Drawing from the past, shaping the future

History & Traditions

In 1795, Union College became the first college chartered by the Board of Regents of the State of New York. The name Union reflected the founders' desire to create a welcoming, unified academic community open to all the diverse religious and national groups in the region. Today, Union remains one of the oldest non-denominational colleges in the country with a rich history that blends respect for tradition with an emphasis on continuous innovation and with distinguished graduates spanning over two centuries.

Tradition runs deep at Union

Video: Convocation 2019


It all begins with Convocation, the official start of the academic year and a chance for the entire Union community—students, faculty and staff—to welcome the incoming class.

Davis Projects for Peace

Union students repeatedly have been named "peace scholars" by the Kathryn Davis Foundation, which funds grassroots summer projects that promote world peace. Most recently, they have taught women in Cambodian schools, set up a poultry and dairy business to fight famine in Kenya, and built a library in a small village in Ghana.

Video: Dutchmen Dip 2019

Dutchmen Dip

Each winter, students plunge into icy water to raise money for Union community members fighting cancer. The event generates thousands of dollars.

Ethics Bowl

No need to debate it - students on Union's Ethics Bowl Team look forward to competing against their peers from throughout the country in this rigorous academic tournament that examines ethical issues and tests students' mental agility.

Video: Founders Day 2020

Founders Day

Commemorating the anniversary of the granting of the College's charter, Founders Day features a distinguished keynote speaker, student musical performances and recognition of outstanding accomplishments in education.

Hockey cheers

Fans of Union's championship Division I hockey fill Messa Rink with their own special version of "The Star Spangled Banner" at the start of each game, emphasizing every U("Oh say can U see...!").

Video: Homecoming and Family Weekend 2019

Homecoming and Family Weekend

Each fall, the Union community comes together to celebrate creativity, tradition and to make new memories.


Spring at Union brings a lobster dinner with all fixin's (bib included) for every student (vegetarian options, too). This event is held in beautiful Jackson's Garden, our campus oasis.

Ozone Cafe

The student-run Ozone Cafe dishes up creative, delicious, all-organic lunches each week in Old Chapel, attracting hundreds of members of the Union family. The cafe promotes sustainability, the harvest of local farmers and Union's own Octopus's Garden. Get your friends to serve you? Now that's food for thought.

Sample Schenectady

A number of the city's restaurants team up with our Minerva Houses to give the campus community a free taste of downtown dining. Hundreds turn out for this annual culinary adventure.

Senior Thesis

For generations of Union students, the senior thesis has been a rite of passage. With close guidance from their faculty advisers, students research and write a scholarly paper. Classmates, faculty and staff celebrate this academic milestone with a special campus reception.


One of the most anticipated events of the year, the student-run Springfest features an array of music from contemporary performers and bands. Past festivals have included Talib Kweli, Gin Blossoms, Guster, Gym Class Heroes, Matt Nathanson, Neon Trees, Robert Randolph, the Roots, Sean Kingston, State Radio, the Wailers, Wyclef Jean and Wynter Gordon. The festival takes place on the expanse of lawn known as West Beach.

Video: Steinmetz Symposium 2019 highlights

Steinmetz Symposium

One Friday each May, classes are suspended to allow hundreds of students to present their research projects to faculty, peers and visiting parents. Topics are fascinating and varied - everything from women's freedom in ancient Athens to anti-nuclear activism.

Student chimers

Video: Student chimer

The Memorial Chapel chimes ring throughout campus each day at lunchtime, with songs ranging from classics to Katy Perry. The tradition dates back to Union's earliest days, when student chimers received free lodging and the chance to leave class early.

Winter Dance Concert

The Winter Dance Concert is a leap into the world of movement, from ballet to ballroom to Bhangra. Students from across all discipline choreograph, collaborate and perform. Live music, original themes and unbridled energy make this a standing-room-only event in the Yulman Theater each year.

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