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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, Florida, to Minneapolis, Minnesota, 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 chair 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 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 (CCNE) in 2006.
Each year, the university continued to expand its offerings, with new programs 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 Mental Health Counseling received accreditation by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). 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 Experience (VFE®), and MobileLearn®, which enables students to download course content for use on mobile devices.
In 2010, Walden celebrated its 40th anniversary. The CCNE granted accreditation to Walden’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Completion Program in its first year of eligibility 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 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, August 17, 2013, at the Minneapolis Convention Center, with more than 600 graduates and 2,800 guests. The newest alumni were part of a graduating class of nearly 6,000 students representing 50 U.S. states and 65 countries who had completed their bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, or education specialist degree programs at Walden during the prior 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 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 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.
The year 2015 marked 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 was 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 healthcare services for underrepresented populations. As a board member, she has been an integral advisor for Walden’s social work and human services programs.
Walden University achieved another milestone when our Master of Social Work (MSW) program earned accreditation from 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.
For Walden’s undergraduate students, 2016 was also a pivotal year. 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.
Walden continued its history of innovation in 2017 by launching a Consulting Capstone project option in its Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), PsyD in Behavioral Health Leadership, and Doctor of Education (EdD) programs, providing students with an alternative to the traditional doctoral study that allows them to gain real-life experience by consulting with nonprofit organizations and small businesses. Walden’s MS in Addiction Counseling and MS in School Counseling programs received accreditation from CACREP. Walden also established the Walden University Center for Social Change, a connective hub promoting, facilitating, and supporting a wide range of social change initiatives from research to direct action. Walden celebrated commencement with former Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski and former NAACP president and CEO Benjamin Jealous as speakers.
In 2018, the university achieved renewal of its Certified B Corporation status. Walden also expanded its Tempo Learning® programs to include a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN) completion program and a BS in Early Childhood Studies non-licensure program.
In 2019, Dr. Ward Ulmer was named the university’s 11th president. He is a graduate of Walden’s PhD program and had been a leader at the university for 7 years. Walden also hired its first vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Walden earned accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). The university’s Master of Public Health program earned accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), and the Bachelor of Social Work program was accredited by CSWE.
In 2020, Walden celebrated its 50th anniversary and continued to empower learners and to promote positive social change—50 Years of Empowering the Greater Good. As part of the anniversary celebration, Walden hosted the Talks for Good series of social change mission-inspired panel discussions focused on educational issues and solutions and involving thought leaders, community members, and Walden faculty, students, and alumni. Walden also partnered with alumni around the United States for special service projects in local communities. Adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic with an abundance of caution and precaution, Walden pivoted from in-person commencement ceremonies to host a virtual graduation celebration in Summer 2020 as well as altering all residencies to virtual experiences. Also in 2020, Walden’s College of Management and Technology (CMT) and School of Management earned a Silver Achievement Award from ACBSP. Walden is the first recipient of this award, which is given to institutions for demonstrating performance excellence and serving as a role model for excellence in higher education.
In 2021, Walden’s Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program received a 10-year accreditation extension through December 31, 2030, from the CCNE. With greater emphasis on undergraduate education, the Center for General Education became the School of Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Studies. In August 2021, ownership of Walden transitioned from Laureate Education to Adtalem Global Education. Walden and Adtalem share a mission of providing access to quality higher education with a focus on service to communities and the underserved. Both are dedicated to education for students of diverse backgrounds and experiences, and together will provide the nation with diverse graduates who have the talent and skills to answer workforce needs and a passion for advancing positive social change.
In 2022, Walden restructured its academic organization to create significant social change by aligning to address healthcare inequities using an accepted framework – the social determinants of health (SDoH). The “Healthy People 2030 (SDoH)” framework developed by the U.S. Health and Human Services gives Walden a powerful way to view how it prepares adult learners to think holistically about how they make a difference. This new organization consists of two distinct but related divisions: Healthcare Access and Quality and Social Supports for Healthy Communities. College names were also updated to better align with the new divisions and some programs were moved to new colleges. Within the division of Healthcare Access and Quality lives the College of Nursing, College of Social and Behavioral Health, and the newly established College of Allied Health. The division of Social Supports for Healthy Communities supports the Richard W. Riley College of Education and Human Sciences, College of Management and Human Potential, College of Psychology and Community Services, College of Health Sciences and Public Policy, and the School of Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Studies.
Healthcare Access and Quality
Social Supports for Healthy Communities
College of Nursing
College of Social and Behavioral Health
School of Counseling
Soloman School of Social Work
College of Allied Health (New in 2022)
Richard W. Riley College of Education and Human Sciences
College of Management and Human Potential
College of Psychology and Community Services
College of Health Sciences and Public Policy
School of Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Studies
Walden’s academic offices are located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The administrative offices are headquartered in Columbia, Maryland.