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History of the University

Photo - Horace Mann
Horace Mann, America’s father of public education

The spirit, vision and leadership of Horace Mann, America’s father of public education and its strongest advocate, lives on more than 180 years after Bridgewater State University first opened its doors for the purpose of training teachers. His belief, not only in the importance of public education, but also in standardizing – or normalizing – the training of teachers, led to the establishment of normal schools. In 1840, Bridgewater became the third such school in the commonwealth and, along with its sister institutions, developed a comprehensive approach to teacher training that became a model emulated throughout the country and across the globe.

Bridgewater Normal School grew as the educational needs of society evolved. Not only were more and better-qualified teachers essential to a healthy and prosperous citizenry, but also the demand for a college-level liberal arts curriculum required that the Massachusetts General Court expand course offerings at the normal schools and establish public institutions of higher education.

Today, Bridgewater State University is the comprehensive university of Southeastern Massachusetts and the third largest public university – 10th largest overall, public or private – in the commonwealth. With an enrollment of approximately 11,000 students, Bridgewater State University provides a wide range of academic programs and innovative learning experiences inside and outside the classroom. The university grants approximately 2,500 degrees and certificates each year.

The University’s academic programs (36 undergraduate majors and 80 graduate programs) are housed and administered through its six colleges: the College of Education and Health Sciences; the College of Graduate Studies; the College of Humanities and Social Sciences; the Louis M. Ricciardi College of Business; the Bartlett College of Science and Mathematics; and the College of Continuing Studies.

Despite the transformation of the campus over the past two decades and growth in student population, Bridgewater State University remains committed to small class sizes and extraordinary teaching and mentoring by a world-class faculty. Bridgewater affords students of all ages and backgrounds access to a variety of opportunities for learning and personal growth such as undergraduate research (which is ranked among the top programs nationally by the Council on Undergraduate Research), study abroad, service learning, internships and participation in an array of social justice initiatives.

Bridgewater’s commitment to student success has earned national recognition (ranked ninth in the nation by The Education Trust for simultaneously closing achievement gaps while improving graduation and retention rates for all students) as the university enjoys a six-year graduation rate close to 60 percent, well above the national average for its mission class, and a freshman-sophomore retention rate of nearly 80 percent.

These impressive numbers don’t end there. Bridgewater graduate students historically have had among the highest first-time CPA exam pass rates of any university in Massachusetts. The university has twice been named an Apple College of Distinction award winner across the U.S. for its iPad initiative in the College of Education and Allied Studies. All the while, Bridgewater continues to be one of the most prolific producers of new preK-12 teachers in the commonwealth and readies more science and mathematics teachers annually than any institution in Massachusetts.

Each year, 500 students participate in paid internships offered by the university in collaboration with the Bridgewater State University Foundation; the campus community provides nearly $1 million in volunteer service to the region; and more than 750 students participate in the university’s research symposium as well as many national and regional research conferences.

Bridgewater State University’s tradition of providing opportunity – to learn by doing, to serving the world and the region, to teaching and learning, to discovering career paths, and dedication to making dreams a reality – have created the thriving, dynamic institution we see today.