College of Arts and Sciences

Front view of Mather House, one of the main homes of Arts and Sciences faculty and programs

Case Western Reserve University's College of Arts and Sciences combines a history of educational excellence with a commitment to innovation and discovery. Building on a 195-year-old tradition, the college traces its origins to several predecessor institutions, including Adelbert College, Flora Stone Mather College, Cleveland College, Western Reserve College, and Case Institute of Technology.

Today, the college offers educational and research programs in the arts and humanities, mathematics and natural sciences, and social sciences. It comprises 21 academic departments and 35 interdisciplinary programs and centers.

Brief History

Western Reserve College, the earliest of our predecessor institutions, was founded in 1826 in Hudson, Ohio, about 26 miles southwest of Cleveland. In 1882 the college moved to Cleveland, where it formed the basis for Western Reserve University. The institution expanded to include several professional and graduate schools in addition to its liberal arts programs. It also served as a magnet for other artistic, cultural, educational, medical, and scientific organizations, now its neighbors in the extraordinary setting known as University Circle.

Central to the heritage of the college are the traditions of the programs that preceded it: Adelbert College, as the men’s undergraduate unit of Western Reserve University was known after the move to Cleveland; Flora Stone Mather College, initially founded in 1888 as the Cleveland College for Women; and Cleveland College, founded in 1925 in downtown Cleveland to serve part-time and adult students. These three units, each with a distinguished history of scholarship and achievement, were brought together in 1972 under the revived name of Western Reserve College. The college took its present form in 1992 when undergraduate and graduate programs and research in the arts, humanities, and social sciences were united with those in the physical sciences to form the College of Arts and Sciences.

Since the early 19th century, the college and its predecessors have participated in important developments in higher education. Examples include:

Engagement in issues of social justice. Western Reserve College’s early years in Hudson saw debates between two groups, each opposing slavery. Colonizationists believed that liberated slaves should be resettled in Africa; abolitionists did not favor such a policy. After long and bitter conflict, supporters of the abolitionist movement carried the day.

Emergence of science. The college in Hudson was home to early and distinguished programs in astronomy and mathematics. Later, in 1887, Professor Edward Morley collaborated with Professor Albert Michelson of the Case School of Applied Science in a series of experiments that remain among the most significant in the history of physics.

Education of women. In the 1850s, the college’s Cleveland-based Department of Medicine awarded six of the first seven medical degrees granted to women in this country. The founding of the College for Women in 1888 was only the second instance of a separate “coordinate” college for women at a major university.

Demographic and technological change. Following World War II, enrollment in Cleveland College swelled with returning veterans. During this period, the introduction of new technologies and fields of study drove increasing demand for advanced education and research in a wide range of disciplines.

Undergraduate Programs

Undergraduates in the college can choose a major or minor from almost 60 programs, design their own courses of study, or enroll in integrated bachelor’s/master’s degree programs. The university offers great flexibility to students wishing to pursue double majors in disparate fields, such as physics and studio art. In addition, students from all fields are eligible to participate in the college’s vibrant performing arts programs, including music and dance ensembles.

Beyond their course work, students are encouraged to conduct independent research within the college, in other units of the university, or in the scientific and cultural institutions of University Circle. They also have opportunities to engage in service learning projects and internships in research institutions, businesses, cultural institutions, and governmental agencies. With funding from the college’s Experiential Learning Fellowship programs, undergraduates may design and carry out ambitious research projects in Cleveland or across the globe.

Graduate Programs

The college’s graduate offerings include doctoral programs in 19 fields and several distinctive master's programs. Through a partnership with Cleveland Play House, the Department of Theater has created one of the world’s preeminent Master of Fine Arts programs in acting. The Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Program (STEP) offers a three- or four-semester sequence of courses leading to a Master of Science degree in biotechnology, chemistry, or physics.