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The WISR Story

A Brief Historical Perspective:

WISR was founded in part as an attempt to improve on both conventional and alternative higher education as they had evolved into the 1970s. At that time, in the aftermath of the sixties, many educators and students were debating the merits of the university’s role in the community and in social change, the “relevance” of the curriculum, and generally, the values served by higher education.

WISR was founded partly as our modest but concerted response to some inadequacies in conventional education—for example, the absence of emphasis on personalized education, multiculturality and social change. It was founded partly in response to the limitations of alternative programs of the seventies, which oftentimes were too preoccupied with simply “looking different” from the conventional. Since then, many conventional institutions have adopted reforms which have incorporated in only a partial way some of the agendas from the sixties (e.g., field studies programs, women’s studies, ethnic studies). Most current reforms are guided by the economics of marketing academic programs to appeal to a growing population of mature adults who are interested in returning for further academic study and professional certification (e.g., to obtain degrees and licensing). Most alternative institutions of the sixties and seventies have failed to survive.

WISR's first "formal" graduation ceremony. Dennis Hastings (right) receives his Mater's degree. WISR Faculty Cynthia Lawrence (middle) and John Bilorusky (left)

WISR’s first “formal” graduation ceremony. Dennis Hastings (right) receives his Mater’s degree. WISR Faculty Cynthia Lawrence (middle) and John Bilorusky (left)

WISR is one of the very few alternative, multicultural and social change-oriented institutions of higher learning that have survived for over four decades. WISR’s Board, faculty, staff and alumni have continued to hold WISR to these initial commitments—to create and sustain a multiethnic academic institution for people concerned with community improvement, social change and educational innovation; to provide individualized degree programs for working adults; and to continue to refine and enhance the teaching-learning methods that work best for our students, while keeping our basic philosophy, values and our sense of purpose intact.