Columbia College Chicago is an undergraduate and graduate institution whose principal commitment is to provide a comprehensive educational opportunity in the arts, communications, and public information within a context of enlightened liberal education. Columbia’s intent is to educate students who will communicate creatively and shape the public’s perceptions of issues and events, and who will author the culture of their times. Columbia is an urban institution whose students reflect the economic, racial, cultural, and educational diversity of contemporary America. Columbia conducts education in close relationship to a vital urban reality and serves an important civic purpose by active engagement in the life and culture of the City of Chicago.
Columbia’s purpose is:
- to educate students for creative occupations in diverse fields of the arts and media and to encourage awareness of their aesthetic relationship and the opportunity of professional choice among them;
- to extend educational opportunity by admitting unreservedly, at the undergraduate level, a student population with creative ability in or inclination to the subjects of Columbia’s interest;
- to provide a college climate that offers students an opportunity to try themselves out, to explore, and to discover what they can and want to do;
- to give educational emphasis to the work of a subject by providing a practical setting, professional facilities, and the example and guide of inventive faculty members who work professionally in the subjects they teach;
- to teach students to do expertly the work they like, to master the crafts of their intended occupations, and to discover alternative opportunities to employ their talents in settings other than customary marketplaces;
- to help students find out who they are, discover their own voices, respect their own individuality, and improve their self-esteem and self-confidence;
- to offer specialized graduate programs that combine a strong conceptual emphasis with practical professional education, preparing students with mature interests to be both competent artists and successful professionals.
Columbia College Chicago was founded in 1890 as the Columbia School of Oratory by Mary Ann Blood, an alumna of the Monroe Conservatory of Oratory (now Emerson College).
Also, in 1890, Chicago won the right to host the World’s Columbia Exposition, thusly named to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the voyages of Christopher Columbus. All the nation was caught up in the enthusiasm for the celebration and the city. Among those drawn to Chicago was Mary Ann Blood, born in 1851 in Hollis, New Hampshire. Miss Blood’s goal in coming to Chicago was to establish a co-educational school of expression that “should stand for high ideals, for the teaching of expression by methods truly educational, for the gospel of good cheer, and for the building of sterling Christian good character.” By the time the World’s Columbian Exposition opened in 1893, a year later than planned, the Columbia School of Oratory was well established with Mary Blood as its president. She served the college until her death in 1927.
In 1928, the college was incorporated into the Pestalozzi-Froebel Teachers College. A renewed version of the college emerged in 1936, emphasizing the growing field of radio broadcasting. In 1944, the name of the college was changed to Columbia College.
During the 1950s, the college broadened its educational base to include television and other areas of mass communication. In 1961, Mirron Alexandroff became president of the college with the goal to fashion a new approach to liberal arts education. Over the next five years, Columbia added new academic departments and programs taught by some of the most important and creative professionals in Chicago.
The academic strengths of Columbia College Chicago thus well established, the institution received full accreditation in 1974 from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
In 1975, when Columbia’s enrollment exceeded 2,000, the College purchased the Fairbanks Morse Building at 600 South Michigan (now the Alexandroff Campus Center). Since that time, the institution has continued to acquire properties throughout the South Loop, including buildings to house fully equipped facilities for academic programs and academic and student support services, as well as a library, bookstore, and student residence centers.
President Alexandroff retired in 1992. His successors include John B. Duff (president from 1992 to 2000) and Warrick L. Carter (president from 2000 to present). In 1997, the name of the College was changed to Columbia College Chicago.
Building upon a heritage of innovation, creativity, and strength, Columbia College Chicago continues to challenge students to realize their abilities and aspirations according to the motto esse quam videri—to be, rather than to seem.
Columbia College Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, 312-263-0456, www.ncahigherlearningcommission.org. The College is accredited as a teacher training institution by the Illinois State Board of Education.