Shakespeare program widens scope

Freshmen in the Dean’s Scholars in Shakespeare program joined a living community and will take part in expanded course offerings on sonnets and soliloquies this fall.

The University added scholarships and housed the 15 students in the Shakespeare program together in Cole Hall on the Mount Vernon Campus to establish it as an anchor for the English department, which has declined by about 30 percent since 2008, according to the Office of Institutional Research. Students will also take a 10-day trip to London, partially subsidized by GW, during their sophomore year.

Alexander Huang, the new program director and a Shakespeare scholar, said he hopes the program will encourage students to think about literature and play production in a global context, spurring undergraduate research.

“There is no other program focused solely on Shakespeare in the country,” Huang said. “It allows students to develop the skills most relevant to their later career.”

The program, established in 2006, now requires students to take part in five Shakespeare-focused courses over two years instead of the previous format of two courses in one year.

Students will visit theaters in D.C. to learn about the life and works of Shakespeare.

GW hopes to further expand the Dean’s Scholars program in other departments as well, using the Shakespeare one as a model, Huang said.

English department chair Robert McRuer said he hopes the program will increase student interest in the department. The English department counted about 112 major students this year – just one more than last year.

“I think it will absolutely bring more people through our doors,” McRuer said, adding he was not concerned about enrollment, because English is still one of the most popular majors in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

Freshman Katherine Bradshaw, who is double majoring in English and classical studies, praised the program’s living-and-learning component.

“I think the best part is that we have multiple opportunities to discuss Shakespeare informally throughout the day, because we live near each other. We’ve already had some lively debates about plays and characters,” she said.

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