Founder’s Day…a look at Union’s History

Dear friends:

Founders Day always provides an opportunity to share some of Union’s milestones and its impact on higher education. While much has changed throughout the last 52 years – including Union’s name, its reach, and its offerings – one thing has stayed true: the belief that education is about many facets of the human experience. Education is for many, the pinnacle of achieving aspirations and goals, celebrating the very best of the human spirit, expanding knowledge, and, as Union does so well, the vehicle to transform lives and communities.

While our 50th history book was published in 2015, Founder’s Day is also an opportunity to express appreciation to alumnus Benjamin Justesen (Ph.D. 2009) for revisiting the story of Union in such an interesting and compelling way in his book, Union Institute & University at 50: Leaders Realizing a Dream, available as a gift to donors contributing $100 or more, and also available on Amazon.

Allow me to remind our community of Union’s unique history, one that pioneered much of what higher education looks like today with its focus on adults and its mission of engaging, enlightening, and empowering adult students to pursue a lifetime of learning, service, and social responsibility. Enjoy this timeline and primer about our past!


Union Institute & University is founded in 1964 as a national consortium, the Union for Research and Experimentation in Higher Education, forged from conversations between presidents of ten liberal arts colleges (founding consortium members were Antioch University, Bard College, Goddard College, Hofstra University, Monteith College of Wayne State University, Nasson College, Northeastern Illinois University, Sarah Lawrence College, Shimer College, Stephens College). These college presidents sought to broaden and expand American higher education and to seek alternatives to traditional bricks and mortar campuses and traditional delivery modes and curriculum.


The Union for Research and Experimentation in Higher Education was incorporated in the State of Ohio as the Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities (UECU). Initially operating from the campus of Antioch University in Yellow Springs, Ohio, the consortium’s headquarters moved to Cincinnati in the mid 1970s. The UECU consortium remained active for 18 years, with participation by nearly 50 institutions, ranging from newly formed colleges to small liberal arts colleges to large state universities. The consortium’s focus broadened over time to include design and implementation of innovative, alternative programs.


In 1970, the consortium introduced the “University Without Walls” undergraduate program model, with many features now widely accepted in higher education, including flexible scheduling, individualized degree plans, and credit for experiential learning.


In 1971, after receiving authorization from the Ohio Board of Regents to operate as a degree-granting institution, UECU initiated a doctoral (Ph.D.) degree program of independent, interdisciplinary, individualized study and research, generally focused in the humanities and social sciences, with a limited residency that made it accessible to working adults.


When the consortium dissolved in 1982, UECU remained as an independent, not-for-profit university offering baccalaureate and doctoral programs. The university opened undergraduate centers in California and Florida.


UECU was granted its first five-year accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.


In 1989, the university changed its name to The Union Institute.


In May 2001, the university purchased the Vermont College academic programs and campuses in Montpelier and Brattleboro, Vermont from Norwich University. The acquisition broadened the scope of the university’s academic program offerings, adding master’s programs to Union’s offerings. In November 2001, the university’s name changed to Union Institute & University to better describe its status as a degree-granting postsecondary educational institution. A new logo and seal heralded the name change. That seal was updated again on the occasion of the university’s 50th anniversary in 2014 and now incorporates key words of the mission: Engage, Enlighten, and Empower, words that epitomize the purpose of the university in its service to adults seeking to make a difference in their own lives and the communities in which they serve.


Dr. Roger H. Sublett is named President of Union Institute & University. He is UI&U’s fifth president.


Union’s Ph.D. program is revised and has developed into a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies with four majors: Ethical and Creative Leadership, Public Policy and Social Change, Humanities and Culture, and Educational Studies. A specialization in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Studies is also available. Cohorts meet twice yearly for face-to-face residencies in Cincinnati, Ohio.


The university divested itself of the Montpelier campus and the Master of Fine Arts degree programs in writing and art, which in turn, created the Vermont College of Fine Arts, an independent, low residency graduate school. Union closed its location in Montpelier and consolidated it Vermont footprint to a site in Brattleboro, Vermont.


The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association reconfirmed accredited status in 1990, 2000, and 2010. The university underwent a self/study to prepare for the most recent visit and assurance argument in February 2017.


Today, having celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014, Union Institute & University’s enrollment stands at approximate 1,500 students. More than 15,000 alumni worldwide serve in wide-ranging career fields including 26 current and former college and university presidents, thousands of professors in all disciplines, best-selling authors and creative artists in every genre, corporate executives and nonprofit leaders, healthcare and wellness experts, licensed psychologists and counselors, organizational and human resource professionals, multicultural scholars and clergy, law enforcement officers and public administrators, and elected officials at every level of government, including the U.S. Congress and former Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Honorable Portia Simpson Miller.

The university employs almost 400 staff and faculty across the nation. Union Institute & University is truly a national university, spanning from New England to Florida and California, anchored by its headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio and serving students from every state and several countries.

Union remains relevant by introducing new degree programs such as the
the Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Organizational Leadership and the Master of Science in Healthcare Leadership degree.

We are proud to report that UI&U’s online bachelor degree program has been ranked on the list of best online degree programs for 2017. UI&U ranked 124th out of 231 institutions with reported data and 312 total institutions. Other institutions that scored in the same ranking level as UI&U include Southern New Hampshire University, Texas A&M, University of Alaska, University of Massachusetts, University of Southern Mississippi and Utica College.

Union also continues its long history of serving diverse populations: Minorities (44 percent), women (56 percent), and an adult population (average age of 39).

The future for Union Institute & University is bright. We continue paving the way for mature, self-motivated, socially conscious adults to succeed and recognize the creative genius of one another and celebrate the best of the human spirit.

Roger H. Sublett, Ph.D.

Learn more about Union and its many degree programs by clicking below.