The idea for Hampshire originated in 1958 when the presidents of Amherst, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges, as well as the University of Massachusetts Amherst, appointed a committee to reexamine the assumptions and practices of liberal arts education.
Their report, “The New College Plan,” advocated many of the features that have since been realized in the Hampshire curriculum: emphasis on each student’s curiosity and motivation; broad, multidisciplinary learning; and close mentoring relationships with teachers.
In 1965, Amherst College alumnus Harold F. Johnson donated $6 million toward the founding of Hampshire College.
With a matching grant from the Ford Foundation, Hampshire’s first trustees purchased 800 acres of orchard and farmland in South Amherst, Massachusetts, and construction began. Hampshire admitted its first students in 1970.
Education at Hampshire College prepares students to understand and participate responsibly in a complex world. Through its actions and policies, the college sets an example of the responsible and creative behavior it expects of its students.
As a liberal arts college, Hampshire helps students develop confidence in their intellect, creativity, and values. It encourages their desire to be lifelong learners and their capacity to advance the cause of social justice and the well-being of others.
The college fosters these attitudes through a multidisciplinary, multicultural curriculum; self-initiated, individual programs of study negotiated with faculty mentors; students' active participation in original research; and the diverse communities, on campus and off, in which learning takes place. Within the college's residential community, students encounter and learn to respect difference and appreciate diversity, thereby enhancing their capacity to live together well.
Through commitment to testing and evaluating new ideas and new approaches to learning, national efforts to promote inquiry-based learning and teaching, and constructive civic and social engagement, Hampshire's actions serve as models for those of its students.
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