Enosinian Scholars

The Enosinian Scholars Program was established in 2000 by the University Honors Program and the Vice President for Academic Affairs to identify and support the very best research being conducted by undergraduates throughout the George Washington University (GW). It aims to prepare these gifted undergraduates for advanced work in their fields and provides both financial backing and mentoring during the student's senior year. Our students represent the most lively and committed scholars in a variety of fields, who come together in this program to share their work with faculty and peers.

This program puts the student's goals at the center: faculty advisors closely mentor each participant and the student's own research takes priority (rather than collaborative work on a faculty member's project). This allows students to focus on their departmental senior thesis while reaping the benefits of added research funds, mentoring from the Enosinian advisor, input from fellow participants, and advice from experts outside GW. At the same time that it foregrounds the student's individual research, the program also provides opportunities for each scholar to share ideas and work with other participants, thus receiving communal support and helpful feedback.

In the past six years we have had candidates from Music, English, History, Political Science, International Affairs, Philosophy, Geology, Anthropology, Sociology, Biology, Physics, and Speech Pathology. We have had students go on to graduate study with fellowship support at NYU, University of Chicago, Cambridge University, Oxford University, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and University of Massachusetts. Several of our students have presented their work at national conferences for scholars in their fields, and one Enosinian thesis has been published as a book. We are very proud of our extraordinary alumni, and delighted that the program continues to attract such excellent candidates.

How the program works

Students apply in the spring of their junior year to participate during their senior year. The application process is simple, designed to take very little time, especially for those who have already thought about a research project for their senior year. We look for students who have a high grade point average within their discipline (typically 3.5 or higher), a clear idea for their senior thesis, and the strong support of a faculty member. Applicants are informed about acceptance approximately two weeks after the application deadline. Successful candidates then apply to register for Honors 4198, Honors Senior Thesis, unless they are already registered for thesis credits within their departments. Honors Program students should consult with an honors advisor about how the Enosinian Program fulfills their senior thesis and honors course requirements.

Beginning in the fall semester of their senior year, participants meet regularly, as a group and individually, with the Enosinian advisor. They also submit to the Enosinian advisor work leading up to their theses, including a statement of purpose, an annotated bibliography, an outline, and a selected segment of thesis. With feedback during each phase, the student can confidently move forward toward completing the thesis in the course of the second semester. The Enosinian advisor also meets with each student's departmental thesis director and reader so that there is clear communication about the progress of the thesis.

At the end of the spring semester, all participants give an oral presentation and "defense" of their work. The examining board consists of the student's director, reader, and one reviewer from outside the GW community. If the thesis and the defense meet the standards of the Enosinian Program, the student becomes an Enosinian Scholar, a designation that appears on his or her transcript. Students who do not achieve GW Enosinian Scholar status but receive a passing grade from their advisors will get full credit toward graduation.

The Origin of the Enosinian Scholars Program

The Enosinian Society was founded on March 6, 1822 by a group of 15 students as the Literary and Debating society of the new Columbian College. The organization took its name from the Greek word meaning "to shake" or "to contend." The founders wrote that they were forming the organization "actuated by a desire of improving ourselves in knowledge, eloquence and every accomplishment by which we may be the better prepared for any station in life." It quickly evolved into a society for the promotion of useful knowledge and published a series of pamphlets, including works on race education, politics, abolitionist movements, and life in D.C. In all, it published over 1500 works, of which 15 remain in the Gelman Library. Early members of the club included Christopher Pearse, Edgar Snowden, Howard J. Platt, and Samuel Wheeler. General Lafayette and his son, George Washington Lafayette, were the first honorary members the society inducted, followed by a veritable who's who in American politics: Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, Martin Van Buren, and John Tyler, among others. Because the only mode of mass communications in the mid-nineteenth century was the public address, the members of the Enosinian Society took special interest in promoting public speaking and many of its surviving publications are transcripts of speeches given to the assembled student body of the Columbian College. Surviving pamphlets include transcripts on the subject of aesthetics, D.C. culture, and various commencement speeches. The group established a periodical, the Enosinian Bee, in 1838, full of "light and witty reading" such as poems, editorials, and other ramblings of its members, in addition to more serious topics and essays. After the move to the Foggy Bottom campus, the Enosinian Society's interest in public speaking turned into an interest in debate and society. During the 1930s, as the radio became the new method of mass communication, interest in public speaking waned and the society took up the issues of the social responsibility of government. Located amidst the New Deal social agencies, the Enosinian Society debated the difficult issues of the day.

Debates often lasted until the early hours of the morning and the exchanges shaped articles for the Enosinian Bee and school newspaper. During the middle decades of the twentieth century, the Enosinian Society became a formal debating group and with the rise of competitive debate, the name "Enosinian" was taken by the GW debate team. The students on the team were never completely happy with the name, for it did not identify them as coming from GW. When they abandoned it, the name "Enosinian" was taken by the University Honors Program as the name for their advanced senior thesis program. Once again, the name "Enosinian Society" refers to a group of students interested in promoting scholarship and in presenting their results to the public.

If you have questions about the Enosinian Scholars Program, please contact Dr. William Winstead at stimmung@gwu.edu.