Columbian College Press Releases

Swiss Diplomat Carl Lutz Awarded George Washington University’s President’s Medal

March 5, 2014

GW President Steven Knapp & Agnes Hirschi, Daughter of Carl Lutz, B.A. '24

Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz, B.A. ’24, who saved the lives of 62,000 Jews from Nazi persecution, was posthumously awarded the George Washington University President’s Medal—the highest honor the university president can bestow. GW President Steven Knapp presented the award during a ceremony at the university. Mr. Lutz’s daughter, Agnes Hirschi, accepted the award on his behalf. While stationed in Budapest from 1942 to 1945, Mr. Lutz served as head of Switzerland’s foreign interests section, representing the interests of a dozen countries which had severed ties with the Hungarian government (then aligned with Germany). During this time, he used protecting power mandates (allowing Switzerland to protect citizens of other countries living in Hungary), saving Jewish families from extermination.

The Corcoran, the National Gallery of Art and the George Washington University to Enter Historic Collaboration

February 19, 2014

Corcoran College of Art + DesignThe Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran College of Art + Design, the National Gallery of Art and GW announced a proposed collaboration that would safeguard and increase access to the Corcoran’s iconic collection as a resource for the public in Washington, D.C., maintain the historic Corcoran building as the renovated showplace for an important new program of exhibitions of modern and contemporary art and strengthen and elevate the Corcoran College and its programs. The collaboration would raise the stature of arts education in the District and expand the benefits, services and interdisciplinary opportunities that both the National Gallery of Art and GW provide to students, museum-goers and the Washington community.

GW Receives Up to $14.6 Million to Develop Method to Characterize Biological and Chemical Threats

January 28, 2014

Akos VertesA team led by a GW researcher will receive up to $14.6 million over five years from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop an approach to rapidly identify the root of biological and chemical threats. The researchers are tasked with reducing to 30 days a process that can sometimes take years or even decades. If they are successful, the approach could bolster national security efforts to combat these threats. “Clearly, this is a very large challenge, and it’s easy to understand why it’s important to overcome,” said Akos Vertes, Professor of Chemistry. “Discovering the cause behind a biological or chemical threat can provide information that not only counteracts the threat but also provides important information for pharmaceutical companies developing drugs that may be unrelated to the threat.”

Study: How Plants Evolved to Weather the Cold

December 22, 2013

Amy A team of researchers studying plants has assembled the largest dated evolutionary tree, using it to show the order in which flowering plants evolved specific strategies, such as the seasonal shedding of leaves, to move into areas with cold winters. The results are published Dec. 22, 2013, in the journal Nature. Early flowering plants are thought to have been woody—which maintain a prominent stem above ground across years and changing weather conditions, such as maple trees—and restricted to warm, wet tropical environments. But they have since put down roots in chillier climates, dominating large swaths of the globe where freezing occurs. How they managed this expansion has long vexed researchers searching for plants’ equivalent to the winter parka.

Ancestor of Snakes, Lizards Likely Gave Birth to Live Young

December 17, 2013

Alex PyronThe ancestor of snakes and lizards likely gave birth to live young, rather than laid eggs, and over time species have switched back and forth in their preferred reproductive mode, according to research published in print in Ecology Letters Dec. 17. “This is a very unusual and controversial finding, and a major overturn of an accepted school of thought,” said Alex Pyron, Robert F. Griggs Assistant Professor of Biology in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences at the George Washington University. “Before, researchers long assumed that the ancestor of snakes and lizards laid eggs, and that if a species switched to live birth, it never reverted back. We found this wasn’t the case.”

Found: One of Civilization’s Oldest Wine Cellars?

November 22, 2013Site of ancient wine cellar

A team of American and Israeli researchers has unearthed what could be the largest and oldest wine cellar in the Near East. The group made the discovery at the 75-acre Tel Kabri site in Israel, the ruins of a northern Canaanite city that dates back to approximately 1700 B.C. The excavations at the vast palace of the rulers of the city are co-directed by Eric H. Cline of the George Washington University (GW) and Assaf Yasur-Landau of the University of Haifa, with Andrew Koh of Brandeis University as associate director. As researchers excavated at the site, they uncovered a three-foot-long jar, later christened “Bessie.”

Study: No Known Hominin is Ancestor of Neanderthals and Modern Humans

October 21, 2013

The search for a common ancestor linking modern humans with the Neanderthals who lived in Europe thousands of years ago has been a compelling subject for research. But a new study suggests the quest isn’t nearly complete. Researchers, using quantitative methods focused on the shape of dental fossils, find that none of the usual suspects fits the expected profile of an ancestor of Neanderthals and modern humans. They also present evidence that the lines that led to Neanderthals and modern humans diverged nearly 1 million years ago, much earlier than studies based on molecular evidence have suggested.

GW Receives $1.47 Million Grant to Fund New Joint Program in Experiential Education and Jewish Cultural Arts

October 1, 2013

The George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development (GSEHD) and Columbian College of Arts and Sciences received a $1.47 million grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation to fund a new program combining experiential education and Jewish cultural arts. The program, the only one of its kind in the country, offers an interdisciplinary curriculum of coursework from GSEHD’s Museum Education Program and the Columbian College’s Judaic Studies Program to provide a master of arts in experiential education and Jewish cultural arts.

GW Announces Major Garrett and Tara Sonenshine as Distinguished Fellows

September 19, 2013

Major Garrett, CBS News’ chief White House correspondent, and Tara Sonenshine, former under secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, will join the George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs (SMPA) as its newest fellows for the 2013-2014 academic year. Both will provide key insights to students and faculty about their experiences working in their respective fields.

GW Researcher Receives $1.3 Million for Type 2 Diabetes StudyAleksander Jeremic

August 28, 2013

A Columbian College researcher will receive $1.3 million over the next five years from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) for research that will help better understand how type 2 diabetes develops, possibly informing the development of novel treatments to reverse the disease. The research by Aleksander Jeremic is particularly important given 150 million people worldwide suffer from type 2 diabetes--a number expected to double over the next 20 years.


George Washington University Researcher's Study Reveals How Throwing Made Us HumanNeil Roach in Lab with bones

June 26, 2013

Little leaguers and professional baseball players alike have our extinct ancestors to thank for their success on the mound, shows a study by George Washington University researcher Neil Roach featured on the cover of the June 27 edition of the journal Nature.



Biology Professor Maps the Family Tree of All Known Snake and Lizard GroupsLizard Open Mouth Picture on leaf

May 8, 2013

A George Washington University biologist and a team of researchers have created the first large-scale evolutionary family tree for every snake and lizard around the globe. The findings were recently published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology. Alex Pyron, the Robert F. Griggs Assistant Professor of Biology in the Columbian College, along with researchers from the City University of New York and Arizona State University, detail the cataloguing of 4,161 species of snakes and lizards, or squamates.


George Washington University Biologist Discovers New Dinosaur in ChinaDinausaur Fossil Remains

May 3, 2013

Fossil remains found by a George Washington University biologist in northwestern China have been identified as a new species of small theropod, or meat-eating, dinosaur. The discovery was made by James Clark, the Ronald B. Weintraub Professor of Biology, in the Department of Biological Sciences.


Amit Ronen to Direct the George Washington University's Solar InstituteGW Solar Institute Director Amit Ronen

April 24, 2013

Recognized clean energy leader Amit Ronen will serve as the new director of the George Washington University’s Solar Institute, the university announced at its 5th Annual Solar Symposium Tuesday. Mr. Ronen will assume his new role in May.

“We are so pleased to have Amit joining the GW community in May and look forward to continuing our work on solar energy and finding ways to meet global energy needs and environmental challenges,” said Peg Barratt, dean of George Washington’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, who has helped to spearhead the institute, housed in the Columbian College since its inception in 2008.


George Washington University Launches National Parks Fellowship CertificateRoger Kennedy National Parks Fellowship Certificate

April 23, 2013

A new graduate certificate program at the George Washington University has been created to strengthen knowledge of the natural and cultural resources that lie at the heart of the National Park Service (NPS) mission. The Certificate in Contexts of Environmental Policy will be offered by the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences beginning fall 2013. The program is designed for emerging leaders at NPS involved in the preservation and protection of public lands and cultural heritage. The graduate certificate is inspired by a gift from Roger and Frances Kennedy and made possible by the Friends of Roger Kennedy to establish a fellowship named for the late Roger Kennedy, a former director at the National Park Service and part-time professor of American Studies at GW.


George Washington University Appoints New Columbian College of Arts and Sciences DeanDean Ben Vinson III Portrait Shot

April 8, 2013

Ben Vinson III, a renowned scholar and vice dean for Centers, Interdisciplinary Programs and Graduate Education at Johns Hopkins University, has been appointed as the new dean of the George Washington University’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Vinson will begin serving in the leadership position on August 1.


Sri Lankan Snake Study Reveals New Species, Rich Biodiversity in Island CountrySnake Study GW Researcher With Snake

March 12, 2013

Alex Pyron’s expertise is in family trees. Who is related to whom, who begat whom, how did they get where they are now. But not for humans: reptiles. In 2011, his fieldwork in Sri Lanka studying snake diversity on the island led him to confirm the identity of 60 known species of snakes. With Sri Lankan collaborators, Ruchira Somaweera, an author on snakes and expert on amphibians and reptiles, and Dushantha Kandambi, a local naturalist and snake expert, the team collected the snakes and of those, Dr. Pyron used DNA sequencing technology on 40 of them. The study led to a greater understanding of how all the snakes are related to each other and their evolutionary relationship other species globally.


Columbian College to Offer LGBT Health Graduate Program, Certificate in Applied HealthLGBT Medical Symbol

March 4, 2013

George Washington University’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences has launched a new graduate certificate program in LGBT health to train current and future healthcare leaders and policy advocates on issues relating to the health and well-being of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.


The George Washington University Signs Agreement to Establish the GW Confucius InstituteGW Confucius Institute

January 14, 2013

The George Washington University will soon be home to the GW Confucius Institute to promote the study of Chinese language and culture, support Chinese teaching through instructional training and certification and enable prosperous growth of research on China Studies. Named for the famed Chinese philosopher (551-479 BC), the institute will be one of 360 worldwide and the first to be established in Washington, D.C.


George Washington University Researchers Find Variation in Foot Strike Patterns in Predominantly Barefoot Runners

January 10, 2013George Washington University Researchers Running Study Action Shot with sensors

A recently published paper by two George Washington University researchers shows that the running foot strike patterns vary among habitually barefoot people in Kenya due to speed and other factors such as running habits and the hardness of the ground. Kevin Hatala, a Ph.D. student in the Hominid Paleobiology doctoral program at George Washington, is the lead author of the paper in the recent edition of the journal Public Library of Science, or PLOS ONE, along with Brian Richmond, associate professor of anthropology within GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.


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