Our History

Students in the Normal Department made up nearly 40 percent of the university’s enrollment during its first six years.Peabody Hall in the 1940s looks remarkably similar to the building today. The restoration project in 2011 removed layers of white paint, some of which had been on the building for more than 60 years.Children attending the elementary school in Peabody Hall dress in international costumes for a school event in 1960.U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright  of Arkansas attended the training school in Peabody Hall from kindergarten through 12th grade.A local newspaper story describes the graduation of the first students in the Associate Degree Nursing program at the University of Arkansas in 1972.The college changed its name from College of Education to College of Education and Health Professions in 1997 to more accurately reflect the broad array and full diversity of its academic and professional programs.

College of Education and Health Professions Marks Milestones 

Teacher education has been integral to the University of Arkansas since its founding in 1871. It began in what was called the Normal Department, a phrase included in the legislation creating the university. The term “normal” was used commonly in the 19th century to refer to the imparting of norms of exemplary teaching, and so to pedagogical training or to an institution devoted to teacher preparation.

This was according to a history called Yesterday and Today that Christopher Lucas, a professor of higher education, wrote about the College of Education and Health Professions at the U of A.

 Reflections of Former Deans

Yesterday and Today
Section 1, pages 1-18
Section 2, pages 19-36
Section 3, pages 37-54
Section 4, pages 55-72

“The normal feature of the university will be the first to bear fruit,” predicted Trustee Albert W. Bishop in the 1872 commencement address. “With experienced teachers secured, the material to work upon here, and the necessary appliances for instruction obtained, the friends of this institution are very much encouraged by what they see has already been accomplished.”

He believed the state’s emerging public school system had begun to create a “new order of things in society” and the urgent need now was for an armory in which to forge classroom teachers, Lucas wrote.

In 2017, the college celebrates several anniversaries. Twenty years ago, the name was changed from College of Education to better reflect the diversity of programs offered. It is also the 20th year since the Master of Arts in Teaching graduated its first students and the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing was dedicated. The nursing school had been added to the college as a department 10 years earlier, in 1987.

Going 100 years back, in 1917, the U of A Board of Trustees approved a request by faculty to create a college of education from what was then a school of education.

Another important part of the college’s history was the training school operated in Peabody Hall that offered both an education to children of the area and an opportunity for practice teaching for the college’s education students. J. William Fulbright was the most famous student enrolled in the training school. He went on to become president of the university and a U.S. senator who established the Fulbright international exchange program. Fulbright attended school in Peabody Hall from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Originally constructed in 1913, Peabody Hall was restored and dedicated in 2011, earning it an award from the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas. Lucas wrote a separate history of the training school, Demonstrating Good Practices: A Brief Historical Profile of the University Training School and its Predecessors.

Degrees in the health-related fields were added to the college over the years. In the 1940s, the college was reorganized into three divisions: Vocational Teacher Education; Health, Physical Education and Recreation; and General Education. A master’s degree in physical education was introduced in 1948.

Other highlights in the history of the College of Education and Health Professions:

  • Ten normal students graduated with teaching diplomas in 1875, the first class for which commencement exercises were held in the university’s new building, later known as Old Main.
  • The Bachelor of Science in Education was authorized in 1914.
  • The first four-year degrees were awarded to five students in 1916, the same year the Master of Science in Education was established.
  • The M.S.E. was replaced by the Master of Education in 1948.
  • In the 1957-58 school year, the training school enrollment was 265 students while the total undergraduate and graduate enrollment of the college was 624 students.
  • University High School closed in 1961 because of cost and a shortage of space. The elementary school closed in 1966 but the college continued to operate a kindergarten until the 1980s.
  • The college received full accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education in the 1960s.
  • An M.Ed. with an emphasis in health education was offered for the first time in 1963-64.
  • The Graduate Education Building was built in 1969. Lucas wrote that a faculty planning committee decided against windows for classrooms and most of the offices “to the chagrin and dismay of the building’s staff and faculty ever afterwards.”
  • The college began offering courses electronically through distance education to remote sites off-campus in the 1993-94 school year.

In the 2016-17 academic year, the college enrolled 4,132 undergraduate students and 1,368 graduate students for a total of 5,500 students. It has the most graduate students of U of A academic colleges. Some of the university’s most popular majors, by enrollment, are in the college, including nursing and kinesiology. Nursing and pre-nursing reported 1,562 students in the fall, and kinesiology reported 937 students.