Alumni Celebrate 125th Anniversary of the Elliott School

Graduates of the Elliott School of International Affairs shared their favorite memories from their time as students and their hopes for the future of the school. 

October 20, 2023

Elliott School building exterior

The Elliott School of International Affairs is celebrating its 125th anniversary after preparing thousands of students at the George Washington University for careers in international affairs.

In 1898, the school counted 90 students. Today, the Elliott School boasts nearly 1,500 students and more than 28,000 living alumni, representing 113 countries, with an impressive record of achievements across all career sectors. Over the past 125 years, the study of international affairs has gained stature, and the Elliott School continues to be at the forefront.

To commemorate the milestone, alumni shared their thoughts on the Elliott School of the past, present, and future.

Aly Azhar

Aly Azhar, B.A. '13

What was your most memorable moment at the Elliott School?

Just seeing and hearing some unique speakers that I don’t think I would have seen in other places was really memorable. Hillary Clinton came. I think she was Secretary of State at the time. Robert Gates was also here. He was Secretary of Defense. That happened my freshman year. I think my freshman year was also the year that they had the Michelle Obama service challenge. I took some of my best classes at Elliott, or the classes that are the most memorable to me, even 10 years later. I'm very grateful for those classes and those opportunities.

What are your hopes for the Elliott School as it enters its 126th year? 

I would love for Elliott to continue being Elliott! To continue being a kind of marquee leader in research and development. It is still a very well-ranked institution. So in the future, I would love for Elliott to be the number one leader in research.

Charlene Burns

Charlene Burns, B.A. '20

What was your most memorable moment at the Elliott School?

My senior year, I was able to take a master’s level course in international environmental policy. It was a more rigorous course, which was exciting at that point in my academic career and a little bit more specialized than what you would get with just regular undergrad courses. That level of critical analysis is applicable outside of pure academic work and has been really valuable for me in my career and also for me as an individual engaging with the world. I think there were a lot of critical thinking skills that were encouraged at Elliott and in classes across GW that have been meaningful for me.

What has inspired you to stay connected to the school over the years?

The Global Bachelor’s program, which I’m a huge fan of, brings a cohort together. You're a lot more connected than, I think, most study abroad programs are. Before you go abroad, you take a class together and have a lot of opportunities to socialize and meet each other. Despite all of us going on different paths, many of us are still friends. I think it’s just the community that it built, and I think that’s my experience with GW in general. My closest friends are my GW friends.

Chloe Colbert

Chloe Colbert, BA ’13 

How have you seen the Elliott School change over the years?

I think people realize how global the world is, and GW is becoming a part of the global conversation day- to-day through our scholars and research. I think people realize that as much as they need engineers or people in other fields, they need policy people as well. So the Elliott School has just become more prominent. 

What are your hopes for the Elliott School of International Affairs as it enters its 126th year? 

I would like the school to explore more of the cyber and AI worlds and the threats there. I think continuing to attract researchers from all over the world, building more of those relationships with other colleges, and just exchanging more ideas would be great. I hope there’s still going to be a free-flowing exchange of ideas because it's becoming more dangerous to exchange ideas with some countries, like China and Russia.

Wendy Creedon

Wendy Creedon, B.A. '92

What was your most memorable moment at the Elliott School?

Because I minored in German, I had a lot of classes with my German professors. And that faculty at the time was really close knit. A lot of them had been through, for instance, World War II, and talked about their experiences. I was actually here at the Elliott School when the Berlin Wall fell. So it was a very interesting time to not only see what was on TV—you could see history in the making—but also to have the perspective of people who have lived it and felt very passionately about the issues that were happening at the time.

What has inspired you to stay connected to the school over the years?

I felt like I got an amazing education at the Elliott School. My daughter is now a freshman at the Elliott School, and that's great!  I have so many wonderful memories. I really loved all of it.

Felicia Rodriguez

Felicia Rodriguez, B.A. ’07, M.A. ’13

What was your most memorable moment at the Elliott School?

What stands out most in my memory of my time at Elliott is the number of opportunities within, and particularly outside of, the classroom to hear notable people in the fields of economics, international affairs, and politics. These include Jeff Sachs, Colin Powell, and Robert Zoellick, just to name a few off the top of my head.

How have you seen the school change over the years, and what are your hopes for the Elliott School as it enters its 126th year? 

Since I first applied to the Elliott School as a high school student, I have been in awe of its prestige and its ties to leaders in Washington and around the globe. The building on E Street, where the school is currently housed, was inaugurated during my undergraduate years.The view over the Washington Monument and government offices is symbolic of the powerful connections that Elliott has with the broader policy-making and leadership community. 

It is my hope that the Elliott School continues to educate and inspire youth, engage the global community, and lead in academic rigor and influence to address present and future challenges to shape a more equitable and cohesive world.

Jenna Segal

Jenna Segal, B.A. ’98, Co-Chair, Elliott School Board of Advisors

What is one of your favorite or most memorable moments from your time at Elliott?
My favorite class at Elliott was called Chinese Culture Through Film. It began my interest in entertainment as a medium for creating cross cultural communication and understanding.

What has inspired you to stay connected to the school over the years?

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized the value of the education and perspective I received at Elliott and how it taught me to see my industry through a broader lens than I believe a liberal arts degree would have provided.

Aria Varasteh

Aria Varasteh, B.A. ‘12 

What was your most memorable moment at the Elliott School?

I would say that my favorite memory was probably all the special guests that we had come in. At the Institute for African Studies, we were able to bring in a bunch of world leaders. Once, we had the Libyan Ambassador, an event I was directly involved with, and it was during a critical time in U.S.- Libya relations. It was very exciting. There were a number of other events, like Supreme Court justices, all sorts of other ambassadors, and world opinion makers coming to campus. All of that was just something that GW offered.

How have you seen the Elliott School change over the years?

I can see shifts in the curriculum. I can see shifts in the majors and things being offered. I can see new institutes being opened. So I know the Elliott School isn’t just comfortable staying still. You’re actively watching what’s going on in the international community, and you're adapting as a school, as a curriculum, and as a series of institutes and extracurricular activities to be able to allow students to take advantage of that ever- evolving global landscape.