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School of Continuing Studies Celebrates 75 Years

April 1, 2008
The school will celebrate the milestone, and the recent $12 million renovation project, at a celebration event Friday, April 11, at Wieboldt Hall.

University President Henry S. Bienen, University Provost Daniel Linzer and Dean Thomas F. Gibbons will deliver remarks at the ceremony.

"The school has provided diverse and academically excellent pathways through which adult learners can receive an exceptional education since its origins as University College in 1933," Gibbons said.

The roots of Northwestern's programs for adults actually predate University College. Northwestern began to offer evening courses in 1905; the School of Commerce offered the first evening program in 1908. The school catered to workers in the Chicago Loop.

The advent of the eight-hour workday and the proliferation of jobs in Chicago fostered a generation of adults willing and eager to pursue an education in the evenings. The popularity of the classes at the School of Commerce led to more traditional liberal arts courses in the curriculum, taught by faculty from the Evanston campus.

In 1928 Northwestern President Walter Dill Scott and Raymond Kent, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, launched 17 credit courses for "those who learn by night." Enrollment consistently increased, even during the Depression.

In 1933, the University founded University College, which encompassed the evening extensions of six schools: the College of Liberal Arts, the School of Education, the School of Speech and the School of Music. University College awarded its first bachelor degrees in 1937. Enrollment increased from 1,216 in 1933 to 3,876 in 1936. In 1939, it became a charter member of the Association of University Evening Colleges.

Rollin Posey, the school's third dean, oversaw a post-war boom in enrollments, which grew to more than 6,900 in 1947. By 1947, University College was Chicago's primary source for continuing education. In 1951, the school moved its main offices from the Ward Building to Wieboldt Hall, its current location.

In 1954, the University incorporated the school into the Northwestern University Evening Division, an entity that encompassed more of the school's evening programs. Dean Daniel Lang shifted the school's focus to a more traditional undergraduate education and expanded the evening program to include the Evanston campus, where the first night classes were held in 1957.

The school expanded its programming in the late 1970s to offer its first master's degree and in 1978, the Evening Division became the Division of Continuing Education. In 1983 Donald Collins became dean. He brought back the name University College to entail the undergraduate and graduate-level programs for credit. He divided the rest of the school into non-credit programs and special programs, which included the University's Summer Session.

The Institute for Learning in Retirement, a lifelong learning program for retirees, began in 1987. The program is now known as the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Northwestern's Summer Session first offered the College Preparatory Program for high school students in 1989.

In 1999, Richard L. Lorenzen was appointed associate provost for continuing education and dean of University College. In 2000, the Division of Continuing Education was renamed the School of Continuing Studies (SCS) and an array of professional development certificates was added.

Gibbons became dean in 2002. During his tenure, the school has expanded professional development programs, graduate programs, corporate education programs, and a blended undergraduate degree program in Leadership and Organization Behavior.

In Gibbons' first five years as dean, the school increased program offerings by 64 percent and enrollments grew by 47 percent. Non-credit offerings increased from six programs in 2002 to 26 in 2008. Graduate offerings expanded from three degrees to eight in the same span of time, and a graduate certificate was recently introduced.
Topics: Campus Life