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Fifty years of Five Colleges, 100 years of campus cooperation

The 2015–16 academic year marked the 50th anniversary of campus collaboration within the Five College Consortium, but cooperation among our member institutions began more than a century ago. In 1914, Amherst, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Massachusetts Agricultural and International YMCA colleges formed the Committee on University Extension of the Connecticut Valley Colleges to provide educational services to the region’s residents.

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Students in a classroomBy the 1950s, four of our current five campuses were collaborating in academic disciplines, sharing faculty members and allowing student cross registration. Inspired by their early successes, Amherst, Mount Holyoke, Smith and UMass went on to hire a staff, found a joint astronomy department, launch WFCR radio and develop a proposal for a new kind of college, all before incorporating as Four Colleges, in 1965. That proposal, The New College Plan, laid much of the groundwork for the creation of our fifth campus, Hampshire College. In the years since, there have been many noteworthy accomplishments within the consortium; this timeline highlights some of them.


student sitting on a library floor in the stacksAmherst, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Massachusetts Agricultural (UMass) and International YMCA (Springfield) colleges form the Committee on University Extension of the Connecticut Valley Colleges to provide educational services to area residents.


Amherst and Smith name the first joint faculty appointment, in economics.


Four-college library cooperation begins with the creation of the Hampshire Inter-Library Center (HILC) to support a circulating serials collection.


telescope in new mexicoThe joint astronomy department is formed by Amherst, Mount Holyoke, Smith and UMass.


WFCR, Four College Radio, is established.


Intercampus transportation system is launched with a station wagon, a limousine and two vans to encourage visits among the campuses and reduce hitchhiking and driving.


early five college busFour Colleges is established as a nonprofit corporation. The first joint area studies program, in Latin American studies, is created. The Faculty Exchange Program begins.


The name of the consortium is changed to Five Colleges, Incorporated, to include the newly founded Hampshire College.


The Five College Buying Group is initiated. In 1977, the group evolves into the Massachusetts Higher Education Consortium (MHEC), which will handle joint purchases for campuses throughout the Commonwealth.


The Five College Radio Astronomy Observatory, at the nearby Quabbin Reservoir, is launched (it is decommissioned in 2011).


Hampshire admits its first students.


Student cross registration without an additional fee or inter-campus reimbursement is approved.


early dance showThe Five College Dance Department emerges from the Five College Council on Dance.


Five Colleges ends its own bus service and arranges with area towns to fund free transportation by the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority on Five College routes.


The Five College Public Schools Partnership is founded.


partnership program educator dialogue event in springfieldThe first certificate (the equivalent of an academic minor), in international relations, is established.
The Five College Automated Library Catalog System is installed.


The Five College Foreign Language Resource Center opens, providing a range of technological and informational support to faculty members and students. The center will host two national languages conferences.
The Five College Fellowship Program for Minority Scholars begins.


women's studies conference in a libraryThe Five College Women’s Studies Research Center is launched after more than two decades of informal collaboration.


The Nobel Prize in physics is awarded jointly to Russell Hulse and Joseph Taylor Jr. for research regarding the Hulse-Taylor Pulsar carried out in 1974, when Taylor was part of the Five College Astronomy Department and Hulse was one of his graduate students.


The Risk Management Program is established for the five college campuses.


A/P/A faculty talk with a guest speakerThe first East Asian Studies librarian is appointed.


The Five College Astronomy Department establishes a program to bring postdoctoral fellows to the campuses to support astronomy research and instruction.


The Five College Library Repository Collection is created to preserve copies of infrequently circulating materials, particularly those now available electronically.


language center courseThe Five College Foreign Language Resource Center is renamed the Five College Center for the Study of World Languages.


Mount Holyoke and Smith share the position of director of public safety. Since 2009, those two campuses and Hampshire have operated a joint campus police department.
The Mentored Language Program is launched to offer instruction in Swahili and Arabic.
The Five College Arabic Language Initiative begins with jointly hired lecturers.


The Museums10 collaboration of seven campus museums and three associated independent museums is established. 
The first joint major, film studies, is established. In 2015 there are two joint majors, with architectural studies. 
The Five College Center for theStudy of World Languages receives the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching Editors’ Choice Award for Overall Exemplary Online Learning Resource.


man putting up fiber optic cablesThe Five College Fiber Optic Network, a 53-mile, high-speed fiber optic network linking the campuses to one another and to Internet providers in Springfield, Massachusetts, is completed.


The Five College Microform Repository, based at UMass, opens.


The Five College Center for the Study of World Languages office moves from its UMass home to the Amherst College campus.
Five Colleges initiates a project to share retention of infrequently used print materials among campuses throughout the eastern United States.


two dancers performing on stageCross-registration courses taken: 5,204
Professors teaching on multiple campuses: 81
Certificate programs: 16
Certificates awarded: 125
Graduates from both Five College majors: 35
Rides on Five College bus routes: 1,001,883
Campus investments in collaboration: $9 million
Collective return on investment: $40 million