Return to: Introduction
“The scenery of Walden is on a humble scale, and, though very beautiful, does not approach to grandeur, nor can it much concern one who has not long frequented it or lived by its shore; yet this pond is so remarkable for its depth and purity as to merit a particular description.”
—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 (Ed.D.) 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, Fla., to Minneapolis, Minn., 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 Ph.D. 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 M.S. in 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.
Today, the university’s academic programs are organized under the following academic units:
|Walden University’s Academic Structure
|College of Undergraduate Studies
|The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership
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 and Social Service
- School of Psychology
- School of Public Policy and Administration
Walden’s academic offices are located in Minneapolis. The administrative offices are headquartered in Baltimore and provide university support services, including student recruitment, admissions, outreach, finances, and financial aid; new-program and electronic-classroom development; learning-platform support and help desk; project management; human resources; web and software applications development and support; and information technology infrastructure development and support.