I get a tremendous amount of personal satisfaction and even a sense of spiritual renewal from the great outdoors – including hiking, yardwork, and gardening. Part of that comes from just being in nature; it’s always been a big part of my life. As a kid, I loved hiking and camping. My first jobs included doing yard work at our house and for my relatives. By high school I had a job at a local nursery, and during the summer after college, I was doing landscaping, including pouring concrete pool decks and light construction. So, you could say I’ve always liked helping build and beautify the environment around me.

While I won’t say I have a green thumb, I did get the gardening “bug” from my father, who could really make just about anything thrive outdoors. He loved to tend to our yard, and I learned a lot just by watching him while playing outside. Since I’ve owned my own home, gardening and landscaping has always been a part of my life, particularly during the spring and summer months.

When I look at my yard today, we actually have a bunch of fruits growing, such as pears, figs, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, and concord grapes. Annually, we also plant tomatoes, squash, eggplant, and a few types of herbs.  While I don’t always have the same luck as my dad, thinking about how I can help these crops thrive has become a big part of my summer.

The opportunity to be in the yard a lot in the final weeks of summer started me thinking more about what it takes to nurture and develop our student community the same way I tend to my garden. As we embark on the academic year, I’ve been contemplating how we truly help our community thrive. Let’s ask ourselves: what are we putting into the environment to support and sustain our community, allowing it to bloom?

In Student Affairs, our work is integral in helping students learn and grow. Are we prepared for the responsibility to help students tend to their development like a gardener would tend to their plants? Do we realize our capacity to nurture and support – both to ground students and to provide support as they begin to flourish? What fertilizer or weed prevention do we offer that helps them grow vigorously?

As I’ve watched my own garden grow this summer I know it’s taken lots of attention, water, TLC, and time - but now things are flourishing. While I’ve had to nurture some plants more than others, while some plants are thriving, others have withered and wilted. Despite that day-to-day challenge, for plants and students alike, our work can play a big part in helping our students truly bloom through careful, thoughtful execution of our work.  I’m hopeful that as you begin to settle into the fall semester, a time when we normally think of the harvest, you, too, have found some ways to see the vital role you play in helping our students reap the benefits that come from our support.  


DSA is proud to welcome the following new staff members:

  • Brittany Abraham, Coordinator, Student Involvement, Center for Student Engagement
  • Benjamin Bailey, Doctoral Intern, Colonial Health Center
  • Jason Cha, Postdoctoral Clinical Fellow, Colonial Health Center
  • Esther Dickerson, Staff Clinician, Colonial Health Center
  • Justin Jacques, Staff Clinician, Colonial Health Center
  • Jazmine Newkirk, Career Coach, Exploration, Center for Career Services
  • Frances Rekrut, Postdoctoral Clinical Fellow, Colonial Health Center
  • Mark Thunstedt, Student Conduct Officer, Student Rights and Responsibilities
  • Avery Carter Walker, Doctoral Intern, Colonial Health Center

New Roles

Congratulations to these DSA staff members on their new roles in the division:

  • Lexy Janda Knott, Health Promotion and Administrative Specialist, Colonial Health Center (temporary, part-time)
  • Bonnie McGowan, DSA Financial Services (temporary, part-time)
  • Andy Sonn, Director, Office of Military and Veteran Student Services

Resignations and Retirements

We wish these former DSA staff members well in their future endeavors:

  • Jamila Aswad, Center for Student Engagement
  • Kourtney Bennett, Colonial Health Center
  • Graham Bottrel, Center for Career Services
  • Michelle Cochran, Colonial Health Center
  • Gergely Foldesi, Colonial Health Center
  • Chrissy James, Center for Career Services
  • Callie Johnson, Colonial Health Center
  • Myles Surrett, Center for Student Engagement
  • Miya Williams, Colonial Health Center
  • Matthew Worhach, Colonial Health Center

Dogs with Dogs

Thank you to everyone who attended a fantastic DSA PDTB-sponsored event filled with BBQ, lawn games, and some very happy dogs on Wednesday, July 19. Grillmasters Kevin and Robert cooked up hot dogs and cheeseburgers while other guests relaxed in the shade with their fuzzy friends. Dogs also had the chance to go off-leash in a dog-run with their owners. 

The PDTB committee has great things in store for the coming 2017-2018 year so stay tuned for the schedule of Forums and personal development and fellowship activities!

DSA at the Nationals

DSA colleagues and their guests enjoyed an evening at the Nationals game on Wednesday, June 14, thanks to a donation from the Washington Nationals Community Ticket Grant Program.  While our hometown team lost the game to the Braves, it was still a terrific evening for colleagues to enjoy each other’s company and to get to know each other better outside the office.


In November of 2016, the ACHA survey was dispersed to GWU students in order to gain an in-depth snapshot of the health status and wellness behaviors at our university. The goal of this survey was to provide a needs assessment of the GW student body to direct future programming needs and assess the success of current programs. The survey was sent out to 3153 randomly selected undergraduate and graduate students, and 629 (20%) responded. Of the respondents, 80.6% were undergraduates, 19.4% were graduate students, and the demographic split was similarly matched to that of the university.

The survey looked at a number of areas of wellness, including sexual health, physical health, mental health, and substance use. In comparing the impact of physical and mental health on academics, undergraduates indicated a significantly higher level of stress, sleep difficulties, anxiety and roommate difficulties than graduate students. Undergraduate students also noted that cold/flu/sore throat, as well as sinus/ear infections/bronchitis/sore throats are significantly more likely to impact academics than with graduate students.  Below is a chart comparing the impact of a number of areas of physical and mental health on academics in our undergraduates, as compared to the ACHA normative sample.

Other interesting areas of data show that GWU students use substances more frequently and in greater quantity than the national averages. Additionally, GWU students experience more negative outcomes when drinking. As is often seen with data, the perceptions of social norms within students surrounding drugs and alcohol are skewed, with GWU students often thinking that others use drugs or alcohol more than is reported. Additional data is available surrounding the sexual health and various areas of mental and physical health and can be obtained by contacting Emily Kane (emkane@email.gwu.edu) or Trisha Nash (trishmnash@gwu.edu).

From June 21-23 , Toby Davidow (Planning and Outreach) attended the ACPA Assessment Institute in Costa Mesa, CA. The Assessment Institute was an opportunity to learn more about best assessment practices from leaders in the assessment field. Topics such as "Writing Success Criteria" to "Survey Design" were featured in the intensive, two and a half days. Toby had the opportunity to meet with some leaders individually to get feedback on some of GW's assessment practices. If you are interested in the schedule of events and/or session handouts, please contact Toby directly (davidow@gwu.edu).

ACPA Proposals are due Friday, September 8, 2017. The 2018 ACPA Annual Convention will be held in Houston, TX from March 11-14. Curriculum goals for ACPA ’18 include:

  • Reflect on their own positionality and role in social justice work within student affairs
  • Educate and role model the value of racial justice
  • Engage with the issues impacting higher education by applying our identified competencies
  • Experience critical opportunities for learning and engagement through the creation and dissemination of knowledge
  • Collaborate with the local communities

ACPA is accepting individual and group program proposals until September 8. There are a number of presentation opportunities, including Pre-Convention Sessions, General Sessions, research paper submissions, research- or practice-based posters, mini-programs, and Competency Based Sessions.

You can submit a proposal for ACPA ’18 by clicking here


If you are interested in registering for ACPA ’18, you can do so here at a discounted rate through December 9, 2017:


DSA staff have been published in AHEPPP Journal Spring 2017 5(1). Ongoing Engagement and Orientation: A Literature Review of Collegiate Family Engagement is authored by Andrew Sonn (Military and Veteran Student Services), Toby Davidow (Planning and Outreach), Anna Whiston (GSEHD MA ’17), and Arianne Wilt (GSEHD MA ’16 and former DSA Graduate Fellow).

Congratulations to Anne Scammon and Lenore Webb (Center for Career Services) for accepting  the NCDA Service to International Students Award on behalf of the International Student Project Team of the GW Career Services Council while attending the National Career Development Association 2017 Global Conference in Orlando, Florida. This award recognizes college/university career services centers that are active in partnering with and supporting the career development of international students. Criteria for the award include active NCDA memberships, expressing a commitment to partnering with international students in the career development process, developing and implementing resources and programs that support international students with assessment of implementation, and articulation of future plans and investment in future student-centered resources.

Here are some current titles that may be helpful in fostering your professional development. If there is an article that you have found particularly helpful, or if you have written something yourself, please feel free to submit it to Jennie Whitlock at jwhitlock@gwu.edu for review.

You.  Yes, You!



The Subtle Art of Gaining Faculty Buy-In



The Benefits of Time Away



Resilience Is About How You Recharge, Not How You Endure



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Integrating Millennials into Higher Ed. Administration



How to Create and Keep a Useful Network



What Happened When I Replied “Call Me” To Every Email I Got For A Week



This Year’s Freshman