Presidential Fellows

Washington College offers select first-year applicants membership into a unique fellowship program.

They’re students who’ve demonstrated a commitment to high-level academic achievement and intellectual rigor. They’re curious, ambitious, and highly motivated, willing to work hard and be active participants in their education and the College community. 

For the free dinners, of course! (Just kidding.) True, there are perks like sailing trips on the Chester River and elegant dinners with senior staff and members of the College’s Board of Visitors and Governors. But the main reason students become Presidential Fellows is because it can give them a leg up in their college, post-grad, and professional careers. Of the 35 seniors inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in 2015, over one-third were Presidential Fellows. 

You already know that at Washington College you’ll benefit from small classes and personal attention from your professors. As a Presidential Fellow, get ready to ramp this up. You will immediately be introduced to other students of like mind, dedication, and ambition—a tight, academically focused community within the larger College community. You’ll be paired with faculty advisors who thrive on working with students like you, who will help you maximize your academic schedule and point you to cool opportunities like internships, honors, and fellowships. Those fun perks like dinners with the President and tours to the State House? They all have the broader goal of giving you face time with a distinguished company that includes technology entrepreneurs, Fortune 500 company leaders, cutting-edge scientists, and respected academics.

  • Begin your college career with an elegant event hosted by the President's office; you’ll have unique opportunities to meet with distinguished scientists, artists, technology and business entrepreneurs, authors, policy makers, legislators, and academics—all of whom want to see you succeed and can help you do it.
  • Get priority course registration for your first two years.
  • You’ll be a special guest at activities sponsored by the College’s chapters of Phi Beta Kappa, the Douglass Cater Society of Junior Fellows, and the Omicron Delta Kappa national leadership honor society. These opportunities will help you qualify for election to these honors societies, which can open further doors for you to compete for distinguished national honors such as Fulbright Fellowships and Rhodes, Marshall, Goldwater, and Truman scholarships.
  • Spend a day sailing aboard an 18th-century tall ship. An experience which gives you a unique and memorable way to get acquainted with the heart of your new College home, the Chester River, complete with riverside picnic and fireworks at dusk.
  • Attend programs designed to help you take advantage of essential experiences including internships, externships, post-graduate and career-oriented opportunities.
  • Be mentored by a faculty advisor who has earned high marks from students and can help you plan your course load to maximize your time and effort.
  • Get special invitations to enroll in honors courses.
  • Enjoy the option of rooming with other Presidential Fellows who share similar study habits and social interests.

Alexandra Lee ’20
“During my college decision process, my acceptance into the Presidential Fellows Program here at Washington College sealed the deal for me to choose WAC. I recognized there would be opportunities given to me that only a select few in my class would be granted. As a Presidential Fellow, I have been granted academic opportunities that have aided me in becoming the best version of myself. This program has helped me to find my academic voice, and not doubt myself in any future endeavors.” 

Jillian Horaneck ’20
“Being a part of the Presidential Fellows program here at Washington College has been an honor. The program has given me many academic opportunities I wouldn’t have received anywhere else. For example, I have been able to bond with my professors and receive all the help I needed to succeed. This program has really added to my motivation of being the best I can be here at school and in the work world. It has also surrounded me with other motivated people who have become some of my closest friends.”

Elizabeth Lilly ’21
“Washington College has provided so many opportunities for me as a student, many of which came from being a part of the Presidential Fellows program. This program has enabled me to connect more with the faculty, administration, and alumni of the school particularly through the Presidential Fellows Leadership Summit offered to students during their freshman year. In addition to this, being able to live in a dorm with other Presidential Fellows allowed me to surround myself with like-minded people. This program as a whole greatly increases the sense of community and success at Washington College.” 

Presidential Fellows 2021

Leadership is inquiry that drives action.

That’s how we think of leadership at Washington College.

The spark of leadership is struck when you question the world around you, when you look with new eyes, when you imagine a new possibility – when you ask ‘Why?,’ and ‘Why not?’

Leadership starts with inquiry — the curiosity and the courage to ask.

And leadership as inquiry is the heart of our Presidential Fellows Program.

Presidential Fellows are young people like you —driven to explore, eager to make a difference, and humble enough to accept that meaningful action requires patient learning. Each year, we look for young people who share Washington College’s core values— integrity, determination, curiosity, civility, leadership, and moral courage.

The Presidential Fellows program brings diverse and dynamic young people together, connects them with passionate faculty, and offers unique beyond-the-classroom learning experiences. Over four years, the PF program provides a framework of leadership skills and learning, collaborative exploration with dedicated mentors, and one-to-one help to get you ready for life after college.

But what makes Presidential Fellows unique is the relationships. Presidential Fellows offers a close-knit community of students, faculty, staff, alums, and community members. We never forget that we’re all in this together, and that only by embracing our diversity and differences can we forge authentic fellowship. We’re a small college, in an old town, on Maryland’s green shore. We feel nature and history around us every day.

You’ll see it (and hear it!) once you’re here. Geese — our college’s humble, ubiquitous athletic mascot — don’t fly alone. They flock; they fly together; and they share the work of leading. As a Presidential Fellow you’ll share the adventure of learning to lead — and you’ll go further than you ever imagined you could.

Students standing in front of the Casey Academic Center

Four-year program

From your very first semester to your senior year, throughout Presidential Fellows you’ll collaborate with faculty, staff, and a rich range of student organizations. Most leadership skills development will happen student to student, and involve the College’s most dedicated and talented student leaders. By your senior year you’ll help us complete the circle, helping a new cohort of Presidential Fellows learn, lead, and grow. 

Students holding a conversation outside of the library

Leadership skills

Staff and students in Student Affairs and elsewhere will involve Presidential Fellows in targeted leadership development programming designed to build each Fellow’s capacity to reflect and act on their values. These programs include discussions, workshops, and other forums where Presidential Fellows can explore what leadership looks like in their daily lives. Joining with other Presidential Fellows they will be able to construct a vision and plan for their own leadership path throughout their time at Washington College and beyond. Whether that be leadership in a club or organization, a social justice initiative, on a varsity athletic team, or the many other ways that leadership can manifest itself on our campus, this element of the Presidential Fellows program will truly embody the principle of inquiry driving action.


At the center of the Presidential Fellows program are our amazing faculty-led tracks. Tracks aren’t courses, and they don’t carry college credit. But they’re all about learning and exploration. Each track is guided by passionate faculty experts, sharing their love of a particular area of inquiry and action. Each track is unique, but all share three common factors: dedicated faculty; a team of like-minded fellow students; and powerful beyond-the-classroom learning experiences.

Business Management

Creating Value

At the heart of enterprise—public or private, small startup or large corporation—is the creation of value. But this only happens because people do it. Businesses, non-profits, and other organizations share ideas, collaborate, and transform raw materials into activities, goods, and services of value to others. Presidential Fellows will explore how organizations create value in their communities. We’ll visit businesses and non-profits and talk with leaders, meet Washington College alums who are building on their education to create value in their careers. We’ll tackle problems and forge solutions that create value for our community.


Caddie Putnam Rankin, Business Management

Lansing Williams, Business Management

Mathematics and Computer Science

Ethics and Innovation in Science

Science, because it gives us the knowledge and the tools to systematically explore, affect, and shape the world around us, has a profound ethical dimension. In this track Presidential Fellows explore, in collaboration with faculty leads, emerging ethical challenges and tensions in scientific research and technological innovation. Topics may include artificial intelligence, machine learning, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the spread of misinformation on social media.


Gabriel Feinberg, Mathematics and Computer Science

Bin Song, Philosophy and Religion

Kyle Wilson, Mathematics and Computer Science

Political Science

The Great Questions

The track is inspired by two classic approaches to higher learning found at the University of Oxford: its program in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and its curriculum known as the ‘Greats” — enduring works by thinkers who have enriched the human experience. Students explore enduring questions about the nature of happiness, knowledge, religion, freedom, politics, economics, and the good life. The track also encourages students to exercise leadership by working toward the attainment of what classical thinkers called phronesis — the wisdom to enact the principles discovered in theoretical inquiry. Students meet for conversation over food, are invited to special events, including opportunities through the Institute for Religion, Politics, and Culture, are encouraged and assisted to obtain internships, and, ultimately, have the option to enroll in a study-abroad program at the University of Oxford or in Prague and Vienna with a study tour of Auschwitz.


Joseph Prud’homme, Political Science

Peter Weigel, Philosophy and Religion

Adi Mayer, Economics

Environmental Science & Studies

Exploring the Environment

In this fully immersive track, students will be exploring the environment through outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, kayaking, geocaching and star gazing. Faculty leaders will help students gain a foundational understanding of the physical, chemical and biological aspects of each unique environment we visit. Human impacts to each environment will also be considered and will serve as unifying theme throughout the semester. Guest speakers will join in our environmental explorations to lend their knowledge and expertise on anthropogenic impacts to the natural world.


Robin Van Meter, Biology and Environmental Science & Studies

Rebecca Fox, Environmental Science & Studies

Brian Scott, Economics and Environmental Science & Studies

Jill Bible, Environmental Science & Studies


The Literary Life

Literature has been one of the most enduring tools used to both inspire and challenge leadership. In this track, Presidential Fellows who consider themselves inquisitive readers, aspiring editors, intrepid journalists, or creative writers, will engage with the long history of rich literary activity on and around Washington College’s campus. Through conversations with nationally renowned authors and journalists; visits to archives, libraries, and museums; a summer trip to Yorkshire to study landscape and literature; and other such experiences we’ll explore the connection between language and its ability and responsibility to effect change.


Sufiya Abdur-Rahman, Creative Writing

Liz O’Connor, English

Courtney Rydel, English

Gibson Center for the Arts

Making Art, Making Community

As a vehicle for collaboration, creativity, and cultural critique, art-making helps connect people and foster community. In this track, Presidential Fellows interested in studio art, music, dance, theatre, arts management, and other creative fields will explore ways in which the arts can make meaning, build connections, and catalyze social change. Through conversations and visits with artistic professionals, we’ll examine how creative leaders consider and act upon questions of diversity, access, and representation, and how we can all help build arts institutions that enrich our geographic, societal, and virtual communities.


Brendon Fox, Theatre & Dance

Ken Schweitzer, Music

Ben Tilghman, Art History and Arts Management & Entrepreneurship

Julie Wills, Studio Art

Political Science

Social Justice

What is your future as a citizen leader? Persistent societal concerns—poverty and famine; oppression on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, nationality, religion, class, and geographic location; impunity and injustice—challenge global leaders and citizens. The story of human history is, in many ways, the story of overcoming oppression and resolving inequities as we strive to establish greater equality within and between nations. Social justice is a marathon that requires passionate individuals with the training and experiences to confront challenges that await them. Students are provided with an academic understanding of social justice issues in the world and given the opportunity to DO social justice. Access to mentors and events will ensure students are ready to hit the ground running upon graduation.


Christine Wade, Political Science & International Studies

Rachel Durso, Sociology

Emily Steinmetz, Anthropology

Flavio Hickel, Political Science

Carrie Reiling, Political Science & International Studies