By Jamie L. Freedman
Photos by Jessica McConnell
A substantial number of siblings are opting to share the GW experience.
Early each semester, GW seniors Allison and Stephanie Huggins make it a point to warn classmates not to be insulted if they ignore them on campus. The identical twins from Long Island, N.Y., are frequently approached by friendly strangers who mistake them for one another.
They are in good company at GW. This year, some 75 members of the freshman class are the siblings of GW students or recent alumni, says Kathryn Napper, executive dean for undergraduate admissions. While many factors attract siblings to GW, a compelling incentive is George Washington’s status as one of a handful of universities nationwide offering half-price tuition to members of the same family.
The University launched the initiative in the early 1990s “in order to create a legacy of family at the University,” Napper says. “The GW Family Tuition Grant is a good-will initiative that establishes and builds on family connections,” she explains. The discount—which covers tuition for the younger siblings—is awarded to families with two or more dependent children simultaneously enrolled as full-time undergraduates at GW.
“It’s a way of recognizing the financial sacrifices that families make to send multiple kids through college,” says Michael O’Leary, senior associate director for undergraduate admissions. “One of the major goals of admissions is to craft and build a university community, and, here at GW, family members are a big part of that community.”
This academic year, 137 families are benefiting from GW’s Family Grant program, receiving a total of $2,523,866 in tuition assistance. “Over the years, the University has helped many, many families through the program to the tune of $27,423,500,” says Dan Small, director of student financial assistance. “All families are grateful for—especially parents who fall into the middle income bracket and don’t qualify for need-based grants but struggle to afford tuition for more than one child. The Family Grant is one option that allows them to consider GW as a place to send all their children.”
“The grant helps put GW on the radar screen for many families and always gets a positive reaction,” O’Leary says. “It’s a win-win situation.”
On the pages that follow, GW Magazine introduces you to four families who are proud to be sharing the George Washington experience.
GW’s Sister Act
Twin sisters Jessica and Jazmine Adair are GW juniors from Washington, D.C., and members of the women’s basketball team.
Washington papers sing their praises, showering them with terms of endearment like “GW’s sister act” and “twin towers.” But the label Colonials basketball stars Jessica and Jazmine Adair cherish most is one they’ve enjoyed their entire lives: best friends.
The GW juniors decided long ago that George Washington would be their first-choice university. “We really like the family environment at GW and the fact that we can both be together and be close to our home and our mom,” says Jazmine, a 6-foot-3 reserve forward on the women’s Colonials team.
“And we’re getting a great education,” says Jessica, the Colonials’ 6-foot-4 starting center who earned first team All-Atlantic 10 honors last season.
Basketball has been an important part of their lives for years. “Growing up in Anacostia, we were always taller than the other kids, so we got recruited to play basketball a lot,” says Jessica, who has been playing since elementary school. “I took to it right away, because I was bigger than everyone else, so it was pretty easy.”
Jazmine began playing in high school. “It took me awhile to get used to the idea of running up and down the court,” she says. Both played for the District of Columbia’s Anacostia High School, where they led their team to four D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association Eastern Division titles.
“It’s a great advantage to be teammates because we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” says Jazmine, one of the Colonials’ most-used reserves. “We’ve been around each other the majority of the time for 21 years and have built a close bond. The fact that I can celebrate wins with my sister, endure losses, and always have somebody to talk to is a real blessing. I believe that Jessica is the best post (6-foot-3 and over) player that I’ve ever played against, and playing basketball with her really helps strengthen my game.”
Jessica equally loves sharing the court with her sister. “She has my back, I have her back, and that’s how it always is,” she says. “I am very proud. I love watching her play.”
Off the court, as well, friendship permeates their lives. “Our mom always taught us to be close to each other,” Jazmine says. If people didn’t like Jessica, I wasn’t allowed to be friends with them and vice versa. Everything is easier when you have someone who’s always there for you.”
Jessica is a criminal justice major and Jazmine is majoring in sociology, but before launching their careers, both have their sights set on making it to the WNBA.
In the meantime, the sisters are taking advantage of all that GW has to offer and are giving back in return. For example, both help out with GW’s basketball camp in the summer.
Both like attending college in their hometown, where they routinely attract crowds of local well wishers to their games. “A lot of people know us since we went to high school in D.C.,” Jessica says. “It’s a great advantage as far as having people in your corner.”
Colonials Coach Joe McKeown says that GW is lucky to have the twins on board. “They were two of the most heavily recruited players in the country, so we were really excited when they chose to come here,” he says. “It’s a lot of fun to coach them. They’re really special kids who have overcome a lot of obstacles and are sending a great message to the youth of D.C.”
Their mom, Angela Adair, is a familiar face at the Charles E. Smith Center, attending all of the women’s home games and joining her daughters for dinner afterwards. “Sometimes she’ll rent movies and we’ll go back to the dorm and watch them together,” Jessica says. Home to both at the moment is Guthridge Hall, where Jazmine lives one floor above Jessica.
They unanimously state that there are no disadvantages to attending the same university. “When we go out into the real world, we’ll have to go our separate ways, which will be a tough transition,” Jessica says. “In the meantime, we’re enjoying our time together here at GW.”
Seniors Stephanie and Allison Huggins, from Kings Park, N.Y., say students on campus often mistake them for one another.
Twenty years ago, they melted readers’ hearts in Twins magazine, happily decked out in baby bonnets and playing together on a Long Island beach. Now, GW seniors Allison and Stephanie Huggins remain best friends who enjoy navigating college life together.
“We always knew that we really wanted to go to college together,” says Stephanie, an international affairs major. “GW has great programs in both international affairs and journalism, Allison’s major, and, as huge West Wing fans, we both love Washington.”
As freshmen, the identical twins from Kings Park, N.Y., were assigned to the same floor of Somers Hall—a Mount Vernon Campus residence hall for University Honors Program participants—but passed up the opportunity to room together. “We felt that it was important to have our own space and social groups freshman year,” Allison says. While they valued the experience, they opted to become suitemates sophomore and junior years and are now roommates in the upperclassman Ivory Tower. “It’s a lot easier to live together, since we’re used to each other’s habits and are both obsessively neat,” Stephanie says.
Naturally drawn to similar types of people, Allison and Stephanie are part of the same social circle and enjoy exercising and cooking healthy meals together with their suitemates.
Both sisters are careful to tip off professors and classmates to the fact that they are identical twins. “It’s getting to the point that I just talk to people I don’t know when they approach me on campus, because sometimes it’s just easier than explaining that I’m not Allison,” Stephanie says.
They are friends with a number of other twins and currently share their Ivory Tower apartment with an identical twin. “When her sister came to visit her from Northeastern in Boston and the four of us were walking around campus together, we got lots of funny looks,” Allison recalls.
Allison and Stephanie have taken a couple of classes together over the years and tend to favor the same seats. “We were enrolled in different sections of the same University Writing class directly after each other and sat in the same seat, which caused our professor to question us the first day,” Stephanie says. “I told her that I wasn’t just back for another round of the same class—that I was a different person.”
They parted ways spring semester of their junior year, when both studied abroad—Allison in London and Stephanie in Granada, Spain. “It’s the first time we were ever apart,” Stephanie says.
“Living in separate countries showed us that we can handle being apart,” says Allison, who visited her sister twice in Spain and hosted her twice in England during the semester. She laughs when she recalls her first visit to Spain, when Stephanie’s friends made a huge fuss over her haircut—not realizing that it was her twin.
Their pet peeve is when people regard them as one unit. “We don’t always have the same opinions, and getting approval from one of us isn’t the same as getting it from the other,” Stephanie says.
They say that people are quick to define them. “I’ve been called the louder one, and Allison the quieter one,” Stephanie says. “I’ve always been the pink one; she’s the purple one.” When it comes to their joint decision to attend GW, “Some people think it’s just great, and others ask, ‘Don’t you want to be your own person?’ I respond, ‘I am my own person, thank you.’ ”
While the Family Grant was not the overriding factor in their selection of GW, it rated high with their parents. “They couldn’t believe how generous it was when they first heard about it,” Allison says. “The Family Grant is particularly ideal for twins and triplets, since both are in college at the same time,” Stephanie says.
Following graduation this spring, Allison and Stephanie will head to New York where they will begin graduate programs at New York University: Allison in publishing and Stephanie in global affairs.
“Stephanie and I are looking forward to tackling a new city,” Allison says. “We could have ended up in different cities for grad school, but it looks like we’re together again. NYU just happened to be the best place for both of us, so we’re going and we’re happy about it.”
Dream Come True
Freshman Heather Hachenburg followered her brother, senior Greg Hachenburg, to GW from Medway, Mass.
Even before GW senior Greg Hachenburg received his acceptance letter to The George Washington University, his sister Heather, then a high school freshman in quiet Medway, Mass., knew that GW would play a big role in her future.
“I went along on all of Greg’s other college visits and found most of them pretty boring,” Heather recalls. “But, from the moment we arrived at GW, I just loved it and told Greg that even if he didn’t come here, I would. There was just something about GW—I knew it was the place for me.”
When Greg’s acceptance letter arrived, she celebrated as much as he did. “He opened the package in the middle of the street and I just screamed and we all hugged,” Heather says. “We were so excited. Over the next few years, whenever I came down to visit Greg, I discovered something new about GW that I fell in love with.”
Heather applied early decision to GW during her senior year of high school and was thrilled to finally join her brother on campus this past fall. A speech and hearing science major residing in Crawford Hall, she says that GW was worth the wait. “It’s just been such a great experience,” she says.
When Heather first arrived, Greg helped her become familiar with how to navigate GW. “Administratively, I tried to back her 100 percent, advising her where to go and what to do, but I have tried not to be a big force in her social life,” says Greg, who has worked as an admissions assistant at the University since his sophomore year. On the rare occasions that homesickness struck, the best antidote for Heather was a visit with her brother.
They get together once a week to cook and share dinner at Greg’s apartment. “I went three years without living with him, so it’s nice to be here together,” Heather says. “We’ve always been very close, and this adds a new dimension to our friendship. It’s a lot of fun.”
“We’re close in a different way than we were before,” Greg adds. “Experiencing the trials and tribulations of college life together and getting out of small town USA and living in the big city, with all the implications that brings, has been great for both of us. The best part is that we get to see each other and hang out once a week instead of only during vacations. I’m glad she’s close by.”
Last semester, they took a cardio class together twice a week, as well as different sections of a chemistry class. “We were able to study together, although we didn’t attend class together,” says Greg, who is majoring in psychology and minoring in music. After graduating in May, he plans to teach English in Japan for awhile. It won’t be his first experience in that part of the world. “I studied abroad in New Zealand my junior year and then traveled around Singapore, Vietnam, and Thailand,” says Greg, who hopes to eventually practice clinical psychology. “I’m very intrigued by the Japanese culture and look forward to experiencing the social and cultural differences there.”
As Greg prepares to enter the world, he says that he’s happy that GW is now a family legacy. “GW draws ambitious students who are going after their dreams, and we both enjoy being here,” he says. “Hopefully, the legacy will continue.”
Three’s A Charm
Junior Gideon Levitt and his brother, sophomore Manny Levitt, decided to attend GW after their older sister, Katie Levitt, BA ’04, left Nashville, Tenn., to became a Colonial.
GW is a real family affair for the Levitts of Nashville, Tenn. Katie Levitt, BA ’04, earned a degree in visual communications at the University in 2004, and currently enrolled at GW are brothers Gideon, a junior, and Manny, a sophomore.
“When our sister was at GW, we got to know the campus pretty well and liked what we saw,” says Gideon, who is studying biomedical engineering. “We all wanted to attend college in a big city and were attracted by Washington, which is completely different from where we grew up.”
Even though Katie graduated from GW just before Gideon arrived, she stayed in D.C. working for two years, which helped ease his transition to college life. “It was great to be able to hang out and chill at her apartment from time to time,” he says. “We’re pretty close, so it was great to have her in town.”
Last year, Manny became the third Levitt to attend GW, attracted by the Elliott School of International Affairs. “It was definitely a draw that my sister and brother went here because I was already very familiar with the campus,” he says. “They were both very happy with the decision they made to come to GW, and, through them, I felt like I had a good idea of what life would really be like here beyond the marketing.”
Manny says it was a huge advantage for him freshman year to have his brother on campus. “Whenever I needed information on where to go or what to do, I asked my brother,” he says. “A lot of people that I’ve talked to say that their first semester was a bit rough, but it was much easier for me because when I first got here I could turn to my brother for help and hang out with him and his friends.”
As members of the same fraternity (Alpha Epsilon Pi), the brothers see each other often on campus but still live their own lives at GW. “We cross paths frequently but have lots of time apart, so it’s not overwhelming,” says Manny, who resides in the fraternity house while Gideon lives in an off-campus apartment on Washington Circle.
“It’s definitely made us closer than if we attended separate colleges,” Gideon says. “Our parents are happy, too, because they can visit us both together.”
“I know what’s going on in my brother’s life better and our sister can relate to what’s going on at GW since she went here, too,” concurs Manny, who is planning to study in China next spring and hopes to eventually pursue a career in law or trade.
Manny notes that the Family Grant was not a huge factor in his choice to attend GW. “My parents made it clear that it shouldn’t be a decision maker,” he says. “They wanted me to choose the school that was right for me, and I did. GW has been a great experience. I’ve matured a lot and feel much more connected to what’s going on in the world now that I’m living in Washington.”
“I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be than GW,” Gideon says. “It’s pretty neat that all three of us decided to go here. I guess we’ve made our mark.”