While researching the George Washington University Hospital and University itself, it’s evident that, although they both strive to become more prevalent and successful, they go about their work it two distinctive ways. The George Washington University Hospital wants to become one of the most successful in the region and to do so they believe they need to show the public how trusted, advanced, and resourceful they are. In regards to the University, they have been trying to become a Top 50 school in the country for years now. They believe that in order to do so, they need to prove to the community that they are prestigious and that message is communicated to the community through a variety of ways. The University’s hospital is seen as an inviting and welcoming place; however, the University gives a message to the general public that they are exclusive and only allow in the top tier students. Both the hospital and the university share a common place, and by analyzing the built environment and researching the messages that these organizations try to display, we see that success is mere perception.
I spent two years of my educational career at George Washington University and have had a lot of first hand experience with both the University and the hospital staff.
Every building rests in the area of Washington D.C. known as Foggy Bottom. This area is busy almost the entire day and night. Since this area is near a lot of government and office buildings, the foot traffic around the hospital can get extremely hectic due to the people traveling to and from work. In addition to all of the foot traffic, the metro station directly adjacent to the University’s hospital adds only more people to, what some believe, is troubling situation. Below we see a picture of the hospital’s main entrance and the entrance of the metro station.
As a former student I can say that going to school in a city environment can be an advantage in some situations, but the overwhelming foot traffic caused a lot of annoying problems. That being said, for the George Washington University Hospital, this is not seen as a problem at all. One of the messages the hospital wants to send to the public is that they are easily accessible and accommodating to anyone. This begs the question if the hospital wanted the metro stop next to them on purpose. I talked about this topic in some of my previous work where I dove more in depth about the built environment of the hospital.
In my past work I have sited Sarah Schindler’s article Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation Through Physical Design of the Built Environment. She argues that architects will choose how the built environments are made due to specific reasons of exclusion. “some choice architects alter not only conceptual decision making structures but the built environment itself, suggesting that they are in fact quite similar to traditional architec” (Schindler 9). This quote helps answer the question above – no decision is made without knowledge of the ramifications. The hospital wants the station in that location in order to invite people inside. They want to treat as many people as possible so they can be seen as one of the most trusted and in-demand hospitals in the metropolitan area.
The message the the hospital is sending to the community is simple – they want to be trusted. The more people that experience the George Washington University Hospital, the more trust is attributed to the institution. They also want to show that they are cutting-edge and have top of the line resources. This video produced by the University’s administration shows a visual outlook of what the University’s executives believe the message should be.
The visuals in the video are important in what they are trying to sell. Right away they show the history of the hospital by introducing former President Ronald Reagan. They want to remind the public that they were the ones who had to perform emergency surgery on him after an assassination attempt. After that, they tell us about how their doctors use the best and most cutting edge equipment available. All of these aspects are used to gain trust from the community so that they decide to visit the hospital if anything unfortunate happens. Treating more people equals more recognition, and eventually, more success. We see that creating success is done by creating a certain perception to the greater community.
When focusing on George Washington University, they seek similar success and prowess but in a completely different way. The University has a low acceptance rate, and in fact has raised their tuition over the recent years in order to gain prestige in the eyes of the public.
In Kevin Carey’s New York Times article published in 2015, titled How to Raise a University’s Profile: Pricing and Packaging, he speaks to the fact that the University’s plan was to raise tuition to give off the perception it was worth it. Students would be getting a degree unlike many others, which actually turned out to be false. An administrator at the school was quoted saying that the University “convinced people that George Washington was worth a lot more money by charging a lot more money” (New York Times). He then went on to even further explain his comment by saying “College is like vodka, he liked to explain. Vodka is by definition a flavorless beverage. It all tastes the same. But people will spend $30 for a bottle of Absolut because of the brand. A Timex watch costs $20, a Rolex $10,000. They both tell the same time” (New York Times). These quotes illustrate that an education at the University is not actually worth the money that they are charging and that they only charge this much to create a perception they are a prestigious university where students will earn a prestigious degree. They are trying to generate success for themselves by creating perception, not actual substance.
Not only does the university raise tuition to create a message to the community, they also do it through commercials.
These commercials, like the one above, state the types of students the George Washington University administrators are looking for, and the goals these students should set out for themselves. These commercials are used to attract potential students and also try to attract a certain type of student with high aspirations for themselves. The commercial shows monumental areas of the city, nice areas of campus, and various athletes competing in certain events. Potential students get a variety of images on what the university is trying to sell. In the commercial above, they state they have students who are set out to change the world. Now that may be true, but we can see that these statements and visuals are being used to make the university as prominent as possible.
After researching both George Washington University Hospital, as well as the University itself, it is evident they are both striving to climb the ranks of their respective fields but going about it in two different ways. The hospital has goals of becoming trusted, advanced, and resourceful. We see this from their built environment as well as the messages they send out to the greater community. They know they can acclaim success by becoming an inclusive hospital that people depend on for any unfortunate occurrence that happens to them. The University’s plan is to create more of a secluded environment where they only accept certain people into the school. They create a false perception that they their education is worth thousands of more dollars than it really is. Although the University and hospital follow different paths to success, they both lean on the perception of the public to decide how much success both of them eventually gain. We can see that success is merely just a perception.
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