Washington Adventist University was established in 1904 as a coeducational institution known as the Washington Training Institute. Its purpose was to train young men and women in the liberal arts. In 1907, when the name was changed to Washington Foreign Mission Seminary, the more limited objective of special training for missionaries replaced the original concept of a liberal arts college. In 1914 the college resumed the status of a liberal arts college and took the name Washington Missionary College. At the first commencement, held May 22, 1915, five students received the bachelor of arts degree. Continued growth and development led to further changes. In 1933 the lower division was organized as Columbia Junior College and received accreditation. It ceased to exist as a separate college in 1942 when Washington Missionary College was given accreditation as a four-year, degree-granting institution by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. In March of 1961 the college constituency voted to change the name of the college to Columbia Union College. In 2009, Columbia Union College attained university status, and the college constituency voted to change the name of the college to Washington Adventist University.
WAU occupies 19 acres in Takoma Park, Maryland, near the nation’s capital. Its world-class metropolitan setting affords unrivaled opportunity for learning, work, recreation, and service.
The university operates under the auspices of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Board of Trustees guides the overall mission and direction of the university, overseeing management and setting major policies. The administration is responsible for leading the university community and managing day-to-day operations. Faculty, students, and staff participate in overnance through committees charged with protecting the integrity and enhancing the value of a Washington Adventist University education.