George Wythe University
The Statesman
George Wythe University The Statesman
July 2013

Home / Archive / Campus News - June 2009

An Interview with the Newest Recipient of GWU's Ph.D. in Constitutional Law

Dr. Elizabeth Smailes earns the "Thomas Jefferson Degree"

The Statesman: Please share with us one thing that you have learned as you completed your Ph.D.

Dr. Elizabeth Smailes: If there is one thing I have learned over the last 14 years at GWU, it is that statesmen change the world. As a Mother, Grandmother, wife, student and mentor it is sometimes difficult to decide in which sphere I will effect the greatest change. What I have discovered is that we should not wait for mission and purpose to be given us, we should begin, and creation applauds.

Little did I know when I began this journey that my life would change and that it would look like this; that each of my diverse roles would unify; that each aspect of my life would be lifted and moved toward tolerance and understanding. As I change; as you change; the world changes with us.

The Statesman: What was the purpose and focus of your dissertation?

Dr. Elizabeth Smailes: My dissertation focuses on symbolism as an independent literary theory. While reading classics I came to realize that each author has an intention for their book and there are certain books (many of them written in the 19th century), in which the author’s intention is communicated through symbol. Without this knowledge the reader is missing 90% of what some authors are trying to say. Once I recognized this, it was my role as a statesman to help readers bridge this gap in understanding. My dissertation focuses on teaching the art of reading symbolically and gives the reader a symbolic study of The Scarlet Letter, which I propose is the mother of all symbolic novels. After completing this guided exercise you will read differently.


Dr. Elizabeth Smailes received her Doctorate of Philosophy, Constitutional Law, also known as the “Thomas Jefferson Degree,” at the Commencement Ceremonies in October. She is currently the mentor of a lucky group of GW Freshmen, whom she is guiding through great books such as Tolstoy’s Resurrection, Hamilton, Madison, and Jay’s The Federalist, and Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. Dr. Smailes’ students love her energy and her ability to help them see their individual strengths and weaknesses. They especially enjoy the debates and intense discussions that the class engages in as she challenges preconceived perceptions and paradigms. She resides in Cedar City, Utah with her husband Joe.