Asheville’s Higher Education in Relation to the U.S.

The changing needs of Asheville’s community greatly affected UNCA, particularly in the way it moved locations and merged with other institutions of higher education to become what it is presently.

In the early 20th century, the United States saw a dramatic increase in K-12 education, both increasing the need for teaching college/high education institutions as well as for institutions for the increasing interest by students to pursue education past K-12. In order to handle this dramatic growth in K-12 education, states set up their own networks of teachers’ colleges. This began with Massachusetts in the 1830s. After 1950, these teachers’ colleges became state colleges and then state universities with a broader curriculum. This is indicated in UNCA’s own historical timeline, as increased enrollment made the college to move to Seely’s Castle in 1949.

UNCA, which was Asheville-Biltmore College at the time, became the first two-year college in North Carolina to receive state funds in 1957. It was the originator of North Carolina’s community college system. Junior colleges, which had grown in popularity by the 1950s and 1960s, were renamed “community colleges”.

Many state universities experienced an explosive growth from small institutions of fewer than 1,000 students to large campuses with 40,000 or more students, as well as a network of regional campuses around the state. In turn, these regional campuses broke away and became their own separate universities. UNC Asheville did not grow to such a dramatic population increase; the student population did not exceed 1,000 until 1970. However, UNC Asheville has many factors that affect its population growth, including the desire to remain a smaller liberal arts school that is still emphasized today.

UNC Asheville, while still named Asheville-Biltmore College, also admitted its first African American student in 1961, when the desegregation of institutions of higher education began to slowly break the barrier in racial exclusion at the collegiate level.

Many of the actions that took place in UNC Asheville’s history aligned with the general history and development of high education in the United States in the 20th century. Asheville-Biltmore College/UNCA accurately exemplifies the changes seen all throughout institutions in the United States in a chronological manner.




Jesse P. Bogue, ed. American Junior Colleges (American council on education, 1948)

Lois Staton (July 1980). “Overlook” (PDF). National Register of Historic Places – Nomination and Inventory. North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office.

“Timeline.” About. University of North Carolina at Asheville, n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2016.




For Me and For Someone Else: Performing the Research Process

Research Reflection Prompt #3

Due: Sunday, 2 October

Introduction and Context             Last week we talked about the direction of post-secondary education and “training” under the GI Bill and how that may, or may not, have been reflected on your campus – in its curriculum, in its mission, in its physical spaces, in its financing education, in the demographics of its student body, etc.

This week, we’ll be meeting with you as teams to discuss your intellectual work so far and your ideas and design for a Digital Humanities project.

In addition, this week’s reading looks at where two authors see an important intersection between the liberal arts and Digital Humanities – in making the research process visible and in trying to think about ourselves and others, to anticipate what we and others need as we structure a narrative, to be “sympathetic” as we research.

As you read the essay 1) gather insights and take notes for your third piece of writing, which will be posted on your blog by Sunday, 2 October;  2) feel free to discuss the insights or questions you have about the “sympathetic research imagination” with your team mate, with your friends and mentors, with your research support network, and with us; and 3) consider how the reading might shape the kinds of questions you use in the interviews you’ll be conducting later this semester – what does liberal arts mean to the people you talk with?  What do they think about being part of a process of collecting stories and curating a narrative about your college?

For your third blog post, please discuss:

1) the relationship between what you understand the liberal arts and digital humanities to be (viz., overlaps? irreconcilables? same objectives, different methods?  different objectives, same methods, etc.), and

2) how those relationships between the liberals arts and Digital Humanities connect, challenge, or support the research process you’re doing for this COPLAC digital project – a developing, evolving project done in public.

 Reading List 

 Everyone should read “The Sympathetic Research Imagination” (2016).

The Digital Humanities project discussed in the article is Black Liberation 1969.

Another short essay related to this topic of being intentionally “slow” and intentionally “public” is Sheila A. Brennan’s “Public, First” (2016).

Please follow and like us:

Toward a Privatized Public University

“The United States Country Report: Trends in Higher Education from Massification to Post-Massification,” suggests that higher education followed a linear path through three eras:  massification, maturation, and post-massification (Gumport 1-3).  Massification refers to the explosive development of higher education following the institutionalization of the GI Bill and the new population seeking college degrees.  Maturation identifies the era following massification, when institutional expansion slowed; this era was characterized by a diversification of the student body, a distinction between the student and the worker, and changes in college tuition.  Post-massification, then, indicates an era in which institutions felt the pressures of a changing market and a population that had become disenchanted with the perceived “public good” of higher education. 

The story of Geneseo, according to “The Transformation of SUNY Geneseo,” is much more convoluted—and even seems to present an evolution contrary to the trends suggested by The United States Country Report.  In the 40s, 50s, and 60s, Geneseo certainly saw the massification caused by the GI Bill, however, in the period of time from the late 60s to early 90s, Geneseo’s era of maturation seemed to coincide with its era of post-massification; that is, at the same time Geneseo’s student-body was diversifying, the administrators at Geneseo seemed to recognize and capitalize on the upcoming shift in market values and changing values of the general population that brought about the demands of the post-massification era.

In the 70s and 80s—and even earlier—Geneseo embodied the trends presented by the country report.  Geneseo’s “new student majority” consisted of students at or above the age of 22; the student body was increasingly comprised of part time student who held full- or part-time jobs; women were the predominant gender at the school, and racial minorities contributed to a greater percentage of students (Mahood 214-220).  Yet, Geneseo was at once ahead of and behind its time:  while most Universities in the era of maturation saw increased faculty and staff, Geneseo was faced with the possibility of enacting six levels of faculty cuts (SUNY at Sixty, 65).  Additionally, proposed construction projects, including the building of new dorms and classrooms, were denied and/or suspended.

The administrators at Geneseo had to make a decision:  decrease selectivity and thereby increase enrollment in order to receive greater state and federal aid, or hold true to their values.  They did a little of both.  In 1977, Geneseo accepted 88% of students—its highest acceptance rate in the institutions history—in order to stave off faculty cuts (SUNY at Sixty, 70).  Geneseo’s next actions anticipated trends in higher education, fiscal conservatism, and public opinion that most higher-ed institutions would not react to for at least ten years.

By increasing enrollment, administrators sought to increase the potential audience for the solicitation of their changing institution.  First, Geneseo increased its professional/vocational programs—administrators created the BS in accounting and expanded the business and economics programs, started programs in the field of urban studies, and expanded fields such as biochemistry, physics, and computer science (SUNY at Sixty, 67).  According to the country report, the trend of increased vocational programs in higher-ed didn’t take off until the late 80s when the consumerist population—who increasingly saw higher-ed as an irresponsible use of resources—demanded that higher-ed institutions provide educations with more practical implications (Gumport 30).  At the same time, professors created Geneseo’s hallmark courses, Humanities I & II; these courses ground Geneseo in its status as a liberal arts institution by asking students to explore the philosophy, history, and literature of prevailing Western ideologies (SUNY at Sixty, 69).  After just one year at 88% acceptance, Geneseo returned to its rigorous standard and accepted fewer than 50% of applicants.

After achieving a good balance between vocational courses and liberal arts studies, administrators began a scourge of departments that they saw unsuccessful in anticipation of the fiscal conservatism that would limit Geneseo’s funding.  This began with the removal of drama, dance, and physical education departments, although students could still enroll in individual courses in these areas of study.  At this time, the school also saw cuts to art and music.  Most shockingly, administrators dissolved the School of Library and Information Science due to its declining enrollment rates; in dissolving this most traditional department, scholars noted Geneseo’s move toward privatization:  although a public school, Geneseo became more concerned with the values of private schools—selective admissions, name value, and adoption of market ideologies—than with that of public schools, namely providing an accessible education to all.

Yet, these were not the only changes at Geneseo.  At a time when most universities were increasing faculty and staff, Geneseo fired 104 faculty members (SUNY at Sixty, 73).  However, the institution saw this as an opportunity to develop a new teaching staff with different expectations:  taking advantage of the fact that the federal government was investing more money in research institutions than ever before, Geneseo made it clear that professors would both teach, and perform research (Gumport 25, SUNY at Sixty, 75).  Accordingly, administrators outfitted Geneseo with both a faculty and a curriculum that would provide the most “bang” for a student’s “buck.”  In a time when most universities were expanding, Geneseo doubled down on its qualities that administrators thought would favor conditions of the changing market.   Whether by chance, or keen insight, Geneseo’s recognition of changing values allowed it evolve into the “public Ivy” that it is considered to be today.



Gumport, Patricia, Maria Iannozzi, Susan Shaman, and Robert Zemsky. The United States Country Report: Trends in Higher Education from Massification to Post-Massification. Rep. N.p.: n.p., 1997. Print.

Bright, Frederick, and Wayne Mahood. SUNY Geneseo: 125 Years of Excellence. Geneseo: Clarion Publications, 1996. Print.

Mahood, Wayne. “”A Touch of New England in Western New York:” The Transformation of SUNY Geneseo.” SUNY at Sixty: The Promise of the State University of New York. Albany: State U of New York, 2010. 63-76. Print.



Higher Education In A Changing Western North Carolina

The development of UNCA has always been heavily linked to the community and wider nation, even before it was a part of the UNC system.  The adoption of the GI Bill, along with the rapid expansion of a true American middle class, can be clearly documented in my previous history on UNCA, which I’ll elaborate upon here.  The late forties saw a large amount of new legislation reaching Asheville, with lawmakers allocating funds and laying the groundwork for a state-funded school in Buncombe county due to an increased demand for higher education for many citizens.  The fifties and beyond saw an incredible increase in enrollment for the campus, along with it becoming the first two-year college to receive state funds.  Because of the constantly increasing and diverse student body, it was also the originator of the modern day community college system in North Carolina  It was around this time that the offer to join the syndicate of North Carolina universities was made to UNCA.  The campus relocated for a final time after all of these changed were made.  With state funds and a switch to the baccalaureate system, the university remained uncharacteristically stable.  UNCA hasn’t moved or had any major setbacks or structural changes since the early seventies when it was finally adapting and flourishing under a post-GI Bill education system.  Seemingly crucial to the success of the university was its continuing tradition of public education, combatting the wealth of private schools in Western North Carolina at the time.  UNCA seized a prime opportunity to capitalize on a burdening education-seeking middle class, by being a state funded public school that was the only member of the UNC syndicate in the area. While it may have taken some time for UNCA to get it’s footing after major educational changes nationally, it managed to persevere and thrive.  The massification of higher education sweeping across America had a clear, positive effect on the city of Asheville and the university as a whole.


Gumport, Patricia J., et al. “The United States Country Report: Trends in Higher Education from Massification to Post- Massification.” Academic Reforms in the World: Situation and Perspective in the Massification Stage of Higher Education,1997.

“UNCA Timeline.” Accessed September 24, 2016.

The GI Bill, Higher Education, and Race in a Post-War Enviroment

As an avid student of social justice and political science, I’m fascinated by the role of a male veteran in American society. I’ve been having a surprisingly difficult time finding scholarly sources on my own institution’s role in the recuperation of young World War II veterans. However, the amount of primary sources available through the United States government provides me with a first-hand account at how education policy intervened when a generation of men returned from the battlefields.

While college enrollment increased in the late 1930s, education for all young men was interrupted at the start of World War II. Boys in secondary school, too young to be drafted, dropped out to work in industries which supported the American forces (Stanley 677). Young men in postsecondary institutions had to leave their studies when they were drafted. Because one could not volunteer for the armed forces until later on in the century, young men were unaware of when they would be sent off to fight (Stanley 676).

The amount of men returning to build the post-war economy was so vast, politicians needed to find a way to readjust these new, young veterans in to society. The GI Bill (formally known as Servicemen’s Readjustment Act) passed in 1944, which dramatically changed the accessibility and prevalence of post-secondary education. About seventy percent of men who turned 21 between 1940 and 1955 essentially had a free four-year degree waiting for them at whichever institution they chose–as long as they were Caucasian (Stanley 671).

The federally funded GI Bill Act makes it clear that it is separating itself from state legislature. The state legislature in the Jim Crow states, as well as the Southern Congressional leaders in D.C., worked the ensure that the GI Bill only helped White students (Kotz). Because of this, returning Black veterans were denied loans, mortgages, certain career paths, and college acceptances (Kotz).

The prevalence of African-American veterans looking to take advantage of their right to higher education overfilled the only Black colleges. Black veterans were being turned away from their own schools because of overcrowding (Perea 595).  While the White Americans under the GI Bill were able to build a new, prospering middle class with their post-secondary educations, the African-Americans were blatantly excluded both in government policy and personal discrimination.

Although Keene State is, was, and most likely will be, a predominantly Caucasian institution, it is still vital for race to be included with my story and research on higher education in this country.

Works Cited

Kotz, Nick. Rev. of “When Affirmative Action Was White” New York Times 28 Aug. 2005: n. pag. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.

Perea, Juan F. “Doctrines of Delusion.” University of Pittsburgh Law Review 75 (2014): n. pag. Google Scholar. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.

Stanley, M. “College Education and the Midcentury GI Bills.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 118.2 (2003): 671-708. Web. 25 Sept. 2016.

The G.I. Bill’s Tiers of Effects

Since the start of the course, I’ve been wondering how big a role the State University of New York (SUNY) should play in the final project. While it is a large and complex system, Geneseo maintains a distinct identity while simultaneously being a part of that system. With this in mind, I’ve decided to look at the effects of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (also known as the G.I. Bill) at the state (SUNY) and local (Geneseo) levels.

SUNY was established in 1948, only two years after a commission on the matter was established, in direct

SUNY's current campuses

SUNY’s current campuses

response to increased access to higher education made possible by the G.I. Bill. Governor Thomas E. Dewey noted that private institutions in New York would not be able to contain the expected surge of veterans, making greater organization at the public level necessary (Mahood 146). However, despite (and perhaps because of) the rapid speed at which SUNY was established, there was a great deal of confusion and discord surrounding the institution during its founding and the first few years of its existence (Mahood 147).

In Geneseo, the impact of the G.I. Bill were not immediate, with only gradual increases in enrollment from the 1946-47 year until the 1957-58 year, which saw an increase of over two-hundred and fifty students from the previous year; however, the 1953-54 year saw a concerning drop in enrollment from the previous year (Mahood 311). The eventually significant growth of the student body meant that the long-awaited dormitories, construction of which had been put off during World War II, were all the more necessary (Mahood 148). Despite ongoing battles with SUNY and the state legislature for funding, thirteen dormitories were built on campus between 1950 and 1970, as well as several academic and administrative buildings (Mahood 316).

The murkiest of the effects of the G.I. Bill was the SUNY’s mandated conversion of Geneseo, as well as the other public teachers colleges, into liberal arts colleges. Mahood describes the initial designation as a “multipurpose college,” and I feel that this better reflects the intent of the G.I. Bill, which I read as having a greater focus on educating veterans for a specific place in the workforce (Mahood 167). “Multipurpose” seems to be a less constricting description than “liberal arts,” which brings to mind a much more defined purpose and curriculum. Additionally, there did not appear to be any initial deemphasis of Geneseo’s education programs, which fit in closely with my reading of the G.I. Bill’s intentions.

Patricia Gumport’s study in the trends of higher education report that the number of Baccalaureate-Granting Institutions (of which I consider Geneseo to be at least at the time of Gumport’s study) generally decreased throughout much the latter half of the twentieth century, making Geneseo’s increasing success during the same time period all the more fascinating (14). I hope to further explore this surprising success, as well as Geneseo’s occasionally contentious relationship with SUNY (mostly due to funding issues) as I continue my research with the general trends of higher education in mind.

Works Cited

Gumport, Patricia J., et al. “The United States Country Report: Trends in Higher Education from Massification to Post- Massification.” Academic Reforms in the World: Situation and Perspective in the Massification Stage of Higher Education, 1997.

Mahood, Wayne with Frederick Bright, Judith Bushnell, Paul Hepler, and James McNally. SUNY Geneseo: From Normal School to Public Ivy, 1871-2007. The Donning Company Publishers, 2008.

Create Manage License

One of the objectives we have during the first half of the course is for you to create and manage content using Word Press.


Below is a checklist to get everyone caught up managing content on your course blog. The checklist is also designed to develop your skills (such as adding images and links) and establish habits, or protocols, (such as including categories and tags when you publish a post. Finally, we are introducing below a conversation we will have together about rights and responsibilities for creating and sharing content in the digital commons.

Here is your checklist:

Manage Your Blog

  • Add an Image to your About page (See example on Julia’s About page for an example). Consider Justifying image left or right and wrapping text using image editor. If fo rany reason you do not want to use an image of yourself, please choose an appropriate image that you would like your readers to associate with your blog
  • Add or Modify the Blog Header You don’t have to have a header. And what you can do with a header is in some cases determined by the functional capacity of the theme you have chosen. Still, headers are attractive and can serve to reinforce or echo the blog theme. Julia’s Liberal Art in the Land of the Sky is a good example. We might consider whether Emily’s fabulous image on Geneseo’s Educational Evolution is too large. On most screens, the reader will need to scroll before getting any information. John’s Liberal Arts in the Beautiful Valley is also large. This image is a bit grainy as well, and it may be that the resolution of the image may not support the size
  • Add a Links or Blogroll Widget (if you do not already have one). Delete any default WP links that do not seem relevant or necessary. Add your College home page (Title of the link should be the name of the College!). Add COPLAC. Add any other relevant links. Make a note to add relevant links as you continue in the course

License your Content

  • Add a License to your Blog As authors creating and publishing content on the web, we need talk about copyright and the commons, digital communities, collaboration and sharing. First, go to the bottow of the NAPLA course page and have a look at the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License icon. Next, visit Creative Commons and watch the three-minute Creative Commons Remix on Vimeo. Read About Our Licenses and What They Do. You will learn how the licenses for your work are designed to address legal, human, and software considerations. Then, choose a license. The NAPLA course blog uses the least restrictive license. The 4.0 License lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon our work, even commercially, as long as users credit us for the original creation. You retain copyright while allowing others to copy, distribute, and make non-commercial uses of your work. Once you have chosen a license (we recommend the one above), add a Text Widget to your Blog. Put the text widget at the bottom of the widget sidebar. Paste into the Text Widget Window the following code:

<a rel=”license” href=””><img alt=”Creative Commons License” style=”border-width:0;” src=”×31.png” /></a><br />This work is licensed under a <a rel=”license” href=””>Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License</a>.

Save and close the widget window. Voila! Welcome to the digital commons!

Revisit and Revise Your First Post

  • Add a Category Open edit for your first blog post and add the category “Research Reflections.” Make a note to add this category to all of your subsequent weekly writing posts
  • Add Another Category Add your first and last name as a Category to your post. This way the NAPLA course blog (where your posts also appear) will list your name under categories. Then you (or another reader like you mom or your uncle) will be able to click on that category and read a digest of your posts on the course blog. Make a note to add this category to all of your subsequent weekly writing posts
  • Add Tags Go through your first blog post and identify key words and concepts, people, place names. Add three or more Tags to the post
  • Add one or more Links Highlight text > add a URL > save (or command + K on a Mac). Casey’s Blog Post, for example, at the bottom under “Sources,” can embed the URL on the list by using the link tool. And Julia’s Blog Post can take existing text and add a link to COPLAC and a link to the UNCA Fact Book.

Complete the steps below by the end of the week. If you have any questions please let us know. We will troubleshoot and field questions during class or by email. Have fun!


Please follow and like us:

Reading & Writing

Research Reflection Prompt #2
Due: Sunday September 25

Introduction and Context This week we will will be reading selected materials on the history of higher education in the United States. You will then write a blog post on the relationship between higher education in the United States in relationship to the local history of your institution.

gi-bill_thumbThere are many book-length histories of American post-secondary education in your campus libraries. And we invite you to read in this material. However, for the purposes of this course, and the intellectual work you are doing this week, we have compiled selected materials that will introduce you to the governmental policies, social trends, and cultural forces that helped to determine the direction of post-secondary education during the past century.

As you read 1) prepare to bring your observations to our class discussion of post-secondary education this Thursday, 2) gather insights and taking notes for your second piece of writing that will be posted on your blog by Sunday and 3) use what you are reading to begin thinking about the kinds of questions might be the most useful in the interviews you will be conducting later this semester.

Reading List Everyone should read the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944

image035The relevant section for us is Title II Chapter IV Education of Veterans, 6-14. The pamphlet The Gi Bill of Rights and How-it Works provides another version written for military personnel that includes a complete text of the Bill and “An Explanation of its Provisions” and “Questions and Answers.”


Here is a short list of other readings that we believe will be helpful for all of you to consider as well:

College Education and the Midcentury GI Bills
, by Marcus Stanley, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 118, No. 2 May, 2003: 671-708

Review of When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America, by Ira Katznelson. New York Times August 28 2005

Brown vs. Board of Education

Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965

President Lyndon Johnson signing the Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965
President Lyndon Johnson signing the Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965

Trends in Higher Education from Massification to Post-Massification, by Patricia J. Gumport
, et al. Academic Reforms in the World: Situation and Perspective in the Massification Stage of Higher Education. Reports of the 1997 Six Nation Higher Education Project Seminar. Hiroshima, Japan February 6-7 1997

Distinctively American: The Liberal Arts College, by Eugene M. Lang, Daedalus. 128.1 (Winter 1999): 133-50

The Higher Education Resource Hub Page


Please follow and like us:

The Beginnings of Keene Normal School

In the late nineteenth century, the high quality of southern New Hampshire public grammar schools lead to a need for accomplished and well-rounded educators (Smart 3). There was a bold discrepancy between teachers in different parts of New Hampshire, therefore Keene Normal School was designed in 1845 to elevate the standards of teacher education (5). At this time, there were only three normal schools in the country (6).

The crisis of teacher incompetence nationwide lead to a race between the municipalities of Plymouth and Keene, New Hampshire at the end of the 1800s, ending with Plymouth creating the first normal school in New England in 1871 (Smart 7).

The creators of Keene Normal School still worked towards forming their institution. The City of Keene was able to raise $19,000 to support the construction of the facility on Main Street (Smart 30). Keene Normal School officially opened in 1909 and began educating young women in the area in education, pedagogy, and the liberal arts and sciences. The students were also able to practice teaching in and around Keene, which lowered the taxpayers’ contribution to public education for children.

The earliest students created the first motto: Service (Smart 41) . It was liberal icon Margaret Sanger who inspired Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve while giving a speech at the school (Smart 50).

Though Keene Normal School was flourishing in its first decade, World War I called women away from teaching and towards nursing (Smart 70). This created enrollment problems that continued even post-Armistice. The educational revolt in the 1920s implemented governmental policies which insisted on limiting the liberal arts and focusing instead on trades (78).

The following years worsened the prognosis of the school, with a hurricane, an economic collapse, and typhoid fever striking Keene (Smart 131). From 1930 to 1939, the student body and employees of the school were diminished by fifty percent (112).

The struggles with the first part of the twentieth century lead Keene Normal School to consider a rebirth. The school was a burgeoning college already, with its developed liberal arts program. It officially transitioned to Keene Teachers’ College in 1939 (Smart 135).

The very formative years of the institution now known as Keene State College developed a precedent of constant change. This continued into the twentieth century and still is in existence today, as the college enters its second century.

Work Cited

Smart, James G. Striving: Keene State College, 1909-1984: The History of a Small Public Institution. Canaan, NH: Phoenix Pub., 1984. Print.

Ten Names Later: SUNY Geneseo

September 13th, 1871 marked the official opening of the Geneseo Normal and Training School, after years of negotiations and conflict on both the state and local levels (Fisher 2). The school was initially referred to as the Wadsworth Normal and Training School in Geneseo’s bid, approved by the state legislature in 1868 (Mahood 25). By the time the normal school commenced classes three years later, in September of 1871, the name of the institution had already changed, with “Geneseo” replacing “Wadsworth” to become “Geneseo Normal and Training School.” As Mahood notes, this becomes something of a tradition, so much so that his history of the college is organized around its numerous names (Mahood 30). The school was initially contained within one building, known as “Old Main” (Mau 6). The faculty of thirteen instructors was led by Principal William J. Milne, and three hundred and fifty-four students were enrolled in the school in its first year (Fisher 62). The school was divided into two main departments, Normal and Academic. The Normal Department was intended only to develop teachers for elementary grades and the Academic Department, comparable to high school(Mahood 37-39). Three programs were offered in the Normal Department in 1871, and these remained largely unchanged through 1905: the two-year Elementary English Course, the three-year Advanced English Course, and the four-year Classical Course. Classes included geography, astronomy, book-keeping, declamation, school economy, and moral philosophy (Mau 8). The conclusion of Geneseo’s first academic year saw ten students graduate, though how these students finished programs meant to be completed in multiple years is unclear (Mahood 42).

James V. Sturges was named the new Principal of the renamed State Normal School at Geneseo (or State Normal School, Geneseo; the names were seemingly used interchangeably) in 1905, and almost immediately dealt with curriculum reforms. Due to changes of high school curriculum at the state level, Geneseo was forced to do away with the Academic Department and form a separate public high school in the village (Mahood 62-63). Further state reforms led to the requirement of a four-year high school diploma for admission (Mau 12). Principal Sturges reorganized the Training Department and created the Kindergarten Program, resulting in a number of new hires. The following years saw further campus and building renovations (Mahood 63-64). In 1914, the first summer school session was held, a longtime pursuit of Sturges. The last major curriculum change under Sturges came in 1922, when the special education program, required by the state in 1920, was first taught (Mahood 69). The fiftieth anniversary of Geneseo was celebrated in 1921, and in 1922 Sturges’ era ended after an extended leave of absence amidst confusion—Mahood explains his departure as a regretful request from the board to resign (78), Fisher describes it as an “enforced retirement” (183), and Mau glosses over any possible conflict, writing that “poor health forced him to retire” (12).

Winfield Holcomb then took over as principal of Geneseo, facing the challenge of the extension of all academic programs to three years, beginning in 1922. The first-year coursework was generally the same for all students, and then specializations were chosen in the second year, with options including Kindergarten-Primary, Intermediate, and the new and much-acclaimed Teacher-Librarian program. The special education program also became noted for its success around this time (Mahood 93-94).

Holcomb retired in 1934, and his predecessor, James B. Welles, son of one of the first ten graduates of Geneseo, faced financial difficulties brought about by the Great Depression. Prior to Welles’ appointment, faculty salaries were cut and enrollment was diminishing, causing concerns about the school’s continuation (Mahood 106-7). Additionally, the campus was badly in need of refurbishments and new buildings altogether. Despite nearly non-existent state funding, Geneseo obtained the funds to begin the construction of what eventually became the Sturges building. Plans were also made to build the Milne Library, Wadsworth Auditorium, and Schrader Gymnasium, those these buildings were not completed until the 1950s and ‘60s, presumably due to World War II (Mahood 110-12). Further improvements were also made to the school’s curriculum. Admissions standards were raised in 1935, and in 1937 an extensive exam became a state requirement for graduation (Mahood 113-15). By 1938, all programs were extended from three to four years, with the first baccalaureate degrees being earned by members of the Class of 1940 (Mau 14). The school achieved full collegiate status in 1942, leading to yet another name change, this time to “Geneseo State Teachers College” (Mahood 120).

This monumental victory occurred on the brink of World War II, and a number of faculty and students enlisted, with around eleven lost in the war. Enrollment declined and a Prison of War camp was placed near campus (Mahood 128-130). Despite these struggles, in 1943 the state-appointed Post-War Planning Commission was already organizing a campus expansion that included the delayed library and auditorium (Fisher 196). Plans for on-campus residence halls, a first for Geneseo, were also made (Mahood 134).

Principal Welles retired in 1946, shortly after legislation to create a state university was first discussed. He was replaced by Dr. Herbert Espy, the college’s first president (Mau 13). The State University of New York (SUNY) was officially established in 1948, following a forceful push to improve higher education by Governor Thomas E. Dewey, in part to allow for the increased enrollment nation-wide following the end of World War II and the veterans pursuing college under the G.I. Bill (Mahood 146). It was initially unclear how Geneseo would benefit from the new institution of SUNY, as teachers colleges were somewhat neglected and in 1950, Geneseo was still waiting on the desperately needed buildings approved in the early 1940s. Despite these continuing complaints, Geneseo had academic victories: its first master’s degrees were awarded in 1951, enrollment increased, and a performing arts program was authorized (Mahood 148-149).

A transformation of the campus began in late 1950. November of 1950 saw the opening of the College Center and residence halls now known as Blake Hall, and in the following May the demolition of Old Main began (Mahood 158). Following Espy’s retirement, President Francis Moench was appointed, and during his presidency, three more residence halls and several other buildings, including the Milne Library and Wadsworth Auditorium, were opened (Mahood 163). The Geneseo faculty also grew, with distinguished members including Dr. Walter Harding and Dr. Martin Fausold (Mahood 165). Further transformation occurred in 1961, when Geneseo became a liberal arts college following a 1951 state mandate (with a ten year grace period), and its name became State University of New York College of Education at Geneseo. Changes to the curriculum, including the creation of master’s programs, had occurred with this in mind (Mahood 167).

Massive changes occurred on campus through the next decade, led by Moench’s successor, President Robert MacVittie, appointed in 1963. Dr. Samuel Gould, the new president of SUNY, appointed 1964, completely revised SUNY’s master plan, pushing for a strong liberal arts core at the newly-designated liberal arts schools, including Geneseo (Mahood 190-92).  MacVittie took these changes in stride, and a large number of esteemed new faculty were hired. The academic program began to resemble what it is today in 1962, with students permitted to major in fields including biology, English, and mathematics. MacVittie also reorganized the academic subjects into divisions including natural sciences, humanities, and fine arts (Mahood 192-93). As liberal arts began to strengthen at Geneseo, the college was renamed State University of Arts and Sciences at Geneseo (Mahood 196). MacVittie also oversaw the construction of ten dormitories, an expanded library, and several academic buildings, including two science buildings. Three buildings, including the College Union (now MacVittie College Union) were designed by Edgar Tafel, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright (Mahood 198-199).

Geneseo celebrated its centennial in 1971, and as MacVittie temporarily departed, Thomas Colahan, vice president of academic affairs, took over as acting president to complete the college’s liberal arts transformation (Mahood 217). There was a desire to de-emphasize the teaching program, and make Geneseo more obviously liberal arts-oriented. Colahan began this by reorganizing the teaching program, and promising a School of Education, complete with a separate building. The secondary education program was also significantly restructured, requiring an academic degree with teaching certification. The establishment of a humanities sequence of two four-hour courses in 1979 was another major accomplishment for Colahan. Additionally, Colahan built up the faculty, and many of his hires became Distinguished Teaching Professors (Mahood 218-220). Despite financial difficulties, lower enrollment, and subsequent faculty cuts throughout the seventies, MacVittie’s presidency, ending in 1979, is remembered as a success (Mahood 236). 

President Edward Jakubauskus faced continued budgetary troubles. Further faculty positions were terminated, and the entire School of Library Science was eliminated. In explanation, Jakubauskus asserted that Geneseo’s mission was to provide undergraduates with a liberal arts education (Mahood 244-45). The core liberal arts curriculum envisioned by Colahan was taking shape, courses in critical reasoning, the fine arts, social sciences, natural sciences, and of course the humanities courses required. In 1988, an honors program was established, led by professors Bill and Stacey Edgar (Mahood 249-50). Beginning in the mid-1980s, Geneseo began to climb through the college rankings and garner national attention (Mahood 253). Jakubauskus left in 1988, with MacVittie returning as interim president for two years. In 1989, Dr. Carol Harter became the first woman to be appointed president at Geneseo (Mahood 261). President Harter faced further budget cuts, and frequently fought SUNY administrators and the state government for increased funding (Mahood 267). Despite problems at the SUNY level, Geneseo’s reputation continued to grow.

President Harter left Geneseo in 1995, and then-Provost Christopher Dahl was appointed as interim president, and eventually full-time president (Mahood 276). SUNY created a core curriculum that included natural science, American history, and foreign language, causing Geneseo, where curricular upgrades were frequent, to incorporate these changes. The final outcome was forty-forty-seven hour general education requirement that still stands (Mahood 279). Construction continued, with additional residence halls and the townhouses, meant to simulate off-campus housing, being built, as well the Integrated Science Center, completed in 2007 (Mahood 282). In 2004, a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was established at Geneseo, and further academic success ensued, despite the ever-present threat (and reality) of decreased funding from SUNY (Mahood 287).

The most recent decade of Geneseo’s history is not as comprehensively recorded as the many previous, as Mahood’s recent history ends in 2007. President Dahl retired in 2014, and current President Denise Battle was inaugurated the following year. While the core curriculum has been a constant since the late 1990s, the departments of visual art and computer sciences have been cut do to ever-present budget cuts. Geneseo currently offers forty undergraduate degree programs and two graduate programs, in accounting and education. New academic (primarily for social sciences) and administrative buildings have been constructed, opening in 2014. Geneseo’s commitment to the liberal arts remains strong, and is a particular point of pride for the institution.

I have found it quite fascinating that most of the major changes Geneseo has made have not necessarily been by choice, but rather by state mandate, particularly the transition to liberal arts, which is now so firmly part of Geneseo’s identity.

Works Cited

Fisher, Rosalind. The Stone Strength of the Past: Centennial History of the State University College of Arts and Sciences at Geneseo, New York. Wm J Keller Inc., 1971.

Mahood, Wayne with Frederick Bright, Judith Bushnell, Paul Hepler, and James McNally. SUNY Geneseo: From Normal School to Public Ivy, 1871-2007. The Donning Company Publishers, 2008.

Mau, Clayton C. Brief History of the State University Teachers College: Geneseo, New York. 1956.