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Historical Note


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Title:College of Arts and Sciences records
Dates:1924–2002 (bulk 1965–1992)
Call Number:A23

Historical Note

The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) is one of the Basic Day Colleges that makes up Northeastern University (NU). It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in the arts, humanities, social sciences, mathematics, and natural sciences. Headed by a dean, CAS is organized by academic department, interdisciplinary program, or center for specialized study. The dean has responsibility for managing educational policy, faculty issues, student services, and budgeting, and often delegates these functions to committees and his staff, including associate deans, assistant deans, directors, and student advisors. The CAS dean reports to the provost.

The School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) was established in 1935 to offer general education for NU undergraduate business and engineering students. It was formed by transferring faculty and programs from existing NU colleges to SAS. Wilfred S. Lake was the first dean. With 20 faculty, SAS offered seven major programs in chemistry, economics, English, mathematics, physics, psychology, and sociology. In 1936, the name was changed to the College of Liberal Arts (CLA).

In its first decade, CLA formulated a mission that combined an emphasis on a liberal education with preparing students for practical vocations. Co–operative education was stressed, and the Bachelor of Arts degree was instituted in place of a Bachelor of Science degree. Nevertheless, CLA courses emphasized topics of particular relevance to the business and engineering professions. Even as CLA added faculty and developed new departments, majors, and courses in subsequent decades, it continued primarily to serve NU's professional disciplines.

Following the retirement of Dean Lake in 1967, CLA was reorganized. Lake had been responsible for all curricula in CLA, and often for student advising as well. Under Dean Robert Shepard, a College Curriculum Committee and a Student Advisory Board were established, and students were given more flexibility in fulfilling requirements for their majors. Many new courses relevant to contemporary political and social issues were initiated at this time.

While the number of faculty and enrolled students in CLA tripled in the 1960s, student enrollment decreased sharply in the 1970s. Humanities departments, in particular, suffered and were considered among NU's weakest academic programs by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the NU Administration. In 1978, Richard Astro was appointed dean of CLA. The College of Liberal Arts changed its name to the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) in 1979. Under Astro, CAS programs, including the humanities and fine arts, were strengthened. Several interdisciplinary programs, centers, and options for academic majors and minors were added, including the Division of Fine Arts, the Women's Studies minor, the Center for the Humanities, the Center for the Study of Sport in Society, a linguistics major, a marine studies program, and an urban studies program. Graduate programs in journalism and in law, policy, and society were also established.

Under Dean Robert Lowndes, who became dean of CAS in 1987, CAS achieved independent prominence within NU and increasing national respect. By 1989, CAS was the largest of NU's basic colleges. Despite significant budget cuts in 1989–1996, CAS developed several new graduate programs in English, history, teaching, and public and international affairs. Bachelor's programs were initiated in music, education, biochemistry, American Sign Language, human services, and behavioral neuroscience. Interdisciplinary and international programs were emphasized, and the integrated dual major was created. Renowned researchers and professors were recruited aggressively, several to fill newly endowed positions. To highlight CAS accomplishments and events, the Arts and Sciences Chronicle was first published in Spring 1988. Beginning in 1994, a distinguished speaker series brought noteworthy lecturers to the campus.

In 1998, Lowndes stepped down from his position as CAS dean and became professor in the Department of Physics. James R. Stellar replaced him. Under Dean Sellar's leadership, new programs were introduced and existing programs reorganized. Recognizing the need to centralize the university's multiple education studies programs, the Department of Education, the Center for Innovation in Urban Education, and the Master of Arts in Teaching program were merged to create a separate School of Education in 1999. As a result of a continued effort to strengthen the architecture program, the Department of Architecture earned accreditation in 2003 and was later renamed the School of Architecture. The same year the CAS Recourse Council was established in 1999 to provide advocacy and to seek donor support for the college and in 2006, the editorial office of the journal New England Quarterly returned to the History Department.

1927Department of Liberal Arts is established in the Lincoln Institute.
1929Liberal arts courses are discontinued due to flagging enrollments.
1935The School of Arts and Sciences is opened, largely to satisfy the demands of business and engineering students. The college, which was founded on the Cooperative Education plan, was based on two principles: “first, that the educated man should recognize in a broad way the main currents of human activity and, so far as possible, the physical qualities of his environment; and, second, that his studies, without sacrificing their liberal value, should prepare him definitely for a useful career.”
1936Name is changed to the College of Liberal Arts (CLA).
1937CLA's honor society, the Arts and Sciences Academy, is formed.

Department of Chemistry is established in the CLA, distinct from the Department of Chemical Engineering. University's first two masters programs in chemistry and physics are established.

1958Graduate School takes over the administration of all graduate programs in the CLA.
1959 Drama, Speech, and Music Department is formed. Biology and modern languages are offered as fields of concentration. Masters degrees are offered in chemistry, biology, English, history, political science, psychology, and physics.
1961 History and Government Department splits into the History Department and Political Science Department. Natural Sciences, later renamed Earth Science, is offered as a concentration. Doctoral degrees are offered in chemistry and physics.
1962Master's program in mathematics is initiated.
1964 Northeastern chapter of Phi Kappa Phi honor society is established. Master of Science in Health Science is offered in the Department of Biology.
1965 Sociology–Anthropology Department is established. Department of Philosophy and Department of Speech and Drama are formed. Ph.D. degree is offered in mathematics. Department of Journalism formed (formerly part of the Department of English).
1966Department of Economics switches affiliation from College of Business Administration to CLA.Department of Psychology offers a Ph.D.
1967Ph.D. degree in Biology is added.
1968 Master of Public Administration degree is offered. Professor Roland L. Nadeau, Department of Music, is the first Robert D. Klein Lecturer; Klein was a member of the Mathematics Department from 1959 until his death in 1978.
1969 Dedication of David F. and Edna Edwards Marine Science Laboratory in Nahant, named in memory of a member of the Corporation and Board of Trustees and his wife.
1970 Departments of Mathematics and Physics vote to sever relationship with the College of Engineering and become part of the CLA. Student–taught course analyzing American racism is offered in the CLA.
1973 Interdisciplinary Department of Afro–American studies is formed. The Independent Major is introduced. Doctor of Philosophy in Economics is offered. Master of Science in Clinical Chemistry is offered through the Department of Chemistry.
1975 Human Services Program is designed in conjunction with the CLA and the College of Criminal Justice. Master of Science Program in Forensic Chemistry offered.
1976Alternative Freshman Year program is initiated.
1978Name of the college is changed to the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS).
1979 University receives a $400,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to explore the possibility of interdisciplinary minors between the CAS and the College of Business Administration, College of Criminal Justice, and College of Engineering. Professor Karl Weiss is appointed first Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Programs, joining a reorganized provost staff including Philip Crotty (Budget and Undergraduate programs), Kathryn Luttgens (Health and Science programs), and Arthur Smith (Faculty Personnel Affairs). Research and Development Fund is established. Distinguished Professor Award program is initiated.
1980 Faculty Senate approves establishing the Division of Fine Arts; it is renamed the Division of Performing and Visual Arts in 1988.
1981 Women in Engineering and Women in Science programs are instituted as a part of the Bay State Skills Corporation effort to assure female participation in industries with acute labor shortages. The New England Quarterly is based in CAS.
1982 Instructional Development Fund is established. University's first interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in Law, Policy, and Society is established.
1984Center for the Study of Sport in Society is established as the nation's first academic center devoted to the study of sport and its impact on society.
1986 CAS considers dividing into two colleges, one for science and computer science and the other for humanities and the social sciences; the initiative fails.
1987 Northeastern establishes a new honors program. CAS launches an International Studies Program. CAS establishes the School of Journalism.
1988 CAS establishes the Arts and Sciences Chronicle. CAS begins the Ireland North and South program, giving students a chance to work and study in Ireland.
1990 CAS offers Ph.D. program in English. Political Science Department offers a concentration in Law and Legal Issues.
1992 CAS initiates American Sign Language program. CAS opens multi–media lab for faculty.
1993 Center for Innovation in Urban Education is established. CAS establishes a doctoral program in history, focusing on world history.
1994 CAS develops an interdisciplinary major in neuroscience. CAS establishes a minor in Jewish studies. Majors in environmental, Latino, Latin American, and Caribbean studies are offered. Distinguished Speaker Series is initiated; Ralph Nader is the first speaker.
1996Maureen and Richard J. Egan Engineering and Science Research Center is opened.
1997Ph.D. program in Political Science is initiated. CAS sponsors the Miracle of Superconductivity Symposium to contribute to NU's centennial celebrations. CAS's Center for Experiential Education and Academic Advising opens.
1999School of Education opens, merging the Dept. of Education, the Center for Innovation in Urban Education, and the Master of Arts in Teaching program. The CAS Sciences Recourse Council is established to provide advocacy and seek donor support for the college.
2003The Department of Architecture earns accreditation.
2006 The U.S. Department of Justice awards grant to the Human Services Program to establish a Campus Center on Violence Against Women. Department of Architecture renamed School of Architecture. The New England Quarterly returns to the Department of History.
2007School of General Studies is integrated into the CAS. Northeastern partners with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts to offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) and a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Studio Art.
Chronology of Deans
1935–1967Wilfred S. Lake
1967–1976Robert Shepard
1976–1978 Robert Ketchum, Acting Dean
1978–1986Richard Astro
1986–1987 Edward Neighbor, Acting Dean
1987–1988Robert P. Lowndes
1998–James R. Stellar

Frederick, Antoinette, "Northeastern University: An Emerging Giant, 1959–1975" (Boston: Northeastern University Custom Book Program, 1982). CALL NUMBER: LD4011.N22F7X

–––––, "Northeastern University: Coming of Age: The Ryder Years, 1975–1989" (Northeastern University Press, 1995). CALL NUMBER: LD4011.N22F732 1995

Lowndes, Robert P. “Message from the Dean,” Arts and Sciences Chronicle 7:1 (Spring 1994): 2,3.

“The First 100 Years,” Arts and Sciences Chronicle (Spring 1998).