Category: Georgetown Magazine, Spring 2021

Title:Cura personalis meets cura apostolica

Author: Kate Colwell (G'20)
Date Published: May 27, 2021

Geoff ChatasQ&A with Geoff Chatas on caring for the whole person and the institution

Geoff Chatas (C’85), Georgetown’s senior vice president and chief operations officer, provides executive leadership for the university’s primary operational functions, including budget and finance, planning and facilities management, human resources, and more.

What have been the greatest strains on the university’s finances in the past year?

The financial strains we have experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic are a result of our desire to take care of people and ensure their health and safety. By the end of the current fiscal year, we will have lost more than $75 million since the start of the pandemic. We’ve lost revenue from housing and tuition, as well as some of our auxiliary business areas. Some of that impact has been offset by the fact that we have no travel expenses, very limited event expenses, and that our entire community of faculty and staff have sacrificed in many ways, including no merit increases over the past year and a pause to retirement contributions. We’ve also had to significantly slow down our hiring processes for staff positions. Those were big, important actions.

As an alumnus, I like to think about cura personalis, care of the whole person. And cura apostolica means care for the institution. I think this year at Georgetown we have tried to do both.

What do you see looking forward?

We’re heartened to see that, so far, the demand for a Georgetown education, as measured by application numbers, looks strong at all levels. Assuming we welcome students back in the fall, and we have our undergraduate students living on campus, we’re going to be in a strong financial position. The problem is the opportunity costs of what we’ve done. The $75 million that we will have lost because of this crisis is the equivalent cost of a new building, or many scholarships, or lots of new hires that we may have to delay or defer. Our alumni community has overwhelmed us with their care and generosity throughout this crisis, and my optimism about the future is in many ways attributable to their extraordinary commitment to Georgetown. Continued support, particularly in the form of support of our university-wide financial aid fund and our pandemic response and resilience fund, will enable us to build our reserves and emerge from the pandemic stronger.

What have you learned through the experiences of the past year?

Something we probably all knew, but maybe we took for granted, is how much we learn from each other in a community like this. I always remind myself that the average undergrad spends 12–15 hours a week or so in class; that means the rest of their week is out doing other things and having other experiences around our campus and city. And it’s become incredibly poignant to me—both as an alumnus and as an administrator—the profound value of living in a community together.

I hope that we all learn that a time of crisis can bring out the best in people. We have seen a lot of people rise to the occasion and bring ideas and new ways of doing things that we would have never thought to pursue before the crisis. And I think that’s been really heartwarming.

You can help ensure that Georgetown can fulfill its mission during this challenging time by making a contribution to the COVID-19 Response and Resilience Fund.