From modest beginnings as a regional university, Washington University in St. Louis has emerged as a national leader in undergraduate and graduate education. The university now draws approximately ninety percent of students from outside of Missouri, with students from all fifty states, two U.S. territories, the District of Columbia, and approximately sixty countries. Nearly sixty percent of the students come from more than 500 miles away, making this one of the most geographically diverse universities in the world. As a medium-sized university, Wash. U. provides the perfect combination of a friendly smaller campus with the resources of a large university. Visitors will notice a unique spirit of camaraderie. Some might attribute it to midwestern friendliness, but more likely it is the product of the common desire to learn that pervades the campus.
Washington University’s Danforth Campus is set on a hill overlooking Forest Park, one of the nation’s largest urban parks. The World’s Fair brought international ambassadors and exhibits to the park in 1904, and Brookings Hall served as a gathering place much as it does for students today. From this vantage point, seven miles west of downtown St. Louis, the offices, restaurants, theaters, and stadiums nearly blend into the horizon. Known for the majestic Gateway Arch, St. Louis offers a variety of cultural experiences from concerts and theater performances to Cardinals baseball games and the second largest Mardi Gras celebration in the nation.
“Students here are academic rock stars. They’re genuinely passionate about learning. They’re also tremendously diverse in their intellectual perspectives, and that diversity has influenced every paper, project, and conversation I’ve had at Washington U.—Alex Rosenberg, Olin Business School and College of Arts & Sciences, 2010
Students can choose from four undergraduate colleges: Arts & Sciences, Business, Design & Visual Arts (including Architecture, Art), and Engineering. (There are also graduate programs in these colleges, plus those in Law, Medicine, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Social Work.) The choices don’t end there. Many students opt to pursue combined studies through double majors, minors, or dual-degree programs. It is easy to pursue multiple interests even if they involve two different undergraduate schools of the university. Flexibility is a key component of an education at Washington University. Faculty advisors guide students on a path that explores a variety of interests.
Wash. U. provides a dynamic, challenging academic environment. Students can choose from unique courses such as “The Cultural History of the Robot” and “Strangers and Savages, Aliens and Outcasts.” Opportunities to learn don’t end in the classroom either. Research projects are open to undergraduates, and every year many students choose to travel and study abroad through a university-sponsored program.
Technology helps Wash. U. students develop skills for learning that will make them successful later in their careers. In addition to resources located in the libraries, the university offers wireless access to the Internet in many locations as well as computer labs in the residential colleges and other campus locations, and wireless Internet access in each residence hall room. Most courses offer an online element whether it is a home page, tutorials, or one of several interactive online learning tools.
Improvements are also taking place on the campus landscape—new buildings are sprouting up every year. The Danforth University Center, which opened in fall 2008, has quickly become a student gathering place on campus. In recent years, a new building housing law and social science departments from Arts & Science—Harry and Susan Seigle Hall opened, and Olin Library completed renovations that include a popular Internet cafe. Washington has a commitment to improvement, and it shows.
My undergraduate research experience has given me great hope. I have watched neurosurgeons implant tiny electrical circuits deep into the brain, observed neurologists program the circuitry, and witnessed the subsequent joy of newfound independence that engineering brought to life. —Jennifer Wu, School of Engineering & Applied Science, 2009
However, the real value comes from students. At Wash. U., students set high academic standards for themselves, but they also enjoy participating in community service, playing Frisbee in the Swamp, and going to parties at one of eleven fraternities. Social, cultural, politi - cal, and religious groups design programs to educate and entertain their fellow students.
Ursa’s, a corner cafe that accepts university meal cards, offers a patio where students meet on warm afternoons. Issues of Student Life, the 130-year-old student newspaper, can be seen on tables and in backpacks all over campus. Whether students choose to live in a Residential College, the Village, a fraternity, or a university-owned apartment, they will enjoy the benefits of a close community.
From the friendly smiles on the oak-lined paths to the group study sessions in Ursa’s Cafe, visitors pick up an atmosphere of community at Wash. U. This atmosphere extends into the classroom, where professors are eager to share their knowledge and students are engaged in active analysis. Flexibility is also prevalent in the selection of classes, majors, and extracurricular activities. Students with initiative can define their own experience, and Wash. U. has the resources to support innovative thinking. Professors who lead in their field, the latest technology, and the surrounding city of St. Louis all create opportunities for learning. Still, much self-discovery takes place outside of the classroom—in residence halls, at student group meetings, and even at social events. The size and location of Washington U. make it a perfect fit for students who don’t want to be lost in the crowd but are excited by the opportunities at a medium-sized university.