A Message From the Dean

Dean Ben Vinson CCAS
Columbian College Dean Ben Vinson
September 13, 2017

Welcome students and greetings to our entire CCAS community! As we begin a new academic year, I am reminded of the remarkable breadth of our college. The stories I hear everyday--stories of impact, collaboration, discovery and achievement—are a testament to the continued relevance of a liberal arts degree, one that focuses on creating a level of expertise among our students that is sought after by virtually every sector of our economy and has led to the successes of our worldwide network of alumni.

What we do in the classroom and lab—and in internships and field experiences throughout the globe—showcase the very essence of who we are: a vast and vibrant international community connected by a shared purpose to build a better future through knowledge and understanding. Our rich diversity is not only creating new pathways of discovery, it is bridging the differences among us.

Most recently, the Trump Administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program have left many in our community wondering what’s next. I echo GW President Thomas LeBlanc’s recent message that GW is a “better institution” because of its ability to admit students without regard to origin, ethnicity or proof of residency status. “We value the contributions that all of our students bring to our campus community,” Dr. LeBlanc said.

As dean, I embrace and am emboldened by the multicultural fabric of our institution and, indeed, of our nation. In the midst of the dialogue and, in some cases, the heated exchanges, I see the opportunity to realize the dream that Martin Luther King had so many years ago. It may seem counter-intuitive to say so but the stridency of speech, the rawness of hate, the openness and willingness for people to say what is on their minds, is generative; it may be a path to a better understanding. 

The challenge for today and for the future is to be better listeners—to listen intently to each other and to be reflective in order to heal our divides. Within Columbian College, we underscore the core competencies of global perspective, civic engagement, critical and creative thinking, scientific and quantitative reasoning, and written and oral communication. We espouse the notion of the engaged liberal arts—an idea that couples the world of theory with practical application. And, through the process of academic interrogation, we seek to elevate the dialogue. As an institution of higher learning, it is incumbent upon us to do so. 

As the year progresses, I look forward to engaging with you, whether on campus or in my travels.  I welcome your input and invite you to drop me a line or stop by my office—it would be the highlight of my day! I also invite our students to take advantage of the resources that are here to help you navigate your college experience. These include the Center for Student Engagement, the Multicultural Student Services Center (MSSC), the Colonial Health Center and resources for undocumented individuals.

All my best to every member of our community,

Ben Vinson III
Dean, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences
ccasdean@gwu.edu