New School News

The Evolution of The New School’s Commencement Ceremony (Slideshow)

When The New School (originally called the New School for Social Research) was founded in 1919, its intent was to provide adult (continuing) education. According to the school’s first catalog, The New School for Social Research Announcement 1919–1920, students were presumed to be pursuing “special study for its own sake according to [their] particular aims and interests,” and there was therefore “no prescribed ‘course of study’ or fixed curriculum.” This changed in 1934 with the creation of the school’s first degree programs — the Master of Social Science and the Doctor of Social Science, administered by the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science. The school held its first commencement for its first graduating class in 1936.

As the university changed and grew, so did Commencement. The New School now offers both undergraduate and graduate programs. (At the same time, the university continues to offer programs that enable students to pursue study “for its own sake,” as well as certificate programs, through Open Campus.) The ceremony has been held in a number of locations — The Auditorium in the Johnson/Kaplan Building, First Presbyterian Church, Riverside Church, the Javits Center, and the current site, Arthur Ashe Stadium — to accommodate the growing number of graduates. Faculty are also recognized at Commencement, with the presentation of the Distinguished Teaching Award and the Award for Outstanding Achievements in Social Justice Teaching. Honorary degrees are given to inspiring figures whose contributions embody the New School ethos.

Click through the slideshow above to see how the ceremony has looked over the years. All photographs were provided by the New School Archives.

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