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District's first distillery keeps drinks local
by The GW Hatchet
Sep 28, 2016
“The Northwest’s first neighborhood distillery, District Distilling Co., is bringing liquor connoisseurs and cuisine gourmands together in an industrial modern space.
Chae Yi, the chief executive officer of District Distilling Co., said he founded the distillery as a place for "makers" of food and drink to come together.
“The intended concept is for this to be a collaboration between a lot of different makers: makers of spirits, makers of cocktails and makers of good food,” Yi said.
The new distillery, restaurant and bar on U Street opened last month. It's the first of its kind in the District since the Distillery Pub Licensure Act was passed in 2013, which allows restaurants to craft liquor on site.
Opening a distillery was a long, complicated process that took three years longer than Yi anticipated, he said. But he said complications were “only natural” when building a distillery in the heart of D.C.
Getting the required permits, remodeling the 100-year-old row house and dealing with outdated city plans pushed back the release date, but Yi said he was set on maintaining the location's historical elements.
“We tried to touch as little as possible,” Yi said. “The brick is pretty much as-is.”
Media Credit: Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor
Yi and the distillery's board of directors hired a team of culinary all-stars to couple the drinks with food, he said.
Said Haddad, of Brixton and Compass Rose fame, acts as District Distilling Co.'s general manager and the face of the restaurant hybrid. Chef Justin Bittner, from Bar Pilar and Cafe Saint-Ex, also moonlights as a Maryland farmer and helps find local produce for the kitchen. Head distiller Matt Strickland, from the famous Corsair Distillery in Tennessee, oversees all spirit production.
Customers enjoy the food and drinks in style: District Distilling Co. has a gleaming distillery downstairs and a bar and restaurant upstairs, separated by a staircase and glass windows so patrons from the upstairs can peer down into the inner workings of the distillery.
The interior is decked out in burnished wood, exposed piping and industrial lights, all composed in a sleek design. The bar and the restaurant are connected, and the kitchen is seamlessly integrated into the main dining room.
In the future, the barrel tasting room in the distillery – complete with white oak barrels – will be open as an event space, Yi said.
Integration is the name of the game at District Distilling Co., and Haddad said he prides the distillery on being a gathering place for all types of people.
“Somebody who loves a beer and a shot eating a burger could be sitting right next to somebody who could be drinking a $18 glass of champagne, eating toast and caviar,” Haddad said. “It’s all happening in the same space.”
When asked if the steep prices – $13 average for a cocktail, $11 for a starter and $20 for an American entrée – might eliminate some of “average joes” from the clientele, Haddad said that there are options on the menu within varying price ranges.
The bar menu includes some staples, like the garlic herb curly fries ($6) and buttermilk chicken fried biscuit ($7). But District Distilling Co. also offers chicken liver pate ($8), pork shoulder poutine ($12) and shrimp toast ($11) with paddlefish roe and quail egg.
Similarly, their entrées include both classic meals – potato gnocchi for $11 or half-roasted chicken ($22) – and more austere options like the crispy skin suckling pig ($24), vegetable ratatouille pie ($17) and whiskey-rubbed smoked salmon ($13).
The prices are reflective of the quality of the food and drink served at District Distilling Co. All the produce is brought in fresh from local farms, and the menu changes constantly to reflect what is available for that season.
The distillery has also produced original bottles of whiskey, gin, vodka and rum to serve at future events during the month it has been in business. Four spirits have been crafted on site: Backroom Bourbon, Buzzard Point white unaged gin, Checker Bark gin and Corridor vodka.
Producing the liquor on site has been an exciting process, Haddad said.
“To be able to watch a product being born, sourced, mashed, bottled – it’s just been an exciting experience.””

Volleyball's Iott embraces breakout freshman campaign
by The GW Hatchet
Sep 28, 2016
“Media Credit: Andrew Goodman | Senior Staff Photographer
Skylar Iott goes up for a hit in GW's loss to James Madison earlier this season. Iott earned a starting position as outside hitter as a freshman.
It only took Skylar Iott one match to secure a starting position on the women’s volleyball team.
The freshman outside hitter has proven dominant on the court, taking on a significant role with the Colonials since the preseason, when injuries left holes in the team’s starting lineup.
“Preseason was hectic for us,” Iott said. “We had to step into new roles that some of us hadn’t been in yet. It was all about overcoming adversity.”
Iott had the chance to prove herself when she started at the Cavalier Classic Aug. 26: She led the Colonials with 22 total kills in matches against Northwestern University and the University of Virginia.
“Being in the starting lineup was probably one of the best feelings I have ever experienced being a freshman,” Iott said.
Since her debut set, Iott has since racked up 25 kills against Seton Hall for a career best and currently boasts 137 cumulative kills.
The Ida, Mich., native has appeared in 44 sets and started 12 of the 13 matches she’s played, averaging 3.35 points a set — trailing only star senior middle blocker Chidima Osuchukwu.
It would be easy to feel intimidated by the expectations placed on her so early in her collegiate career, but Iott feeds off the pressure, she said.
“I am someone you can put in any position and I’m going to absolutely try my hardest and do my best for the good of the team,” Iott said. “No matter what, I am going to succeed. I am not going to shy away from challenges.”
Iott’s tenacious spirit and impressive play earned her Atlantic 10 Co-Rookie of the Week for games played between Aug. 29 and Sept. 4. But Iott said she still isn’t satisfied.
“It was nice to be rewarded for all the work I put in during the preseason, but it is not going to stop there, Iott said. “I was talking to my dad and he said, ‘Now you have to win it by yourself, no "co” attached,’ and that is a great mindset to have.”
Iott only recently switched to the outside hitter position, after playing as a middle blocker until her senior year of high school.
The Colonials picked up Iott last spring after an outstanding high school career at St. Mary’s Catholic Central, where she led her team to consecutive Michigan Class C Championship appearances.
Most volleyball players are recruited their junior year of high school but despite her late recruitment, head coach Amanda Ault said she recognized Iott’s potential.
“Really early in preseason, the three of us (coaches) all looked at each other and said we are really, really glad we were able to pick her up,” Ault said. “To be able to find her and pick her up as late as we did was such a blessing.”
Like most freshman players, Iott went through a transition during the preseason — something that comes with learning a new, faster style of play, Ault said.
“One day you could see it in her face that it just changed,” Ault said. “She got more comfortable, her feet got underneath her again and she really started going after it.”
With a dream of becoming an All-American athlete, Iott said she has big goals for herself and for the Colonials' program. With a team goal of winning the A-10 tournament, Iott has already set her sights set on NCAA tournament.
“We are going to do some great things in the next few years…I want to get to a place where we are unstoppable, and people are scared to play (against) GW volleyball,” Iott said.”

Online tool to cast light on employee health care costs
by The GW Hatchet
Sep 28, 2016
“Media Credit: Hatchet file photo by Dan Rich | Photo Editor
Benjamin Hopkins, an associate professor of history and international affairs, said he is wary of how helpful a new website to compare health care plans for GW employees will be. The University launched the tool after faculty were upset about changes to health insurance options.
A new online tool will help University employees calculate potential health care costs.
Castlight is a free service that will open in 2017 to employees and dependents on University health care plans. Officials who created the tool will help employees compare their health care options, learn what is covered under their plans and access simple explanations of care expenses.
The decision to launch the new program comes after faculty voiced their disapproval over GW’s new health care plans, which they said limited benefits options and increased out-of-pocket expenses. The benefits task force, a team assembled by University President Steven Knapp early in 2015, requested this type of tool in their long-term report for improving health benefits.
John Kosky, the associate vice president of human resources talent management, announced the three-year pilot of Castlight at a benefits briefing for employees earlier this month. The program is integrated with United Health Care, the University’s health care provider, and it allows anyone on the University’s plan to compare costs of physician visits, procedures and other medical necessities, he said.
“You can think of it like Amazon or, but for healthcare,” Kosky said at the briefing.
HR staff members consulted with the University’s benefits consultant when searching for potential providers like Castlight, Kosky said in an email.
“The primary benefit of the tool will be providing clear data to faculty and staff enrolled in GW's health plan on the actual costs of health care and prescription services,” Kosky said. “This service will serve as a platform for employees to know what they can expect to spend as well as search for more cost effective options.”
Castlight will not displace any personnel who are currently responsible for managing health care benefits, he added.
Tyler Anbinder, a history professor and member of the Benefits Advisory Committee – a faculty and staff team tasked with providing HR with feedback on benefits – said the committee requested an online transparency tool but was not consulted when picking a provider for it.
“It’s really hard to know before you go to the doctor how much it’s going to cost or whether one is cheaper or more expensive than the other,” Anbinder said.
United Health Care's website has a similar cost-comparison tool, but it isn't user-friendly and can provide inaccurate information, Anbinder said.
A tool that helps employees decide which of the University's two benefits plans to pick would be more useful, he added. United Health Care has staff available by phone to answer employees’ questions about plans, but those staff members are not helpful in making recommendations on specific issues, Anbinder said.
“If you ask general questions, they’ll give you general answers,” Anbinder said. “The health advocates are very wary about making recommendations even if you give them very specific info, they don’t want to be held responsible if you choose the wrong plan.”
Benjamin Hopkins, an associate professor of history and international affairs and a member of the BAC, said in an email that he and other faculty members had the sense that University officials do not take employee feedback seriously.
“For years now, the faculty, staff, Faculty Senate and president’s task force have all concluded that health benefits are underfunded and explicitly told the administration that is the case,” Hopkins said in an email. “Yet we are in our fifth year of less investment and more cuts.”
The Faculty Senate passed a resolution in April that asked GW to cover 75 percent of health care costs, compared to the 70 percent that the University currently pays for. Officials have said they will increase benefits payments by 3 percent each year, but health care costs can rise by about 6 percent annually.
Hopkins said he is wary of the new tool and the fact that online health care providers “monopolize” the data that they choose to share with customers, making pricing information opaque and confusing to them. Hopkins thinks the effect of adding CastLight will be “marginal, at best,” he said.
“One could argue, as health economists love to do, that this makes people better ‘health consumers,’” Hopkins said in an email. “People are not ‘consumers’ of health just as students are not ‘consumers’ of education. The tyranny of the market has obscured what this is all about.””

Snapshot: Turkish Festival
by The GW Hatchet
Sep 27, 2016
“Media Credit: Ivonne Rodriguez | Hatchet Photographer
A woman shops at booths at the 14th annual Turkish Festival which is put on by the American-Turkish Association of Washington DC.”

Next University president tasked with innovative fundraising
by The GW Hatchet
Sep 27, 2016
“Media Credit: Madeline Cook | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Trustees Nelson Carbonell and Madeline Jacobs take questions at a town hall meeting about the search for GW's next president. Students and faculty said the new president should focus on fundraising to reduce the University's reliance on tuition.
Groups from across GW want the next University president to strengthen existing fundraising strategies and identify new ones.
Students and faculty said in interviews and at presidential search town halls this month that the next president should amp up philanthropy strategies to reduce GW’s reliance on tuition. Although officials have built up fundraising attempts in recent years, faculty and students said administrators should identify untapped approaches.
University President Steven Knapp focused on the University’s fundraising targets over his near-decade as president: He restructured GW’s development office, secured record-size gifts, led GW to $882 million in donations for the $1 billion campaign, expanded fundraising responsibilities for deans and promoted financial aid and philanthropy.
Students and faculty said that the next president needs to build on Knapp’s foundation and continue to find new ways to fundraise.
Nelson Carbonell, the chairman of the Board of Trustees, said in an interview earlier this month that he and others conducting the search were looking for an innovative leader in all areas, including philanthropy.
When participants at the town halls asked Carbonell what strategies he hoped GW would use, he said the next University president would have to decide.
“If I could give you an example, we’d be already doing it,” he said in the interview. “We shouldn’t sit on good ideas. I think that the next president — they ultimately need to demonstrate that they can tackle tough problems, that they can innovate and bring people with them."
Participants in the presidential search town halls repeatedly brought up weak spots in existing philanthropy work, like the low number of alumni donations . They cited the 10 percent giving rate as evidence that officials must improve the strategy for alumni fundraising.
“There are institutions that have a 20, 30, 50 percent rate,” Carbonell said at one town hall. “There’s something that we need to do differently, and we need leadership that can help us figure it out.”
Eric Johnson, the senior vice president for advancement at Tufts University and a 1981 GW alumnus, said universities across the country are identifying alternative revenue streams and emphasizing alumni donations.
“GW, like Tufts and other institutions like us, faces the challenge of finding the right ways to gain the attention and support of our alumni,” Johnson said in an email. “We are all constantly looking for ways to approach people with differing interests and experiences to tie them back to their university.”
Trustee Madeleine Jacobs, the chair of the presidential search committee, said in an email that Knapp, who will step down at the end of this academic year, has been “instrumental” in bringing in large donations and raising money for student scholarships.
Members of the presidential search committee will think about fundraising when they consider candidates, she added.
“We will be looking for inspirational candidates who have strong fundraising skills and a proven track record in philanthropy, as well as a passion for high quality education and research,” Jacobs said.
Annamarie M. Bezzerides, the associate vice president of advancement at Georgetown University, said universities like Georgetown and GW need philanthropic contributions to fund students who cannot pay full tuition. This year’s financial aid budget reached more than $275 million.
Donations can fund financial aid and help the University work towards combatting tuition reliance, Bezzerides said.
“You have to look at the size of the endowment, how many students are on financial aid and how much of that financial aid is being provided as a result of philanthropy,” she said.
The credit rating agency Moody’s reported that GW relied on tuition and related fees for 62 percent of its operating revenue in fiscal year 2016 — a rate the University has used since 2013. Knapp said in a memo two years ago that the University is roughly 75 percent reliant on tuition.
Besides enlarging the financial aid pool by 5.6 percent this year, administrators sold the provost’s former residence on the Mount Vernon Campus to raise funds for financial aid for students affiliated with programs on that campus and expanded the career and internship fund. Student-led efforts like the Senior Class Gift campaign are dedicated to increasing aid.
Charles Garris, a mechanical and aerospace engineering professor who has taught at GW for more than 40 years, said Knapp’s fundraising is different than past presidents’ strategies because he has prioritized individual schools and programs over the University as a whole. Knapp's strategy could be appealing to donors who want to see their money fund specific purposes.
“Fundraisers have to say ‘We have students who are making progress in research, helping the human condition, doing wonderful things for the world — they’re making history,’” Garris said. “That’s something that people are willing to give their money, and that’s why fundraising has become much more successful under Knapp than it ever was before.”
Garris said GW's scarcity of endowed faculty positions and other small programs demonstrates room for a more focused approach in fundraising, though. In 2014, about 13 percent of the University's endowment funded professorships.
“If you go next door to me, there’s a faculty who has a sign on his door saying ‘Karlgaard Chair.’ At GW, that’s very rare,” Garris said. “But if you go to other universities like Princeton, MIT, Stanford, Virginia Tech, University of Virginia, any big university, and you walk down the corridors, you’ll see every door has that kind of sign. In other words, almost every professor has support from an endowment."
Heather Joslyn, the assistant managing editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, said universities are more often running capital campaigns, and universities want presidents with the skills to lead them. GW’s next president will be tasked with completing the $1 billion campaign by June 2018.
“A lot of universities are seeking someone who can talk to big donors and get them engaged,” Joslyn said. “Someone who can be fundraiser-in-chief.””

Mental Health Services doctoral internship receives national accreditation
by The GW Hatchet
Sep 27, 2016
“The American Psychological Association officially accredited Mental Health Services's doctoral internship.
MHS went through three years of program development and a review by the APA to receive accreditation as an internship site. Gillian Berry, the interim director of MHS, said in an email that she expects more aspiring counselors will apply to the program now that it has approval from the U.S.'s top psychological group.
MHS recruited the first class of interns in fall 2013, and they arrived on site the next fall. The internship was designed using American Psychological Association standards but had yet to be formally approved until this year, Berry said.
Interest in the internship has increased steadily as the program's reputation has improved, Berry said. College counseling centers are popular internship locations for students working toward psychologist licenses, she added.
“We expect a significant increase in applications now that the internship is accredited,” Berry said. “Accreditation ensures that our internship is adhering to the highest standards of training for psychologists.”
The process for accreditation began with a self-study, which examined all aspects of the internship program and the training site, Berry said. She added that once reviewers approved that document, APA representatives visited the center for two days.
“The site visitors met with various stakeholders around the University to assess the extent to which the internship program achieves its training goals,” Berry said. “We were awarded seven years of accreditation — the maximum length of accreditation a program can currently receive.”
Berry said MHS has increased the opportunities for interns to develop skills in multicultural competence by participating in a drop-in group for students at the Multicultural Student Services Center, working diverse student walk-in hours and participating in a weekly diversity-focused seminar.
Amber Cargill, the assistant director of training and education in MHS, directly oversaw the accreditation process and was instrumental in creating and implementing the training program, Berry added.
Cargill declined to comment on her role in developing the internship accreditation program.
Some graduate programs do not allow students to apply to an unaccredited internship, Berry added.
“We will be able to recruit a national pool of qualified applicants from respected graduate programs across the country with full accreditation status,” she said.

The internship year begins Aug. 1 and runs through July 31 of the following year. The internship requires 2,000 hours of practice with an expectation of at least 500 hours of direct clinical service and offers an annual salary of $26,000 paid on a monthly basis.
Bong Joo Hwang, assistant director and training director for counseling services at Arizona State University, said more students are attracted to APA-accredited programs. ASU's internship program has been accredited since 1989.
Hwang said accreditation ensures that trainees are well-prepared to work in the field and assures the quality of the services that the trainees will provide. All internship programs may be required to have accreditation soon, he added.
“The state licensing body has been moving toward the direction that applications from only accredited programs can obtain licensure to practice,” Hwang said. “We are not there yet, but it may happen in the future.””

Staff Editorial: UPD can do more to make crime log transparent
by The GW Hatchet
Sep 27, 2016
“GW has often struggled with being transparent enough for students. Thankfully, it seems that officials are trying to reverse that trend by adding information to the crime log.
The University Police Department crime log was recently updated to differentiate reported sexually violent crimes. This change separates sexual abuse reports from sexual assault reports. The crime log now reports whether crimes were referred to other GW offices, like the Division of Student Affairs or the Title IX office. University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said the department changed the crime log in the spring to show the public how domestic violence and sexual assault complaints are shared with the Title IX office.
UPD is clearly trying to be more transparent about crimes on campus, which is a start. But many community members still may not know how to access the crime log, so it's doubtful that these updates are informing the community well.
Right now, anyone can contact UPD with a case number from the crime log, which can be found on UPD’s website, and request a full description of the crime. But it’s unrealistic to assume that average community members will take the time out of their days to ask UPD these questions.
UPD could and should provide us with more up-front information within the crime log and publicize the log via social media. The crime log is an important tool to help keep people safe on campus. We should be able to make use of the information the log contains.
The crime log is updated daily online, and each month the crime log updates to include the list of crimes that have occurred within the past year. The current crime log shows all crimes from Sept. 2015 through Sept. 2016. The log reports about a sentence on each crime: the date the crime occurred, the time it occurred, the location, where it was referred to and a short description of the crime. Those are helpful details, but they don’t give community members quite enough information. If the crime log provided more details on the types of crimes happening on campus, students and other GW community members would have more knowledge about campus safety. People probably don’t read the crime log too frequently to begin with, so even fewer community members are likely to read it with minimal descriptions.
Other universities' crime logs include slightly fuller descriptions of crimes that occur on or near campus. Peer institutions the University of Southern California and Washington University give sentence-long descriptions of the crimes, which would be beneficial on GW's log.
If officials want to prove how transparent the crime log is, UPD should also consider publicizing the crime log. When the log is updated each month, there’s no reason that UPD shouldn’t tweet out a link to the report. Students are already on Twitter, and UPD uses a Twitter account for breaking news and safety tips, so it would be easy to tweet out the crime log and help students use it.
UPD wants the GW community to learn about our safety on campus. Csellar said the department hosts outreach and education activities. For students to be active in safety efforts, we need information about crime in an accessible format.
Some students who don’t currently use the crime log might if they could access it via social media and if it had more comprehensive descriptions. With easy, publicized access to this information, students can choose whether or not to utilize it, without needing to go through the trouble of seeking out the resource. And by removing an obstacle of finding this information, more community members will probably be finding themselves checking the crime log at least once a month.
GW is making headway with their recent changes to the crime log. It’s a step in the right direction that shows more transparency, but there’s more that can be done. Now that the crime log is more transparent, GW should take additional steps to make it even more useful.
The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Melissa Holzberg and contributing opinions editor Irene Ly, based on discussions with managing director Eva Palmer, homepage editor Tyler Loveless, contributing sports editor Matt Cullen and copy editor Melissa Schapiro.”

Essay: On the limits of sibling comparison
by The GW Hatchet
Sep 27, 2016
“Margot Besnard, a senior majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.
Media Credit: Emily Robinson | Design Assistant
I think of Charlie, my older brother, when I sit in my historical geology class. Charlie is now a Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in West Africa. But just three years ago, he was in my place: a senior majoring in political science, wondering what to do after graduating from GW and trying to make it through that last G-PAC requirement.
It’s strange to think that my brother, who recently sat listening to the same professor discuss the same PowerPoint slides, now lives happily without Wi-Fi, a toaster, sidewalks, running water, air conditioning and most of the other things I consider essential elements of my daily life here.
As I consider my future after college, the boldness of Charlie’s decision to leave behind everything that made the U.S. home, and the satisfaction he’s gotten out of his move, makes me wonder if getting a regular job in the U.S. is what I really want.
Over the years, I’ve found myself striving to be more like my brother while maintaining my individuality. These days I’m trying to determine whether our overlapping qualities and shared values mean I should also pursue a unique adventure, like he did. But the comparisons cause me to wonder if comparing myself to my brother will actually help me at all.
My mom reminds me that it’s important not to measure happiness against someone else’s, to be myself the way I always have. It's a helpful reminder to pause and reflect on how we judge ourselves and others. But comparisons aren’t all bad. Comparing is a fundamental tool we use to get to know ourselves. Rather than try to stop the process entirely, perhaps a better prescription is to dig deeper and examine both why we’re drawn to the comparisons we use, and how to analyze them in a more nuanced way.
For most of my childhood, I didn’t understand how he could spend so much time by himself. I would bang on his door and beg him to talk to me about his friends and whatever happened at school that day. Eventually he would open the door and let me sit on the floor next to his bed. I’d talk to him while he read or played computer games, responding with an occasional murmur.
Media Credit: Cartoon by Julia Korsyn
Cartoon by Julia Korsyn
One week into my freshman year in Thurston Hall, after I pushed my bed from the four-person room into the secluded study alcove, I realized that for perhaps the first time in my life, I felt how Charlie felt all those years: I wanted solitude. I’ve always been more extroverted than he is, but when we were at GW together during my freshman year and his senior year, I began to understand that my budding need for alone time was coinciding with his growing comfort in being a leader.
Seeing how I changed in comparison to my brother gave me a better sense of my own character. There is a big difference, however, between that kind of reflection and the type comparing I do when I consider our paths after graduation: If I stay in the U.S., I might be able to make a decent salary doing something that interests me. But I won’t learn French like Charlie did in Burkina Faso. I won’t spend as much time reading books and thinking about life as he does in a village without cell phone reception. My friends probably won’t be as interesting as his fellow Peace Corps volunteers.
These comparisons quickly become negative, and sometimes even turn into jealousy. Each one diverts the admiration I have for my brother’s experience into a stream of self-doubt. A more general, nuanced comparison still may not lead me to know exactly what to do next, but it does help remove the stress of assessing every option relative to my brother's experiences.
Recognizing that allows me to step back and see that the essential components of Charlie’s life could be part of mine in a wide range of jobs and locations. He has opportunities to learn new things, take on new responsibilities, challenge himself, make new friends and, most of all, he’s doing something that inspires him.
I’m not completely sure where I’ll end up after college. Most likely, I’ll stay here in the U.S. For the first time, my path will divert from Charlie’s, and I might not make so many direct comparisons between our lives. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t learn from how he’s grown and changed — because that helps me see how I can, too.
Want to publish a personal essay? Submit your idea.”

Jarred Stancil: Struggling students should consider a year off school
by The GW Hatchet
Sep 27, 2016
“Like many students, I have faced personal challenges while also being a GW student. For me, things came to a head in the spring of 2015 when I fell into a state of depression. I was overwhelmed by my classes and eventually stopped attending them altogether. My sleep schedule was erratic and, I left my room less frequently. During that time, I realized that coming back to school in the fall maybe wasn’t best idea for me.
Taking time off from school isn’t usually people’s first instinct when they’re going through tough times. And when I decided it was necessary for me, I was shocked by how many people questioned my decision-making. A few of my friends asked why I would take time off during what otherwise would have been my senior year, instead of just powering through. My mother was concerned about any financial consequences. Several others thought I was putting myself at a disadvantage by graduating a year later.
But I ended up taking a year off. And during my time away from GW I learned that the idea of finishing college in four years is a perspective that is unique to our culture, and it’s not always the right one. Students whose mental health is taking a toll because they are overwhelmed should know it’s possible to take a year off in the middle of college. They can take time off and return stronger and better off. For me, removing myself from an environment with constant stressors allowed me to focus on my own well-being.
Anyone who is thinking about taking time off should know that they can have unique, rejuvenating experiences that will likely make them more prepared to tackle stress back at GW. During my year off, I spent time in Europe involved with a group called Students for Liberty that promotes student political activism by organizing conferences for students to network with high-profile political figures. I met people and had experiences that are invaluable, and I made connections that will last a lifetime. The experiences I had during my time off have made me a better student and made me more prepared for the future. I couldn’t have had those experiences during just another year at GW.
While I was in Europe, I learned that large proportions of European students finish their undergraduate degrees in more than four years, often taking time off in the middle to volunteer or travel. And nobody bats an eye if a student takes time off for their mental health.
The concerns that my family and friends had about my taking time off didn’t end up being problems. GW locks in your tuition rate for a period of five years, so somebody who takes a year off won’t be affected by spikes in tuition. Furthermore, anybody receiving federal aid can receive it for up to six years after enrolling in college. So you don’t need to worry about losing any need-based aid.
And when considering a year away from GW, I spoke with a clinician at Mental Health Services who very clearly outlined what I needed to do and walked me through the whole process before I made my decision.
GW is a stressful environment. But those students who are struggling can take a breather if they need it. The time spent away from campus can make students better prepared to tackle the challenges of school and life, in general. People may raise concerns, but don’t forget the most important factor to take into consideration is one’s own mental health and well-being.
Jarred Stancil, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet opinions writer. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.”

Jazz students look to organization, clubs after program cuts
by The GW Hatchet
Sep 24, 2016
“Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Contributing Photo Editor
Zachary Sanders, the president of the GW Jazz Orchestra, plays the saxophone in a Phillips Hall rehearsal room. He started the group, which has recently held jazz jam sessions for music students.
Updated: Sept. 23, 2016 at 3:39 p.m.
When budget cuts restructured the jazz studies minor and jam sessions from the music department in 2015, students had to find other ways to experience jazz.
Classes specific to the jazz studies minor were folded into the umbrella music studies minor, but the jam sessions — in which students and faculty came together to play extemporaneous jazz music — were no longer funded by the department, music faculty said. Students and faculty said jam sessions are necessary for young jazz musicians.
“The cuts really ripped out the backbone of the entire jazz program here at GW,” Zach Sanders, the co-founder and co-president of the GW Jazz Orchestra, said.
But students have found ways to keep jamming: They started their own student organization dedicated to jazz and turned to jazz clubs around the District to supplement their educations.
Unfortunately, the demise of jazz at GW is reflective of the slow decline of jazz clubs in the District, music professors said.
A student-run solution
Sanders and Peter Reiss, who are both juniors, founded a student-run jazz orchestra in 2015. The Jazz Orchestra wasn’t started with jam sessions in mind, but budget cuts forced them to start holding their own jam sessions on top of their larger ensemble practices.
Sanders and Reiss were inspired by the departmental big band to start their own ensemble. Eventually, an offshoot of the ensemble evolved to fill the hole left by the loss of jam sessions.
College is often the first time amateur musicians have exposure to jazz jam sessions, Sanders said.
“Not everyone comes into college with a high school background in jam sessions,” Sanders said.
Although the Jazz Orchestra receives an annual allocation from the Student Association, it doesn’t receive enough to afford professional instruction from faculty.
The jam sessions are just one component of the orchestra: Aside from the impromptu sittings, there's an ensemble that performs on International Jazz Day and at their annual spring and winter concerts.
Kip Lornell, an adjunct music professor who studies ethnomusicology, said students have to create their own opportunities for learning jazz. But a lack of guidance from experienced jazz performers at their jam sessions and practices could be a detriment to their jazz educations, he said.
“With less faculty, it’s likely that the level of musicians would be uneven,” Lornell said.
The District as a classroom
GW students have access to jazz venues and musicians around the city, though.
Tyler Cassidy, a master's student in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, said he has learned the most by visiting jazz clubs around D.C., especially on U Street.
Cassidy is an avid jazz cat at night, ripping away at his tenor sax at clubs or events like Twins Jazz or Jazz Night in Southwest D.C. For him, experience has been the best teacher, he said.
“Sometimes you have to push [students] to go, but it’s worth it,” Cassidy said. “It's all about showing up, showing your face.”
The jazz scene in the District is friendly to newcomers, he added: Younger musicians with passion and promise were invited to play with well-known professionals on stage during the closing show at the Bohemian Caverns. Twins Jazz was also well-known for providing a stage for high school and college musicians.
But with jazz slowly fading around the District, students soon may not have many opportunities to jam at all.
Twins Jazz on Colorado Ave., One Step Down and Bohemian Caverns were all jazz clubs that have closed over the past decade because they weren't bringing in enough revenue. No new clubs have opened in recent history.
Lornell said gentrification in the city, not lack of interest from the community, has forced jazz clubs to close.
“As D.C. gets less and less African-American, there are less avenues for jazz,” Lornell said.
Jim "King James" Levy, a lecturer in GW's music department, disagreed, saying that jazz has simply changed its face since its heyday and that there are different types of venues where musicians can play. More jazz cats are finding their homes at special events dedicated to jazz, or by mixing jazz with other genres, like swing, he said.
Jazz Night at Westminster Church and Bossa Bistro and Lounge are such non-jazz venues where jazz musicians often jam.
"It's an interesting way that jazz is surviving," Levy said.
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the Jazz Orchestra did not receive any funding from GW. They do receive funding from the Student Association.”

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