The George Washington University

The George Washington University (GW or GWU) is a private, coeducational university located in Washington, D.C., United States. The school was chartered on February 9, 1821 as The Columbian College in the District of Columbia by an Act of Congress and since that time has developed into a nonsectarian research institution. Located four blocks from the White House, GW is known for its undergraduate International Affairs, International Business, Political Science, and Political Communications programs, as well as its graduate and doctoral programs in business, social sciences, international affairs, medicine, education, public health, and law.


Founding and early history

The first American president George Washington had long argued for the creation of a university in the District of Columbia. In his will, he bequeathed fifty shares of the Potomac Company to support such an institution. He wrote, "I give and bequeath in perpetuity the fifty shares which I hold in the Potomac Company (under the aforesaid Acts of the Legislature of Virginia) towards the endowment of a University to be established within the limits of the District of Columbia, under the auspices of the General Government, if that Government should incline to extend a fostering hand towards it." The shares turned out to not be worth very much, but Washington's idea for a university continued. Aware of Washington's wishes, Baptist missionaries and leader minister Luther Rice raised funds to purchase a site for a college to educate citizens in Washington, D.C. A large building was constructed on College Hill, which is now known as Meridian Hill, and on February 9, 1821, President James Monroe approved the congressional charter creating the non-denominational Columbian College in the District of Columbia. The first commencement exercises in 1824 were considered an important event for new Washington, D.C.. They were attended by President Monroe, John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, Marquis de Lafayette, and other dignitaries. During the Civil War, most students left to join the Confederacy and the college's buildings were used as a hospital and barracks. Walt Whitman was among many of the volunteers to work on the campus. After the Civil War in 1873, the Columbian College became the Columbian University and the university moved to its present location. In 1904, the Columbian University became The George Washington University in an agreement with the George Washington Memorial Association.

The George Washington University, like much of Washington, D.C., traces many of its origins back to the Freemasons. The Bible that the presidents of the university use to swear an oath on upon inauguration is the Bible of Freemason George Washington. Freemasonry symbols are prominently displayed throughout the campus including the foundation stones of many of the university buildings. The Freemasons feel a special bond in helping the school throughout its history financially.


The majority of the present infrastructure and financial stability at GW is due to the tenures of Presidents Cloyd Heck Marvin, Lloyd Hartman Elliott, and Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. In the 1930s, the university was the center for theoretical physics. The Nobel-prize-winning cosmologist George Gamow produced critical work on the Big Bang Theory at GW in the 1930's and 1940's. In one of the most important moments in the 20th century, Niels Bohr announced that Otto Hahn had successfully split the atom on January 26, 1939 at the Fifth Washington Conference on Theoretical Physics in the Hall of Government. During the Vietnam War era, Thurston Hall, an undergraduate dormitory housing 875 students was (according to campus folklore) a staging ground for Student Anti-War Demonstrations (at 1900 F Street NW, the building is 3 blocks from the White House). In 1996, the university purchased the Mount Vernon College for Women in the city's Foxhall neighborhood that became the school's coeducational Mount Vernon Campus. The campus was first utilized in 1997 for women only, but became co-educational in a matter of years. The Mount Vernon campus is now totally integrated into the GW community, serving as a complement to the Foggy Bottom campus. In December 2006, the university named Johns Hopkins University provost Steven Knapp its next president. He began his presidency on August 1, 2007.


Foggy Bottom

The main GW campus is the 43-acre downtown Foggy Bottom campus a few blocks from National Mall. Barring a few outlying buildings, the boundaries of campus are delineated by Pennsylvania Avenue, 19th Street, E Street, and Virginia Avenue. The University owns much of the property in Foggy Bottom and leases it to various tenants, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Other nearby institutions include the Harry S. Truman Building (Department of State headquarters), John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, United States Institute of Peace, Watergate complex, and the embassies of Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Spain, Uruguay, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The university has a significant presence in the area. Signs indicating the relative location of various university buildings can be found on almost every street corner. The student union (the Marvin Center), several residence halls, the Media and Public Affairs building, and other major academic buildings are located within a three-block radius of the University Yard (the original quadrangle on campus).

The nearby area surrounding GW's main library, Gelman Library, forms the hub of the campus. The seven-story library building contains over two million volumes and is constructed in the Brutalist architectural style of the 1970s. It features a concrete façade punctuated by windows that are divided by projecting vertical slabs. For most of the year, parts of the library are open 24 hours day, seven days per week for use by students, faculty and staff. The library's upper level is home to the National Security Archive, a research institution that publishes declassified U.S. government files concerning selected topics of American foreign policy. It was a National Security Archive Freedom of Information Act request that eventually made the Central Intelligence Agency's so-called "Family Jewels" public.

Adjacent to the library is Lisner Auditorium and a large open area known as Kogan Plaza. Close to the plaza and located near Monroe Hall and Hall of Government is the Monroe Court, a landscaped area with a large fountain. The Foggy Bottom–GWU Washington Metro station is located at the intersection of 23rd and I Streets NW due south of Washington Circle. The University Hospital is located next to the Metro station entrance.

The Foggy Bottom campus contains most of the residential dormitories in which GW students live. The most notable include: Thurston Hall, Potomac House, Fulbright Hall, Mitchell Hall, Schenley Hall, Munson Hall, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis Hall, New Hall, Ivory Tower, and The West End, among others.

In late 2007, construction on a large commercial development (known currently as "Square 54") is expected to begin on the currently-vacant lot previously occupied by the old GW Hospital. It is the second-largest undeveloped lot in the District of Columbia.

Mount Vernon

In 1999, the university acquired the 23-acre Mount Vernon College for Women campus and renamed it The George Washington University at Mount Vernon College.

Nicknamed "The Vern," students at this campus are the neighbors of the Embassy of Germany in Washington in the Foxhall area. The campus is served by a 24-hour shuttle service known as the "Vern Express." Despite the fact that its dorms are fully co-educational, the campus' legacy as a former women's college has been retained with the Elizabeth Somers Women's Leadership Program, a residential-academic program for first-year female undergraduate students. The Mount Vernon campus also hosts the university's outdoor varsity sports.

The Mount Vernon campus is being heavily promoted by the University to attract more students. Exclusive events such as the Fountain Day provide an incentive for students to explore and use the facilities on campus. The Mount Vernon Campus also offers special services such as free DVD rentals and better catering services to make the place a more inviting living environment. Along with catering services from the on-campus dining facility, restaurants surround the campus within walking distance, many of which accept Colonial Cash (the official currency of the GWU students) and deliver free of charge. The University is also developing the campus to house more freshmen as they have started a new housing project in the summer of 2008 to house an additional 1000 students.

Ashburn and other centers

The George Washington University also operates a postgraduate-geared campus in Ashburn, Virginia (near Dulles International Airport) and several other satellite education centers including the Alexandria Graduate Education Center in Alexandria, the Graduate Education Center in Arlington, and the Hampton Roads Center in Newport News. The Ashburn campus hosts a National Transportation Safety Board crash-safety facility.



George Washington University is governed by a Board of Trustees and the president who are in charge of managing the institution as a whole and providing a vision for the future. The current Chairman of the Board is W. Russell Ramsey. Ramsey is a business entrepreneur who is known as the co-founder of Freidman, Billings, Ramsey Group, a top investment bank in the United States. He is currently the chairman, CEO, and CIO of Ramsey Asset Management. The current President is Steven Knapp who was the provost at Johns Hopkins University before being chosen by the Board of Trustees in 2007. Knapp is the sixteenth president of the university. There is currently no student representative on the Board, a perennially contentious issue in Student Association elections. Nonetheless, in 2004, students voted in support of representation onto the Board of Trustees.

Schools and colleges

GW is organized into nine schools and colleges each with a different dean and organization.

The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences (CCAS) is the oldest and largest college in the university. It was founded in 1821; at the beginning of the university's history, there was no distinction between this college and the university. The Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM), the School of Media and Public Affairs (SMPA), and the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration (SPPPA) belong to this college, although they are run separately. The Columbian College was among the first American institutions to grant a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in 1888. The Columbian College is notable for its academic diversity.

The School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) was founded in 1821 due to the need for doctors in the District of Columbia. In 1981, the Medical Center became the center of the national spotlight when President Ronald Reagan was rushed to the emergency room after an attempted assassination. The emergency room area was later renamed the Ronald Reagan Institute of Emergency Medicine, and other politicians, such as Vice President Dick Cheney, come to GW for routine and emergency procedures. An associate school in the university is the School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS).

George Washington University Law School was established in 1826 and is the oldest law school in the District of Columbia. Supreme Court Justices like David J. Brewer and John Marshall Harlan were among those who served on its faculty. Due to its proximity to the Supreme Court, the Law School is frequently visited by Supreme Court Justices and Law Clerks. Chief Justice John Roberts presided over its moot court in 2007.

The Graduate School of Education and Human Development (GSEHD) has always been one of the top Graduate Schools of Education in the United States. GSEHD was officially started in 1909. The school is composed of three distinct academic departments, and it is one of the largest schools within GW. U.S. News & World Report rated the graduate program in the top 20, and was 5th overall in total research expenditures.

The School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) was founded on October 1, 1884 as the Corcoran Scientific School of Columbian University. The school separated from the Columbian College in 1962 and was one of the first to accept women for degree candidacy in engineering and has awarded the most engineering doctoral degrees to women in the country. The bazooka was invented at the SEAS in 1942.

The Elliott School of International Affairs (ESIA) was originally founded in 1898 as the School of Comparative Jurisprudence and Diplomacy. Under President Lloyd Elliott, the school completely separated from the Columbian College. On September 3, 2005, alumnus Colin Powell opened a new complex for this school at 1957 E Street NW in front of the Department of Agriculture.

The part-time MBA program or "Professional MBA", is a flexible format program and is currently ranked 26th in the nation according to US News and World Report.

The George Washington School of Business was established with a $1 million gift by the Masonic Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite for the Southern Jurisdiction in 1928.

On February 6, 2006, the Chairman and CEO of FedEx Frederick Smith opened a new complex for the school called Duques Hall.

The School of Business is now located in the Ric & Dawn Duques Hall, named after graduate and member of Alpha Kappa Psi fraternity, Ric Duques. The Hall expands to include Funger Hall, which serves as the site for many SOB activities.

During the Trachtenberg Presidency, the University has also began to provide professional education. Some schools founded during his era were the College of Professional Studies, and the Graduate School of Political Management.



GW received more than 19,300 applications and admitted 6,750 students for the class of 2012, or approximately 36% of applicants.

Students at GW participate in a wide variety of educational opportunities inside and outside of the classroom. 9,700 full-time undergraduates are studying in 87 majors with 1,500 in business, 500 in engineering, 2,000 in international affairs, 700 in communications and media, 800 in sciences and math, 2,900 in social sciences, and 1,300 in arts, languages, and humanities. Nearly 900 students participate in GW's Study Abroad Programs each semester in 50 countries. Additionally, about 125 entering students each fall join the University Honors Program community of 500 students.

The George Washington University has been ranked by The Princeton Review as in Top 10 for the following categories:

  • Most Politically Active
  • Dorms Like Palaces
  • Great College Towns
  • Best in the Northeast
  • College With a Conscience


George Washington University is the most expensive educational institution in the United States for undergraduate education. Even though tuition is guaranteed to remain at the freshman rate for up to ten continuous (full time) semesters of attendance at the university, tuition has risen 58 percent over the past seven years. Tuition for the 2007-2008 year is $39,210 with a housing/board estimated cost of $11,900. That tuition rate only applies to the incoming Class of 2011 and those who remain at the university after 10 full-time semesters. However, GW also gives the most need-based financial aid in the country.


There are major research institutions that many students utilize like the Library of Congress, the National Institutes of Health, the Carnegie Institute, the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, and the National Geographic Society. Many think tanks nearby provide students with every opportunity to decipher and participate in research projects with professors and advisors.

Student life

The university is located in downtown D.C., near the Kennedy Center, embassies, and other cultural events. There are many student organizations at the University. GW has a Division I athletics program that includes men's baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, gymnastics, women's lacrosse, rowing, soccer, women's softball, squash, swimming & diving, tennis, women's volleyball, and water polo. Colonials athletics teams compete in the Atlantic 10 Conference. While only a Division II program, the Men's and Women's Rugby Teams both compete in the Potomac Rugby Union and have had much recent success.

GW has a Navy ROTC program on campus.

Student organizations and government

All student organizations are run through the Student Association (SA). The SA is fashioned after the federal government with an executive, legislative, and judicial branch. Some SA presidents have been successful after college, such as former SA president and Sigma Chi Fraternity brother Edward "Skip" Gnehm, who was the Ambassador to Kuwait during the Gulf War and received the Presidential Distinguished Service Award and two Presidential Meritorious Service Awards.

There are over 300 registered student organizations on campus. The GW College Republicans has been visited by politicians like John Ashcroft and President George W. Bush. The International Affairs Society (IAS) runs the university's award winning Model United Nation's team, in addition to hosting yearly high school and middle school Model UN conferences on campus. GW's Student Global AIDS Campaign (SGAC) is one of the most active chapters in the country due to the high amount of AIDS cases in Washington, D.C. The GW Chapter of STAND: A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition, or GW STAND, was formed in 2003 and works with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on information about genocide in Darfur. The Global Language Group, or Global Languages, is a non-profit organization that offers over 150 free classes in 50 languages.

There are chapters of many varied academic groups at the University. The local chapter of the Society of Physics Students was at one time under the auspices of world-renowned scientists like George Gamow, Ralph Asher Alpher, Mario Schoenberg and Edward Teller, who have all taught at the university. The Enosinian Society, founded in 1822, is one of the university's oldest student organizations. Invited speakers included Daniel Webster.

There are multiple news sources on campus: the twice-weekly newspaper The GW Hatchet, founded in 1904 and The Daily Colonial, an online daily founded in 2004. There is also an online only student-run radio station, WRGW, that is in its 79th year and campus television station GWTV broadcasts on campus cable channel 6 and on its website


The Program Board had, in years past, scheduled an X-rated film to show as part of their semester series. The film was usually partnered with a discussion of the First Amendment or a seminar on the sociological underpinnings of pornography. One year in the mid-1990s, "Porn Night" garnered national press coverage along with an ensuing protest. The film shown that night was John Wayne Bobbitt Uncut. The organized protest brought together College Republicans with College Democrats, Christians, Jews and Muslims and a bevy of diverse student organizations to speak out against pornography. A number of university administrators appeared that night to show their support of the students' right to assemble - on one hand to view the movie and on the other to protest using student fees to show the film in the first place.

A number of posters in October 2007 surfaced at GW satirizing the "Islamofascism Awareness Week," which was attributed to the GW Young American's Foundation. On October 9, The Daily Colonial reported that the posters were not the work of the YAF, but rather an attempt to discredit the YAF for their involvement in promoting the Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week. Later that day, seven students advocating against alleged racism inherent in Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week emailed their statement of responsibility regarding the posters to the GW Hatchet. While YAF and other conservative groups demanded that the students be expelled, the university's judicial services found the students in violation of GW's postering policy and the students were put on disciplinary probation and fined $25 for the satirical fliers.

Colonial Inauguration

Every year, freshmen are introduced to GW with an elaborate orientation led by a group of student group leaders called the Colonial Cabinet. During the two and a half days, students learn how the University functions and what is expected of them. It is one of the largest orientation programs for universities in the northeastern United States. There has been some controversy over how the university introduces students and how much the orientation costs.

Greek life

GW has a Greek community of over 1600 students (19 percent of the undergraduate population). There are fourteen recognized men's social fraternity chapters on campus, including Alpha Epsilon Pi, Beta Theta Pi, Kappa Alpha Order, Kappa Sigma, Lambda Chi Alpha, Phi Kappa Psi, Phi Sigma Kappa, Pi Kappa Alpha, Pi Kappa Phi, Sigma Chi, Sigma Nu, Sigma Phi Epsilon , Tau Kappa Epsilon, and Theta Delta Chi. There are currently two colonies: Zeta Beta Tau and the Delta Tau Delta colony is scheduled to be activated in Fall 2008.

There are nine Panhellenic sororities on campus, including Alpha Delta Pi, Alpha Epsilon Phi, Alpha Phi, Delta Gamma, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Pi Beta Phi, Sigma Delta Tau, Sigma Kappa, and Phi Sigma Sigma. Three National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) sororities exist on campus: Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, and Zeta Phi Beta.

Other Greek-life exist on campus in the form of multicultural, professional, community-serviced based and honor groups: Alpha Kappa Psi, Delta Sigma Pi, Order of Omega, Phi Beta Kappa, Omicron Delta Kappa, Tau Beta Pi, Iota Nu Delta, Lambda Upsilon Lambda , Pi Delta Psi, Kappa Phi Lambda, Sigma Psi Zeta, Delta Phi Epsilon, Theta Tau, Phi Sigma Pi, Alpha Phi Omega, Sigma Pi Sigma, and Epsilon Sigma Alpha.

Athletics and spirit programs


George Washington University is a member of the Atlantic 10 Conference and most of its teams play at the NCAA Division I level. All indoor sports play at the Smith Center on the Foggy Bottom campus. The outdoor events are held at the Mount Vernon campus Athletic Complex.

The university's colors are buff and blue (buff being a color similar to tan, but often represented as gold or yellow). The colors were taken from George Washington's uniform in the Revolutionary War.

The teams have achieved great successes in recent years including a first round victory in the Men's NCAA Division I Soccer Tournament in 2004.

Men's Basketball

Mike Jarvis coached GW in the 1990s, and led the team to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1993, where they were beaten by the Fab Five University of Michigan team (which later vacated its wins due to NCAA rule violations). Jarvis also coached current Colonials Head Coach Karl Hobbs in high school. Former NBA player Yinka Dare also played at George Washington for two years before being drafted in the first round by the New Jersey Nets.

GW's basketball team returned to the national stage in 2004 after defeating No. 9 Michigan State and No. 12 Maryland in back to back games to win the 2004 BB&T Classic. That year, the Men's Basketball team went on to win the Atlantic 10 West Title and the Atlantic 10 Tournament Title (earning an automatic bid to the 2005 NCAA Tournament. The team received a #12 seed, losing to #5 seed Georgia Tech in the first round.

The team began the 2005 season ranked 21st in the Associated Press poll, reaching as high as sixth in the polls, and after some tournament success they closed out the year ranked 19th in the nation. They had a record of 26-2 (16-0 in the A-10) going into the 2006 NCAA Tournament. The 2005-2006 team achieved the school's highest ranking in the last 50 years, peaking at #6 in the nation, had been one of the team's best ever, and received an #8 seed in the NCAA Tournament. In the tournament, they came back from an 18-point second-half deficit to defeat #9 seed UNC-Wilmington, but lost to Duke University, the top overall seed, in the Second Round.

While only one Colonial from the 2005-2006 team was drafted in the 2006 NBA Draft, J. R. Pinnock, two other Colonials from that team played in the NBA. Pops Mensah-Bonsu played for the Dallas Mavericks (and is now with Benetton Treviso in Italy) and Mike Hall played for the Washington Wizards.

The 2006-2007 basketball season was considered by many to be a rebuilding year for the Colonials after graduating their entire starting front court and losing Pinnock to the NBA. Coach Karl Hobbs and Senior guard Carl Elliott managed to lead the team to a 23-8 record, winning the 2007 Atlantic 10 Tournament in Atlantic City, NJ (once again earning an auto-bid to the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship). The Colonials were placed as a #11 seed lost to #6 seed Vanderbilt University in Sacramento, CA 77-44.

Hobbs, a former player and coach under Jim Calhoun at the University of Connecticut is in his sixth year as head coach. Known for his animated sideline personality Hobbs is considered one of the up-and-coming coaches in the NCAA.

Spirit programs

The Colonials mascot is named George, and is portrayed by a student wearing an outfit inspired by the uniform worn by General Washington. The sports teams are called the Colonials, which was chosen by the student body in 1924. Another version of the GW mascot is an inflatable Colonial figure called Big George. .

The spirit program also includes the Colonial Brass, directed by Professor Benno Fritz.

Notable alumni, faculty, and degrees

Notable alumni

GW alumni include current and past political figures like J. William Fulbright, Harry Reid, and Governor Mark Warner. World leaders and national symbols like Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, Colin Powell, General John Shalikashvili, Allen Dulles, John Foster Dulles, J. Edgar Hoover have been students. Other famous alumni and former students include Courtney Cox Arquette, Kerry Washington, Roy Lee, Jason Filardi, Jason Itzler NY Confidential founder Howard Stern Show regular guest, Scott Wolf, Ralph Asher Alpher, Ina Garten, Dana Bash, L. Ron Hubbard, Red Auerbach, Alec Baldwin, Chuck Todd, President of MTV Networks Van Toffler, Former Chief Minister of Karnataka state in India S.M. Krishna, Rachel Zoe, Theodore N. Lerner, Lee Kun-hee and President Faure Gnassingbé of Togo.

Notable faculty

As the university is located within blocks of the State Department, White House, Department of the Interior, and other Federal government buildings of significant import, the university attracts many influential guest lecturers and visiting professors. Notable faculty include: George Gamow (1934-1954), physicist and cosmologist; Edward Teller (1935-1941), nuclear physicist and father of the hydrogen bomb; Seyyed Hossein Nasr, founder and first president of the Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy; Edward "Skip" Gnehm, former U.S. Ambassador to Jordan, Kuwait and Australia; Marcus Raskin, former member of the national security counsel under President Kennedy and founder of the Institute for Policy Studies; Abba Eban, former Israeli Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Education & Culture and Minister of Foreign Affairs; John Logsdon, member of Columbia Accident Investigation Board, NASA Advisory Council; Frank Sesno, CNN Special Correspondent; Leon Fuerth, former national security adviser to Vice President Al Gore; James Rosenau, political theorist and former president of the International Studies Association; Chris Kojm, Deputy Director of the 9/11 Commission and Iraq Study Group as well as President of the 9/11 Discourse Project; and Roy Richard Grinker, anthropologist and expert on autism and North-South Korean relations, is also a professor.

Notable honorary degrees

The university has traditionally given honorary degrees to people who have made an influence in Washington like: J. Edgar Hoover (Doctor of Law, 1935), Harry S. Truman (1946), John Wesley Snyder (Treasury Secretary, Doctor of Law, 1947), Ulysses S. Grant III (Doctor of Law, 1956), John F. Kennedy (Doctor of Law, 1961), Hillary Rodham Clinton (Doctor of Public Service, 1994), Elizabeth Dole (Doctor of Public Service, 1995), William H. Rehnquist (Doctor of Law, 1996), Sandra Day O'Connor (Doctor of Law, 2003), Barbara Bush (Doctor of Public Service, 2006), and George H.W. Bush (Doctor of Public Service, 2006). Peace advocates and leaders of other nations who have influenced the world have also received this honor. These people include: King Mohammad V of Morocco (Doctor of Law, 1957), Iranian dictator Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (Doctor of Public Service, 1974), Ronald Reagan (1991), Roy Lichtenstein (Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa, 1996), Yitzhak Rabin (Doctor of Public Service, 1996), Desmond Tutu (Doctor of Public Service, 1999), and Andy Rooney (Doctor of Public Service, 2005).


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