The newly inaugurated 27th president of Washington College is making his mark.
“We have lots of ideas moving forward,” Mitchell Reiss said. He gave a few examples, such as “a new relationship with Oxford Uni- versity, and a new internship with NATO.”
Reiss, faculty, and staff are also redesigning the structures of college governance with staff councils and new committees. “We’re trying to change the ways that the faculty and administration steward the college going forward,” Reiss said.
Reiss also spoke of intentions and efforts to “empower alumni to help us with recruiting. We’re trying to do more with high school teachers so that they can send us their very best students. We’re trying to figure out ways in which we can market the college a little bit better so that more people know about the great things that we’re doing,” he said.
Most importantly, Reiss said “we’re trying to figure out ways in which we can tie ourselves closer to our founding patron, George Washington. We should be known as Mr. Washington’s College, like UVA is know as Mr. Jefferson’s University. Nobody else has the relationship with George Washington that we do. I think that we need to celebrate that.”
As far as changes in social life on campus, he wished to set one thing straight. “I heard there were rumors that I want to make a dry campus. Let me address it right up front; that is absolutely untrue. Can’t be clearer,” said Reiss. “What I do want is for students that are legally allowed to drink to do so safely so that they don’t hurt themselves or hurt other people, period,”
Reiss does want more options for students on the weekends. “I would like students, if they decide to go home on the weekend, to really feel badly because they’re missing so many neat things going on on campus, from the arts, to athletics, to parties and other things,” he said. The new Director of Student Life, Emmanuel Lalande, “is bringing a lot of energy and ideas to the campus,” said Reiss.
Reiss has much to look forward to during his presidency at WC. “I think the great advantage of the college is that it does so many things well,” he said. “What I’m really looking forward to is being able to share how superb our faculty is with more people, the quality of education we can offer our students, the variety of majors, and the opportunities for experiences outside the classroom. I think to be able to share that with a wider and wider audience would be very satisfying.”
Reiss also recognizes that there will be challenges that he will face during his presidency. He anticipates that “continuing to get the very best students to come to Washington College,” and “attracting and retaining the best faculty and supporting them while they’re here,” (both inside the classroom and with their own research interests) will be his greatest challenges during his presidency.
Reiss is also focused on “do[ing] a better job of engaging and energizing the alumni so that they come back and visit the college, and they feel that they’re a part of this community.
In addition, “raising money so that we can continue to provide more academic opportunities for our students and faculty”, will be a challenging task for Reiss. “I think that will keep me pretty busy for a while.”
Reiss also sees many areas for improvement at WC that he plans to address in the coming years. “I think that we need to grow our endowment in order to be truly competitive with some of our peers,” said Reiss. “That will allow us, again, to provide more financial aid for the best students, and to provide more faculty support, so that we can retain the best faculty,” he said.
Reiss also anticipates the need for some new facilities in the future. “We have this wonderful opportunity down by the waterfront. We have five acres right next to the boathouse, and we’re deciding right now what type of a waterfront campus do we want to have. That ought to be spectacular, and really a defining feature of the college going forward.”
“We are very hopeful that we will receive matching funds from the state to completely renovate Miller Library,” he said. “It does need some work, and we want students to spend time there. We want it to be a resource for the faculty and for the community, and it’s looking a little tired.” The college will hopefully hear in the next few months as to whether it will receive the funds. “The state will provide $3 million, and we will match it. We will then go about building something really nice,” said Reiss.
Reiss has high hopes of continuing and building upon many of the great traditions of WC. It will be exciting to see what the future holds under the guidance of Mitchell Reiss.