFlash

We’ll keep track of the tokens you earn, and you’ll be able to redeem any of them the next time you’re on campus!

A COVID-19 Message to Our Seniors

Added Note from Brianna:

I was feeling really under the weather the day we filmed so I’m sorry for the miserable face. I love you all! Feeling better now!

Added Note from Josh:

Y’all know you’re super welcome to come to UHP events once you graduate, right? You’ll get free admission to Student-Faculty Dinners henceforth. I don’t want this to be the last I see of you! Come back around!!


Professor Kung: To all the UHP students who are graduating this semester, this is definitely not the final semester anyone was expecting for you. The entire faculty and staff of the UHP is heartbroken that graduation has to be cancelled. We are going to figure out a way to celebrate your accomplishments, we promise that. But in the meantime, remember that what you’re doing right now is a civic duty. We hope that when you think back on this semester, you’re going to focus on the fact that your actions and sacrifices have helped to slow the spread of this disease. For someone out there right now, today, what you are doing is literally a lifesaving act for them. So keep that in mind. 

Eydie: Hi guys, you know me. I’m a sap. Graduation time is the most wonderful time of the year for me and i’m feeling sad too. Just remember, we will come together. We are GW and we will figure out a way. And people are at work right now figuring how to make the end of your experience at GW better than what you’re going through right now. We are thinking about you all. We are thinking about your parents and how proud they are of you. We are proud of you guys! We are gonna get through this. I may cry a little but that wouldn’t be me if I didn’t. Take care!

Josh: I echo everything that was just said. I have a special connection to this class because I entered GW with y’all and with a little twist of fate left a little earlier. But we have been through it, one might say. Because we entered in 2016 with the 2016 election and we are leaving and being sent off by COVID-19. So you know, it’s just the way it goes. But yeah, I echo when we heard about in person classes being cancelled for the rest of the semester, it was a blow to all of us especially on behalf of you guys. College has this unique sense of community to it, and having that ripped away early is a really rough thing. But we are working our hardest to give you that sense of community feel virtually. It won’t be the same, but it will be something! Through the digital townhouse project, be involved there, be connected there, stay with us! We care about you. 

Ben: Hey everybody, seniors. We just want to let you know how sad we are about the events that have taken place lately and the fact that we won’t be able to see you in person for the rest of the semester. Honors advising is still open for business. We are here virtually for you and if you want to check in about the remainder of your classes, just to chat about life, to catch up, Brianna and I are here for you. We definitely want to continue staying in touch. You know how to access our calendar, put time on it so we can catch up and stay connected with you.

Brianna: As Ben said, we still have appointments so definitely reach out. I know we’d love to hear from you and I hope everyone is doing well. I’m not going to pretend I know all of the answers right now with all of the balls up in the air but I’ll figure it out with you. So we are here for you, please take care of yourselves and we will see you soon. 

Professor Hammond: Hi everyone, I am listening to what everyone is saying and I’m just reminded about how bummed I am that we are not going to get to celebrate you all in person. As Josh was saying, and as I am remembering you all came in at a really interesting time and now you’re leaving at a really interesting time and that’s… interesting for a lack of a better word. I’m going to miss you all and I hope there are lessons that you all can take from this. Which sounds like a really trite thing but I really think there definitely will be and the sacrifices that you all are making for the greater good here. Insert some really prolific X-Files quote, for those who know who know will know. I hope you all are taking care of yourselves. So much is up in the air and there’s a lot you can’t control. But something you can do for yourself and those near you is reaching out and connecting with us and your loved ones. 

Professor Ralkowski: Hey guys! So I wanted to connect with a couple things that people said already. I feel exactly the same way that Eyde does about graduation. It feels like a holiday, like Thanksgiving to me– it’s one of my favorite times of the year. This particular graduation is one I’ve been looking forward to since you were freshmen. Precisely because I feel a special connection to your class. Your freshman year was the first year that I lived in West Hall and the first year I started doing pancakes with the Professor and this little dog on the scene. In a way I think of you guys all as Lola’s siblings. To be honest, I was looking forward to this graduation but also dreading it because I know this end of the academic year is going to feel like someone ripping my heart out of my chest. And now, we are in this very strange place in life facing a global crisis. 

The one thing I wanted to say that is meant to be heard just in the spirit of solidarity is I can imagine you guys are feeling a lot of anxiety about the future. There’s disappointment about graduation and then there’s anxiety about what’s to come for you and your careers that are not yet started. The one thing I can say that is just minimally related to your experience. I finished my PhD just as the 2008 economic crisis hit us. The job market looked really bleak and for about 2 years, I was losing all hope of finding an academic position, But then I ended up with this one. And I couldn’t feel happier that I’m in this place. So, I just want to ask you guys to persevere, to stay strong, and to have faith in yourselves because I really mean it. This couldn’t be happening to a greater group of GW students and if anyone can make it you guys can. You’re going to be fine, Last thing I’ll say, I’ve talked to many of you about having a BBQ at my house in celebration of graduation. That offer is still on as soon as we are out of quarantine. So see you guys there!

Professor Aviv: Hi everybody. So just following up on two things that Mark said. First of all, I too graduated in 2008 and I started my graduate program a day after September 11, 2001. So, absolutely we are going through unprecedented and very scary times. But you are really well equipped. You started your program in 2016, right around the election and you’re graduating into a once in a century pandemic. And I think there is no clearer message to you than the world really needs your talent and energy to change it and make it a better place. It was really a pleasure to meet so many of you, have conversations in and outside the classroom and I look forward to continuing them so read out to me whenever you want and whenever you can. Worst case scenario I’ll be at Mark’s barbecue too. We talked so many times about ideas that shape the world, and now it’s your turn. So, congratulations, celebrate your achievements and we will find a way to celebrate it together. And take good care of yourselves. 

Professor Trullinger: Hello everyone, it’s hard to follow up these messages of hope and encouragement with anything really special of my own to say. So I guess i’ll just share a message of personal gratitude. The graduating class is one that has come through a lot in terms of the external world. But those of you who are close to me, it has been a time of great personal trial for me. And so I do  feel a special sense of connection to you all and to people I’ve known from the beginning, those I’m just getting to know now. And it’s really been a very special opportunity of, now I say i the past tense, but the reality is I’m still going to be here and I am still available as I like to say in my classes, there’s a lifetime money back guarantee where you can always ask me about something years down the road about something you learned. But also just for knowing how you’re doing. This is definitely not what any of us expected but the reality is, this was always a case, maybe not with this particular challenge, but with challenges in general. The important thing we do is to remember the character we display in the midst of the circumstances is really the most important. Remember to do well, be well, take care of yourself, and also be good to one another.    

Professor Kung: Just to wrap things up here. Not all the faculty could be here today but everyone is thinking of you. Again, we are going to make sure that you get the recognition that you deserve. Please keep in touch, we love our alumni coming back and visiting, and talking, and emailing, and writing blog posts. So we expect to still hear from you even after the conclusion of all of this. 

A COVID-19 Message to All Our Students

Note from Brianna:

I was feeling really under the weather the day we filmed so I’m sorry for the miserable face. I love you all! Feeling better now!


Professor Kung: Hello everyone, we hope wherever you are, you’re safe, you’re well, and you’re hanging in there. Clearly, this spring isn’t what any of us expected. From an educational standpoint, for the rest of the semester, my advice is simply to focus as much as possible on your love of learning. Stay in communication with your professors, expectations are clearly quite different now. No one’s gonna be penalized for circumstances outside of their control. You can do this, you can do this well. Eydie…

Eydie: Hi guys, I know this is hard for you, this is hard for us too. But maintain your sanity by taking care of yourself, your parents, your cats, your dogs. Go outside, get some fresh air, throw a ball around. Talk to each other and find a way for comfort. We’ll be back at the townhouse as soon as we can, the coffee will be rolling and will have plenty of snacks when everybody gets back. Miss you guys, see you all soon. Josh, off to you.

Josh: This is a really rough time for everyone, we just want to recognize that as a staff, we want to say that yeah we’re here for you, we care about you. We really care about community as a program, as hopefully you already know, and we are doing our best to translate that digitally with the digital townhouse project. They’ll be another note about that. So yeah, stay connected, stay with us we care about you. Passing it over to Ben…

Ben: Hey everybody! We miss you guys, we hope everybody’s doing well. This is just a note to say Honors advising is still in business. We have advising ability for you scheduled on the UHP website as usual, and we will hop on a WebEx call and be there for you for anything. Don’t be strangers, continue to reach out if you need anything, Brianna and I are here for you. And I’ll pass that on to Brianna…

Brianna: Just wanna echo that we’re here for you guys as well. Just anything at all, just reach out and we’re here for you.

Professor Hammond: Just want to echo what everyone is saying, that we’re here for you in the community. Definitely reach out, whatever you need, whether it be class stuff, non-class stuff. And for me my main thing for you all is making sure you’re taking care of yourself, taking care of those around you, and being mindful of your mental health. Doing what you need to do, and recognizing where you need to step up or step back, and you know, taking care of you. Passing it off to Mark…

Professor Ralkowski: Hey guys, Lola is here as well. She wanted to say that she misses you all, but she also sees a silver lining in coronavirus in that she gets to spend a lot of time with her family, take lots of walks, get lots of attention, but she does miss you all and she’s excited to see you all in the fall. Two thing I wanted to say are: I think it’s really important to stay connected during this time. It’s only been a few days of this social distancing, I’m already feeling it, I can imagine you all are as well. So, when you’re thinking of things we can do for you, one thing that’s easy for us to do is create spaces where we can just get together virtually and just chat. It can be about nothing, sometimes those are the best conversations. And the other thing I’ve wanted to say I’ve forgotten so I’m just gonna pass it off to Eyal next.

Professor Aviv: Hi everybody! So I’m echoing what Mark just said. I’m here, I don’t have anything to do other than be with my family and working, prepare for classes, but I’m really happy to talk to everybody who wants to chat. And I just want to hope that all of you are good in health and spirits, and you’re spending good time with your family, and keeping touch with your friends. I know that these are times of change and they’re really scary. I myself woke up today at 5AM for fear of the world, but I also hope that this is an opportunity for change. And I’m really looking forward to see everybody when we get back and keep making this world and our society a better place. So, thank you, and I’m passing it to Joseph I think…

Professor Trullinger: Hard to follow up on so many wonderful, beautiful things that have already been said. But I guess this is something that i try to remember during hard times, which is not to let school get in the way of your education. I suppose what I mean by that is that all the formal mechanical structures of school that we all get wrapped up in, I think it’s really important to try as best you can to put those to the side and remember the intrinsically good things that are there in learning: the sense of connection, the sense of intellectual discovery, even just the sense of escape. Just being able to imagine a  different world, a different way of doing things, a different environment than the one you’re in now. Things will be better, and I do believe we can stick with one another throughout this, I am available just like everybody throughout this. And that’s all I have to say. 

Professor Kung: I’ll just wrap up by saying that, unfortunately not everyone could be here today, but all your faculty are thinking of you now. So please be in touch, and good luck!

Professor Christov: Hi everyone, I know this is a very unusual and very stressful time, with the Coronavirus, but Im here to tell you: let’s take care of ourselves and take care of each other. Now I know many of you are quite anxious, I know that I am. How do we learn from our online classes? How do we graduate without even walking? Many of you may even be thinking, the economy’s tanking, how am I going to get a job? What will my future look like? Now I cannot tell you what the answer to these questions might be, but I’m here to tell you one thing: practice kindness. Show accountability and fairness, resilience. Show respect and grow in your fortitude. We all need to practice those things right now, and doing so will also make us appreciate the human contact that truly matters in our lives. And remember the Taoist philosophy in finding your internal peace: “Govern yourself by doing nothing that goes against nature.” Govern yourself by doing nothing that goes against nature. So you can now tell yourself that it is okay to be anxious, it is okay to feel anxious. And doing so will help you lessen your struggles. So go forth, stay strong, and until next time!

COVID-19 Tips and Updates

Hello, UHPers!

We know this is a rough time for everyone due to the COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) outbreak and the precautionary measures everyone is needing to take at this time. We have some updates for you about UHP operations, and then a note from the Director of the program about the shift to online instruction, as well as tips for you as you navigate being students in that context.

UHP COVID-19 Related Updates:

All UHP courses will be taught online from March 23 through April 5.

  • The UHP Townhouse will be closed to student socialization during that period, as group gatherings on campus are being discouraged…
  • …but, we are going to be launching the Digital Townhouse Project during this time! We want to make sure you can still have spaces to engage in community, even if you aren’t on campus. To learn more about it, click here.
  • WebEx virtual one-on-one advising meetings will be available – you will sign up online as usual.
  • First-year small group advising will be shifted to online virtual sessions – attendance
    remains mandatory. You will receive more information on how to access these sessions from Brianna and Ben soon.
  • Trivia Night (which would have been held on March 29th ) is cancelled :(.
  • If campus does fully re-open on schedule and you are unable to make it back on time (for example, if you become ill or are quarantined), please let your instructors and Ben or Brianna know!

A Note from the Director:

As GW will now be officially moving instruction online from at least March 23 through April 5, let me take a moment to talk about how UHP faculty and staff hope our students will react to this shift. I will also provide some tips for maximizing your learning in the online environment. First of all (as has been said before) please plan to be patient and flexible. Some faculty have never taught online before and so a learning curve is to be expected. For a planned online course, an instructor would have spent many months beforehand training on the relevant technological tools and designing the course specifically for the online environment. Obviously, this won’t be the case for your current classes. That said, please know that your instructors will be doing their absolute bests over the next few weeks to make sure you continue to master course content and skills.

We always talk about the “intellectual omnivorousness” of UHP students – which must, by definition, include a willingness and desire to be a truly self-directed learner. This interest, independence, and self-motivation are key to helping you succeed intellectually for the remainder of the semester. We hope you choose to envision a few weeks of online learning not as a burden or a “less-than” experience, but as an interesting educational experiment and an opportunity to mature and develop as an adult learner. Effort will be required, but if you put in the effort you will be rewarded with knowledge.

Communication is going to be incredibly important in the coming month. Please read all email very carefully and check for Blackboard announcements regularly. Be in contact with all your professors as soon as possible if you expect any technology challenges while off campus (for example, if you won’t have access to a stable internet connection). Some faculty will hold class using synchronous (real time, interactive) online sessions. These sessions can only be held during the standard class time band (e.g. a course that meets M/W 12:45-2pm EDT can only meet online during those exact times) – this is to ensure that no student will have a time conflict between two different online sessions. This means, however, that students who will be living outside the Eastern Daylight time zone may need to attend a session at an odd local time. You should communicate directly with your professor if this is the case, but please realize that faculty members are not authorized to change class meeting times and may still require you to attend.

Even online, collaborative work with your peers is likely to remain an important part of your learning. Working with your peers online requires clear peer-to-peer communication, of course. Plan to use various online tools that are designed for distance collaboration, such as Google Doc and Slides. GW students also have access to WebEx, which will allow you to work directly through video conferencing and desktop sharing.

Finally, a quick guide to being an online learner:

How to be a student in a synchronous online course:

1. Prepare just like you would for any class session (complete the assigned reading, come with questions, etc.).

2. Find a quiet place with a stable internet connection where it is also okay for you to talk aloud if the course will include a discussion component. Whenever possible, use a computer with a camera and microphone (if need be, however, that you can login to Blackboard Collaborate via your computer but then use a phone to call in/speak). Before you activate your camera, check around you to make sure nothing embarrassing will show up with the camera field of view!

3. Login at least 10 minutes early for the first online class meeting to make sure that the software is functioning correctly.

4. In Blackboard Collaborate, you will enter the classroom both muted and with your camera off. Be sure to activate your camera but keep your microphone muted until you need to speak to avoid background noise (e.g. typing, dogs barking).

5. Use the “raise your hand” button if you have a question. Alternatively, you can type questions into the chat function. Remember to unmute yourself when it is time to speak.

How to be a student in an asynchronous online course:

1. Check for new Blackboard announcements and assignments daily.

2. Consider pretending like the class is meeting at its regularly scheduled time and use that “in class time” to complete online assignments and activities. At minimum, keep careful track of due dates to avoid scrambling/cramming at the last minute.

3. Keep in mind that even if a faculty member will not be grading every assignment you have been asked to complete, you are cheating yourself out of learning the material if you do not make an effort to do the work.

4. If you are asked to participate in a text discussion via the Blackboard Forum, here are some tips for participating in an online discussion board.

5. Read all directions carefully and ask questions if anything is unclear.

6. Make use of instructor “virtual office hours.”

The Digital Townhouse Project!

Hello, dear UHPers!

We get that this is a really tough time for everyone right now, and that wherever you end up in the coming days, it may not be the most pleasant of times. So we want to provide you some virtual community! Thus: the DIGITAL TOWNHOUSE PROJECT! We would love for the home-y, welcoming feel of the townhouse to be present with all of you still, despite all the change and anxiety in the air.

That said, we don’t know how this is going to play out at all yet (it’s quite new for us!), and I’d like your help! Below, we’ve got a form with some of the different options we’ve been thinking of. They aren’t things we’ve prepared for yet, but we’d love to get your feedback on all this, and also your ideas!

Lead for America Fellowship in MoCo!

Lead For America

Lead For America works to ensure that our nation’s most dynamic and diverse leaders are working on our communities’ toughest challenges. Our core program is a paid two-year Fellowship for outstanding leaders ages 21-30 to work on the toughest challenges facing local governments and non-profits nationwide, particularly in Fellows’ hometowns and communities struggling to attract and retain talent. From addressing the opioid crisis in Appalachian West Virginia to designing affordable housing policy in East Los Angeles, our Fellows are truly working on most intractable issues facing our country. And because they work alongside the leadership in the community and are doing the work at the local level, it’s really possible to see progress and lives changed.

Our fellowship includes a one-month graduate level summer training led by leaders of the Harvard Kennedy School, Tufts University Tisch College of Civic Life, and the UNC School of Government, three retreats, and alumni opportunities including graduate scholarships and seed funding for initiatives such as starting non-profits or running for office. Our first class of 54 Fellows is currently serving in more than 40 communities in 21 states nationwide.

Montgomery County, MD Fellowship. This Fellow will be a part of the innovation team sparking the evolution of a 9,000 person $2 billion annual operating budget organization by scaling bright spots and adapting tools of service design, user experience, behaviorally informed nudging, community organizing, storytelling and process improvement to public sector justice work. Responsibilities will vary with Fellow skill and passion. The Fellow will support the core Innovation Accelerator community and be deployed for advanced facilitated support working with teams across County government to make rapid improvements, not recommendations.

Interested? Learn More and Apply by March 15th!

Learn More: Lead for America Website

Get to Know Us and Ask Your Questions: RSVP here to participate in a Fellow Q&A on March 11th. For further questions, email us at

UHP Trivia Night 2020

Sadly due to the COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) outbreak, we will be cancelling this semester’s trivia night. We’re sad too!! But that’s how it goes sometimes. Please be safe, take care of yourselves, and remember to take care of those you love! This is a stressful time, and we could all use an extra dose of kindness at the moment. Much love to you, UHPers!

Who was the legendary Benedictine monk who invented champagne? What do you call a duel between three people? What is the closest city to the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull?

That’s right, the UHP is hosting a trivia night!

Join us on Sunday, March 29 for UHP trivia from 4-7 PM. We’re bringing in a professional trivia host and filling up the Vern’s Post Hall to give YOU the opportunity to show everyone how much stuff you know! I bet you know SO much stuff!

Tables at the event will hold teams of up to 10. If you’re signing up with a team, each person will need to sign up individually – make sure you decide your team name before signing up! And please, make sure it’s unique enough that you won’t be overlapping with other teams. Single players or smaller teams should sign up and will be grouped together to form a full table. Snacks will be provided, as will prizes for the winning table!

Also…feel free to invite a faculty member that you want on your team! Those faculty truly can be an excellent asset…

Sign up below!

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