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History Of Massachusetts College Of Liberal Arts


Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts is the public liberal arts college of Massachusetts.  As one of the nine state colleges within the Massachusetts Public Higher Education System, it is a small and primarily residential college of approximately 1,600 undergraduate students.

Surrounded by the beautiful mountains and valleys of Berkshire County, the College is located in North Adams, a city of about 15,500 in the northwest corner of Massachusetts, close to Vermont and New York State.  North Adams is readily accessible by automobile from all parts of the Commonwealth (Boston is three hours away), eastern New York and southern Vermont, and by regular bus service from Boston, Springfield, New York City, Troy and Albany.

The College, founded in 1894, was initially known as North Adams Normal School.  The first student body numbered 32 women and three men.  They were instructed by a faculty of four in a two-year diploma program for the preparation of teachers.  The campus consisted of two buildings, now known as Murdock Hall and Smith House.  In 1932, the Normal School became the State Teachers College at North Adams and was authorized to offer a four-year program leading to the Bachelor of Science in Education.  In 1937, graduate courses leading to the degree Master of Education were added to the curriculum.

In 1960, the name of the College was changed to North Adams State College, signaling its newly acquired authorization to also grant degrees in the liberal arts and professional fields.  A period of rapid expansion began in 1968 after the establishment of the Board of Trustees of the Massachusetts State College System.  By 1976, the student body had grown from 800 to over 2,000.  As academic programs expanded, the physical plant was enlarged to now comprise 20 buildings, including a nearby and extensive athletic facility.

Throughout its history, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts has stressed the dual importance of liberal education and professional preparation.  In 1992, the College reaffirmed this emphasis on a strong liberal arts foundation for its professional programs.  In recognition of its commitment to the liberal arts, it was officially named Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts on August 14, 1997.

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts continues to flourish.  As the Commonwealth's public liberal arts college, MCLA is a member of COPLAC (Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges), and, as such, we help students to develop critical thinking and communications skills to achieve the hands-on experience essential to their growth, their community, and their future employers.

New degree programs include those in environmental studies, arts management, art and in political science and public policy.  Each of our degree programs is delivered in small and personalized classes by faculty who know their students well and share their dreams.  In recent years, MCLA completed renovations to the two original buildings, Smith House and Murdock Hall.  Murdock Hall was updated with the latest in technology while preserving its historic grandeur.  Other recent upgrades include those to our television studio and athletics complex.

At MCLA, students soon find they are a part of our welcoming community where we show compassion for one another and the world through service to others.  Our long-range strategic and master plans are responsive to the ever-changing local community and surrounding region.  We extend our expertise and resources throughout the community through the MCLA Gallery 51, serving as lead partners in the Berkshire Compact for Higher Education, Berkshire Environmental Resource Center, through internship programs, service learning teacher education programs and many other college and community initiatives.