An Overachiever Comes Full Circle


Josh Lasky

Staff Spotlight

An Overachiever Comes Full Circle

In 2022, Josh Lasky, B.A. ’07, M.P.A. ’09, returned to GW as director of the Office of Sustainability, which he helped to establish years earlier as a student.

//By Greg Varner


As a first-year student at GW, Josh Lasky was so enthralled by the smorgasbord of opportunities available to him on campus—things to learn, foods to eat, friends to meet, sports and games to play and more— that he tried to take advantage of them all, with predictable results.

“I got sick a lot,” Lasky recalled. “In my freshman year, I was playing ultimate Frisbee, I was pledging a fraternity, I was a Student Association senator, I was getting involved in everything, and I was trying to get straight A’s in my classes— just overextending myself because I didn’t want to miss a moment.”

Ultimately—an apt word, given Lasky’s time on the ultimate Frisbee team, eventually serving as cocaptain— he managed to enjoy a large number of moments. Some days, in a certain light, some of those moments are going on even now.

“I still see the ultimate Frisbee team practicing in the same location next to the Reflecting Pool and throwing a disc on University Yard, just like I did,” Lasky said.

As for “only-at-GW” moments, Lasky had his share. One was an enjoyable personal interaction being teased by Rahm Emanuel, then President Barack Obama’s  chief of staff and the speaker at Lasky’s master’s Commencement ceremony. Another was when, as a graduate student, Lasky attended Obama’s first inaugural parade. (“I was freezing my butt off,” he recalled.)

Then there was the time he flew down to Florida as a student volunteer for an alumni event with former GW President Stephen Trachtenberg, who ended up flying in coach while Lasky was somehow upgraded to first class. As they were waiting in the airport prior to boarding, Trachtenberg had given Lasky the draft manuscript of a book he was writing about leadership in higher education.

“He asked me to read his book and give him notes,” Lasky said, still shaking his head in slight disbelief at the memory. “I boarded the plane early, and I take out the manuscript, and a few minutes later someone is hovering over me, and it’s Steve Trachtenberg, and he announces to the cabin that I am his editor, and everyone should treat me well. And then he proceeded to his economy class seat.”

Trachtenberg’s sense of humor was also in evidence when he purchased a large bronze statue of a hippopotamus which was then installed on the corner of 21st and H streets, where it still stands. Apart from being the ultimate Frisbee team’s namesake— Briefly... the squad is still known as the Hippos—Trachtenberg’s sculpture came with fakelore invented by the former president, who installed a plaque describing how George and Martha Washington would gaze out on the Potomac and watch their children play with the hippos that lived on the river.

“That’s a great thing that I hope never changes about this institution; we take the learning and the research seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Lasky said.

Lasky grew up in suburban New Jersey but was eventually more drawn to city life.

“That’s a great thing that I hope never changes about this institution; we take the learning and the research seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”

Josh Lasky

“I became really interested in how cities offer opportunities to advance sustainability, from sharing walls with neighbors to sharing resources like parks and green spaces and taking advantage of shared infrastructure for water and electricity.”

As director of the Office of Sustainability, he leads an office he helped set up as a grad student. His focus is on the university’s sustainability initiatives, such as achieving carbon neutrality by 2030, phasing out single-use plastics on campus and empowering members of the GW community to take meaningful action to make the campus more sustainable.

He’s still overachieving. A couple of years before returning to GW as a staff member in the spring of 2022, Lasky wrote a book, “Every Step Is a Gift: Caregiving, Endurance, and the Path to Gratitude,” detailing his years caring for his father, who battled Parkinson’s disease.

For fun, he has played on the alumni team in ultimate Frisbee games with current students.

“I’m never quite in the shape that I used to be,” Lasky said, “and the alumni tend to get it handed to them. But sometimes there are some really crafty alumni who turn the tides.”