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History and Traditions

History and Traditions

Drawing from the past, shaping the future

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.

Recently, Union has expanded its academic offerings to include fields such as Asian studies, bioengineering, film studies, nanotechnology and neuroscience. It has done important experimental work in interdepartmental studies, reflected in a number of programs that cut across academic disciplines. Organized interdepartmental majors are now offered in numerous areas along with programs that enable students to work toward both a bachelor's degree and an advanced degree. Union's Common Curriculum has received national recognition for the broad base of skills it cultivates and for its focus on exploring the intersections between and among disciplines.

Some milestones:


At a time when the classical curriculum continued to be the most widely accepted field of study, Union introduced a bachelor's degree with greater emphasis on history, science, modern languages and mathematics.


Along with Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, it was known as one of the "big four."


Union became the first liberal arts college to offer engineering. The College was also one of the first to offer coursework in American history and constitutional government.


Union adopted co-education and welcomed the first 125 women into its incoming class, along with two dozen female transfer students.


Union introduced the Minerva Houses to enhance campus life and broaden the educational experience for students, faculty and staff.