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Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Three alumni join Board of Trustees
By Hannah Marr, News Editor • June 21, 2024

GW learning just across the river

“What’s that?” said 40-year-old graduate student Dennis Comer when asked about his thoughts on Stephen Joel Trachtenberg.

Comer is working toward a master’s degree in publishing and takes classes at GW’s Alexandria campus, a learning center with seven classrooms located in a Virginia shopping center.

Far from living the life of an average Foggy Bottom graduate or undergraduate student, Comer is an Army Test and Evaluation Commander by day and a student who attends evening classes at one of GW’s 10 “Near You” centers by night.

While he may be paying tuition to GW, he does not concern himself with typical campus issues.

Asked about venturing to GW’s main campus Comer said: “I don’t need to go there.”

Annette Allgood, director of the Alexandria Graduate Education Center, said despite the lack of school spirit, the Alexandria center is a vital part of the GW community.

“There are an awful lot of adults who can’t get into the District to take classes,” said Allgood. “We take GW to them.”

According to Allgood, the 11-year-old Alexandria center will have to find a new location when the lease on its classroom and office space runs out in August 2008. Allgood said the center is looking to double its space despite its recent decline in enrollment when specific programs, including engineering, were transferred to GW’s newer Arlington center.

The Alexandria center teaches 464 students said Matt Lindsay, assistant director of GW Media Relations. In addition to Alexandria, other GW “Near You” centers located in Virginia include centers in Arlington, Newport News, Mechanicsville, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Ashburn and McLean. There are also three centers located in the District.

Alexandria center student Bethany Cochol, 26, is in the last year of a graduate degree program in counseling. The program is offered as a cohort, meaning students are admitted as a group, take classes together and graduate as one unit.

“I really liked the idea of the program . (it’s) an intense two years, but (you’re) getting it done in two years,” she said.

You get to know everyone in your cohort really well, said Cochol, likening the program to a small family.

Allgood agreed that the cohort programs offered at the Alexandria center are more than just learning environments.

“These people who come here, their lives are as stressful as you can imagine,” said Allgood about the average graduate student at the Alexandria center, who often also has a full-time job and a family. “The students, in a sense, hold each other together as life conflicts come into play.”

Of the 14 different programs offered in Alexandria, five require students to study in cohorts, according to the center’s Web site. Two of such programs include counseling and publishing.

GW’s Foggy Bottom campus also has a cohort masters program in counseling, but unlike Foggy Bottom, the Alexandria campus requires its students to have three years of work experience prior to acceptance, said Rebecca Dedmond, assistant professor of counseling and director of Alexandria’s counseling cohort.

“Because these students have already been out . they’re probably not as interested in an on-campus experience,” said Dedmond about Alexandria students as compared to Foggy Bottom graduate students.

Ann Merchant, a part-time professor for the master’s in publishing program, said the cohort helps to foster camaraderie between the students. Merchant teaches a class on Thursday evenings about market strategies.

“They had a semester with one another before this class,” Merchant said about her Thursday-night students. “So you can really tell that they’ve definitely formed a relationship.”

Despite the students’ seemingly close connection, Merchant said they probably do not feel connected to GW in its entirety.

“It’s hard to know how connected they are to the University in a core sort of way,” she said.

Merchant said she likes to start her classes by asking students to answer questions that reveal something about their personalities. She added that the questions help to liven up the class and also help students to learn about one another.

Every student is required to answer out loud, and some even prepare their answers before class, said Merchant, who provides students with these questions beforehand.

Last Thursday, the question was, if you could invite three people to dinner, dead or alive, who would they be?

Sitting in the back of Merchant’s classroom, Comer knew his answers well before class started. Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and Kofi Annan, he said.

Although Comer never goes to GW’s main campus and didn’t know that Trachtenberg is the president of the University, he did say he’s a GW sports fan when the teams are winning.

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