Michelle Suarez’s Remarks about President Knapp

November 28, 2016
My name is Michelle Suarez and I am a 2012 and 2014 graduate of the Elliott School. I also served as President Knapp’s Student Liaison, a role I took on as part of the Presidential Administrative Fellowship. During this time, I had the opportunity to work closely with President Knapp, and I was immediately impressed by his dedication to serving the student body.
 
One of my responsibilities in the office was to help organize Dr. Knapp’s student office hours. During these conversations, student from across the University could come in to speak with President Knapp about anything they wanted to. Overwhelmingly we heard from students about how they had found their place here at GW. We also heard all sorts of ideas, including once a very detailed proposal about a GW sponsored party bus that would traverse the streets of DC on the weekends.
 
While there were certainly some interesting moments, there were also some heavy ones. I vividly remember meeting with a young woman who told us about the homelessness she had faced as a high school student, and how the upcoming summer break presented the possibility of not having a place to live. We worked with her to find a housing solution on campus, and her story became part of a very important conversation about how GW could create a welcoming and supportive environment for students of all backgrounds.  
 
President Knapp used these conversations to understand the trials and concerns our diverse student body faced every day, turning these lessons into incredibly important and progressive initiatives and programs. President Knapp understands that you don’t just admit a successful alumnus, you have to help build one. You have to give students the support and resources they need in order to grow into their full potential as academics and professionals. I am proud to stand here before you and say that GW has helped me reach my potential and build my success.
 
For the last two years I’ve had the privilege of working as a Foreign Service Officer and diplomat for the United States. I am currently assigned to the U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Mexico, and I look forward to transitioning soon into my new role as a cultural affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
 
For me, it was the alumni awards I received, which allowed me to focus on my academics instead of having to work full time as a freshman; the Presidential Administrative Fellowship which afforded me the opportunity to get a Master’s degree; the staff members at the Division of Student Affairs that understood some of the hardships my family was facing and helped me overcome them. And most importantly, it was the mentorship I received during my time at the Office of the President.
 
For all this, I and so many students and young alumni owe a great deal of thanks to the person that has led this university for almost the last 10 years.
 
So now, without further ado, it is my pleasure to introduce our 16th president of the George Washington University, Steven Knapp.

Michelle Suarez

PAF Class of 2014
BA '12
MA '14