History of NSPE | The New School for Public Engagement
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History

  • The New School was founded in 1919 by a group of progressive American educators as a “center for discussion and instruction for mature men and women.” By 1930, their “new school” had acquired a special place in the intellectual and cultural life of New York City and a permanent home in Greenwich Village. A pioneer among American colleges and universities, the school was among the first to offer courses in cinema studies, psychoanalysis, photography, modern dance, Black studies, women's studies, urban policy, and creative writing. In 1934, it was chartered as a university by the state of New York and began conferring degrees. Today, The New School is a major urban university of seven colleges, enrolling more than 10,000 degree-seeking students and with an additional 6,500 continuing education students taking courses every year.

    The Schools of Public Engagement are the direct successors of the original New School and are motivated by the same progressive values that guided the university's founders in 1919. Each of the five schools has its own history and background in the larger institution: The Bachelor's Program for Adults and Transfer Students is the product of a decision by the university in the 1940s to offer a bachelor's degree program to adults and working citizens who could not attend college full-time. The School of Languages combines a long-established foreign language curriculum with more recent programs to educate teachers of English as a foreign language. The School of Media Studies can trace its lineage back to 1926, when The New School offered the first college course in America devoted to the motion picture, and became an organized curriculum in 1975, when John Culkin brought his Center for Understanding Media here. The Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy evolved from the Center for New York City Affairs, established at The New School in 1964, which became a graduate school of public administration in 1975 and incorporated the Julian Studley Graduate Program in International Affairs in 2010. The Creative Writing Program has its origin in Gorham Munson's groundbreaking writing workshop of 1931, with a direct line to our current innovative master's degree program and undergraduate and continuing education programs. The Schools of Public Engagement also continue to "educate the educated" by offering hundreds of courses each year that are open to everyone without formal admission requirements.

    In this way, the Schools of Public Engagement continue to uphold the ideals of the original New School as an institution dedicated to lifelong education and the betterment of society. Still on the cutting edge of the intellectual and creative life of New York City, the schools connect theory to practice, support innovation in culture and communication, and continue to build bridges between the academy and the larger community it exists to serve.