GWU - George Washington University - CCAS
Columbian College of Arts and Sciences is home to a diverse graduate community of over 2,000 students who come to live and learn in the nation’s capital from all 50 states and more than 60 countries. Our curriculum encompasses the traditional and the non-traditional in the study of a wide spectrum of artistic, social, and scientific imperatives.
Columbian College graduate work focuses on the advanced challenges of our time. Our graduate students are career-ready and in high-demand for a variety of legislative, managerial, curatorial, research, and academic activities.
Whether you are a current or prospective member of the Columbian College community, our website offers a wealth of information. Please explore this site to discover the exciting opportunities available to graduate students.
Many of our areas of study—including Public Policy and Public Administration, Speech and Hearing Sciences, Political Science, History, and English—are ranked among the best in the country, and we are pioneers in the growing field of Art Therapy and in the increasingly crucial discipline of Forensic Sciences. Our students move on to rewarding careers in academic teaching and scholarship, in research at NIH or NASA, in public service on Capitol Hill, and much more. For more details about our programs, please visit our graduate program finder.
Who We Are
- 20 PhD programs and 46 masters/graduate certificate programs
- 2,500 graduate students taught by more than 400 faculty members
- A student body representing all 50 states and more than 60 countries
- 25+ combined bachelors and masters degree opportunities
- Competitive fellowships totaling $15 million annually
The Columbian College: Where It All Began
The Breadth and Depth of the Arts and Sciences
In 1799, George Washington expressed in his will his “ardent wish” for a University to be established in the District of Columbia. He dreamed of a place “to which the youth of fortune and talent from all parts [of the country] might be sent for the completion of their education in all the branches of polite literature, in arts and sciences, in acquiring knowledge in the principles of politics and good government.” Washington believed the nation’s capital was the logical site for such an institution and left a bequest toward that objective.
Founded by an Act of Congress
Washington died before his vision was carried out. The Rev. Luther Rice and three friends took up the effort; President James Monroe and 32 members of the U.S. Congress also became involved. On Feb. 9, 1821, Monroe signed the Act of Congress that created the Columbian College in the District of Columbia, a private, nonsectarian institution.
Columbian College opened its doors with three faculty members, one tutor and 30 students in a single building. At that time, the College was located between 14th and 15th Streets, about a 30-minute walk from the Capitol. Its curriculum included English, Latin and Greek, as well as mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, reading, writing, navigation and political law. The first graduates received degrees in December 1824. Shortly after, Columbian College added a medical school and a law school.
Becoming a University
The Civil War transformed Washington, D.C., into a growing urban center. During war, most students left to join the Confederacy, and the college’s buildings were used as a hospital and barracks. Walt Whitman was among the war volunteers on the campus.
In 1873, Columbian College changed its name to Columbian University and moved to a location at 15th and L Streets. It began offering doctoral degrees and admitted its first women. Columbian University became The George Washington University in 1904 under an agreement with the George Washington Memorial Association. In 1912, the University began the move to its present location in Foggy Bottom.
The Vision Continues
Today, the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences remains at the core of the University experience, providing students across the University with the breadth and depth of a strong liberal arts education that our founding fathers considered essential for an educated citizenship. At Columbian, we give students in International Affairs the linguistic tools that allow them to function in a global community and the cultural cosmopolitanism that makes them welcome anywhere; we ensure that Business students master the Mathematics required by their discipline and the aesthetic principles that will enrich their lives; we teach Engineers the basic laws of Physics and introduce them to the music of spheres. We are indeed the heart and soul of the academic enterprise, preparing all students for a world awaiting their talents and their passion for excellence.