Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives in the UHP

Dear UHP Students:

The faculty and staff of the University Honors Program are committed to addressing and ending any negative experiences for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) students in our community. We write to share with you the steps that we are currently undertaking—and have already undertaken—to confront issues of diversity within our own program. This work is ongoing; it is not always obvious and, in a large institution like ours, progress can sometimes be slow. The UHP has also recently gone through a significant change in its administrative structure and staffing and such transitions always divert time and energy away from important objectives.   

After hearing from students about diversity concerns in the Fall, we began working with Director of University Diversity & Inclusion Programs Jordan West, who suggested we begin with a “temperature survey” for the program to help focus our actions towards the areas in most need of consideration and change. This work has been delayed by the pandemic, but we are committed to administering this survey in Fall 2020. The newly re-formed UHP Advisory Committee (which includes faculty representatives from around the university) has also been tasked with making recommendations to the program in this area. As mentioned in our previous email, we are convening as well a UHP working group composed of students, faculty, and staff to help guide us forward. Students who would like to volunteer to be a member of this working group should complete this form. This group will convene over WebEx this summer (at a date and time convenient to as many participants as possible), but those who are unable to participate this summer are still invited to sign up. Work will continue in the Fall.      

Several recent straightforward changes that have been made include updating the UHP Student Handbook for 2020-2021 to include specific policies related to UHP student conduct to help maintain a supportive and inclusive environment for all our learners. The faculty handbook is also being updated to include additional expectations and resources for instructors. Origins’ faculty are working together as well to diversify their Origins courses. In recent years, faculty have expanded their range of readings to include non-White authors such as James Baldwin, Frantz Fanon, the Dalai Lama, and Paulo Freire, to name a few. Women writers such as Simone de Beauvoir, Christine Korsgaard, Martha Nussbaum, and Virginia Held have been added to syllabi, and many of our faculty have shown students the anti-racist documentary “I’m Not Your Negro,” a powerful film on Baldwin and the American Civil Rights movement. Diversifying our syllabi is an ongoing effort—one that started over a decade ago when we began the important work of teaching non-Western traditions like Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucian thought in Origins. We remain committed to advancing a wide range of voices in the Honors program, and recognize that Origins is not the only place where we have work to do. It is important to us that all of our classes and spaces feel welcoming and inclusive to everyone. This will require working on our culture as a whole, reviewing how we teach our course materials, and being more mindful of how we engage with students inside and outside of the classroom. 

Like all special programs on campus, the UHP works in concert with the GW Office of Undergraduate Admissions in recruitment and admissions. The UHP staff has worked and is working closely with Admissions on the issue of diversity in enrollment. We have discussed the issue in depth with Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Ben Toll last summer, and we have emphasized our desire to have the Honors Program advertise as widely as possible. As a result of these meetings, the UHP was involved with the “Your GW” program in the Fall, which provided a direct avenue to a set of prospective GW students who we hoped would consider applying to the Honors program. We recognize that our admissions process is not yet fixed, but we are taking steps to understand the problem and learn how we can do better. We are pressing Admissions to ensure that a diverse set of applications is sent for our review. We are working to upgrade the UHP website so that it better represents the program and will be more attractive to prospective students who want to build a strong academic community. We have also altered our portion of the admissions process to more explicitly consider factors such as race, socioeconomics, and first-generation status.    

In Fall 2020, all UHP first-year students will live as a community in West Hall. Having the full incoming class living in West will allow us to do more focused community building in the first year, which is planned to include issues related to diversity and inclusion. Though a return to “normal” is unlikely in the Fall, we remain committed to unifying the incoming class through a shared academic and co-curricular program. Vern RAs are committed to building a community that supports all of our students. The UHP will also be working with the MVC Area Coordinator (Dan Wright) and Community Director (Marissa Townsend) to discuss options for integrating diversity and inclusion education programs in the residential community experience directly. Further, in collaboration with the Office for Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement, all UHP students will take part in an unconscious bias workshop in the Fall.

In addition, we are integrating anti-racist and anti-bias training into the Peer Advisor program so that peer advisors are equipped with the tools and self-awareness needed to address acts of racism and bias as well as refer students to supportive resources. Peer Advisor Leadership in particular will participate in anti-racist and anti-bias training to uphold these standards for the rest of the peer advisor program. 

 Under the Honors new administrative organization, Associate Provost for Special Programs & the Mount Vernon Academic Experience Elizabeth Chacko is tasked with course staffing. We have had multiple discussions about the need for diverse course offerings and faculty in our upper level courses, but because faculty and classes are scheduled a year in advance this process takes time. Since the needs of the UHP are similar to those of the other special programs on the Mount Vernon Campus, Associate Provost Chacko is working on building common programming to address these issues among students and faculty throughout these programs. In addition, our faculty and staff—like our students-—will take part in anti-racist and anti-bias training (again, hosted by GW’s Office for Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement).

The University Honors Program believes that critical reflection, historical awareness, an openness to the diversity of human experience, and an empathetic moral imagination are the cognitive skills necessary for building a just society free from racism and oppression. The UHP is committed to cultivating these skills and enabling our students to become agents of positive change as we struggle together to create a compassionate society in which all can flourish and thrive without fear of harm. 

In solidarity,
The UHP Administration & Faculty

Statement on The Murders of Black Americans and Racism in the UHP

UHP Students,

The UHP condemns in the strongest terms the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, David McAtee, Tony McDade and all other members of the Black community who have been killed as a result of anti-Black racism and systemic oppression. Black lives matter. For far too long, we have lived under a system that has dehumanized and cast Black lives aside using state sponsored violence. These murders are not isolated incidents, but rather the results of longstanding systems of oppression built on white supremacy. As a society and as a community of scholars, we must confront this truth and commit to genuine discourse and action on issues affecting Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

In these moments, we must also look inward, and the UHP acknowledges that our program is not one in which all BIPOC students, staff, and faculty feel fully safe, represented, and supported. Our mission implores our students to “probe the most foundational questions of humanity and to apply their understanding to complex problems of the world today,” and we must do the same as we think about our own program. We should examine in what ways problems of racism, privilege, and lack of diversity have been sustained in our classrooms, living spaces, and in our own UHP community. We should also ask: How can we address these concerns internally and what can we do to actively overcome their presence? How can we resolve and constantly re-evaluate each of these issues as they evolve over time? These are questions that we have committed to consistently ask ourselves to create lasting change not just in our program, but within the greater context in which it exists.

One immediate action is to stand up, speak out, and support those around the country and the world who are making their voices heard. We condemn the authoritarian response of our leaders and the violence against citizens who express their legitimate grievances as is their fundamental first amendment right.

Our goal is to be a community where we all belong, but unfortunately, we are not yet fully there. As we press on toward that goal, we are listening carefully to the concerns that have been brought to us. We are eager to make improvements to our program so that we can better serve our mission. As a start, we are putting together a working group consisting of UHP students, faculty, and staff to help identify areas of concern and provide concrete steps for moving forward. Later this week, we will be telling you more about what the UHP has been doing and is committed to doing in the future and asking for volunteers to join this working group.

In solidarity,
The UHP Administration & Faculty

GW Resources:
GWInSolidarity Events 
GW Bias Incident Reporting
GW Office for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement

Anti-Racist Resources We Are Reading: 
Anti-Oppression LibGuide: Anti-racist resources
Educational and actionable resources

A Detailed List of Anti-Racism Resources: Book, movie recommendations, and more

UHP Graduation Reception

Listen, dear Seniors: quarantine is deeply unfortunate, but we will be darned if we can’t still do everything in our power to celebrate you with everything we’ve got, so come over and join us on May 16, 5PM EST. Wear something formal (regalia if you have it!) and bring your family and friends as well as a drink for toasting. Professor Kung will introduce the evening with some encouragement to the class, and then the UHP faculty will also join in and talk about how wonderful you all are. There will also be a time for you to give toasts to each other! Finally, at the end, some faculty will be hosting individual “office-hours” style receptions where you can join in, introduce them to your family, and talk to them personally.

You’ll all be receiving a formal invitation from us in the coming days with the link to join, so keep an eye out for that! If you don’t see it by Friday, reach out to us at uhp@gwu.edu so we can make sure you can join us.

Also, we’d love to get pictures of memories you have from your time in the UHP to put together in the reception in a slideshow. Submit them here: https://forms.gle/uMda4CGTSdYjE7gKA

Reminders about Pass / No Pass

GW recently changed its policy to allow 5 days after you receive your final grades to change to a P/NP grade mode. This also includes honors courses. If you would like to change your honors course grade mode to P/NP, please submit a grade mode change form to uhp@gwu.edu up to five days after you receive your final grade. 

Please note that some P/NP courses may move to a Degree Map block called “Not Counted.” This means that normally the course must have a letter grade to fulfill the requirement. If this happens, please do not worry. The registrar’s office must manually change all of these; they will get to it! We will also be monitoring honors courses to make sure any are corrected as quickly as possible.  

As always, let us know if you have any questions!

Philosophy → UHP → Philosophy

Calling all budding philosophers! In case you didn’t know, Origins & Evolution of Modern Thought fulfills Philosophy major/minor requirements: 

  • HONR 1015 counts for PHIL 2111 (History of Ancient Philosophy
  • HONR 1016 counts for a Philosophy elective, for both the major and minor. 

Also, this is a friendly reminder that if your SEAS program requires you to take PHIL 2135 (Ethics in Business and the Professions), that counts as one of your Arts & Humanities requirements. 

Check in with Ben or Brianna to learn more!

Fall 2020 Registration Guide

It’s almost time to register! To help prepare, check out these tips and reminders.

Registration Schedule

***Friday, April 17th @ 9AM EST: Honors Early Registration***(Remember, early registration is for your 2nd, 3rd, and 4th semesters!)

April 20
9 AM
90 or more credits earned
(use your transcript to find your total credits)
April 21
9 AM
70 or more credits earned
(use your transcript to find your total credits)
April 22
9 AM
50 or more credits earned
(use your transcript to find your total credits)
April 23
9 AM
30 or more credits earned
(use your transcript to find your total credits)
April 24
9 AM
0 or more credits earned
(use your transcript to find your total credits)

Registration is open from 9:00 AM to 11:59 PM EST

If you’re not sure when you register, you can check your earned credit hours in GWeb using the following path: Student Records & Registration Menu > Student Records Information Menu > Transcripts > View Unofficial Transcripts. Make sure you’re looking at overall hours earned for the accurate total!

Urgent Hold Information

Check your record via GWeb regarding holds prior to your scheduled registration time. Any hold on your account will prevent access to registration. You can view any holds on your account by looking at: Student Records & Registration Menu > Student Records Information Menu > View Administrative Holds.

Make sure to check now and again in the days lead up to registration. Check early, and check often! BADLY TIMED HOLDS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE.

Fall Registration Advising

All honors students are encouraged to see a Program Manager before registration. Make sure you are prepared with a tentative course schedule using the Fall 2020 Schedule of Classes and Honors course descriptions. As new course information and revisions become available, we will update the website. Please re-check the information on the Schedule of Classes and the Honors site before you register to ensure that you’re up-to-date!

Unfortunately we won’t be able to meet in person for advising events and meetings, but please feel free to make a virtual appointment with us online: honorsprogram.gwu.edu/make-appointment

Your peer advisor is also always a good resource if you have questions about specific courses, professors, or anything you’d like advice on!

Advice from the (Peer) Advisors: Self-Care in Quarantine

Check out the following self-care tips from Peer Advisor Sydni!

UHPers, we’re living in some very unnerving times. Quarantining at home sure wasn’t how I planned on spending the next few weeks, and I’m pretty certain you might feel the same way, but as a peer advisor and resident mom-friend, I want to make sure that the rest of your semester goes as smoothly as possible. Taking care of yourself both mentally and physically is of utmost importance right now, so here are a few socially-responsible ways to maintain normalcy in the abnormality that is the world at the moment:

Set an alarm every morning

We unfortunately just gained the ability to sleep literally all the time, it’s in our best interest to get up at a ~normal~ hour during the week. Even if your classes are continuing asynchronously or your morning LSPA is no longer running (pun fully intended), waking up every morning at the same time is going to create a routine that will help to transform home-life-mode into academic mode. Sleep is still important, but getting too many ZZZs can begin to throw off your motivation or harm your mental health in the long run. Sleep in on the weekends, but the sooner your semester online starts to resemble your school life, the better.

Netflix Party (Who doesn’t love a good party?)

Missing movie nights with West floor 2 or in the townhouse? Wishing you could hang out with your friends in a safe, socially responsible way? Look no further than Netflix Party. This Chrome extension may be my new favorite thing, period. Have all of your friends download it, pick a movie or tv show, and send them the link Netflix Party generates. Not only will your movie/show be synchronized, but the chatroom sidebar allows you to make all the same jokes you would make at a movie night in Foggy Bottom. Happy watching!

Take a walk

I know this is every mother’s advice right now, but hear me out. As a huge dork that still plays Pokemon Go, walking around my neighborhood for a half-hour not only gives me an excuse to hatch eggs and catch whatever Pokemon may be nearby but also the opportunity to clear my head. Being at home with family might be nice for some time, but having some alone time to get some air, try to process whatever bit of Platonic wisdom Origins teaches, or just to have a change of scenery can be really beneficial to your wellbeing. Even if you’re going outside to sit and read a book or learn a new TikTok dance, getting out in this CDC-approved way can make a world of a difference.

Continue to meet with professors, academic advisors, and your peer advisor

Just because we’re not physically at GW doesn’t mean your professors, academic advisors, and your peer advisor aren’t here for you. Like our love of the Hippo mascot, the support these individuals provide is unconditional! Professors are still hosting office hours and your UHP academic and peer advisors are more than happy to schedule a video call to talk through schedules for next semester, new grading policies, or any other concern that comes to mind. One of my favorite parts of the UHP, if not my favorite part, is the power of the community we have; no one here is going to let you struggle in any way, especially not now. Continuing the semester online presents a unique set of challenges and worries, but as the cast of High School Musical once said, we’re all in this together. 

Intellectual omnivores, we have your backs now more than ever. In unprecedented times we must continue to keep ourselves and our loved ones as happy and as healthy as we can. Continue to check in on one another, continue to ask for help if and when you need it, and continue to have hope. Raising high is what GW does best, so keep raising your head high and stay positive, focused, and healthy. We’re here for you.

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. 

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