Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives in the UHP

Dear UHP Students:

The faculty and staff of the University Honors Program are committed to addressing and ending any negative experiences for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) students in our community. We write to share with you the steps that we are currently undertaking—and have already undertaken—to confront issues of diversity within our own program. This work is ongoing; it is not always obvious and, in a large institution like ours, progress can sometimes be slow. The UHP has also recently gone through a significant change in its administrative structure and staffing and such transitions always divert time and energy away from important objectives.   

After hearing from students about diversity concerns in the Fall, we began working with Director of University Diversity & Inclusion Programs Jordan West, who suggested we begin with a “temperature survey” for the program to help focus our actions towards the areas in most need of consideration and change. This work has been delayed by the pandemic, but we are committed to administering this survey in Fall 2020. The newly re-formed UHP Advisory Committee (which includes faculty representatives from around the university) has also been tasked with making recommendations to the program in this area. As mentioned in our previous email, we are convening as well a UHP working group composed of students, faculty, and staff to help guide us forward. Students who would like to volunteer to be a member of this working group should complete this form. This group will convene over WebEx this summer (at a date and time convenient to as many participants as possible), but those who are unable to participate this summer are still invited to sign up. Work will continue in the Fall.      

Several recent straightforward changes that have been made include updating the UHP Student Handbook for 2020-2021 to include specific policies related to UHP student conduct to help maintain a supportive and inclusive environment for all our learners. The faculty handbook is also being updated to include additional expectations and resources for instructors. Origins’ faculty are working together as well to diversify their Origins courses. In recent years, faculty have expanded their range of readings to include non-White authors such as James Baldwin, Frantz Fanon, the Dalai Lama, and Paulo Freire, to name a few. Women writers such as Simone de Beauvoir, Christine Korsgaard, Martha Nussbaum, and Virginia Held have been added to syllabi, and many of our faculty have shown students the anti-racist documentary “I’m Not Your Negro,” a powerful film on Baldwin and the American Civil Rights movement. Diversifying our syllabi is an ongoing effort—one that started over a decade ago when we began the important work of teaching non-Western traditions like Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucian thought in Origins. We remain committed to advancing a wide range of voices in the Honors program, and recognize that Origins is not the only place where we have work to do. It is important to us that all of our classes and spaces feel welcoming and inclusive to everyone. This will require working on our culture as a whole, reviewing how we teach our course materials, and being more mindful of how we engage with students inside and outside of the classroom. 

Like all special programs on campus, the UHP works in concert with the GW Office of Undergraduate Admissions in recruitment and admissions. The UHP staff has worked and is working closely with Admissions on the issue of diversity in enrollment. We have discussed the issue in depth with Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Ben Toll last summer, and we have emphasized our desire to have the Honors Program advertise as widely as possible. As a result of these meetings, the UHP was involved with the “Your GW” program in the Fall, which provided a direct avenue to a set of prospective GW students who we hoped would consider applying to the Honors program. We recognize that our admissions process is not yet fixed, but we are taking steps to understand the problem and learn how we can do better. We are pressing Admissions to ensure that a diverse set of applications is sent for our review. We are working to upgrade the UHP website so that it better represents the program and will be more attractive to prospective students who want to build a strong academic community. We have also altered our portion of the admissions process to more explicitly consider factors such as race, socioeconomics, and first-generation status.    

In Fall 2020, all UHP first-year students will live as a community in West Hall. Having the full incoming class living in West will allow us to do more focused community building in the first year, which is planned to include issues related to diversity and inclusion. Though a return to “normal” is unlikely in the Fall, we remain committed to unifying the incoming class through a shared academic and co-curricular program. Vern RAs are committed to building a community that supports all of our students. The UHP will also be working with the MVC Area Coordinator (Dan Wright) and Community Director (Marissa Townsend) to discuss options for integrating diversity and inclusion education programs in the residential community experience directly. Further, in collaboration with the Office for Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement, all UHP students will take part in an unconscious bias workshop in the Fall.

In addition, we are integrating anti-racist and anti-bias training into the Peer Advisor program so that peer advisors are equipped with the tools and self-awareness needed to address acts of racism and bias as well as refer students to supportive resources. Peer Advisor Leadership in particular will participate in anti-racist and anti-bias training to uphold these standards for the rest of the peer advisor program. 

 Under the Honors new administrative organization, Associate Provost for Special Programs & the Mount Vernon Academic Experience Elizabeth Chacko is tasked with course staffing. We have had multiple discussions about the need for diverse course offerings and faculty in our upper level courses, but because faculty and classes are scheduled a year in advance this process takes time. Since the needs of the UHP are similar to those of the other special programs on the Mount Vernon Campus, Associate Provost Chacko is working on building common programming to address these issues among students and faculty throughout these programs. In addition, our faculty and staff—like our students-—will take part in anti-racist and anti-bias training (again, hosted by GW’s Office for Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement).

The University Honors Program believes that critical reflection, historical awareness, an openness to the diversity of human experience, and an empathetic moral imagination are the cognitive skills necessary for building a just society free from racism and oppression. The UHP is committed to cultivating these skills and enabling our students to become agents of positive change as we struggle together to create a compassionate society in which all can flourish and thrive without fear of harm. 

In solidarity,
The UHP Administration & Faculty

Life As A UHP Alum

So you did it. You graduated. Finally! I’ll say this one last time (it won’t be the last time)– congratulations! And now…you’re an alum. There are a ton of benefits that you can get as a GWU alum, but I wanted to detail for you some of the benefits you have specifically as a UHP alum! You can learn more about the broad GW alumni benefits here.


You may know already about the UHP LinkedIn Group, but if not, let me acquaint you! Over the past several years, we’ve been curating a LinkedIn group for UHPers. This can be a tremendous networking resource for you! If you join the group (you should join the group), you’ll be connected to a whole series of former UHPers now doing incredibly cool things all over the country. And they’ve all joined this group for the express purpose of networking with other UHPers. So take advantage of it! Look through the folks there– maybe one of them is doing your dream job!

UHP Events

Congratulations! You have earned free admission to all semesterly Student-Faculty Dinners from now until the end of time. And you did it just by graduating! If you’re ever back in town towards the end of a given semester, please drop us a line at uhp@gwu.edu or 202-994-6816 and join us. That goes for all sorts of UHP events– the UHP Hike, Food for Thoughts, Holiday Parties…all of it!

The Townhouse

You’re also always welcome to drop by the townhouse when you’re in town! Your free access to come around for free coffee, hot chocolate, and good company is officially approved to extend as long as we have coffee and hot chocolate. And we will definitely want to say hello!

More Coming Soon…

We’re also developing some further things for y’all, so stay tuned! If you want to get updates on this sort of thing, make sure you fill out the Senior Survey so we know how to get in touch with you.

And once again:


Apply to Be A 2020-2021 Enosinian Scholar!

The Enosinian Scholars Program is now accepting applications for the 2020-2021 school year. Each year, this program welcomes a select group of rising seniors to conduct student-driven research in a variety of academic areas. Students apply at the end of their junior year to begin the program their senior year.

If you are interested, please check out the program description as well as the application form. Applications are due by June 12, 2020 by 5pm.

If you have further questions, please reach out to Professor Bethany Cobb Kung at bcobb@gwu.edu.

2020 Strasser Prize Winners Announced

Congratulations to the winners of this year’s Strasser Writing Prize competition!  We have one first place winner, and two runners-up.

1st Place:

Talia Zelle
“Created Languages in Speculative Fiction: Humane Language in Babel-17 and Understand”

Runners Up:

Elena Mieszczanski
“Chariclea: Both Black and White”

Benjamin Blitz
“Effect of Parenting Styles on Child Well-Being: An Overview and Critique”

Weekly Contest Winners Spotlight!

Since the beginning of the Digital Townhouse Project, we’ve had several different weekly contests going on, and I just wanted to take a minute to honor all the winners of the past weekly contests!

First up, we have the winner of our final weekly contest (who has not yet been announced): Jared Bulla with his re-creation of “The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries” as seen below. The winning nomination for Professor Kung’s re-creation is Johannes Vermeer’s The Astronomer!

The next winner was Matthew Obserstaedt with the following short story:

One otherwise inconspicuous Wednesday, Jacky is cleaning out her childhood bedroom. She’s basically just throwing all her childhood memories into a big black trash bag, because, you know, who needs them anymore when you’re in college, right? So in go her beloved stuffed animals, her soccer trophies, her prom photos, and so on. But then, she comes across something really, really sentimental for her – a self-portrait her grandmother had painted just before her death. Jacky feels a tear come to her eye, then wipes it away, shrugs, and throws the painting out.

Ha! I bet you, the ignorant reader, thought that portrait was going to be the thing that changed Jacky’s life, right? Nope! I just totally subverted your expectations, and I feel pretty darn good about it, too!

Anyway, once she throws away the portrait, Jacky comes upon a portal to another dimension that she had made as a kid and forgotten about. Then she enters it and I guess some kind of life changing experience happens in there. Not sure what exactly; I didn’t come up with the specifics. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Anyway, it inspires her to become an animal rights activist or something else cool like that.

The following winner was Ethan Goldblatt with this limerick:

There once was a digger named Gary
who most people found quite scary
but if you’d go and check-in
he’d greet you with a grin
then you’d be the next one that he’d bury.

The following winner was two-fold! Both Sara Iagnemma and Matthew Oberstaedt won the UHP mascot contest, as seen below:

Sara Iagnemma:

Sara’s mascot is the UHP Raven, because they’re both some of the smartest animals on the planet as well as omnivores!

Matthew Oberstaedt:

Matthew’s was, well, as follows:

“Meet the new UHP Mascot: Brainy McBrainface! Brainy is a walking, talking, personified brain, and they are, like, totally jacked from flexing all that intellectual muscle UHPers are famous for. Brainy can usually been lifting weights with one arm and a beaker in the other, demonstrating the careful balance between taking care of one’s body and mind. Brainy has a big, goofy laugh that annoys pretty much everyone, but is endearing to the right people, and they can’t shut up about politics! Brainy’s spinal cord is basically their body. They typically wear shorts, a graduation cap, and shoes… BUT NO SHIRT, because, I repeat, they’re totally jacked.”

And finally, we have our first winner of them all: the virtual learning meme contest! This victory went to Hannah DelVecchio with the following meme:

UHP Graduation Reception

Listen, dear Seniors: quarantine is deeply unfortunate, but we will be darned if we can’t still do everything in our power to celebrate you with everything we’ve got, so come over and join us on May 16, 5PM EST. Wear something formal (regalia if you have it!) and bring your family and friends as well as a drink for toasting. Professor Kung will introduce the evening with some encouragement to the class, and then the UHP faculty will also join in and talk about how wonderful you all are. There will also be a time for you to give toasts to each other! Finally, at the end, some faculty will be hosting individual “office-hours” style receptions where you can join in, introduce them to your family, and talk to them personally.

You’ll all be receiving a formal invitation from us in the coming days with the link to join, so keep an eye out for that! If you don’t see it by Friday, reach out to us at uhp@gwu.edu so we can make sure you can join us.

Also, we’d love to get pictures of memories you have from your time in the UHP to put together in the reception in a slideshow. Submit them here: https://forms.gle/uMda4CGTSdYjE7gKA

Riddle of the Day 5/1


To most, I am a mystery
Hidden ‘tween H and G
Bring your vessels unto me
And to you I’ll spill my Tea.
What am I?


The correct answer to yesterday’s riddle (a J.R.R. Tolkien original) was FISHES, which was gotten first by Jared Bulla. The most creative answer goes to Sydni Nadler with “a knight in (quiet) shining armor.” Congrats to you both!

This will also be the last riddle of the semester, as we’re getting into the final stretch of things! Thanks for playing along everyone!!

Riddle of the Day 4/29


In permanence, I am murderous
But avoiding me oft’ brings headache.
I can bring refreshment splendiferous
But precious time it will take.
What am I?


A mesh with empty space beneath,
A cone inside is hidden.
I scream and shout but have no teeth,
At times I am forbidden.

(courtesy of u/blended_lemon)

The correct answer to this was “speaker,” which was gotten by Cindy Y, and the most creative incorrect answer goes to Jared Bulla with the subconscious! Congratulations to you both!!

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