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A Partial History of Hobart and William Smith's Curriculum

43. Geneva College established its medical school in 1834 and conferred its first degrees the following year. The curriculum consisted of two intensive 16-week terms during which, according to the Warren Hunting Smith's The History of Two Colleges, students "attended lectures and watched operations. Animals were dissected..." as were "corpses from Auburn prison...." The medical school issued its last degree in 1872.

44. In 1809, Geneva Academy students were taught "the respective branches of literature on the following terms:"

  • reading, writing and arithmetic ($2.25 per quarter);
  • English grammar, book-keeping, geography and mathematics, including geometry, mensuration, algebra, surveying, navigation and astronomy ($4 per quarter);
  • and the Latin, Greek and Hebrew languages ($5 per quarter).

45. Courses for the inaugural Class of William Smith included Greek, Latin, English, history, economics, sociology, philosophy, psychology, mathematics, physics, biology, astronomy and music -- in keeping with William Smith's vision that the college educate women through a non-vocational, nondenominational curriculum. At the time, women's education, where it existed, typically did not encompass what are now known as the liberal arts.

46. The Colleges have been at the forefront of a number of academic movements, establishing programs that were among the nation's first in Far Eastern studies (now Asian languages and cultures) (1959), Russian studies (1959), Black studies (now Africana studies) (1970) and Middle Eastern studies (2011).


47. As fascism spread through Europe in the 1930s, HWS President William Alfred Eddy Litt.D. '47 introduced a new curriculum requirement mandating that all students take a course in citizenship each year. Eddy, who had grown up in Lebanon, served as an intelligence officer with the 6th Marine Regiment during the First World War. When the U.S. entered World War II, he left HWS to coordinate intelligence in North Africa and the Middle East, and was later appointed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt L.L.D. '29 as an Envoy to Saudi Arabia. As the AP reported that year, the announcement in Eddy's 1936 inaugural address was "believed to be the first time such a requirement has been set up in any college." Culminating with a senior-year concentration on the "operation of American society today," the requirement focused on the "administration of government, the nominal and virtual control of affairs in local communities, the formation of public opinion, and the avenues for effective leadership in local and national life."

48. As early as Septmber 1924, The Hobart Herald mentions coed classes. By 1938, all classes were coeducational with the exception of physical education, which wouldn't become coed until 1973.

49. World War II and the draft decimated the number of men enrolled at Hobart, leaving fewer than 40 civilian students on campus in the early 1940s. President John Milton Potter negotiated a contract to establish a unit of the Navy V-12 on campus. To accommodate the Navy training, the Colleges switched to a trimester academic calendar, which remained intact until 2000.

50. The Navy V-12 program, which ran at Hobart from July 1, 1943 through October 13, 1945, brought more than 900 trainees to campus. Their presence was crucial in keeping the doors of the Colleges open, though the fate of the Colleges was still touch-and-go. By the time the V-12 program was decommissioned, civilian enrollments were only approximately 50 men and 150 women. When the GI Bill was introduced soon after the war, however, enrollment surged to more than 1,000 in just a year.

51. During World War II, the faculty designed a new curriculum called "History and Literature," which during the late 1940s evolved into the "Western Civilization Curriculum" that defined a generation of education at HWS. The series of courses traced the historical, philosophical, religious, political and psychological history of Western Civilization. Students read Dante, Machiavelli, Plato, Homer, the Bible and other canonical works of Western literature, and were required to complete four- or five-hour qualification examinations -- or "quals" -- to graduate. Once, when asked on a test what was written over the Gate to Hell in Dante's "Inferno," a Hobart student responded: "Welcome to Western Civ. III."

52. The HWS Honors program was instituted in 1949. Since 1990 -- as far back as the Colleges' digitized records trace -- 924 students have graduated with Honors.

53. In the spring of 1965, Professor of Economics William Bennett taught the first HWS computer programming course, though it was more than a year later that the Colleges' first computer, an IBM 1130, was installed in the basement of Lansing Hall.

54. By the mid-'70s, "Myth, History and Theory" had replaced Western Civilization in the curriculum, offering "a new sort of enterprise with truly holistic opportunities for learners, and [inviting] them to be active in their entirety in order to satisfy the need to do something with great, patient engagement of self," as Professor Emeritus of History Frank O'Laughlin, one of Western Civ's architects, wrote in the 1973 Hobart and William Smith Quarterly.

55. As the era of Western Civ came to a close, the Colleges' faculty and students led the movement to diversify the curriculum, bringing new voices, new lenses and new modes of understanding to campus, including -- not surprisingly for a coordinate college -- an emphasis on exploring gender.

  • In 1973, after nearly a decade offering individual courses in women's studies, HWS became one of the first colleges in the country to offer a major in the field.
  • The Colleges launched what is believed to be the nation's first academic program in men's studies in 1986.
  • In 2002, HWS became the first college or university in the U.S. to offer an undergraduate major in the field of LGBT Studies.
  • The Fisher Center for the Study of Gender and Justice, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2018, has hosted more than 175 events on campus, with presenters including Angela Davis, Michael Kimmel and Terry Tempest Williams, among many others. Since its founding, the Fisher Center has been the campus and community hub for exploring gender-related fields in the arts, humanities, and social and natural sciences, hosting speakers and events that focus on democratic ideals of equity, mutual respect and common interest.

56. The Colleges' study abroad program began in 1975 when Professor Emerita of Art & Architecture Elena Ciletti led 29 students on a term-long immersion in Italy.

57. Until 1994, the Colleges required all students to pass a swimming test to graduate. William Smith began the requirement in 1939, and Hobart followed suit in 1948. Until the late 1960s, when Bristol Pool was opened, the test was held at the YMCA in downtown Geneva. While most students got it out of the way in their first year, there are stories of some turning up at Bristol three hours before graduation to take the test.

58. In the spring of 1996, a vote by the faculty and the Board of Trustees approved the "goals curriculum" that shapes students' academic experiences today. In order to graduate, students must demonstrate proficiency in critical and creative thinking, quantitative reasoning, scientific inquiry and the artistic process, and must have an understanding of social inequities, cultural differences and ethical judgment.

59. The First Generation Initiative was established in 2006 to ensure that first-generation students have academic, social and co-curricular guidance, as well as visibility on campus. In 2018, Board Chair Thomas S. Bozzuto '68, L.H.D. '18 " who was himself a first-generation student " established the Bozzuto Family First-Generation Endowed Scholarship with a $1 million gift.

60. Since 2006, the Colleges have partnered with Ontario ARC to offer the College Experience program, making it easier for students with developmental disabilities to take college courses and participate in college life.

61. As of the spring of 2019, the top 10 most popular majors (by number of students declared) are:
1. Economics
2. Media & Society
3. Psychology
4. Political Science
5. Biology
6. Environmental Studies
7. History
8. English
9. Architectural Studies
10. International Relations

62. HWS has produced 117 Master's of Arts in Teaching graduates since the announcement of the program in 2003.

63. HWS offers joint degree programs in engineering, business and nursing through partnerships with the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University; the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College; Clarkson University; the Saunders School of Business at the Rochester Institute of Technology; and the University of Rochester School of Nursing.