The University of Chicago was established by the American Baptist Education Society with funding from John D. Rockefeller in 1890. William Rainey Harper assumed the presidency in July 1891, and the first classes were held in October 1892. Harper laid the groundwork for the first Department of Sociology in the United States, and also the creation of the University of Chicago Press.
From the outset, the school accepted women and minorities, giving them unprecedented access to quality education. The University of Chicago was also the first to grant tenure to an African-American professor, in 1947. Though founded by the Baptists, the school has never had a sectarian affiliation.
Under President Robert Hutchins, who held the position from 1929 to 1951, the college adopted its great books program, in which students read original texts and discuss them in a group, as opposed to the lecture format. This model forms the basis for the core curriculum for which the school is known today.
It was also under President Hutchins that the school mover to phase out varsity sports, and withdrew from the Big Ten Conference, of which it was a founding member. Varsity football did not make a comeback until 1969, about 30 years after the program was canceled, and the school now competes at the Division III level.
In 1978 Hanna Gray, a Professor of History, became the first female president of the university. Gray was also the first woman to serve as president of a major research institution in the United States.
The school continues to evolve today, building new infrastructure and, thanks to an anonymous donation, the school hopes to increase financial aid opportunities and move toward eliminating student loans completely.
The University of Chicago’s campus is located in the Hyde Park district of Chicago, seven miles from downtown. It is split down the middle by Midway Plaisance, a large linear field where students play sports and study when the weather permits. Midway was created for the World’s Fair in 1893.
North of the Midway are the quadrangles, the center of campus where the oldest buildings are located. The Main Quad is in the center of this area, an open space framed by neo-gothic limestone buildings that many students cross on their way to and from class. Harper Quad is adjacent to Main Quad to the south, and is anchored by Harper Memorial Library. To the west is Cobb Hall, the oldest building on campus where many classes are still held today, and to the east is the Social Sciences Quad, which houses the first Department of Sociology in the world among other departments of the discipline. The Reynolds Club, Chicago’s student union is on the other side of the Main Quad. Mandel Hall, inside Reynolds, is the largest auditorium on campus.
The Regenstein Library is the largest on campus and is located north of the quadrangles. The Botany Pond is quite close to Regenstein, and is a favored hangout in warm weather. Bartlett Commons, the main dining hall, is also close by. The athletic fields and Ratner Athletics Center are further north and west from the center of campus.
Hallowed Grounds is a ‘hipster’ coffee shop located on the 2nd floor of the student union, with baristas that display their unique tastes in music while serving up tasty espresso drinks, vegan treats ranging from huge double chocolate chunk cookies to molasses tea cakes, and meals from Hyde Park restaurants that can be heated up in the microwave. It's a very popular hangout spot on weekday nights when friends show up expecting to see the regulars, play pool, collaborate on math problems, and discuss philosophy over coffee. When it's cold outside, there is always a fire lit in the shop, making the room even cozier with the couches and comfy chairs. Many weekends, chess players from around the area gather for extended games late into the night and every once in awhile the shop hosts live bands as well as open-mic night.
The Pub is for 21+ UChicago students only. It is located in the basement of Ida Noyes Hall, an old building used for office space as well as fancy events. They offer a variety of beer and liquor as well as regular bar food like burgers, fries, and wings. It's a popular way to decompress after a long day of classes and exams, with pool tables and fun music; the Pub is especially appealing, however, for its convenient location on campus, which means no transportation concerns or cover charges. If you’re lucky you might even run into a professor or TA that you know!
The C-Shop is located in the student union and is actually an Einstein's bagel shop where students are able to use their meal plan. Since there are always awkward periods of time in between classes that aren't quite long enough to return to the dorm or hunker down in the library, the C-Shop is a convenient place to hang out and do last-minute reading or grab a latté before your next lecture. During evening hours the C-Shop often hosts office hours with teaching assistants, student study groups, and conversation sessions with language teachers. Every Wednesday, they sell milkshakes for one dollar, causing very long lines to form!
The Cobb is another gathering spot, located in the basement of a classroom building. This shop carries drip coffee, food from local restaurants, and a lot of candy that people stop and grab before class. Many true music aficionados work behind the counter there and take advantage of the record player to put on whatever eclectic music they want.
The A-level is the basement of the Regenstein library and surprisingly (or not surprisingly considering this is the University of Chicago we're talking about), it is one of the most social places on campus. After five o'clock the A-level is packed with study groups as well as friends who ‘study’ together, often making a lot of noise. Walking down there to see if any friends are around before delving into your work for the night is a good way to feel social because there is always bound to be somebody you know. It is also a great way to collaborate on homework since it is one of the only places in the library that permits talking, and since most of a students' time at the University of Chicago is spent doing homework, it makes sense that lots of people hang out there.
Located in the Reynolds Club, which is the student activities center, Hutch Commons is for students to hang out, study, socialize, eat, hold meetings, and host events. This space may be the most well-known spot for just ‘hanging out’ on campus. Also in the Reynolds Club, the McCormick-Tribune Lounge is used for hanging out, studying, eating, and hosting events as well. Usually this space is quieter than Hutch, and the couches give it a relaxed feel. The lounge is often used by students who want to study in a quiet surrounding, but are avoiding the library at all costs.
Located at 5710 S. Woodlawn, the newly created space for the staff from the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, and all other students, is brand-new and has become the hot spot on campus for doing homework, holding meetings, hosting events, and just relaxing.
Bartlett Quad is extremely popular on warm days, which seem not to come often enough even during spring quarter! You will see students sleeping, eating, reading, and doing any other thing they want when the sun decides to come out and play.
U Chicago and the city of Chicago have a very strong relationship. Chicago offers jobs, internships, and volunteer opportunities to students, as well as a range of athletic and cultural activities. On the other hand, UChicago produces some of the best theatre, film, and music events in the city, and it employs some of Chicago’s most prominent thinkers and active Samaritans.
The university is located in the Hyde Park district of Chicago, seven miles from downtown, on the South Side of the city. The surrounding area, particularly south of 61st street, has seen problems with crime, however downtown and the North Side are significantly safer, and offer much of the cultural attractions that draw students off campus on the weekends.
To the west of campus is Washington Park, and to its east is Jackson Park and Lake Michigan, along which many students run and some student housing is located. CTA Buses and the slightly more expensive Metra Trains run frequently between U Chicago’s campus and Downtown.
When students want to get off campus to find another place to study, the conveniently located Starbucks on 55th and Woodlawn is often their first choice.
For off-campus socializing that is still close to home base, the local Noon Hookah Lounge on 55th and Cornell is a great place for hanging out on weeknights or on the weekend. If you’re not a smoker, other attractions include a coffee and tea bar, sandwiches, and free Internet access.
Seven-Ten Lanes on 55th and Ellis is conveniently located, with bowling lanes, billiards, and arcades, making this a great spot for students to take a break from studying and grab a bite to eat.
Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap, on 55th and Woodlawn, is somewhat of a landmark for the University of Chicago, with a large beer selection for the 21-plus customers, and delicious burgers and fries for everyone else.
Finally, the Checkerboard Lounge is a famous South Side Chicago blues club. Every Monday night, Checkerboard holds an open-mic/poetry night for ages 18 and over. However, it is usually reserved for the 21+ crowd.”
“The Istria Cafe is the most European cafe around, with ten flavors of gelato and strong espresso. It has an urban feel since it is located beneath the Metra track, but the train doesn't take away from the uniqueness of the place. It is a small shop with a limited amount of seating, especially when it is too cold to sit outside, but the little dark chocolate discs they place on your spoon with a coffee drink makes it worth the risk of not getting a seat. Indie music plays softly in the background, creating just the atmosphere for studying or meeting a friend for coffee and biscotti.
The Point is a lovely spot on the lake where you can see the Chicago skyline. It's a great view and students enjoy packing picnics, throwing Frisbees around, reading books, and chatting there when the weather warms up. About a 15-20 minute walk from campus, it's not too far and is also a great spot to pause during a run or bike ride along the Lakeshore path.
The Medici Restaurant is always a great place to go when nobody can agree on what to eat, because they have a vast variety of choices ranging from Moroccan ragout to broccoli pizza to quesadillas. Breakfast consists of all-you-can-squeeze orange juice, sweet potato pancakes, fancy egg dishes and all kinds of pastry baked next door at the bakery. They also have the most interesting array of beverages, including Mexican hot chocolate, Himbeersaft (a raspberry sherbet float), and phenomenal shakes and malts. Besides the food, two other things draw students in during all hours of the day. First, the atmosphere is friendly, casual and inviting, with cool paintings on the walls and the invitation to graffiti your name anywhere in the restaurant. Second, the place is BYOB so students like to bring a bottle of wine to share amongst friends without getting carded!
When students go off-campus though, they often leave Hyde Park altogether. There are several buses that go right downtown and the Red Line goes through White Sox field, Chinatown, the Loop, Lincoln Park, Loyola University, and can also be taken to connect to any other El lines. It is unfortunate that the University of Chicago has not yet adopted a UPass, which allows for unlimited CTA use. Although most other colleges in Chicago have this resource, the lack of a UPass often discourages students from leaving Hyde Park because using buses, trains, taxis, and subways gets expensive.
Regardless, there is plenty to do in Chicago including concerts, restaurants, comedy clubs, museums, galleries, fun shops, funky cafes, bars and clubs, parks, movie theaters, musicals, operas, and more! It is definitely important to go into the city because there are so many different areas to explore and fun activities to experience.
The University of Chicago has a rich history with many interesting traditions adopted by students over the years.
One unofficial campus tradition involves our school’s seal that is located in the Reynolds Club, which is the student activities center. Legend has it that if a student steps on the seal, he or she will not graduate in four years. Now, since it is hard enough to compete and do well in this school as it is, students take this warning very seriously. Though they may say they are not superstitious, on any given day in the Reynolds Club you can see students tip-toeing around the seal so that they won’t step on it. More defiant students walk, hop, and jump across it. We’ll see if they make it out on time!
Another unofficial campus tradition involves a whole bunch of nakedness. During finals week, the co-ed track team runs through the libraries and around the whole campus--during warmer months--for everyone to see! Not only are they naked, but they are usually yelling, or at least the crowd is. We all have a little fun with that one!
Another unofficial campus tradition, which may not seem like a big deal on other campuses, is for almost everyone to lay out in the sun, even when there is the smallest hint of sun. Since it is so cold and windy in Chicago, as soon as the day looks a little brighter, it’s off with the coats and winter boots and out with t-shirts and flip-flops. Unfortunately, with Chicago weather, you never know what to expect and it can be sunny at 12 and raining by 2. Still, students cherish those two hours of non-freezing weather!
Andrew M. Alper (1980) is the president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation.
David Auburn (1991) is a playwright and recipient of a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for Proof.
Leon Botstein (1967) is the president of Bard College and music director of the American Symphony and Jerusalem Symphony Orchestras.
David Broder (1951) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning political columnist at the Washington Post.
Milton Friedman (1933) was a famous economist who won the Nobel Prize in 1976.
Philip Glass (1956) is an American composer of classical music who has been nominated three times for Best Original Score at the Academy Awards.
Edwin Hubble (1910) was an Astronomer who found the first evidence for the big bang theory. The Hubble Telescope is named after him.
John Podhoretz (1982) is a conservative commentator and political author. Podhoretz will become editor of Commentary magazine in January 2009.
John Paul Stevens (1941) is a United States Supreme Court Justice. Appointed in 1975, Stevens is currently the most senior and longest-serving member of the Court.
James Dewey Watson (1947) is a Nobel Prize-winning Biologist who discovered the structure of DNA and launched the Human Genome Project.
The University of Chicago competes in NCAA Division III sports and the Maroons are founding members of the University Athletic Association.
Men’s varsity sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, football, soccer, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, and wrestling. Women’s varsity sports include basketball, cross country, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, and volleyball. The swimming and track teams have performed excellently in the past, with the women’s swim team finishing fifth in the 2008 UAA championships, and women’s track finishing seventh.
Additionally, intramurals and club teams draw more than 5,500 students, with a variety of activities to choose from.
Eighty-one Nobel Prize winners have been faculty members, students, or researchers at UChicago.
Fifteen current faculty members are recipients of the MacArthur Foundation "genius grants."
The University of Chicago Press is the largest college press in the country. In addition, the Seminary Co-op bookstore contains the biggest selection of academic volumes in the United States.
Frederick Law Olmsted's Midway Plaisance, the linear park that bisects campus, was created for the 1893 World's Fair.
Scientists achieved the world's first self-sustained nuclear reaction at Stagg Field under the direction of professor Enrico Fermi, on December 2, 1942.
In 1949, Willard Frank Libby and his team developed the technique of carbon-14 dating at the university.
UChicago claims to be the birthplace of improvisational comedy, with the formation of the undergraduate comedy troupe the Compass Players in 1955. In 1959, alumnus Paul Sills, a father-figure of improv, founded The Second City along with Bernard Sahlins, another graduate.
The University of Chicago's economics department is so well-known that an entire school of economic thought bears its name—the Chicago School of Economics.
UChicago is ranked first among colleges with fewer than 5,000 students for sending students to the Peace Corps.
Doc Films, founded in 1932, is the oldest student film society in the country.
The University of Chicago’s undergraduate housing is organized through the University House System. There are ten residence halls that contain 38 houses. The program is intended to help undergraduates acclimate to the large university environment by providing them with a level of familiarity more often associated with small colleges.
The house you are in your first year will often dictate your group of friends for at least that year because the entire orientation week (O-Week) is spent with that same group of people. The dining halls promote the same social circles as well, by hosting house tables that students are required to sit at. This is helpful during the first few weeks of school in aiding the transition, because it provides you with an automatic place to eat when you still don’t know anyone. Out of the ten halls on campus, there are four big ones: Max Palevsky Residential Commons, Pierce Tower, Burton-Judson Courts, and Shoreland Hall.
The biggest and newest dorm on campus is Max Palevsky, which consists of three buildings with about 240 students each that are all connected through an underground tunnel. Sticking out like a sore thumb amongst the neo-Gothic buildings that are characteristic of the University of Chicago, Palevsky is the strangest addition yet to the more modern structures on campus. As for its location, Max Palevsky sits on a prime spot that is extremely close to the Regenstein library, the dining hall, the gym, and the student union, and less than five minutes from the main quads where classes are held. Rooms are organized into suites in which four students share a bathroom, shower, two bedrooms, and a small entryway, although there are a few single suites for upperclassmen.
The next biggest dorm is the Shoreland, with 690 residents, though it is planned to close down as soon as 2009 due to a new dorm being built. Originally a luxury hotel where Al Capone allegedly used to stay, the 14-story building is located right by Lake Michigan, offering a lovely view from the rooms that face east. A variety of spacious room types, including singles, doubles, triples, and apartments with kitchens, are available at the Shoreland, making it appealing for freshmen and upperclassmen alike. Although it is about a 20-minute walk to campus, there is a bus service that provides frequent rides to and from the dorm; many residents will say living there is worth the distance, due to the independent feel of apartment-like living and the camaraderie built between students at ‘Shorey.’
Burton-Judson (aka B-J) is a beautiful building connected to two nice courtyards and a dining hall. Students that live in B-J have to make the dreaded trek across the Midway Plaisance, where the Chicago World’s Fair was held, in order to get to class every day. Generally it is only aggravating during the winter months, which tend to last forever in Chicago. Consisting mostly of single rooms, B-J has a community bathroom on each floor as well as a lounge for each house. The Law Library on 60th Street is nearby for studying, and during the winter, the dorm is very close to the ice skating rink on the Midway.
On the opposite side of campus, at 55th Street, Pierce Tower hosts 250 students in a ten-story brick building. Pierce has been deemed a ‘social dorm’ where residents always keep their bedroom doors open, welcoming friends and whoever else to hang out. They have their own dining hall, snack bar, game room, and a large house lounge. Students live in double rooms with large windows and enjoy a very close-knit dorm community.