GW has not always been the place that we all see today. We notice the physical differences on the campus with new fast food chains in J Street, resident halls and Kogan Plaza. Some of the most dramatic changes are things that we cannot see but have affected the academic structure of the University. After all, the reason why students attend GW is to get an academic degree.
The history of GW’s academics has evolved from the beginning. Before 1914, GW did not have schools like the Elliott School of International Affairs or the School of Business and Public Management. Instead, these academic areas were called departments, and the programs offered within these were called schools.
Although many programs have withstood the test of time, some under different names, there are many departments that no longer exist. From 1927 to 1941, GW had the library science department, and from 1903 to 1931, GW housed a nursing department.
In 1821, the University’s first year, the theology department was formed. A meeting of clergy and Baptist laymen decided to move the department to Boston in 1825. The University tried a second time to create a theology department about 40 years later. The new department had four schools: Biblical Interpretations, Christian Theology, Church History and Ministerial Duties. But the department was discontinued in 1872. The Columbian College was re-named GW in 1904 and has moved twice.
In 1887, a dental school was opened but was dropped in 1920 because it was too expensive to maintain. The architecture school opened in 1904 and was dropped in 1914 because of the opening of the School of Engineering. In 1930, GW had a two-year junior college program, but it was absorbed into the four-year Colombian College in 1961.
In 1905, the Colombian College incorporated the National College of Pharmacy into its curriculum but then dropped it in 1964 as part of education reorganization. Similarly, in 1896, the Columbian College merged with the National Veterinary School. The board of trustees discontinued the program two years later. In 1908, it was revamped but then abandoned just 10 years later.
GW’s assistant archivist, Lyle Slovick, says there are many reasons why GW does not offer these different programs.
“Cost-cutting is one of the big reasons why some of these departments are no longer in existence,” he said. “Enrollment is another big issue.”
Slovick also noted that GW demolished some of the programs because other universities offered more successful programs in a particular field.
“We used to have a library science major, but since there was a small enrollment here and other programs in the field at other nearby schools like the University of Maryland, the school booted the program,” he said.
Today, GW is made up of several undergraduate programs: the recently re-named Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, School of Media and Public Affairs, School of Engineering and Applied Science, Elliott School and business school. Within these schools, there have been curriculum changes. There have been changes in offered majors and minors and new general curriculum requirements.
While most students are content with the majors that GW offers, some say they wish the University offered more programs. Freshman Keri Osborne noted that she would like GW to bring back its undergraduate school of education.
“I think GW should have an education major or program,” Osborne said. “I know a lot of students who are transferring because GW does not have one.”
Freshman Amir Bayati in the Elliott School said he would like to see more five-year programs allowing students to get bachelor’s and master’s degree in less time.
“I would like to see a major in international law or education,” he said. “I think those majors would be really interesting.”