Discovering the District: Assistant VP for District Relations Speaks with PAFs

November 25, 2015

On November 3, PAFs heard from Dr. Bernard Demczuk, GW’s Assistant Vice President for District Relations and longtime proponent for DC voting rights. As part of a new initiative, the Academic Committee is bringing in faculty and staff whose expertise matches fellows’ shared interests. When the Academic Committee proposed this series, fellows responded with a desire to learn about DC government and politics. Given his expertise in the city’s cultural and political history, as well as his role as GW’s chief advocate within the District of Columbia, Dr. Demczuk facilitated an informative and eye-opening discussion.

In addition to advocating for GW’s interests in the community, he teaches a course called “A Different DC History: DC’s Rich, Diverse, Extensive and Glorious Black History and Culture” at the nearby School Without Walls. Dr. Demczuk condensed into a 40-minute session for the PAFs what can otherwise take a full academic year to cover. He touched on the history of DC as a city, as well as its political development. He then focused on the impact of the 1973 District of Columbia Home Rule Act, which established DC’s current political structure.

When asked how GW students can enhance community relations, he responded that there is already an exceptionally high level of community engagement. That being said, he encouraged students, especially those that live off campus, to learn about their ward members and meet with them.

Dr. Demczuk is also the historian of U Street’s famous Ben’s Chili Bowl restaurant. He can often be found there hosting educational breakfasts and leading walking tours of the surrounding “Black Broadway” neighborhood.

Check out this 2013 GW Today article about Dr. Demczuk being honored with the Urban League Award. Follow him on Twitter at @BernieInDC.

Interested in learning more about DC’s cultural history? Here are Dr. Demczuk’s top three book recommendations:

1.     Washington’s U Street: A Biography, by Blair Ruble

2.     The Secret City: A History of Race Relations in the Nation’s Capital, by Constance Mclaughlin Green

3.     Dream City: Race, Power & the Decline of DC, by Tom Sherwood and Harry Jaffe

Katherine “Katie” Paz Wynne

PAF Class of 2017
BA '15
MPS '17