Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University in St. Louis (WashU, or WUSTL) is a private research university in Greater St. Louis with its main campus mostly in unincorporated St. Louis County, Missouri and Clayton, Missouri, its West Campus in Clayton, its North Campus in the West End neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, and its Medical Campus in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri.[7]

Washington University in St. Louis
Latin: Universitas Washingtoniana
MottoPer veritatem vis (Latin)
Motto in English
Strength through truth
EstablishedFebruary 22, 1853 (1853-02-22)
Endowment$7.594 billion (2018)[1]
ChancellorAndrew D. Martin
ProvostMarion Crain, Interim Provost
Academic staff
3,819 (2018)[2]
Administrative staff
12,609 (2018)[2]
Location, ,
United States

38.648°N 90.305°W / 38.648; -90.305
346.5 acres (0.54 sq mi; 140.22 ha)
1,966.5 acres (3.07 sq mi; 795.81 ha) at Tyson Research Center[4][5]
ColorsRed and green[6]
Sporting affiliations

Founded in 1853, and named after George Washington, the university has students and faculty from all 50 U.S. states and more than 120 countries.[8] As of 2017, 24 Nobel laureates in economics, physiology and medicine, chemistry, and physics have been affiliated with Washington University, nine having done the major part of their pioneering research at the university.[9]

Washington University is made up of seven graduate and undergraduate schools that encompass a broad range of academic fields.[10] To prevent confusion over its location, the Board of Trustees added the phrase "in St. Louis" in 1976.[11] The School of Medicine is ranked 8th for research in the U.S. by U.S. News & World Report in 2019.[12]


Early history (1853–1900)

Washington University was conceived by 17 St. Louis business, political, and religious leaders concerned by the lack of institutions of higher learning in the Midwest. Missouri State Senator Wayman Crow and Unitarian minister William Greenleaf Eliot, grandfather of the poet T.S. Eliot, led the effort.

The university's first chancellor was Joseph Gibson Hoyt. Crow secured the university charter from the Missouri General Assembly in 1853, and Eliot was named President of the Board of Trustees. Early on, Eliot solicited support from members of the local business community, including John O'Fallon, but Eliot failed to secure a permanent endowment. Washington University is unusual among major American universities in not having had a prior financial endowment. The institution had no backing of a religious organization, single wealthy patron, or earmarked government support.

During the three years following its inception, the university bore three different names. The board first approved "Eliot Seminary," but William Eliot was uncomfortable with naming a university after himself and objected to the establishment of a seminary, which would implicitly be charged with teaching a religious faith. He favored a nonsectarian university.[13] In 1854, the Board of Trustees changed the name to "Washington Institute" in honor of George Washington. Naming the University after the nation's first president, only seven years before the American Civil War and during a time of bitter national division, was no coincidence. During this time of conflict, Americans universally admired George Washington as the father of the United States and a symbol of national unity. The Board of Trustees believed that the university should be a force of unity in a strongly divided Missouri. In 1856, the University amended its name to "Washington University." The university amended its name once more in 1976, when the Board of Trustees voted to add the suffix "in St. Louis" to distinguish the university from the nearly two dozen other universities bearing Washington's name.[11]

Although chartered as a university, for many years Washington University functioned primarily as a night school located on 17th Street and Washington Avenue in the heart of downtown St. Louis. Owing to limited financial resources, Washington University initially used public buildings. Classes began on October 22, 1854, at the Benton School building. At first the university paid for the evening classes, but as their popularity grew, their funding was transferred to the St. Louis Public Schools.[14] Eventually the board secured funds for the construction of Academic Hall and a half dozen other buildings. Later the university divided into three departments: the Manual Training School, Smith Academy, and the Mary Institute.

In 1867, the university opened the first private nonsectarian law school west of the Mississippi River. By 1882, Washington University had expanded to numerous departments, which were housed in various buildings across St. Louis. Medical classes were first held at Washington University in 1891 after the St. Louis Medical College decided to affiliate with the University, establishing the School of Medicine. During the 1890s, Robert Sommers Brookings, the president of the Board of Trustees, undertook the tasks of reorganizing the university's finances, putting them onto a sound foundation, and buying land for a new campus.

Modern era (1900–1955)

Washington University spent its first half century in downtown St. Louis bounded by Washington Ave., Lucas Place, and Locust Street. By the 1890s, owing to the dramatic expansion of the Manual School and a new benefactor in Robert Brookings, the University began to move west. The University board of directors began a process to find suitable ground and hired the landscape architecture firm Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot of Boston. A committee of Robert S. Brookings, Henry Ware Eliot, and William Huse found a site of 103 acres (41.7 ha) just beyond Forest Park, located west of the city limits in St. Louis County. The elevation of the land was thought to resemble the Acropolis and inspired the nickname of "Hilltop" campus, renamed the Danforth campus in 2006 to honor former chancellor William H. Danforth.

In 1899, the university opened a national design contest for the new campus. The renowned Philadelphia firm Cope & Stewardson won unanimously with its plan for a row of Collegiate Gothic quadrangles inspired by Oxford and Cambridge Universities.[15] The cornerstone of the first building, Busch Hall, was laid on October 20, 1900. The construction of Brookings Hall, Ridgley, and Cupples began shortly thereafter. The school delayed occupying these buildings until 1905 to accommodate the 1904 World's Fair and Olympics. The delay allowed the university to construct ten buildings instead of the seven originally planned. This original cluster of buildings set a precedent for the development of the Danforth Campus; Cope & Stewardson's original plan and its choice of building materials have, with few exceptions, guided the construction and expansion of the Danforth Campus to the present day.[15]

By 1915, construction of a new medical complex was completed on Kingshighway in what is now St. Louis's Central West End. Three years later, Washington University admitted its first women medical students.[16]

In 1922, a young physics professor, Arthur Holly Compton, conducted a series of experiments in the basement of Eads Hall that demonstrated the "particle" concept of electromagnetic radiation. Compton's discovery, known as the "Compton Effect," earned him the Nobel Prize in physics in 1927.

During World War II, as part of the Manhattan Project, a cyclotron at Washington University was used to produce small quantities of the newly discovered element plutonium via neutron bombardment of uranium nitrate hexahydrate. The plutonium produced there in 1942 was shipped to the Metallurgical Laboratory Compton had established at the University of Chicago where Glenn Seaborg's team used it for extraction, purification, and characterization studies of the exotic substance.

After working for many years at the University of Chicago, Arthur Holly Compton returned to St. Louis in 1946 to serve as Washington University's ninth chancellor. Compton reestablished the Washington University football team, making the declaration that athletics were to be henceforth played on a "strictly amateur" basis with no athletic scholarships. Under Compton's leadership, enrollment at the University grew dramatically, fueled primarily by World War II veterans' use of their GI Bill benefits.[17]

In 1947, Gerty Cori, a professor at the School of Medicine, became the first American woman to win a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Professors Carl and Gerty Cori became Washington University's fifth and sixth Nobel laureates for their discovery of how glycogen is broken down and resynthesized in the body.

The process of desegregation at Washington University began in 1947 with the School of Medicine and the School of Social Work.[18] During the mid and late 1940s, the University was the target of critical editorials in the local African American press, letter-writing campaigns by churches and the local Urban League, and legal briefs by the NAACP intended to strip its tax-exempt status. In spring 1949, a Washington University student group, the Student Committee for the Admission of Negroes (SCAN), began campaigning for full racial integration. In May 1952, the Board of Trustees passed a resolution desegregating the school's undergraduate divisions.[19]

Recent history (1955–present)

During the latter half of the 20th century, Washington University transitioned from a strong regional university to a national research institution. In 1957, planning began for the construction of the "South 40," a complex of modern residential halls. With the additional on-campus housing, Washington University, which had been predominantly a "streetcar college" of commuter students, began to attract a more national pool of applicants.[20] By 1964, over two-thirds of incoming students came from outside the St. Louis area.[21]

In 1971, the Board of Trustees appointed Chancellor William Henry Danforth, who guided the university through the social and financial crises of the 1970s and strengthened the university's often strained relationship with the St. Louis community. During his 24-year chancellorship, Danforth significantly improved the School of Medicine, established 70 new faculty chairs, secured a $1.72 billion endowment, and tripled the amount of student scholarships.[22]

In 1995, Mark S. Wrighton, former Provost at MIT, was elected the university's 14th chancellor. During Chancellor Wrighton's tenure undergraduate applications to Washington University have more than doubled. Since 1995, the University has added more than 190 endowed professorships, revamped its Arts & Sciences curriculum, and completed more than 30 new buildings.[23]

The growth of Washington University's reputation has coincided with a series of record-breaking fund-raising efforts during the last three decades. From 1983 to 1987, the "Alliance for Washington University" campaign raised $630.5 million, which was then the most successful fund-raising effort in national history.[24] From 1998 to 2004, the "Campaign for Washington University" raised $1.55 billion, which has been applied to additional scholarships, professorships, and research initiatives.[25]

In 2002, Washington University co-founded the Cortex Innovation Community in St. Louis's Midtown neighborhood. Cortex is the largest innovation hub in the midwest, home to offices of Square, Microsoft, Aon, Boeing, and Centene. The innovation hub has generated more than 3,800 tech jobs in 14 years.[26][27]

U.S. presidential and vice-presidential debates

Washington University has been selected by the Commission on Presidential Debates to host more presidential and vice-presidential debates than any other institution in history.[28] United States presidential election debates were held at the Washington University Athletic Complex in 1992, 2000, 2004, and 2016. A presidential debate was planned to occur in 1996, but owing to scheduling difficulties between the candidates, the debate was canceled.[29] The university hosted the only 2008 vice presidential debate, between Republican Sarah Palin and Democrat Joe Biden, on October 2, 2008, also at the Washington University Athletic Complex. The university hosted the second 2016 presidential debate, between Republican Party candidate Donald Trump and Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton, on October 9, 2016.

Although Chancellor Wrighton had noted after the 2004 debate that it would be "improbable" that the university will host another debate and was not eager to commit to the possibility,[30] he subsequently changed his view and the university submitted a bid for the 2008 debates. "These one-of-a-kind events are great experiences for our students, they contribute to a national understanding of important issues, and they allow us to help bring national and international attention to the St. Louis region as one of America's great metropolitan areas," said Wrighton.[31]

The University has decided not to host a 2020 presidential debate, against the majority opinion of the student body.[32]

Rankings and reputation

University rankings
ARWU[33] 18
Forbes[34] 31
Times/WSJ[35] 19
U.S. News & World Report[36] 19
Washington Monthly[37] 59
ARWU[38] 22
QS[39] 108
Times[40] 52
U.S. News & World Report[41] 31

Washington University's undergraduate program is ranked 19th in the nation in the 2020 U.S. News & World Report National Universities ranking.[42] and 11th by The Wall Street Journal in their 2018 rankings.[43] The university is ranked 22nd in the world for 2019 by the Academic Ranking of World Universities.[44] The acceptance rate for the class of 2023 (those entering in the fall of 2019) was 14%, with students selected from more than 25,400 applications. Of students admitted 90 percent were in the top 10 percent of their class.[45]

A 2017 study found that Washington University ranked #1 in the country for income inequality, when measured as the ratio of number of students from the top 1% of the income scale to number of students from the bottom 60% of the income scale. About 22% of Washington University's students came from the top 1%, while only about 6% came from the bottom 60%.[46]

School Rankings

U.S. News & World Report (Medicine)8[47]
U.S. News & World Report (Law)18[48]
U.S. News & World Report (MBA)26[49]
U.S. News & World Report (Social Work)2[50]
BusinessWeek (BSBA)25[51]
Design Intelligence (Architecture)10[52]
Financial Times (EMBA – World Rank)8[53]

Geography and campuses

Danforth Campus

The main, or Danforth Campus (formerly known as the Hilltop Campus) is mostly between Forest Park Parkway, Wydown Boulevard, North Big Bend Boulevard, and North Skinker Boulevard.

Although the school includes "St. Louis" in its name, the majority of the school's main campus (including Brookings Hall) is located in unincorporated St. Louis County and suburban Clayton.

Danforth Campus includes

Medical Campus

Washington University Medical Center comprises 164 acres (66.4 ha) spread over approximately 12 city blocks, located along the eastern edge of Forest Park within the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis. The campus is home to the Washington University School of Medicine and its associated teaching hospitals, Barnes-Jewish Hospital and St. Louis Children's Hospital. Many of the buildings are connected via a series of skyways and corridors.

The School's 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also serve as the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's hospitals, which are part of BJC HealthCare. Washington University and BJC have taken on many joint venture projects, such as the Center for Advanced Medicine, completed in December 2001. BJC Institute of Health at Washington University is the newest research building with 680,000 square feet (63,000 m2).

Olin Residence Hall, named for Spencer T. Olin, provides residential services for 200 medical and graduate students.[54]

The Medical Campus is accessible via the Central West End MetroLink station, which provides a quick link to the Danforth, North, and West Campuses.

Medical Campus Includes:

North and West Campuses

Washington University's North Campus and West Campus principally house administrative functions that are not student focused. North Campus lies in St. Louis City near the Delmar Loop. The University acquired the building and adjacent property in 2004, formerly home to the Angelica Uniform Factory.[55] Several University administrative departments are located at the North Campus location, including offices for Quadrangle Housing, Accounting and Treasury Services, Parking and Transportation Services, Army ROTC, and Network Technology Services. The North Campus location also provides off-site storage space for the Performing arts Department. Renovations are still ongoing; recent additions to the North Campus space include a small eatery operated by Bon Appétit Management Company, the University's on-campus food provider, completed during spring semester 2007, as well as the Family Learning Center, operated by Bright Horizons and opened in September 2010.

The West Campus is located about one mile (1.6 km) to the west of the Danforth Campus in Clayton, Missouri, and primarily consists of a four-story former department store building housing mostly administrative space. The West Campus building was home to the Clayton branch of the Famous-Barr department store until 1990, when the University acquired the property and adjacent parking and began a series of renovations.[56] Today, the basement level houses the West Campus Library, the University Archives, the Modern Graphic History Library, and conference space. The ground level still remains a retail space. The upper floors house consolidated capital gifts, portions of alumni and development, and information systems offices from across the Danforth and Medical School campuses. There is also a music rehearsal room on the second floor.

Both the North and West Campuses are accessible by the St. Louis MetroLink, which, with the Delmar Loop and Forsyth MetroLink Stations directly adjacent to these campuses, provides easy travel around the St. Louis metropolitan area, including all of Washington University's campuses.

Tyson Research Center

Tyson Research Center is a 1,966.5 acres (3.07 sq mi; 795.81 ha) field station located west of St. Louis on the Meramec River. Washington University obtained Tyson as surplus property from the federal government in 1963. It is used by the University as a biological field station and research/education center. In 2010 the Living Learning Center was named one of the first two buildings accredited nationwide as a "living building" under the Living Building Challenge,[57] opened to serve as a biological research station and classroom for summer students.


College/School founding
College/SchoolYear founded

College of Arts & Sciences1853
School of Engineering1854
School of Law1867
College of Art1879
School of Medicine1891
College of Architecture1910
Olin Business School1917
Graduate School of Arts & Sciences1922
George Warren Brown School of Social Work1925
University College1931
Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts2005

Arts and Sciences

Arts & Sciences at Washington University comprises three divisions: the College of Arts & Sciences, the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, and University College in Arts & Sciences. Barbara Schaal is Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences. Richard J. Smith is Dean of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.

  • The College of Arts & Sciences is the central undergraduate unit of the University with 330 tenured and tenure-track faculty along with over 100 research scientists, lecturers, artists in residence, and visitors serving more than 3,700 undergraduates in 40 academic departments divided into divisions of Humanities, Social sciences, and Natural sciences and Mathematics. The College of Arts & Sciences has an average class size of 18 students, with over 80% having fewer than 24. Almost one-half of the undergraduate classes have fewer than 10 students. The student-faculty ratio is 7:1.[58]
  • The Graduate School serves over 6,000 students pursuing Master's and PhD degrees.
  • Nationally ranked PhD programs include: Psychology, English, History, Mathematics, Economics, Political Science, Physics, Earth Science, Chemistry and Education.
  • University College grants both graduate and undergraduate degrees, offering courses primarily in the evenings for adult and continuing education.
  • The College of Arts & Sciences offers courses in over a dozen languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish, German, French, Swahili, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Greek, Italian, Hindi, Portuguese, and Latin. University College in Arts & Sciences also offers course work in Swedish, Vietnamese, Irish, and Czech.


Founded as the School of Commerce and Finance in 1917, the Olin Business School was named after entrepreneur John M. Olin in 1988. The school's academic programs include BSBA, MBA, Professional MBA (PMBA), Executive MBA (EMBA), MS in Finance, MS in Supply Chain Management, MS in Customer Analytics, Master of Accounting, Global Master of Finance Dual Degree program, and Doctorate programs, as well as non-degree Executive Education. In 2002, an Executive MBA program was established in Shanghai, in cooperation with Fudan University.

Olin has a network of more than 16,000 alumni worldwide.[59] Over the last several years, the school's endowment has increased to $213 million (2004) and annual gifts average $12 million per year.[60] Simon Hall was opened in 1986 after a donation from John E. Simon. On May 2, 2014, the $90 million conjoined Knight and Bauer Halls were dedicated, following a $15 million gift from Charles F. Knight and Joanne Knight and a $10 million gift from George and Carol Bauer through the Bauer Foundation.

Undergraduate BSBA students take 40–60% of their courses within the business school and are able to formally declare majors in eight areas: accounting, entrepreneurship, finance, healthcare management, marketing, managerial economics and strategy, organization and human resources, International Business, and operations and supply chain management. Graduate students are able to pursue an MBA either full-time or part-time. Students may also take elective courses from other disciplines at Washington University, including law and many other fields. Mark P. Taylor is the Dean of the Olin Business School.

School of Design and Visual Arts

The Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts was created in 2005 by merging the existing Colleges of Art and Architecture. The School comprises:

  • College of Architecture
  • Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design
  • College of Art
  • Graduate School of Art
  • Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, considered one of the most distinguished university art collections in the country[61]

Architecture offers BS and BA degrees as well as MArch and MUD. There is a combined six-year BS and MArch degree program as well as joint MArch programs with most of the other schools in the University. The Graduate School of Architecture and Urban design was ranked 5th in the nation by the journal DesignIntelligence in its 2008 edition of "America's Best Architecture & Design Schools."

Art offers the BFA and MFA in Art in the context of a full university environment. Students take courses in the College of Arts & Sciences as well as courses in the College of Art to provide a well rounded background. One third of students in the school pursue a combined study degree program, second major, and/or minors in other undergraduate divisions at Washington University.[62] U.S. News & World Report ranked the MFA program 13th in the nation in 2012.[63]

In October 2006 the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum moved into new facilities designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect, and former faculty member, Fumihiko Maki.[64]

Carmon Colangelo is the Dean of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. Bruce Lindsey is Dean of the College of Architecture and the Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design. Franklin Spector is the Dean of the College and Graduate School of Art.

McKelvey School of Engineering

The McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis (WashU Engineering) is a school with 88 tenured and tenure-track professors, 40 additional full-time faculty, 1,300 undergraduate students, 560 master's students, 380 PhD students, and more than 20,000 alumni. Aaron Bobick serves as dean of the school.

With approximately $27 million in annual research awards, the school focuses intellectual efforts on medicine and health, energy and environment, entrepreneurship, and security. The school is ranked among the top 50 by the magazine U.S. News & World Report, and the biomedical engineering graduate program was ranked 12th by U.S. News & World Report in 2012–2013.

Departments include:

School of Law

Washington University School of Law offers joint-degree programs with the Olin Business School, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Medicine, and the School of Social Work. It also offers an LLM in Intellectual Property and Technology Law, an LLM in Taxation, an LLM in US Law for Foreign Lawyers, a Master of Juridical Studies (MJS), and a Juris Scientiae Doctoris (JSD). The law school offers 3 semesters of courses in the Spring, Summer, and Fall, and requires at least 85 hours of coursework for the JD.

In the 2018 U.S. News & World Report rankings, the law school ranked 18th nationally.[65] The law school offers a full-time day program, beginning in August, for the J.D. degree. The law school is located in Anheuser-Busch Hall (opened in 1997).

Nancy Staudt is the Dean of the School of Law.


The Washington University School of Medicine was founded in 1891. In the 2018 U.S. News & World Report rankings of U.S. medical schools, it was tied for 8th for research[66] and tied for 10th for primary care.[67] The McDonnell Genome Institute (directed by Richard K. Wilson) is housed within the Washington University School of Medicine; it is one of three NIH-funded major DNA sequencing centers in the U.S. and played a significant role in the Human Genome Project.[68]

The medical school partners with St. Louis Children's Hospital and Barnes-Jewish Hospital (part of BJC HealthCare), where all physicians are members of the school's faculty.

David H. Perlmutter, MD, is the Dean of Washington University School of Medicine.

Social Work and Public Health

With roots dating back to 1909 in the university's School of Social Economy, the George Warren Brown School of Social Work (commonly called GWB, the Brown School, or Brown) was founded in 1925. Brown's academic degree offerings include a Master of Social Work (MSW), a Master of Public Health (MPH), a PhD in Social Work, and a PhD in Public Health Sciences. It is currently ranked first among Master of Social Work programs in the United States.[69] The school was endowed by Bettie Bofinger Brown and named for her husband, George Warren Brown, a St. Louis philanthropist and co-founder of the Brown Shoe Company. The school was the first in the country to have a building for the purpose of social work education, and it is also a founding member of the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health.

Former dental school

Founded as the Missouri Dental College in 1866, the Washington University School of Dental Medicine was the first dental school west of the Mississippi River and the sixth dental school in the U.S. The school closed in 1991.[70]

Museums and library system

With 14 libraries, the Washington University library system is the largest in the state of Missouri, containing over 4.2 million volumes.[71] The main library, Olin Library, is centrally located on the Danforth Campus. Other libraries in the system include:

The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, established in 1881, is one of the oldest teaching museums in the country. The collection includes works from 19th-, 20th-, and 21st-century American and European artists, including George Caleb Bingham, Thomas Cole, Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Alexander Calder, Jackson Pollock, Rembrandt, Robert Rauschenberg, Barbara Kruger, and Christian Boltanski. Also in the complex is the 3,000 sq ft (300 m2) Newman Money Museum exhibiting the collection of American numismatist Eric P. Newman. In October 2006, the Kemper Art Museum moved from its previous location, Steinberg Hall, into a new facility designed by former faculty member Fumihiko Maki. The new Kemper Art Museum is located directly across from Steinberg Hall, which was Maki's first commission in 1959.

Research, research centers, and institutes

Virtually all faculty members at Washington University engage in academic research,[72] offering opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students across the university's seven schools. Known for its interdisciplinarity and departmental collaboration, many of Washington University's research centers and institutes are collaborative efforts between many areas on campus.[73] More than 60% of undergraduates are involved in faculty research across all areas;[74] it is an institutional priority for undergraduates to be allowed to participate in advanced research. According to the Center for Measuring University Performance, it is considered to be one of the top 10 private research universities in the nation.[75] A dedicated Office of Undergraduate Research is located on the Danforth Campus and serves as a resource to post research opportunities, advise students in finding appropriate positions matching their interests, publish undergraduate research journals, and award research grants to make it financially possible to perform research.[76]

During fiscal year 2007, $537.5 million was received in total research support, including $444 million in federal obligations. The University has over 150 National Institutes of Health funded inventions, with many of them licensed to private companies. Governmental agencies and non-profit foundations such as the NIH, United States Department of Defense, National Science Foundation, and NASA provide the majority of research grant funding, with Washington University being one of the top recipients in NIH grants from year-to-year. Nearly 80% of NIH grants to institutions in the state of Missouri went to Washington University alone in 2007.[77] Washington University and its Medical School play a large part in the Human Genome Project, where it contributes approximately 25% of the finished sequence.[78] The Genome Sequencing Center has decoded the genome of many animals, plants, and cellular organisms, including the platypus, chimpanzee, cat, and corn.[79]

NASA hosts its Planetary Data System Geosciences Node on the campus of Washington University. Professors, students, and researchers have been very involved with many unmanned missions to Mars. Professor Raymond Arvidson has been deputy principal investigator of the Mars Exploration Rover mission and co-investigator of the Phoenix lander robotic arm.[80]

Washington University professor Joseph Lowenstein, with the assistance of several undergraduate students, has been involved in editing, annotating, making a digital archive of the first publication of poet Edmund Spenser's collective works in 100 years. A large grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities has been given to support this ambitious project centralized at Washington University with support from other colleges in the United States.[81]

Campus life

Student organizations

Washington University has over 300 undergraduate student organizations on campus.[82] Most are funded by the Washington University Student Union, which, as of fiscal year 2020, has an annual budget of $3.6[83] million that is completely student-controlled and is one of the largest student government budgets in the country. Known as SU for short, the Student Union sponsors large-scale campus programs including WILD (a semesterly concert in the quad) and free copies of the New York Times, USA Today, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch through The Collegiate Readership Program; it also funds the campus television station, WUTV, and the radio station, KWUR. KWUR was named best radio station in St. Louis of 2003 by the Riverfront Times despite the fact that its signal reaches only a few blocks beyond the boundaries of the campus.[84] There are 11 fraternities and 9 sororities, with approximately 35% of the student body being involved in Greek life. The Congress of the South 40 (CS40) is a Residential Life and Events Programming Board, which operates outside of the SU sphere. CS40's funding comes from the Housing Activities Fee of each student living on the South 40.

Many of these organizations and other campus life amenities are housed in the $43 million Danforth University Center on the Danforth Campus, also dedicated in honor of the Danforth family.[85] The building opened on August 11, 2008 and earned LEED Gold certification for its environmentally friendly design.[86]

Washington University has a large number of student-run musical groups on campus, including 12 official a cappella groups. The Pikers, an all-male group, is the oldest such group on campus. The Greenleafs, an all-female group is the oldest (and only) female group on campus. The Mosaic Whispers, founded in 1991, is the oldest co-ed group on campus. They have produced 9 albums and have appeared on a number of compilation albums, including Ben Folds' Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella! The Amateurs,[87] who also appeared on this album, is another co-ed a cappella group on campus, founded in 1991. They have recorded seven albums and toured extensively. After Dark[88] is a co-ed a cappella group founded in 2001. It has released three albums and has won several Contemporary A Capella Recording (CARA) awards. In 2008 the group performed on MSNBC during coverage of the vice presidential debate with specially written songs about Joe Biden and Sarah Palin.[89] The Ghost Lights, founded in 2010, is the campus's newest and only Broadway, Movies, and Television soundtrack group. They have performed multiple philanthropic concerts in the greater St. Louis area and were honored in November 2010 with the opportunity to perform for Nobel Laureate Douglass North at his birthday celebration. More Fools than Wise is a chamber jazz group, and The Aristocats feature Disney songs.

The campus newspaper is Student Life. The paper is published twice a week under the auspices of Washington University Student Media, Inc., an independent not-for-profit organization incorporated in 1999. The paper was first founded in 1878, making it one of the oldest student newspapers in the country.

The campus political/entertainment talk radio podcast is WURD, which streams for free on iTunes.

Greek life

Washington University has eleven fraternities and nine sororities on campus. Approximately 45% of women and 30% of men participate in Greek life, totaling 35% of the student body.

Washington University Interfraternity Council
Washington University Panhellenic Council


Washington University is number one on the Princeton Review's "Best College Dorms" list for 2020.[90]

Over 50% of undergraduate students live on campus.[91] Most of the residence halls on campus are located on the South 40, named because of its adjacent location on the south side of the Danforth Campus and its size of 40 acres (16 ha). It is the location of all the freshman buildings as well as several sophomore buildings, which are set up in the traditional residential college system. All of the residential halls are co-ed. The South 40 is organized as a pedestrian-friendly environment wherein residences surround a central recreational lawn known as the Swamp. Bear's Den (the largest dining hall on campus), the Habif Health and Wellness Center (Student Health Services), the Residential Life Office, University police Headquarters, various student-owned businesses (e.g. the laundry service, Wash U Wash), and the baseball, softball, and intramural fields are also located on the South 40.

Another group of residences, known as the Village, is located in the northwest corner of Danforth Campus. Only open to upperclassmen and January Scholars, the North Side consists of Millbrook Apartments, The Village, Village East on-campus apartments, and all fraternity houses except the Zeta Beta Tau house, which is off campus and located just northwest of the South 40. Sororities at Washington University do not have houses by their own accord. The Village is a group of residences where students who have similar interests or academic goals apply as small groups of 4 to 24, known as BLOCs, to live together in clustered suites along with non-BLOCs. Like the South 40, the residences around the Village also surround a recreational lawn.

In addition to South 40 and North Side residence halls, Washington University owns several apartment buildings within walking distance to Danforth Campus, which are open to upperclassmen.

Student media

Washington University supports four major student-run media outlets. The university's student newspaper, Student Life, is available for students. KWUR (90.3 FM) serves as the students' official radio station; the station also attracts an audience in the immediately surrounding community due to its eclectic and free-form musical programming. WUTV is the university's closed-circuit television channel. The university's main student-run political publication is the Washington University Political Review (nicknamed "WUPR"), a self-described "multipartisan" monthly magazine. Washington University undergraduates publish two literary and art journals, The Eliot Review and Spires Intercollegiate Arts and Literary Magazine. A variety of other publications also serve the university community, ranging from in-house academic journals to glossy alumni magazines to WUnderground, the student-run satirical newspaper.[92]


Washington University's sports teams are called the Bears. They are members of the National Collegiate Athletic Association and participate in the University Athletic Association at the Division III level. The Bears have won 19 NCAA Division III Championships— one in women's cross country (2011), one in men's tennis (2008), two in men's basketball (2008, 2009), five in women's basketball (1998–2001, 2010),[93] and ten in women's volleyball (1989, 1991–1996, 2003, 2007, 2009)[94] – and 144 UAA titles in 15 different sports.[95] The Athletic Department was headed by John Schael for 34 years, who served as director of athletics in the period 1978-2014. The 2000 Division III Central Region winner of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics/Continental Airlines Athletics Director of the Year award,[96] Schael helped orchestrate the Bears athletics transformation into one of the top departments in Division III.[96] Schael was succeeded by Josh Whitman, 2014-2016. The department is now led by Anthony J. Azama.

Washington University also has an extensive club sports program, with teams ranging from men's volleyball[97] to women's Ultimate Frisbee. The Washington University men's club water polo team has been particularly successful, capturing the Collegiate Water Polo Association Division III Club National Championship title in 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.[98][99] Funding for club sports comes from the Student Union budget, as each club is deemed a campus group.

Washington University is home of Francis Field, site of the 1904 Summer Olympics. Francis Field is also home of the Washington University football, soccer, and track and field teams.


  • WILD – Walk In, Lay Down, the semesterly concert in the Quad which brings in popular musical acts.
  • Thurtene Carnival – The oldest and largest student-run carnival in the nation,[100][101] run by Thurtene Honorary.[102]
  • Vertigo – A dance party put on by the Engineering School Council (EnCouncil), featuring an innovative 8-by-16-foot (2.4 by 4.9 m) computer-controlled modular LED illuminated dance floor built by students.
  • Cultural shows – Each year Washington University student groups put on several multicultural shows, one of which sells out within hours of tickets going on sale (Diwali).[103][104] Ashoka, the South Asian student association, puts on a performance for Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, that includes a skit and dances; Black Anthology is a student-run performance arts show celebrating black culture; Lunar New Year Festival is a collaboration between the many East Asian organizations on campus culminating in a show to celebrate the holiday with a skit and dances from Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cultures; celebrating African culture, Africa Week and the African Film Festival are annual events hosted by the African Students Association; the Association of Latin American Students showcases various forms of Latin and Spanish dances during their performance, Carnaval.



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  • Ralph E. Morrow, Washington University in St. Louis: A History St. Louis: Missouri Historical Society Press, 1996.
  • Candace O'Connor, Beginning a Great Work: Washington University, 1853–2003 St. Louis: Washington University in St. Louis, 2003.
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