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1900s

There were 90 students enrolled in the Graduate Department of Literature, Science and Arts at the opening of the twentieth century. On the face of it this seems to indicate little interest in research on campus. Yet this is misleading. Remember that research and post-graduate studies were carried out in all the schools on campus though only one school had a formal department for graduate education. Administrative struggles on campus for control of graduate studies, and an increasing gap between the number of students who wanted to continue on with their studies and the availability of faculty and funds to make this possible, served to constrain the expansion of graduate education at U-M.

Surgery and anatomy class, ca. 1900

Surgery and anatomy class, ca. 1900

Interior of the Chemical Laboratory, ca. 1900

Interior of the Chemical Laboratory, ca. 1900

Laying the cornerstone of Alumni Memorial Hall, 1908

Laying the cornerstone of Alumni Memorial Hall, 1908. The building was to house the University's growing art collections which at the time were housed in the Library.

The rapidly growing interest in and importance of research were signaled in other ways. The Society for the Promotion of Research at the University of Michigan, later known as the Research Club, was established in 1900. The goals were to form a separate graduate institution for the entire university not just one Department, and to promote scholarship based on sound research as the requirement for promotion of faculty. The Junior Research Club was formed in 1902. Sadly, both organizations refused to admit women. The Women’s Research Club was established later that same year as there were female researchers throughout the university, particularly in the Medical Department.

In 1901 the Regents were presented with a plan for creating a separate graduate department or division that would represent the university as a whole—in recognition that graduate work is of crucial interest to the entire university. The proposal was centered on a nine member council that would in turn elect a dean of graduate studies. This was rejected by the Regents, and rejected twice more in the course of the decade. The disputes delaying the formal establishment of a graduate department at U-M were not based on the value accorded to research or to educational theories. Only the Department of Literature, Science and Arts had created a Graduate Department, but the Departments of Engineering, Law, and Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy all had students engaged in post-baccalaureate studies. Faculty in Literature, Science and Arts did not want to relinquish their institutional hold on graduate education and they influenced the U-M community.

Yet by 1907 their Graduate Council was too cumbersome with 55 members, so they created an Administrative Council for graduate studies. Eleven members of the LSA faculty were appointed by the President for staggered terms in an effort to make administration more manageable. Even so, the very next year President Angell appeared before the Board of Regents to emphasize the expanding presence of graduate work at the University and warn that U-M would soon lag behind other universities if the Regents didn’t address the need for a university-wide graduate department.

The recognition of the imperative to provide funding for graduate studies grew at the same time. For example, although for many years Isaac Demmon, the head of the Department of English, had argued vigorously against using fellowships to support graduate students, during his chairmanship of the Graduate Council at the close of the decade he radically changed course. With the support of other faculty he convinced the Board of Regents to designate a substantial portion of the general fund to be used for fellowships. There was a growing trend, too, for the provision of gift funds for the support of fellowship from both individuals and also from corporations such as U.S. Rubber Company.

Last updated: December 6, 2016 - 11:14am