Simmtober Stories: Your Simmons

October 14, 2016

Simmons College

Today’s Simmons College is unrecognizable from the school that first opened its doors over 100 years ago. Our academic programs, buildings, and student body have grown and changed immensely. In fact, Simmons has drastically changed even in the past few years. This fall, we enrolled the largest entering undergraduate class in our history. Our footprint in the City of Boston has grown with the renovation of Daly Field. We are quickly expanding our suite of online degree programs which make a Simmons education available to students nationwide and abroad.

Throughout all of this change, Simmons has maintained a commitment to women’s education, leadership, and global outreach. That commitment remains solid as we do something Simmons has done many times before: review our academic structure with the goal of redesigning it to ensure that we deliver on our mission now and into the future, attracting and retaining great students, faculty, and staff.

Many Simmons alumnae/i and friends might be surprised just how much the College has changed over the years:

  • When the first students enrolled at Simmons in 1902, they could choose from programs in household economics, library studies, secretarial studies, and general science. Soon after, the School for Social Workers opened as a collaborative project between Simmons College and Harvard University.
  • In 1911, Simmons awarded the first master of science degree in general science, sparking the strong tradition of graduate education that continues today.
  • In the 1930s, the College grew to nine schools, including Household Economics, Physical Education, Public Health Nursing, Landscape Architecture, and the Prince School of Store Service Education.
  • Three more schools were created in the 1940s, adding programs in the Schools of Publication, Social Science, and Education.
  • In 1965, faculty and administrators completed a study that resulted in a reorganization of the undergraduate programs into a department structure to replace the separate schools and a remodeling of the curriculum. That redesign was guided by Simmons’ core mission of providing high-quality career preparation for women and sought to ensure that all academic functions were directed toward that goal.
  • The College again reorganized in 1978, when all undergraduate programs were sorted under the Deans of Science, Humanities, and Social Sciences.
  • What we now know as the College of Arts and Sciences was established in 1993 as the Undergraduate College, including all undergraduate programs and graduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences.
  • In the 2000s, the School of Management realigned to include both undergraduate and graduate programs, and the existing nursing, nutrition, and physical therapy programs were organized into what is now the School of Nursing and Health Sciences. Simmons has offered both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Library Science and Social Work since these schools were established in the College’s earliest years.

Each step in Simmons’ academic history represents a response to changing students, updated courses, and new demands from the marketplace. Today, Simmons is determining the best way to be distinctive and competitive in the 21st century. We have already launched our new undergraduate core curriculum, the Simmons PLAN. Now we are deciding how to redesign our academic structure in a sustainable way that builds on our strengths.

We began this Academic Redesign process with an extensive review of market and enrollment data, consensus-building around the signature strengths of Simmons and their connection to the market, development of recommendations for future academic structures, and a comprehensive financial review of those structures. The Redesign team held input sessions with alumnae/i, faculty, staff, and students to learn more about their experiences and to solicit any questions or concerns each group had about the process. The new proposed structures will be presented to the Simmons community and the Board of Trustees for review and feedback, with the goal of implementing them in summer 2017.

The current Academic Redesign process will ensure that all students receive the highest quality Simmons education possible and that the core values Simmons has held for over 100 years will remain strong for many years to come. Provost Katie Conboy sums it up this way:

“Simmons has been many things over the years, and the one thing that we have consistently valued is a recognition that the liberal arts, sciences, and professional preparation can be linked together in really important ways. That, in a way, is Simmons’ most prominent signature strength. The professions can change, the liberal arts can change, but our commitment to ensuring that people are prepared to leave here and to put their education to work has never changed.”