2016-2017 University Catalog 
    May 26, 2024  
2016-2017 University Catalog archived

The Ernest Williams II School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics


(Approved by the faculty and dean of the Williams School, August 2009)

In the Williams School, we educate students in the liberal arts tradition, preparing them to lead and to serve society and their professions with competence, vision, and integrity. Through our teaching and scholarship, we create and share knowledge about the role of commerce, economics, and politics in a diverse and global society.


The School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics was authorized by the Trustees in June 1905, and was organized in 1906. It has been accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business since 1927. In 1995, by action of the Board of Trustees, the School was dedicated in honor of Ernest Williams II, a member of the class of 1938 and a loyal supporter of the University.

Depending on the major field sought, the first year may combine introductory work in accounting, economics, and/or politics with classes chosen from a range of other disciplines, some of which will satisfy Foundation and Distribution Requirements (FDRs). Subsequent terms may introduce intermediate courses in these fields and additional courses in business administration, while still emphasizing broad study that is a hallmark of a liberal arts education.  By the junior and senior years, students are typically engaged in advanced study of their major, often in collaboration with one or more supervising faculty within the Williams School. By the conclusion of their course of study, students should understand the complexity of the workings of business, economy, and government in a global setting as well as viewed from multiple perspectives.

Whether majoring in the Williams School or simply picking up a few courses to supplement a major in another area of W&L, the course of study assures a well-rounded graduate and provides a sound foundation for engaged citizenship and careers in business, government and law.


The Departments of Accounting, Business Administration, Economics, and Politics comprise the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics.

Degrees and Majors Offered

The Williams School offers the Bachelor of Arts degree and the Bachelor of Science with Special Attainments in Commerce degree. Detailed information on each of these degrees and majors can be found in the “Courses of Study” section of this catalog. Students may complete only one of the majors leading to the Bachelor of Science degree.

Bachelor of Arts Degree

The Williams School offers the following majors leading to the Bachelor of Arts degree:


Bachelor of Science with Special Attainments in Commerce Degree

The Williams School offers the following majors leading to the Bachelor of Science with Special Attainments in Commerce degree:

Accounting and Business Administration 
Business Administration 
Public Accounting  


First-Year Advice

The first year is designed for students to study broadly across the curriculum. All students are encouraged to sample courses across the University to develop new interests and satisfy the Foundation and Distribution Requirements.

This advice holds for students who have a preliminary interest in the majors offered through the Williams School. Introductory economics and politics classes are offered that satisfy FDRs and may ultimately satisfy major requirements for students opting to major in one of the Williams School areas. Students anticipating a major in the Williams School are also encouraged to take a class in Information Technology Literacy in their first year.  Additional introductory topics in accounting and applied statistics are available as early as the second term of the first-year. Students interested in majoring in the Williams School are advised to devote the remainder of their schedule to a diverse set of courses from across the University.

Students who hope to study abroad, should begin conversations with their advisers and the staff in the Center for International Education regarding their options. The Williams School and the Center for International Education will sponsor an information session on studying abroad as a Williams School major during the year.

Co-curricular Programs

The Williams School faculty value opportunities to learn beyond the boundaries of a traditional course. Williams School faculty sponsor a variety of cocurricular groups that are open to students from majors across the university and that extend the learning taking place in the classroom. These programs—without academic credit—include:

Beta Alpha Psi (BAP): BAP is an international honor organization for students who have displayed academic excellence in accounting and financial information coursework. Student members participate in a range of professional, service and business-related activities throughout the academic year. Interested students should contact Professors Megan Hess or Afshad Irani.

Mock Convention: Washington and Lee’s famous “Mock Con” attracts national attention when it is held in the winter term of each presidential election year. The entire student body participates in this political exercise aimed at predicting the presidential candidate of the party out of power in the White House. The Mock Convention has achieved a remarkable record of accuracy and is considered to be the most realistic event of its kind in the nation. Every student has an opportunity to participate in at least one Mock Convention during a four-year career at Washington and Lee. The next Mock Convention is planned for 2020. Leadership positions for Mock Con are often filled several years in advance.

The Real Estate Investment Society is a student-run group that seeks to use non-curricular activities to develop an enhanced understanding of real estate development and investment. The group hosts guest speakers, conducts and publishes market research, and acts as pro bono consultants to external constituents. Group members are selected through a competitive annual application process. Interested students should contact Professor Scott Hoover.

Washington and Lee Student Consulting (WLSC): WLSC provides pro bono consulting to local, national, and international businesses and not-for-profits. The student managed group works on a variety of projects including marketing/business plans, website development, market entry strategies, and economic impact studies, in an effort to both help client organizations and provide students a chance to gain experience dealing with things studied in the classroom. Membership is open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors and involves a competitive application and interview process. Interested students should contact either Professor Elizabeth Oliver or Dean Rob Straughan.

Williams Investment Society (WIS): The Williams Investment Society is a student organization that manages a portion of Washington and Lee University’s endowment in equity securities. The society’s purpose is to provide students with a forum to develop their interest in investments and financial analysis by giving them the opportunity to actively manage real capital. The society also seeks to broaden awareness of investments within the W&L community by sponsoring speakers and making the society’s presentations and operations open to the public. Admission to WIS is competitive. Interested students should check the website at wis.wlu.edu.

Venture Club (VC): VC provides students interested in entrepreneurship an opportunity to work with experienced entrepreneurs and begin to formulate business plans for their own venture. Admission to VC is competitive. Interested students should contact Professor Jeff Shay. 

Administration of The Williams School

(as of July 1, 2016)

Kenneth Patrick Ruscio, Ph.D., President of the University

Marc C. Conner, Ph.D., Interim Provost

Robert D. Straughan, Ph.D., Crawford Family Dean, Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics

Raquel M. Alexander, Ph.D., Associate Dean, Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics

Andrew Westhouse, Senior Director of Development

D. Scott Dittman, A.B., University Registrar

Williams School Faculty are listed under their respective disciplines.

Accounting (ACCT)  

Business Administration (BUS)  

Economics (ECON)  

Politics (POL)