The Loudoun Chamber of Commerce kicked off the 2013 Leadership Luncheon Series April 18 at the National Conference Center in Ashburn with the president of George Washington University.
Dr. Steven Knapp, the 16th president of George Washington University, was the first speaker in this year's series.
Chris Craig, president and chief operating officer of Unanet, a software development company based in Sterling and one of the event's sponsors, took the liberty of introducing Knapp.
“He is expanding research, expanding public service, increasing sustainability and growing the global alumni,” Craig said of Knapp.
Knapp took over as president of George Washington University in 2007, succeeding Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. Prior to serving at GW, Knapp served as provost and dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. A specialist in romanticism and literary theory, Knapp got his start in the academia teaching English literature at the University of California, Berkeley. He graduated from Yale in 1973 and completed both his master's and doctorate at Cornell.
Knapp kept his speech brief and specific, tailoring his talk to the Loudoun-based audience. He discussed new and expanded programs at the school's western-based campus, referred to as the Virginia Science and Technology campus, while also discussing the school's contributions to Loudoun as a whole.
Knapp noted that in the past year, GWU has hosted more than 100 events, including Stem Day for Loudoun high school students, where they're able to explore different math, science and engineering careers.
But Knapp noted the school isn't stopping there.
“Our ambition as an institution goes beyond hosting these events, entertaining and stimulating as they may be,” he said. “We want to be part of the innovators of Loudoun.”
The Virginia Science and Technology campus already boasts new technologies, such as earthquake simulators and lifelike dummies for medical students, but Knapp stated the campus is going to expand more, starting with an $11.2 million investment to combine big data and life sciences.
“Seventy percent of Internet traffic flows through Loudoun databases,” Knapp said. “Our plan is to put big data and the life sciences together for our institute of computational biology.”
GW will also work on developing a new way to manufacture cement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and next fall will break ground on a new conservation center.
But Knapp didn't focus exclusively on technological innovations; he also discussed new measures the school will be implementing to cater to United States veterans. Knapp hopes to improve the transition from military to civilian life and help veterans use military experience in an academic setting, for example, medics who are seeking a job in health care.
“We're trying to expand in response to a need,” Knapp explained.
Ultimately, Knapp said the goal of the campus wasn't just to operate a satellite branch, but contribute to the local community.
“We are proud to be not only in Loudoun County but of Loudoun County,” Knapp said.