Shimer College: An Executive Summary[edit | edit source]
Shimer College was a very small and unusual liberal arts college in Chicago (and previously Waukegan or Mount Carroll) with a reputation as one of the best-kept secrets in American higher education. This wiki seeks to tell the story of this remarkable college and its people.
Shimer College classes were exclusively small seminars in which students discussed original source material rather than textbooks. Notable alumni include poets, authors, political theorists, experimental artists, and computing pioneers. As of spring 2011, Shimer enrolled 128 students.
The core curriculum, a sequence of courses in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and integrated studies, made up two thirds of the course work required for a degree. Shimer offered an early entrant program commencing 1950, a Oxford study abroad program in 1963, and a weekend college program for working adults in 1981.
Shimer finally resided on the IIT main campus, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. There, students maintained Shimer College traditions but also participated in IIT student life.
Founded by Frances Wood Shimer in 1853 in the frontier town of Mt. Carroll, Illinois, it was a women's school for most of its first century. It joined with the University of Chicago (U. of C.) in 1896, and became one of the first junior colleges in the country in 1907. In 1950, it became a co-educational four-year college, took the name Shimer College, and adopted the Hutchins Plan of Great Books and Socratic seminars then in practice at the U. of C. The U. of C. relationship ended in 1958. Shimer enjoyed national recognition and strong growth in the 1960s but financial problems arising in the aftermath of the Grotesque Internecine Struggle forced it to abandon its campus in 1978. The college then moved to an improvised campus in the Chicago suburb of Waukegan, remaining there until 2006, when it moved to the Illinois Institute of Technology campus in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood. In 2017, Shimer College became the Shimer Great Books School of North Central College.
Shimer practices democratic self-governance to an extent that is rare among institutions of higher education. Since 1977, the college has been governed internally by faculty, staff, and students working through a structure of committees and an egalitarian deliberative body called the Assembly.