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“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
—Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854)
“Evidence for the failure of higher education is all around us,” wrote Harold L. “Bud” Hodgkinson in a 1969 issue of the journal Soundings. “Many of our brightest students are telling us that higher education is insulating them from reality rather than assisting them to peel off its infinite layers.” Though more a critique of the academy than a blueprint for a new institution, “Walden U.: A Working Paper” helped inspire the university that bears the name made famous by Henry David Thoreau.
As Hodgkinson was writing about the need for change in higher education, two New York teachers, Bernie and Rita Turner, fresh from graduate work at the New School for Social Research, were becoming interested in effecting social change by developing a new kind of institution for higher education: one that focused on significant problems affecting society from the vantage point of the professional and one that permitted professionals the opportunity to continue working while earning a degree. Thus, Walden University was born.
Walden began by offering a Doctor of Education (EdD) degree focused on dissertation research for midcareer professionals who had postponed finishing their doctoral degrees. Conferring its first degree in 1971 and implementing a formal curriculum in 1977, Walden provided learner-centered programs to professionals in education, business, and government who pursued doctoral degrees in related disciplines, including health and human services. In 1982, Walden’s academic office moved from Bonita Springs, FL, to Minneapolis, MN, in an effort to gain accreditation in a region that nurtures innovative education. The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools granted Walden University full regional accreditation status in 1990.
After more than 20 years with the university, satisfied that it was well-established, the Turners decided it was time to move on. Don Ackerman, a partner in a venture capital firm in Florida, became the university’s owner and chairman of the board in 1992. It was at this time that today’s Walden began to emerge as an online university with curricula that emphasized a scholar-practitioner philosophy: applying theoretical and empirical knowledge to professional practice with the goal of improving organizations, educational institutions, and whole communities.
To further advance access to higher education, in 1995, Walden offered its first master’s degree, the Master of Science in Educational Change and Technology Innovation. The web-based PhD in Psychology program was introduced in 1997, and after a rigorous 2-year self-study process, the North Central Association reaccredited the university for 7 years in 1998.
In February 2002, following the transfer of majority interest in Walden University from Ackerman to Sylvan Ventures, the university began changing from a graduate institution to a comprehensive university, offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. In 2004, Ackerman sold his remaining interest in Walden to Laureate Education, Inc. (formerly Sylvan Learning Systems, Inc.).
In January 2005, Walden University merged with National Technological University, an online engineering graduate school also owned by Laureate Education, Inc., providing the university reach into another major profession in need of access to high-quality education. With this change in ownership, the university has made significant improvements in its infrastructure, its faculty, and its student services. Walden was reaccredited by the North Central Association for another 7 years in 2005. The university’s curriculum for the master’s program in nursing was accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education in 2006.
Each year, the university continues to expand its offerings, with new programs recently added in education, psychology, healthcare, public administration, and management. In 2008, Walden named its College of Education in honor of Richard W. Riley (the former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education) and launched teacher preparation and special education endorsement programs.
To support its mission to increase access to higher education for working adults, in 2008 Walden launched full bachelor’s programs in such areas as business administration, child development, and psychology. Walden also created a third online peer-reviewed journal: the Journal of Social, Behavioral, and Health Sciences. Similar to Walden’s other two journals, the Journal of Social Change and the International Journal of Applied Management and Technology, this journal promotes research findings and encourages dialogue between scholars and practitioners.
In 2009, Walden’s MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling received accreditation by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Walden also introduced additional technology to better address the needs of its students. Services include a fully digital library, a Career Services Center with practical online tools, Virtual Field Experiences (VFE®), and MobileLearn®, which enables students to download course content for use on mobile devices.
In 2010, Walden celebrated its 40th anniversary. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) granted accreditation to Walden’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Completion Program for 5 years and reaccredited the Master of Science in Nursing program for 10 more years. Also in that year, Walden awarded Nelson Mandela an honorary doctorate degree.
The PhD in Management, Master of Business Administration (MBA), and BS in Business Administration programs were accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) in 2011. That same year, President Bill Clinton addressed more than 4,700 graduates from 39 countries at Walden’s 46th Commencement Ceremony, saluting their commitment to higher education while urging them to turn good intentions into positive change.
In 2012, Cynthia G. Baum, PhD, was named the ninth president of Walden after serving as vice president of the College of Health Sciences and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and, more recently, as executive vice president of Walden. The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership received accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), which was considered a significant milestone in Walden’s more than 40-year history of educating educators. Continuing the commitment to high-quality education, the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) program was accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).
The year 2013 was significant for several reasons: The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) reaffirmed Walden University’s accreditation for 10 years, the maximum period of time granted. The next reaffirmation of accreditation is scheduled for 2022–2023. Walden also marked a milestone as it celebrated its 50th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, at the Minneapolis Convention Center, with more than 600 graduates and 2,800 guests. The newest alumni are part of a graduating class of nearly 6,000 students representing 50 U.S. states and 65 countries who have completed their bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, or education specialist degree programs at Walden during the past 6 months. Also, Walden University’s dedicated day of service to others—a tradition of carrying out its mission of positive social change—became Global Days of Service, a week-long international event.
Additionally, the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, in its first year of eligibility, received professional accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), and the BS in Information Technology program was accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission (CAC) of ABET.
In July 2014, Walden celebrated its 52nd Commencement with its largest graduating class in attendance. Dr. Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state, addressed more than 1,100 graduates and 5,500 guests, faculty, administration, and staff. Rice received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa degree, from Walden. The newest alumni included the first graduates from the Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) program and were part of a graduating class of nearly 5,500 students representing all 50 U.S. states and more than 70 countries.
The PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision and MS in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling programs were accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). These programs joined the university’s already accredited MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program, making Walden one of the few institutions that offers these CACREP-accredited counseling programs online.
2015 marks Walden’s 45th anniversary. Jonathan Kaplan became Walden’s president, and the university continued its trend of forward-thinking education by introducing Tempo Learning®, a self-paced, competency-based education experience. Walden’s first program to utilize this format is the MS in Early Childhood Studies.
In 2016, Walden University’s School of Social Work and Human Services was officially renamed the Barbara Solomon School of Social Work and Human Services to honor Dr. Barbara Solomon for her contributions as a social work professional and scholar throughout her 50-year career. Dr. Solomon’s research and work have focused on improving social and mental health care services for underrepresented populations. As a board member, she has been an integral advisor for Walden’s social work and human services programs.
This year, Walden University achieved another milestone when our Master of Social Work (MSW) program achieved accreditation by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)–making Walden the first fully online institution to offer a CSWE-accredited MSW program. Graduating from a CSWE-accredited program is required for licensure in most states and helps our MSW graduates advance in their field.
2016 was also a pivotal year for Walden’s undergraduate students. The College of Undergraduate Studies became the Center for General Education (CGE). This shift allows students to focus more intensely on their particular discipline while enabling our educators and administrators to develop exemplary general education courses.
Today, the university’s academic programs are organized under the following academic units:
|Walden University’s Academic Structure
The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership
- School of Education and Professional Licensure
- School of Higher Education, Leadership, and Policy
College of Health Sciences
- School of Health Sciences
- School of Nursing
College of Management and Technology
- School of Information Systems and Technology
- School of Management
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
- School of Counseling
- School of Psychology
- School of Public Policy and Administration
- Barbara Solomon School of Social Work and Human Services
Walden’s academic offices are located in Minneapolis. The administrative offices are headquartered in Baltimore.