Vassar College was founded as an all- women’s college by Matthew Vassar in 1861. It is known to be the most liberal of the Seven Sisters, the female equivalent of the all-male Ivy League. After declining a merger with Yale University, Vassar became the first coeducational Seven Sisters college in 1969.
The Vassar educational philosophy has emphasized interaction and curiosity since its founding. Vassar professor Maria Mitchell, a famous astronomer and the first woman elected to the Academy of Arts and Science, pushed her students to learn from their own observations of the sky rather relying solely on the information in the textbook. Lucy Maynard Salmon, the first Vassar history professor, stressed the importance of going to the source to get information rather than relying on second hand knowledge.
The comprehensive liberal arts curriculum Vassar offered women – which included an array of subjects including was revolutionary at its time. The goal of Vassar College was to provide an education that rivaled that of the premier men’s colleges. Prior to the creation of women’s colleges like Vassar, women were typically educated at female seminaries that focused on training women to be teachers.
Vassar was one of the first colleges in the nation to offer a concentration in drama, psychology and Russian studies. Today, Vassar’s curriculum remains one of its most distinctive traits. Vassar has an open curriculum thus it’s only general requirements consist of a proficiency in a foreign language, one quantitative course and a freshman seminar.
Vassar is located in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. in the Hudson Valley, 75 miles away from New York City. Vassar College and Vassar Farm sit on 1,000 acres of land that is also an arboretum with over 200 kinds of trees, a native plant preserve, an ecological preserve and a Shakespeare Garden.
Matthew Vassar was a big supporter of the arts and was very adamant about integrating it into the curriculum. Therefore Vassar was the first college that was founded with a gallery and teaching collection already in place. The Vassar theatre department is very active and alumni include Lisa Kudrow, Meryl Streep, Noah Baumbach and Justin Long.
Some fun facts:
o Vassar is home to an all-whistling a cappella group AirCappella and one of the first all-female a cappella groups: the Vassar Night Owls.
o Vassar’s Quidditch team, the Butterbeer Brewers, won second place in the 2008 US College Quidditch Cup.
o Matthew Vassar was a brewer by trade, thus the mascot for Vassar College is the Brewer.