Academics A Diverse Curriculum

The academic life at Washington and Lee is defined by diversity. What, after all, does one study at a liberal arts college, but difference? Whether one is studying biology or archaeology, Africana Studies or neuroscience, the point is to engage difference and learn through that experience. The faculty at Washington and Lee place supreme value on the free and respectful exchange of knowledge, ideas, and thought, whether that takes place in the classroom, the laboratory, the lecture hall, or the many crucial exchanges that happen in the hallways and walkways of a great university.

The importance of diversity to intellectual inquiry is paramount. As Ralph Ellison famously wrote at the end of his classic 1952 novel, Invisible Man: "Whence all this passion toward conformity anyway? Diversity is the word. Let man keep his many parts and we will have no tyrant states." Diversity, freedom, justice, opportunity, understanding, equality-these are the very conditions of a liberal (as in "liberating") education. These are fundamental values at any great university. At Washington and Lee, with our honor system, our speaking tradition, and our commitment to a community of trust, the emphasis on diversity is especially ingrained in our mission and our self-understanding.

In the academic core of the university, our curriculum and programs of study exemplify diversity. We see this especially in the rich array of programs, majors, minors, and areas of study; in our multiple opportunities for global and international study; in our innovative curriculum and its many high-impact, signature experiences, ranging from small seminars, individual research projects, community-based education, and experiential learning; as well as our emphasis on interdisciplinary programs and cross-department areas of study. All of these learning opportunities and many more embody the commitment to diversity of thought and study, and hallmarks of the Washington and Lee education.

Below is a sampling of distinctive W&L academic centers, programs and student experiences that put a special emphasis on diversity, inclusion and exploration.

Spring Term

Imagine that you could take one unique course for four weeks, exploring a topic in depth with one of the world's leading experts, working intensely alongside your fellow students and your professor. That's the essence of the W&L Spring Term.

Spring Term Abroad

Spring Term Abroad is a special part of the Washington and Lee curriculum and experience. These courses allow students to get an up-close, intensive, and personal experience of the subject matter on-site with a W&L faculty member during the spring term.

Student Summer Research Opportunities

W&L invests heavily in student research, whether independent or in partnership with faculty. Opportunities abound for work in the natural sciences and the humanities, and students are encouraged to take part in the University's semi-annual Science, Society and the Arts research conference.

Community Based Learning

Working with members of the local community is an invaluable part of an education. W&L's co-curricular opportunities range from serving meals at the Campus Kitchen to mentoring local students through the college application process.

Mudd Center for the Study of Ethics

The Roger Mudd Center for Ethics advances dialogue, teaching, and research about issues of public and professional ethics across all three of the University's schools - the College, the Williams School, and the School of Law.

Shepherd Program for the Study of Poverty and Human Capability

The Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability integrates thought and action in direct service to disadvantaged communities. Through an array of courses and service opportunities, we prepare students from a variety of majors and political perspectives to work with those communities to address the problems associated with poverty.

Center for International Education

Global learning is multifaceted. Paths towards engaged global citizenship are as unique and distinct as the student that pursues them. W&L's innovative program in global learning embraces the diversity of opportunities on campus and abroad and guides students as they choose a path to follow throughout their undergraduate experience. Come visit the Center for International Education to begin your journey!

Chavis Lecture Series

The John Chavis Lecture in African-American Studies honors Chavis’s memory by featuring the work of Washington and Lee faculty who are doing research in the fields of African-American Studies.

Mellon Symposia on Human Rights

What are Human Rights? How are notions of human rights and the more specific questions of law, justice, political reform and development in Africa different from those of Western Enlightenment and modernist traditions?

Questioning Series

The seminar is organized around a series of six visiting speakers chosen for the discipline they represent as well as for the perspective they bring to our study of intimacy. Each of the speakers is a leader in his or her field and one whose popularity extends beyond the narrow confine of their discipline.