Our Story


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Our Story


The George Washington University’s bicentennial represents 200 years of phenomenal growth from humble origins to a top comprehensive, global research university in the heart of our Nation’s Capital. 

Our success was neither inevitable nor preordained. Through the persistence of generations of students, faculty and staff, and alumni, the university has become an institution world-renowned for its dedication to educating our future leaders and advancing knowledge that makes a global impact on millions of lives. 

In our third century, GW will continue to be a university where our students and faculty not only study the world, but also can actively work to change it for the better.



Row of images celebrating Bicentennial

row of images celebrating the Bicentennial


Honoring Our Progress 


Beginning with just 20 students and six faculty members, GW has since become a global institution that attracts 27,000+ students from more than 135 countries, thousands of faculty and staff, and a worldwide community of 300,000+ living alumni. With access and proximity to influential institutions that span the Washington region, every generation of the GW community is bound together by an education that provides an unparalleled front-row seat to history.  

While GW has grown and changed over time, what has endured is its never-ending commitment to creating a greater world through its students and faculty who have contributed to many moments in history. This includes GW physicians who treated President Lincoln and President Reagan after their respective assassination attempts, GW faculty member George Gamow and his doctoral student Ralph Asher Alpher publishing their groundbreaking work on the Big Bang Theory, and GW’s campus as a favored location by international leaders and the media to make news, from the home of CNN’s Crossfire as well as the site of the World Bank and IMF’s annual meeting, just to name a few.




Witnessing Our Present

For two centuries, generations of students have come to GW to take full advantage of our location and excellent academic opportunities, often gaining first-hand insight from some of the most influential leaders of our time. Indeed, GW is a tapestry of "Only at GW" experiences—of inaugurations and internships, protests and celebrations, debates and discoveries—that occur in our Nation’s Capital and all around the world. These are the hallmarks of a GW education.

GW’s partnerships and proximity give students access to a vast network of opportunities with leading international organizations, and our students make the most of them. In fact, several have recently been recognized for their outstanding achievements, including prominent national and international awards, such as Marshall Scholars, Goldwater Scholars and Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellows. Additionally, GW is often recognized as one of top schools for producing Fulbright scholars, as well as Peace Corps and Teach for America volunteers.

Moreover, GW’s faculty are known for advancing knowledge that makes a global impact on millions of lives, including new technological innovations, improvements in human health and greater understanding of both our world and humanity. Whether leading top-ranked programs, pioneering research to fight global poverty, HIV/AIDS, cancer, climate change, terrorism and other challenges facing our world, they apply their insights and expertise to make a major impact upon society.



Creating Our Future


The GW community embraces the challenge of solving the world’s most urgent problems and possesses the courage to create the future. GW scholars are leading new areas of research and discovery and multiplying the effect of their knowledge with powerful partnerships in D.C. and beyond. GW is pioneering discovery in cybersecurity, tissue regeneration, robotics, autism, health policy, disinformation in our news and politics, fighting extremism, HIV/AIDS research, combating violence against women and girls worldwide, nanotechnology, and building sustainable ecosystems.  

GW is also exploring ways to ensure that the university is an agent of positive change by reducing its carbon footprint by aspiring to go beyond carbon neutrality post 2030 and removing all the greenhouse gas emissions the university has produced since its 1821 founding. Additionally, GW is redoubling its efforts to make a GW education accessible to all qualified students, regardless of their financial circumstances. May the future generations at GW continue to understand that progress is not a given, and to be inspired to use their gifts and opportunities in nurturing a greater world.



GW Then & Now 

See GW’s past and present come together right before your very eyes in this fun, photographic feature. 


Woodhull House, 1912

Woodhull House - then

Woodhull House - now


University Yard behind Lisner Library, 1950s

University Yard - then

University Yard - now



Corcoran Flagg Building, 1918

Corcoran Flagg Building - then

Corcoran Flagg Building - now


Corcoran Flagg Building, 1950

Another image of Corcoran Flagg Building - then

Another image of Corcoran Flagg Building - now



Virginia Science & Technology Campus, 1991

Virginia Science & Technology Campus - then

Virginia Science & Technology Campus - now


Mount Vernon Campus, 1959

Mount Vernon Campus - then

Mount Vernon Campus - now



Images from RG0031: University Historical Materials collection, Special Collections Research Center, GW Libraries