The New School was founded in 1919 as a center for discussion and instruction for mature men and women, and became America’s first university for adults. Over the years, it has grown into a major urban university made up of eight schools. The university currently enrolls more than 9,400 degree students and 13,000 continuing education students annually. Their diversity of ages, aspirations, and social backgrounds enriches the institution with a wide variety of cultures, perspectives, priorities, interests, and talents.
The New School for General Studies, the founding division of the university, has never neglected its original mission. It continues to serve the intellectual, cultural, artistic, and professional needs and interests of adult students.
The school has evolved over the years. The first six courses offered by The New School, in 1919, dealt exclusively with the then-emerging social sciences—the primary interests of the founders. But early in the institution's history, the curriculum was diversified to take into account both necessity and interest. Courses in drama and literature soon appeared, followed by architecture and film, business, creative writing, music, art, science, dance, languages, and computers. Today, The New School for General Studies covers an extensive breadth of subject matter.
Some of the finest minds of the 20th century developed unique courses at The New School for General Studies. W.E.B. DuBois taught the first course on race and African-American culture offered at a university; Karen Horney and Sandor Ferenczi introduced the insights and conflicts of psychoanalysis; Charles Abrams was the first to explore the complex issues of urban housing; the first university course in the history of film was taught at this institution; and in the early sixties, Gerda Lerner offered the first university course in women's studies. Over the years, lectures, seminars, and classes have examined most of the important national and international issues of our time.
To this day, many talented teachers and professionals choose The New School for Public Engagement as a place to introduce new courses and explore new ideas. Every term, hundreds of courses, many unique to this institution, are offered for credit and designed and developed by instructors who practice what they teach. The school maintains its tradition of educational innovation and keeps its place on the cutting edge of the intellectual and creative life of New York City.