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Hampshire College

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Title: Hampshire College  
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Subject: Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, Amherst College, The Massachusetts Review, Five College Radio Astronomy Observatory
Collection: 1970 Establishments in Massachusetts, Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts Members, Buildings and Structures in Amherst, Massachusetts, Council of Independent Colleges, Educational Institutions Established in 1970, Film Schools in the United States, Hampshire College, Liberal Arts Colleges in Massachusetts, Massachusetts Film and Television, Members of the Annapolis Group, New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Peace and Conflict Studies, Progressive Education, Universities and Colleges in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, Universities and Colleges in Massachusetts, Uscaa Member Institutions
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Hampshire College

Hampshire College
Hampshire College Seal
Motto Non satis scire
Motto in English
To Know is Not Enough
Established 1965
Type Private
Endowment $40 million[1]
President Jonathan Lash
Academic staff
Administrative staff
Undergraduates 1,400[1]
Location Amherst, Massachusetts, USA
Campus Rural, 800 acres (3.2 km²)
Avg. Class Size 15[1]
Colors Purple, blue, red, maroon, white                         

Hampshire College is a private liberal arts college in Amherst, Massachusetts, United States. It was opened in 1970 as an experiment in alternative education, in association with four other colleges in the Pioneer Valley: Amherst College, Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Together they are now known as the Five Colleges, or the Five College Area.

The College is widely known for its alternative curriculum, socially liberal politics, focus on portfolios rather than distribution requirements, and reliance on narrative evaluations instead of grades and GPAs. In some fields, it is among the top undergraduate institutions in percentage of graduates who enroll in graduate school. Fifty-six percent of its alumni have at least one graduate degree and it is ranked 30th among all US colleges in the percentage of its graduates who go on to attain a doctorate degree (notably first among history doctorates).[2]


  • History 1
  • Academics and resources 2
    • Curriculum 2.1
    • Schools and programs 2.2
    • Five College Consortium 2.3
  • Prominent campus issues 3
    • Re-radicalization 3.1
  • In the media 4
  • Alumni and faculty 5
    • Notable alumni 5.1
    • Fictional alumni 5.2
    • Notable past and present faculty 5.3
    • Presidents of the college 5.4
  • See also 6
  • Notes 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


The Hampshire College campus (right, not center), as viewed from Bare Mountain
Dakin House dormitory

The idea for Hampshire originated in 1958 when the presidents of Amherst, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, appointed a committee to examine the assumptions and practices of liberal arts education. Their report, “The New College Plan,” advocated many of the features that have since been realized in the Hampshire curriculum: emphasis on each student’s curiosity and motivation; broad, multidisciplinary learning; and close mentoring relationships with teachers.

In 1965, Amherst College alumnus Harold F. Johnson donated $6 million toward the founding of Hampshire College. With a matching grant from the Ford Foundation, Hampshire’s first trustees purchased 800 acres (3.2 km2) of orchard and farmland in South Amherst, Massachusetts, and construction began. Hampshire admitted its first students in 1970.

For several years immediately after its founding in the early 1970s, the large number of applications for matriculation caused Hampshire College to be among the most selective undergraduate programs in the United States.[3] Its admissions selectivity declined thereafter because of declining application popularity. The school's number of applications increased again in the late 1990s, causing increased admissions selectivity since then. The college's rate of admissions is now comparable to that of many other small liberal arts colleges.

The school has been financially challenged since its founding, in large part because the college lacked a founding endowment to rely upon for stability of income, and it relied almost entirely upon tuition income for operations. At some points the administration seriously considered ceasing operations or merging into the University of Massachusetts Amherst. As of 2012, the endowment was a very modest $35,739,555.[4]

In recent years, the school has been on more solid financial footing, though lacking a sizable endowment. Its financial stability relies on fundraising efforts of its most recent past presidents, Adele Simmons and National Yiddish Book Center and the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.
The 'H' logo of Hampshire College, used separately from the seal. The four colored bars represent the other four colleges that formed Hampshire.

On April 1, 2004, president Gregory Prince announced his retirement, effective at the end of the 2004–2005 academic year. On April 5, 2005, the Board of Trustees named Ralph Hexter, formerly a dean at University of California, Berkeley's College of Letters and Science, as the college's next president, effective August 1, 2005. Hexter was inaugurated on October 15, 2005. The appointment made Hampshire one of a small number of colleges and universities in the United States with an openly gay president.[5]

Some of the most significant founding documents of Hampshire College are collected in the book The Making of a College (MIT Press, 1967; ISBN 0-262-66005-9). The Making of a College is (as of 2003) out of print but available in electronic form from the Hampshire College Archives.[6]

On August 23, 2012, the school announced the establishment of a scholarship fund dedicated to helping undocumented students get degrees. It would give more than $25,000 each year to help an undocumented student pay for the $43,000-plus tuition.[7]

Academics and resources


Hampshire College describes itself as "experimenting" rather than "experimental," to emphasize the changing nature of its curriculum. From its inception, the curriculum has generally had certain non-traditional features:

  • An emphasis on project work as well as, or instead of, courses
  • Detailed written evaluations (as well as portfolio evaluations) for completed courses and projects, rather than letter or number grades
  • A curriculum centered on student interests, with students taking an active role in designing their own concentrations and projects
  • An emphasis on independent motivation and student organization, both within and without the college's formal curriculum
Emily Dickinson Hall, designed by the architecture firm of former faculty member Norton Juster, houses much of the humanities, creative writing, and theatre

The curriculum is divided into three "divisions" rather than four years, and students complete these divisions in varying amounts of time. The administration has recently made efforts to encourage students to stick more closely to the traditional four-year model by requiring that students spend three semesters in Division I, three semesters in Division II, and that they complete Division III in a year.

  • Division I, the distribution stage, requires students to complete one course in each of the five "Schools of Thought," plus three other courses, either on or off campus. As well, there is a required "CEL-1" for Division 1; this is a rough equivalent to community service, and it stands for Campus Engaged Learning.
  • Division II requires students to complete two years of course work in their selected area(s) of study (which may or may not be traditional academic fields.) Most students combine related subject matter to form an interdisciplinary concentration such as "The chemistry of oil painting." Still, some choose to concentrate in multiple areas without drawing such connections, instead simply concentrating in "Both Chemistry and Oil Painting." Some students complete an in-depth concentration in one field only. Students design their own Division II, in cooperation with a committee of at least two faculty members (subject to their approval). Many students choose a faculty committee whose members represent their own interdisciplinary interests. The Division II requirements also include a community service – CEL-2, Community Engaged Learning, as opposed to Campus Engaged Learning in Division 1 – project and a multicultural perspectives requirement.
  • Division III, the advanced project, requires students to complete an in-depth project in their field (which is generally related to the Division II field). Division III usually lasts one year and is completed while taking few or no courses, but two "advanced learning activities," which might be courses, internships or specific independent studies, and may or may not be related to the Division III, are required. A Division III topic can be a long written academic paper (in which case it is best considered as something between a traditional college's "bachelor's" or "honors" thesis and a Master's or other graduate thesis), but it can also be a collection of creative work (writing, painting, photography, and film are popular choices) or a hands-on engineering, invention, or social organizing project.

Schools and programs

Cole Science Center contains the School of Natural Science and administrative offices

The Hampshire College faculty are organized broadly in defined Schools. As of 2010, the college's Schools were:

  • Cognitive Science (CS): includes linguistics, most psychology, some philosophy, neuroscience, and computer science.
  • Humanities, Arts, and Cultural Studies (HACU): includes film, some studio arts, literature, media studies, and most philosophy.
  • Critical Social Inquiry (CSI): includes most sociology and anthropology, economics, history, politics, and some psychology.
  • Natural Science (NS): includes most traditional sciences, mathematics, and biological anthropology.
  • Interdisciplinary Arts (IA): includes performing arts, some studio arts, and creative writing.

The Five College Program in Peace and World Security Studies (PAWSS) is based at Hampshire; its director is

  • Official website
  • Hampshire College Archives, featuring PDF text of The Making of a College and documents from Hampshire College history
  • The Climax student newspaper
  • The student website hosting the video of the all-community surveillance camera discussion.
  • A tool for documenting Hampshire's academics and life and culture.

External links

  • Alpert, Richard M. "Professionalism and Educational Reform: The Case of Hampshire College." Journal of Higher Education 51:5 (Sept.-Oct. 1980), pp. 497–518.
  • Dressel, Paul L. Review of The Making of a College: Plans for a New Departure in Higher Education. Journal of Higher Education 38:7 (Oct. 1967), pp. 413–416.
  • Kegan, Daniel L. "Contradictions in the Design and Practice of an Alternative Organization: The Case of Hampshire College." Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 17:1 (1987), pp. 79–97.
  • Pope, Loren. "Hampshire College." In Colleges That Change Lives. New York: Penguin, 2006.


  1. ^ a b c d
  2. ^
  3. ^ Making of a College pp. 307–310.
  4. ^
  5. ^ The exact number was unclear, but there may have been as few as eight openly gay college and university presidents as of 2007, and at the time Hexter was named president of Hampshire there were fewer still. " Article Left Them OutChronicleOpenly Gay Presidents Say ." Chronicle of Higher Education News Blog, August 7, 2007. See also Hexter, Ralph J. "Being an 'Out' President." Inside Higher Ed January 25, 2007.
  6. ^ A new edition is rumored to be in progress.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ The Experimental Program In Education and Community Peter Christopher Document Archive
  16. ^
  17. ^ Timothy Shary, University of Oklahoma, Faculty of Film & Video Studies Faculty.
    Timothy Shary, Curriculum Vitae (MS Word)
    Note in the CV: Keynote Speech: Activating the History in Student Activities, delivered at Hampshire College History Day, Amherst, MA, April 29, 2000.
  18. ^ Volume 2, 1975–1985, Chapter 6: Divestment Hampshire College Archives
  19. ^ (October 2013)Travel+Leisure"America's Ugliest College Campuses",
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^


See also

Presidents of the college

Notable past and present faculty

  • Alice Kinnon and Charlotte Pingress, characters in the film The Last Days of Disco
  • Jarret and Gobi, characters in the Saturday Night Live skit Jarret's Room. In the same recurring sketch Al Gore once appeared as a professor.
  • In the webcomic Questionable Content, occasional run-ins with Hampshire students and faculty occur.
  • In Party of Five, Bailey is accepted to Hampshire College.
  • Erlich Bachmann from Silicon Valley (TV series) claims to have received a "B.A. in Ultimate Frisbee" from Hampshire College.[22]

Fictional alumni

Notable alumni

Alumni and faculty

The October 2013 issue of Travel+Leisure named the college as one of the ugliest campuses in the United States. It decried the plain poured concrete form architecture, and noted that its master planner, Hugh Stubbins, had been criticized by the Princeton University faculty for a project at that university as resembling a "low-income urban renewal project".[19]

Alumnus Ken Burns wrote of the college: "Hampshire College is a perfect American place. If we look back at the history of our country, the things we celebrate were outside of the mainstream. Much of the world operated under a tyrannical model, but Americans said, 'We will govern ourselves.' So, too, Hampshire asked, at its founding, the difficult questions of how we might educate ourselves... When I entered Hampshire, I found it to be the most exciting place on earth." Loren Pope wrote of Hampshire in the college guide Colleges That Change Lives: "Today no college has students whose intellectual thyroids are more active or whose minds are more compassionately engaged." In 2006, the Princeton Review named Hampshire College one of the nation’s "best value" undergraduate institutions in its book "America’s Best Value Colleges."

In November 2001, a controversial All-Community Vote at Hampshire declared the school opposed to the recently launched War on Terrorism, another national first that drew national media attention, including scathing reports from Fox News Channel and the New York Post ("Kooky College Condemns War"). Saturday Night Live had a regular sketch, "Jarret's Room," starring Jimmy Fallon, which purports to take place at Hampshire College but is inaccurate. It refers to non-existent buildings ("McGuinn Hall," which is actually the Sociology and Social Work building at fellow cast member Amy Poehler's alma mater, Boston College) and features yearbooks, tests, seniors, fraternities, three-person dorm rooms, and a football team—none of which the school has ever had (though in the Fall 2005, 2006, and 2007 semesters the college experienced a higher than expected number of freshmen and temporarily had to convert some common spaces into three-person dorms). The sketch also claims that the college is actually in New Hampshire (a common mistake).

In 1979, Hampshire was the first college in the nation to divest from apartheid South Africa (with the nearby University of Massachusetts Amherst second).[18] Legal and financial research undertaken by student Michael Current and faculty member Kurtis Gordon was promoted nationally by business activists Douglas Tooley and Debbie Knight.

The Harold F. Johnson Library

In the media

While some students worry about what they see as Hampshire's headlong plunge into normality, the circumstances of Hampshire's founding tends to perennially attract students who revive the questions about education the institution was founded on, and who challenge the administration to honor the founding mission. Unsurprisingly, then, Re-Rad was not the first student push of its type. Similar efforts have sprung up at Hampshire with some regularity, with varying impacts. In 1996, student Chris Kawecki spearheaded a similar push called the Radical Departure, calling for a more holistic, organic integration of education into students' lives.[15] The most durable legacy of the Radical Departure was EPEC, a series of student-led non-credit courses.[16] A more detailed account of movements such as these can be found in a history of Hampshire student activities, an account written by alumnus Timothy Shary (F86) that was commissioned by Community Council in 1990; he has subsequently been a faculty member at Clark University of Worcester, Massachusetts, and the University of Oklahoma[17]

The Re-Radicalization of Hampshire College assisted the administration in launching a pilot program known as mentored independent study. This program paired ten third semester students with Division III students with similar academic interests to complete a small study—observed by, and subject to the approval of, a faculty member. The program was judged successful and has been institutionalized.

The Re-Radicalization movement is responding in part to a new "First-Year Plan" that changes the structure of the first year of study. Beginning in the Fall of 2002, the requirements for passing Division I were changed so that first-year students no longer had to complete independent projects (see Curriculum above). Though still a major source of contention, this change is rapidly fading from memory as most students who entered under the old plan have graduated or are in their final year. Re-Rad submitted its own counter-proposal in both 2006 and 2007, but these proposals were not acted on, and no follow-up was attempted.

The Yurt is home to Hampshire's student radio station

In the spring of 2004, a student group calling itself Re-Radicalization of Hampshire College (Re-Rad) emerged with a manifesto called The Re-Making of a College, which critiques what they see as a betrayal of Hampshire's founding ideas in alternative education and student-centered learning. On May 3, 2004, the group staged a demonstration that packed the hall outside the President's office during an administrative meeting. Response from the community has generally been amicable and Re-Rad has made some progress.


Prominent campus issues

There are two joint departments in the five-college consortium: Dance and Astronomy.[14]

Students at each of the schools may take classes and borrow books at the other schools, generally without paying additional fees. They may use resources at the other schools, including internet access, dining halls, and so forth. The five colleges collectively offer over 5,300 courses, and the five libraries have over eight million books.[12] The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) operates bus services between the schools and the greater Pioneer Valley area.[13]

Hampshire College is the youngest of the schools in the Five-College Consortium. The other schools are Amherst College, Mt. Holyoke College, Smith College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.[11]

Five College Consortium

[10] In 2014 Hampshire announced the formation of a new concentration, in Psychoanalytic Studies. [9]

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