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University of Chicago

The University of Chicago is a private co-educational university located in Chicago, Illinois. Just over a century old, it includes a number of academic units of prominent stature. It is highly regarded as a teaching institution; the last National Research Council peer review ranked the University of Chicago at the top in the list for both faculty quality and teaching. John Podhoretz, an alumnus, has said that 'Chicago is the most intellectual and bookish of American schools'.


Location and campus

The University is located eight miles (13 km) south of the Loop in the Chicago neighborhoods of Hyde Park and Woodlawn. The campus is noted for its Gothic architecture (carried out entirely in limestone); the buildings and layout of the Main Quadrangle have been deliberately patterned after Cambridge from the founding of the University. More contemporary buildings have attempted to complement the style of the original buildings with mixed success. One of the most striking buildings is the brutalist Regenstein Library. The campus is home to several significant buildings, including Rockefeller Memorial Chapel (notable for its solid stone construction) and Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House. The campus spans the Midway, a large linear public park which was a part of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. The bulk of the campus, including the main quadrangle and the hospitals, are north of the Midway; several of the professional schools are located south of the Midway.

A $2 billion capital campaign (as of 2004 over half way completed) has brought unprecedented expansion to the school. The last few years have featured much change on campus: the unveiling of Max Palevsky dormitory (primarily for first year students), the conversion of Bartlett Gym into a dining hall, the opening of the new Ratner Athletic Center (a Cesar Pelli design) and matching parking/office structure, the construction of the new Comer Children's Hospital, the Graduate School of Business' new Hyde Park Center (a Rafael Viñoly building), and an Interdivisional Research Building for sciences (still under construction). The University has also expanded outside of Hyde Park, opening the new Gleacher Center (a Business School center) in the Chicago Loop, international Business School centers in Barcelona (moving soon to London) and Singapore, and the new Paris Center on the left bank (for collegiate study abroad). The University plans to direct the next stage of its “master plan” towards revamping and consolidating dormitories, many of which are far from campus and aging poorly. Plans are being prepared for the construction of a new undergraduate dormitory on land south of the Midway Plaissance, a strip of park space that runs along the south border of Hyde Park.


Students by the Kent Chemical Laboratory
Students by the Kent Chemical Laboratory

The University was founded in 1890 by John D. Rockefeller (of Standard Oil fame), at the end of a wave of university foundings stretching from the middle of the 19th century until the beginning of the 20th (Washington University in St. Louis, MIT, Vanderbilt, Johns Hopkins, University of Southern California, Stanford, Caltech, Northwestern, and Carnegie Mellon also came into being during this time period). Westward migration, population growth, and the industrialization of America led to an increasing need for elite schools away from the East coast - schools whose focus would be on issues vital to national development. Rockefeller’s choice of Chicago – he was urged to build in the New England or the Mid-Atlantic States – demonstrated his outspoken desire to see Thomas Jefferson’s dream of a "natural aristocracy," determined by talent rather than familial heritage, rise to national prominence (he having pulled himself up by the figurative bootstraps). His early fiscal emphasis on the Physics department showed his pragmatic, yet nevertheless intellectually rigorous, desires for the school. Founded under Baptist auspices, the University today lacks a sectarian affiliation. The school's traditions of rigorous scholarship were established by Presidents William Rainey Harper and Robert Maynard Hutchins. Allowing women and minorities to matriculate from its inception, when their access to other leading Universities was an extreme rarity, the University counts among its alumni many prominent pioneers from both groups.

Different from many other universities, the school was first set up around a number of graduate research institutions, following Germanic precedent. The College remained quite small (numerically and in intrainstitutional importance) compared to its East coast peers until the middle of the twentieth century. As a result, graduate research and professional programs at the University continue to dwarf undergraduate education by a two-to-one student ratio (its undergraduate student body remains the second smallest amongst top 15 universities, behind historically small Dartmouth). Nevertheless, most faculty members have dual appointments to their respective Schools, Divisions or Institutes, as well as to the undergraduate College.

An important event in the development of nuclear energy took place at the university. On December 12, 1942 the world's first self-sustaining nuclear reaction was achieved at Stagg Field on the campus of the university. A sculpture marks the location where this reaction took place; the stadium has since been demolished to make way for the Regenstein Library.

Divisions and schools

The University currently maintains twelve units, grouped into divisions for graduate research, professional schools, the undergraduate College, the Library, the Press, the Lab Schools (an elite K-12 system), and the Hospitals.

The Divisions: Biological Sciences, Social Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Humanities,

The Professional Schools: the Divinity School, the Law School, the Graduate School of Business, the Pritzker School of Medicine, the Harris School of Public Policy and the School of Social Service Administration.

The Graham School of General Studies is administrative rather than a formal school within the University, administers a variety of degree and non-degree extension work for high school students through postgraduates.

The University furthermore features the Laboratory Schools (grades K-12, founded by John Dewey and considered one of the leading University affiliated preparatory schools in the United States), the Hyde Park Day Schools (ages 6-15, for the learning disabled of otherwise exceptional ability) and the Orthogenic School (a residential treatment program for ages 5-20 with behavioral and emotional problems). The University also administers two public charter schools on the South Side of Chicago, although these schools are not considered a true part of the University community.

U.S. News & World Report currently ranks the College at the University of Chicago 14th in the nation, tied with Cornell University and Johns Hopkins University (US News) The college’s applicants, according to The Princeton Review "often prefer" Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia, and apply to the full spectrum of top 15 schools, both Ivies and their associates. However, The Princeton Review has also rated the University as having the "Best Overall Educational Experience" for undergraduates among all American universities and colleges (the student-to-faculty ratio of 4:1, ranked the second lowest amongst top 50 American Universities, allows for small class sizes and exceptional faculty interaction). The difference between these rankings reflects the longstanding dichotomy between the College’s academic quality (which is consistently grouped alongside Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Caltech and Stanford) and its far lagging admissions selectivity, which is on par with schools such as Emory and Carnegie Mellon Universities. Ironically, the two factors which precipitate the latter admissions problem are the same factors which earned the school the highest accolades from The Princeton Review - academic zeal and rigor. First, The University of Chicago is often called the place "where fun comes to die" by current students, which probably deters some potential matriculants (for some time in the 1990's the college finished a few spots short of last amongst rankings of party schools, alongside the service academies, e.g. West Point, and religious institutions such as Brigham Young and Wheaton). The rigor of the school academically has led to notoriously low graduation rates (one in seven students do not finish, compared to one in fifty at Harvard College) and also GPAs ("In 1998, the National average GPA of those matriculating to allopathic medical schools [was a] 3.58; from the College [a] 3.48. This was the lowest for any college in North America" - The Univesity of Chicago Health Professions Handbook). Nevertheless, it has been reported that more students go on to graduate school from Chicago than at any other college in the country.

The University's professional schools also rank highly: the Graduate School of Business has been ranked 1st (Economist)[1]]], 6th by (US News), 2nd by (BusinessWeek) and 4th by the (Financial Times), the Law School ranks 6th (US News) and 2nd (Leiter), the School of Social Service Administration School ranks 3rd (US News)and 1st (Gourman Report), the Divinity School ranks 2nd (National Research Council), the Pritzker School of Medicine ranks 22nd (US News), while The Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies ranks 17th (US News).

The University of Chicago Press is the largest university press in the country and publishes The Chicago Manual of Style, the definitive guide to American English usage. The University also operates a number of off-campus scientific research institutions, the best known of which is probably Fermilab, or the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, managed by the University of Chicago for the U.S. Department of Energy. The University also operates the Argonne National Laboratory, owns and operates Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, the Oriental Institute, and has a stake in Apache Point Observatory in Sunspot, New Mexico. The University is also a founding member of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation.

Sports and traditions

The school's sports teams are called the Maroons. They participate in the NCAA's Division III and in the University Athletic Association. At one time the University of Chicago's football teams, the original Monsters of the Midway, were among the best in the country, winning seven Big Ten titles. In 1935, Chicago's Jay Berwanger was the winner of the first-ever Heisman Trophy. However, the school, a founding member of the Big Ten Conference, de-emphasized varsity athletics in 1939. It is erroneously claimed that Robert Maynard Hutchins, president at the time, said, "Whenever I feel like exercising, I lie down until the feeling passes." [2]

The school's mascot is the Phoenix, so chosen for two reasons: in honor of Chicago's rebirth after the great fire and also in honor of the previous University of Chicago (whose origins were unrelated to the current), which folded due to financial reasons (thus making this a second and far more glorious incarnation of the University).

One notorious tradition is the annual Scavenger Hunt, a multi-day event in which large teams compete to obtain all the items on a very long list. The event was created by a resident of the Snell-Hitchcock dormitory in 1987 and Snell-Hitchcock dorm continues with a long history of victories including 2004's Hunt. So far, each year has also involved a lengthy road trip to find many of these items in obscure parts of the United States, involving treks as far as New Jersey, or as mind-bogglingly obtuse as Zion, Illinois (where students had to "flip the switch at the last city of man," a reference to the city of Zion in The Matrix). While items such as Michael Jordan have not appeared, lore maintains that in 1999 two students built a working nuclear reactor for Scavenger Hunt. Though more accurately they irradiated thorium with thermal neutrons, and observed traces of both uranium and plutonium.

A famous former campus tradition was Sleepout, which took place each spring on the weekend before the opening of registration for the next year's classes. The tradition began when students wishing to get into the most popular courses would sleep out on the quads in order to be first in line. Eventually, the queueing was organized with a lottery for places in line taking place 24 hours in advance of registration. Forced to stay on campus and report at unannounced line checks, students found creative ways to pass the time. That this event became the biggest party of the year is perhaps a testament to the College's aforementioned reputation for academic zeal. Under the presidency of Hugo Sonnenschein , Sleepout was ended in 1997 - replaced with an Internet-based registration system.

The campus paper is the Chicago Maroon, founded in 1892, the same year as the university. It is published every Tuesday and Friday. Notable extracurricular groups include: The University of Chicago College Bowl Team, which has garned 101 tournament wins and 12 national championships - leading both catagories internationally, Model United Nations, which is an often a favorite at national conferences and hosts a large simulation annually, and the Chess Club, who likewise is a national powerhouse and whose ranks have included Masters of varying degrees. The Mock Trial and Parliamentary Debate teams have also fared well at the national level in recent years. WHPK is the student-run community radio station of the university.

Students, alumni and faculty

Main article: List of University of Chicago alumni

Called the "teacher of teachers", academia is the most popular career choice for its graduates, with one in seven taking an academic appointment (a rate matched by no other University). Scholars affiliated with Chicago have obtained a total of: 78 Nobel Prizes (the most by any institution in the world except the University of Cambridge), 26 MacArthur Fellowships (or "genius grants"), 220 Guggenheim Fellowships, 17 John Bates Clark Medals, 12 Pulitzer Prizes, 3 National Medals of the Arts, 11 National Humanities Medals / Charles Frankel Prizes, 13 National Medals of Science, and an Abel Prize. Chicago undergraduates in the past five years have won: five Rhodes, four Marshall, three Truman, three Churchill and two Gates Cambridge Scholarships. Moreover, in 2004, for the 18th consecutive year, University students won more Fulbright-Hays fellowships than any U.S. educational institution, with 23 students (68 percent of applicants) receiving awards. Chicago is also home to the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching , the nation’s oldest prize for undergraduate teaching (founded in 1938), and one which is highly coveted amongst faculty. Additionally, Chicago students and faculty have gone on to head several other major academic insitutions (i.e. Presidencies, Chancellorships), namely: Stanford University, The University of Oxford, Northwestern University and the University of California.

External links

Last updated: 10-19-2005 18:48:14
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