The university features a distinctive three-part structure: two undergraduate divisions - the College, and the Williams School of Commerce, Economic, and Politics - and one graduate division, the School of Law.
The College comprises 21 departments, four interdepartmental majors and seven interdepartmental programs in the humanities, natural sciences, mathematics, computer science and certain social sciences. The College also offers courses that prepare students for advanced professional training in engineering, journalism, law and health.
The Williams School is the only nationally accredited commerce school in a top-tier liberal arts institution in the country. Available courses of study include majors in accounting and business administration, business administration, public accounting, economics and politics.
All undergraduates begin their academic careers by completing the same set of general education requirements, which introduce them to the full range of the liberal arts and sciences and prepare them to make informed decisions about their advanced coursework and major. Students can choose from among 37 majors and 29 minors across both divisions, and can receive undergraduate degrees of B.A., B.S. or B.S. with special attainments in commerce.
Once they declare a major at the end of the sophomore year, students become associated with either the College or the Williams School. One of the university's distinctive strengths, however, is the way in which traditional liberal arts courses and pre-professional and professional education are blended. W&L's professional programs are enhanced because they exist in a liberal arts setting, and so, too, are the liberal arts, because of the opportunities students have to explore these professions. W&L students are encouraged to complement their major study with coursework in both the College and the Williams School, and many declare more than one major and can be counted as students in both the Williams School and the College. All students benefit by participating in co-curricular activities in both divisions.
True to its liberal arts tradition, Washington and Lee boasts many robust interdisciplinary programs that cross not only disciplines but also divisions. Some of these programs are majors; many are minors. These programs include Africana Studies, Film and Visual Culture, East Asian Studies, Education Policy, Environmental Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Neuroscience, Poverty and Human Capability Studies, and Women's and Gender Studies.
The School of Law
W&L's School of Law is one of the smallest of the nation's top-tier law schools with about 320 students, which permits the development of a close-knit community in which students benefit from interacting with talented faculty in small instructional settings. While law schools have traditionally taught all students in the same way for all three years, W&L Law offers a sequence of learning experiences rooted in the basic assumption that each year of law school should build upon the lessons of its predecessor and present new and different challenges while pushing students further along the continuum from beginning law student to lawyer-to-be.
W&L was one of the first law schools to introduce small-section legal writing classes and to require an administrative law course and a transnational law course in the first year. During the second year, students broaden their knowledge of the law, selecting from a wide array of more specialized and rigorous courses, and author a substantive research paper. The school's groundbreaking Third-Year Program, which combines the demanding study of legal doctrine and analysis with simulated and actual practice experience, has been hailed by many in both the legal profession and in legal education as the most significant change in law-school curriculum in more than a century. The course of study consists entirely of practice-based simulations, real client experiences, and advanced explorations into legal ethics and professionalism. The curriculum builds upon and expands the lessons of the first and second years of instruction, moving students from a passive classroom role into one more closely connected to the world of legal practice.
Long regarded as one of the nation's top teaching law schools, W&L Law has always educated students for character and challenges them to solve the problems they will face in a complex world. It fosters a desire not simply to act, but to act intelligently and ethically.
As is true with other professional and pre-professional programs within the university, the School of Law presents an uncommon opportunity for students who participate in such university-wide programs as the Shepherd Poverty Program and the Mudd Center for Ethics. The new Center for Global Learning, which will open during the 2015-16 academic year, has been created with partnerships with the law school in mind.
At a time when law schools and the law profession confront significant challenges, the Board of Trustees adopted a Strategic Transition Plan for the Law School that was crafted in close collaboration with faculty and senior administrators. In short, the plan provides for an increased financial investment in the Law School over a five-year period during which the size of the Law School faculty and administration will be adjusted to match projections of lower student enrollment. The School of Law is on track to meet the benchmarks established in the plan. More importantly, the faculty and administration are committed to providing the superb legal education that W&L Law constituencies have come to expect. Because the School of Law is a vital and integral part of the university, institutional leaders have taken great care to adopt a thoughtful and proactive plan with the goal of strengthening its health and long-term future. The complete plan is at go.wlu.edu/law_plan.