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1910s

Thirty-two departments at U-M were offering graduate instruction by 1910 and there was an increasing demand for a new institution dedicated to graduate studies that would appropriately serve the interests of the university as a whole. This resulted in 1911 in the formation of a committee to study the issues which was chaired by the University President and consisted of three Regents, two deans, and two distinguished faculty members. Once again, the outcome was a recommendation to the Board of Regents that they authorize the establishment of a separate institution to administer graduate education at U-M. The Regents finally approved this in December.

University Hall ca. 1906

University Hall ca. 1906

The Graduate Department began operations in 1912, working out of offices in University Hall. There were 326 graduate students enrolled including 95 women. The administration consisted of an Executive Board comprised of the President of the University, Dean of the Graduate Department and seven faculty members drawn from across the university’s Departments serving what would be staggered terms of seven years. Karl E. Guthe, Professor of Physics, was appointed as the first Dean.

From the outset the Graduate Department was designed to be independent of special interests among the faculty, Regents or any other group at U-M. The new Graduate Department was expected to have access to all the resources of the university including faculty. This independence was reinforced by the fact that its funding did not flow from the other Departments at U-M, but came from general appropriations.

Academic procession, 1912

Academic procession, 1912

At the same time that the Regents formally established the new Graduate Department, they recognized the need for significant funding for students; not all could afford the cost of advanced study and research. Because appropriations for ten new University fellowships occurred very late in 1910, not all were awarded. Yet the demand was clearly there for all were used the next year and in 1912 the Regents added five more University fellowships and created 10 State College Fellowships. And as the following decades would show, this was only the beginning of U-M’s very significant investment in graduate student study.

What was known as the Graduate Department when established soon became called the Graduate School in 1915 when the Regents decided that the U-M Departments providing what was termed professional education would be called Schools and the Departments granting undergraduate degrees would be known as Colleges.

Campus walkway, 1912

Campus walkway, 1912

The third hallmark of the special nature of the Graduate School seen in these opening years, in addition to its independence of administration and resources to support advanced study, is its role as an incubator unit. That is, from its inception the Graduate School was understood to be the ideal institution at U-M to foster innovative efforts, free from the influence of any particular discipline or administrative unit. For example, in 1913 the Regents placed responsibility for the publications of the university under the aegis of the Graduate School. This was accompanied by a special appropriation for publications put in the hands of the Executive Board. Among the most significant early publications were the faculty bibliographies, compiled and issued annually, that served to promote and encourage research.

Regents 75th Anniversary, 1912

Regents 75th Anniversary, 1912