Piecing Together: How to extend academics beyond the classroom

GW students might have a tendency to shun academics for a prized internship or a leadership slot in a student organization. It is almost inevitable at a school that boasts a downtown D.C. location, touted as a beacon for hands-on learning outside the classroom.

But the University poured resources into expanding academic offerings. For students looking to learn more, whether you want to improve your expertise of a certain subject or pad a graduate school resume, here are a few options.

Apply to the University Honors Program

The University Honors Program includes about 5 percent of GW’s undergraduate population, and the competition for admission is stiff for a program that is gaining popularity.

Most students in the program were admitted as incoming freshmen, but you can also apply to the program the second semester of your freshman year.

The program, which includes students from each of GW’s undergraduate colleges, only admits about 15 current students.

The program offers plenty of benefits: exclusive courses with top professors, connections to jobs and internships, personalized advising and a tight-knit community. Last semester, only honors students could take a course with Nobel Prize-winning biochemist and professor Ferid Murad.

The program will also move to a dual-campus model, with optional freshman housing and some offices on the Mount Vernon Campus, and a hub on Foggy Bottom this fall.

Try to nab an undergraduate research prize

While increased research from professors helped the University climb into the National Science Foundation’s top 100 research institutions in April, GW is also turning its attention toward undergraduate student research.

The University has widened the pool of money available for students to earn research fellowships. The George Gamow and Luther Rice fellowships give more than 30 students the chance to fund an original research project with a pool of about $100,000. These prizes saw about a 50 percent rise in applications this year. About six students can earn $10,000 each through the Office of the Vice President of Research’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship.

Applications for these projects are typically due in the spring and draw interest from students in fields ranging from physics to political science.

Most departments also offer their own awards for student research, and working as a research assistant for a professor can also lead to an hourly wage and a bevy of experiences.

Develop your own startup idea

If students think their business plan or product design could attract buyers and investors, the Office of Entrepreneurship can help give expert advice.

The office, which formed two years ago, puts on seminars for engineers and business students year-round and holds the annual Business Plan Competition in the spring.

Students tinkering with plans to develop a startup could also use space in the local incubator District I/O last year. The shared space gives budding entrepreneurs access to the facilities and equipment to put their ideas to the test.

The office also teams up with local venture capitalists to hold regular “dolphin tank” forums, where business experts can give advice to brief student pitches.

Minor in sustainability

The University’s newest academic program in sustainability is not only for the science-minded.

Earn an 18-credit minor in the green-focused field, which will offer courses ranging from public policy to economics to geography.

Students must take an introduction to sustainability course, offered in only one section this the fall.

It will be the first GW class to be taught jointly by professors from different schools, a sign of the field’s interdisciplinary focus.

Administrators have buzzed about employers’ demand for graduates who are well-versed in sustainability, citing a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that predicted a 20 percent increase in employer demand for such graduates between 2008 and 2018.

The University will continue to expand the number of courses in sustainability from the current slate of 60, offering professors money to develop new courses.

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