Chicago State University
Former name
Cook County Normal School (1867–1897)
Chicago Normal School (1897–1938)
Chicago Teachers College (1938–1967)
Chicago State College (1967–1971)
TypePublic university
EstablishedSeptember 2, 1867; 156 years ago (1867-09-02)
Academic affiliations
Endowment$9.7 million[1]
PresidentZaldwaynaka L. Scott
Academic staff
Students2,317 (Fall 2022)[2]
Location, ,

41°43′03″N 87°36′35″W / 41.7176°N 87.6097°W / 41.7176; -87.6097
CampusUrban, 161 acres (65 ha)
Colors    Green, black, white
Sporting affiliations
NCAA Division IIndependent
Northeast Conference (2024)

Chicago State University (CSU) is a predominantly black (PBI) public university in Chicago, Illinois. It includes an honors program for undergraduates, and offers bachelors and masters degrees in the arts and sciences. CSU was founded in 1867 as the Cook County Normal School, an innovative teachers college. Eventually the Chicago Public Schools assumed control of the school from the county and it became Chicago Teachers College (CTC). Northeastern Illinois University began as a branch campus in 1949. In 1951, the State of Illinois began funding the college, and assumed control in 1965, transforming it into a comprehensive state college. In 1967, it became Chicago State University. CSU is a member of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.


Early history: 19th century

Cook County Normal School was founded in 1867 largely through the initiative of John F. Eberhart, the Commissioner of Schools for Cook County.[3]: 7  Eberhart noted that Cook County schools lagged far behind their counterparts in the City of Chicago, especially in terms of the quality and competence of instructors. He convinced the County Commissioners to hold a teacher training institute in April 1860; its success convinced the commissioners of the need for a permanent school to educate teachers. In March 1867, the Cook County Board of Supervisors created a Normal school at Blue Island on a two-year experimental basis; Daniel S. Wentworth was the first principal.[citation needed]

The school opened in 1869 as a permanent institution in Englewood, which at that time was a village beyond the city-limits of Chicago at that time. After Wentworth died in 1883, he was replaced by Colonel Francis Wayland Parker, a towering figure in the history of American education. Parker was an educational innovator who helped construct the philosophy of progressive education, which has decisively shaped American schooling over the past century. Dedicated to the proposition that the nature and interests of the child should determine curricular decisions, not vice versa, progressive reformers from the 1890s forward tried to banish what they saw as oppressive and authoritarian standards of instruction. Parker urged teachers to grant pupils the freedom to learn from their environment, to let curiosity rather than rewards or punishments provide their motivation, and to advance American democracy by democratizing their classrooms. John Dewey wrote in The New Republic in 1930 that Parker, "more nearly than any other one person, was the father of the progressive educational movement."[4]: 204  Parker believed that education was the cornerstone of a democracy, and that to achieve this end rote memorization should be replaced with exploration of the environment. Parker's Talks on Pedagogics preceded Dewey's own School and Society by five years, and it is one of the foundational texts in the progressive movement.[citation needed]

By the 1890s, Cook County was unable to provide the requisite support for its Normal School. Since many graduates found employment in the Chicago Public Schools system, it was natural that the city would take over, though initially it was very resistant to the idea. In 1897, the Chicago Board of Education assumed responsibility for what was now the Chicago Normal School. Shortly thereafter, Francis W. Parker, the school's renowned principal, resigned after the Board failed to implement the recommendations of a school system commission headed by William Rainey Harper of the University of Chicago.[3]: 28  Harper suggested raising the standards for admission to the Normal School, increasing the total number of teachers trained, and strengthening oversight of graduates once they were working in the public schools.

Parker was replaced by Arnold Tompkins. Tompkins was an Hegelian who introduced key reforms that helped mold the institution's philosophy. Tompkins declared his dissatisfaction with the practice school then used as a laboratory for student-teachers. He wanted instructors to gain real world experience in Chicago's public schools, and he encouraged their placement in poor, immigrant communities. From that point forward, the school would be characterized not just by its innovative pedagogical practices, but also by its commitment to expanding opportunity to underserved sectors of society.[citation needed]

Early 20th century

Tompkins was succeeded as president by Ella Flagg Young, a pioneering educator in her own right. Young received a PhD under John Dewey at the University of Chicago, and after leaving Chicago Normal School served as Superintendent of the Chicago Public Schools system. She attempted to expand the curriculum to three years, but was stymied by the Board of Education. After Young left to become Superintendent in 1909, William Bishop Owen became Principal of CNS.[citation needed]

In 1913, the school was renamed Chicago Normal College, with higher admissions standards and several new buildings gradually added to the campus. In 1926, the college moved to a three-year curriculum, with heavier emphasis placed on traditional academic subjects as opposed to pedagogy. The school was an increasingly attractive educational avenue for Chicago's immigrant communities, who could get inexpensive preliminary schooling before transferring to a university. However, when the Great Depression began in 1929, severe budget shortages forced the college to curtail its operations, and almost eventuated in its closing. In 1932, the Board of Education budget shrank by $12 million.[3]: 44  To many, an obvious strategy for economizing was to close the Normal College, since there were no positions in the school system for trained teachers anyway.

The faculty and students campaigned vigorously to keep the college open. Pep rallies, publications, and the efforts of immigrant communities were all part of the mobilization in favor of continued operations. As the economy stabilized, the threat to dissolve the college receded, though it did not disappear. Meanwhile, interest in the school rose, as financial destitution forced many Chicago-area students to forgo residential institutions elsewhere for a commuter campus closer to home.[citation needed]

In 1938, the school again changed its name, this time to Chicago Teachers College to reflect the recent adoption of a four-year curriculum. President John A. Bartky had ambitious plans for invigorating instruction through a new commitment to the liberal arts and a doubling of the time devoted to practice teaching. In addition, a Master of Education degree was offered for the first time. However, Bartky's reforms were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II, which depleted the faculty and student body alike. Bartky himself enlisted in the Navy in 1942, and never returned to the college. In his absence, the Chicago Board of Education reversed most of his curricular innovations.[3]: 51 

After the war ended, Raymond Mack Cook was hired as Dean. Cook's primary achievement was to convince the state of Illinois to take over funding of the college. The city was no longer able to fund the institution adequately, and in 1951 Governor Adlai Stevenson signed legislation that reimbursed the Board of Education for its operating expenses on a permanent basis. In 1965, Cook succeeded in convincing the state take responsibility for the college entirely.[citation needed]

1950–1979: Name changes, new location

As the demographic composition of the south side of Chicago changed, increasing numbers of African-American students began to attend the college. By the 1950s, nearly 30% of the student body was black. At the same time, three branches of Chicago Teachers College opened elsewhere in the city; these eventually became Northeastern Illinois University. During these years Chicago Teachers College and its branches educated a preponderance of the students who became Chicago Public School system teachers.[citation needed]

Once the state of Illinois took over control of the institution, the student body and programs offered rapidly expanded. The college experienced two more name changes, becoming Chicago State College in 1967 and Chicago State University in 1971, a year before moving to a new campus. By the mid-1960s the college's infrastructure was deteriorating and tensions between the majority white student body and the mostly black surrounding neighborhood were on the rise. Like many campuses, Chicago State College experienced a burst of student activism in 1968 and 1969 as black students and faculty demanded greater attention to their needs and interests and closer relations with the neighborhood. The administration responded by creating an African-American Studies program and cultural center.

In 1972, the university moved to its new location at 9501 S. King Dr., between Burnside and Roseland. The state purchased the site of the Burnside Shops from the Illinois Central Railroad. Classes were suspended for 2 weeks in November to complete the move.

In January 1975, 5,000 students signed a petition on a 45-foot-long (14 m) scroll requesting that President Gerald Ford give the commencement address at graduation that summer. On July 12, 1975, President Ford gave the commencement address at the ceremony held in the Arie Crown Theatre at McCormick Place and received an honorary doctor of laws degree.[5]

Late 20th century

Shortly thereafter, President Milton Byrd announced his resignation. His replacement, Benjamin Alexander, was the institution's first African-American leader. Under Alexander's command the school received full 10-year accreditation for the first time in its history. Alexander pushed hard to foster multiculturalism, as the African-American portion of the student body swelled from 60% at the outset of the 1970s to over 80% by 1980. These shifting demographics encouraged a debate over whether CSU should be considered a predominantly African-American institution, akin to the HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) or whether it should retain a multicultural and multiracial identity. That debate has continued in some form ever since.[citation needed]

President Benjamin Alexander hired Dorothy L. Richey, a Tuskegee University graduate to become the first woman appointed head of athletics at a co-educational college or university in the United States. Her teams excelled during her first year as athletic director in 1975.[6]

The school struggled in the 1980s with flat enrollments, declining state budgets, and falling graduation rates. However, in the early 1990s President Dolores Cross helped introduce a sharp increase in enrollment and retention. She urged faculty to personally call advisees and students who might be having problems. Enrollment rose 40%, nearing 10,000. The Chicago Tribune dubbed Chicago State "Success U."[7]

In 1990, Gwendolyn Brooks, the well-known poet, was hired as a Distinguished Professor; she taught classes at CSU up until her death. Brooks protégé and English professor Haki R. Madhubuti established a writing center, now called the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing, which hosts a yearly conference and offers the only MFA degree in the country to focus on African American literature.[citation needed]

21st century

Elnora Daniel became president in 1998, and she worked to increase federal and state funding and to create new programs. An Honors College was established in 2003 and a College of Pharmacy in 2007. Daniel also oversaw the first doctoral program at CSU in Educational Leadership. The program produced its first graduates in 2009. Special funds were procured to finance a textbook buying program for African schools and two new buildings: the University Library and the Emil and Patricia Jones Convocation Center.[citation needed]

In 2008, Daniel resigned under allegations of unjustified spending; a state audit found that Daniel spent $15,000 that was expensed as a "leadership conference" on a family cruise instead.[8] When the board of trustees began a search for her replacement, all but two of the faculty members who served on the search committee resigned in protest feeling their concerns were not addressed. Part of their concerns included a graduation rate of only 16.2 percent (as of 2007) and inadequate infrastructure.[9][8] On April 29, 2009, the board of trustees appointed retiring City Colleges of Chicago chancellor Wayne Watson as Chicago State's new president. The decision was protested by several students and faculty, who openly booed the announcement, claiming that Watson's appointment was motivated by political considerations rather than the good of the students and faculty.[10] These issues prompted the Higher Learning Commission, the school's accrediting agency, to express "grave" concerns regarding Chicago State's future and indicate that its accreditation might be in jeopardy.[11] However, under Watson's leadership, the school retained and extended its accreditation after the commission's review.[12]

In January 2014, the Chicago Tribune reported that the school's interim provost, Angela Henderson, was under investigation by the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) for possible plagiarism of her dissertation.[13] Eventually, UIC cleared Henderson of plagiarism, and Henderson reached a $700,000 settlement with UIC in 2019.[14]

During Watson's tenure, Chicago State University was named as a defendant in several high-profile lawsuits in which whistleblower employees have alleged that they were subjected to retaliatory firings for exposing ethical misconduct on the part of the Watson administration. In one case, a jury awarded a substantial verdict, which totaled over $3 million.[15] A similar 2014 suit charged that Watson improperly hired and promoted administrators and engaged in an inappropriate romantic relationship with an employee.[16]

In October 2015 the university board unanimously voted to select Thomas J. Calhoun, formerly of the University of North Alabama, to succeed Watson as president.[17] Calhoun entered with a promise to stabilize the school's finances and improve enrollment and graduation rates.

On February 26, 2016, all 900 employees of Chicago State University received layoff notices in anticipation of inadequate funding.[18] Since the Illinois Budget Impasse began in July 2015, Chicago State had zero state funding.[19]

In May 2016, CSU's graduation rate had dropped to only 11 percent. The university has historically been the subject of criticism from legislators and accreditors for low graduation rates hovering between 13 and 21 percent.[20]

In fall 2016, the freshman class had just 86 students as overall enrollment dropped 25 percent, and in the $84 million university budget for the 2016–17 academic year, the state of Illinois provided only emergency funding to the university.[21][22]

In September 2016, the university board voted to accept President Calhoun's resignation only nine months after he assumed office, and named Cecil Lucy, the university's vice president for administration and finance, as interim president.[23][24] The agreement included a $600,000 severance package for the outgoing president and a commitment not to disclose the reasons for the separation.[25] The board's decision received harsh criticism for its lack of transparency and the high cost it imposed on the institution already in the midst of a budget crisis.[26]

On February 4, 2017, the Chicago Tribune revealed that Chicago State spent over $370,000 in tax money on planning activities for a second campus in the West Side of Chicago, including a feasibility study, purchasing property in Homan Square, and hiring an architect.[27] The New York Times reported four days later that Chicago State was considering adding a non-scholarship football team and marching band in order to attract more students from the Chicago public schools.[21] Then in March 2017, Chicago State settled a whistleblower lawsuit filed by former school attorney James Crowley for $4.3 million. Crowley alleged that Chicago State fired him in 2010 in retaliation for reporting misconduct by top administrators.[28]

Zaldwaynaka Scott was unanimously voted by the board of trustees to serve as the 12th permanent president of Chicago State University and assumed the role on July 1, 2018.

For 2020, U.S. News & World Report ranked Chicago State #117-#153 in Regional Universities Midwest.[29]


In addition to the Honors College and School of Graduate and Professional Studies, Chicago State has the following five, degree-granting colleges:[citation needed]


Emil and Patricia A. Jones Convocation Center

The Emil and Patricia Jones Convocation Center is a 7,000-seat multi-purpose on-campus arena started on October 4, 2004, and completed in 2007. The arena hosts the Chicago State University Cougars basketball teams and replaces the Jacoby D. Dickens Athletic Center, which only had capacity to seat 2,500 persons. Among sporting events, the convocation center houses concerts, conferences, and special citywide events. The convocation center is unique among Illinois university athletic projects because Chicago State University did not have to raise any money for the project.[citation needed]

Jacoby Dickens Center

The Jacoby D. Dickens Center (JDC) is home of the Chicago State University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. The building was built in 1971 and was formerly known as the CSU Athletics Building until 1995, when it was dedicated to renowned Chicago businessman Jacoby D. Dickens. It contains a 2,500-seat gymnasium, three swimming pools, a fitness center, eight locker rooms, three classrooms, a dance studio, an auxiliary and a multipurpose gymnasium. In addition, the building is home to CSU's athletic department and the university's Health and Physical Education and Recreation (HPER) department.[citation needed]


The university's library, dedicated in October 2006, features a state of the art automated storage and retrieval system called ROVER (Retrieval Online Via Electronic Robot), which currently holds most of the library's material that was produced before 1991. It can retrieve five books in 2.5 minutes, on average; the average time for a student to retrieve five books is 2 hours[citation needed]. The system has a capacity of 800,000 volumes and its database is backed up in at least two offsite locations.[30] On October 18, 2018, the library was officially named the Gwendolyn Brooks Library.[31]

Student life


Main article: Chicago State Cougars

Chicago State University sponsors seven men's and eight women's teams in NCAA sanctioned sports. Men's sports include basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, tennis, and track and field. Women's sports include basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, tennis, track and field, and volleyball.[citation needed]

The school's sports teams are called the Cougars, and the team colors are green and white. CSU competes as a Division I independent after leaving the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I, to which it belonged between 2013 through 2022.[32] From 1994 until June 2006, CSU was a member of the Mid-Continent Conference, but withdrew and took independent status before joining the Great West Conference, in which it played from the 2008–09 through the 2012–13 seasons.[33] Since the Great West Conference did not sponsor basketball during the 2008–09 season, the Cougars' men's and women's basketball teams played as independents that season. Prior to gaining NCAA Division I status, the university enjoyed memberships in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and NCAA Division II.[citation needed]

Fraternities and sororities

All nine of the National Pan-Hellenic Council organizations currently have chapters at Chicago State University.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ "Chicago State University | Data USA".
  2. ^ "Chicago State University". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved August 3, 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d Kearney, Edmund W.; Moore, E. Maynard (1979). A History, Chicago State University, 1867-1979. Chicago: Chicago State University Foundation. ISBN 9780960351206.
  4. ^ Dewey, John (July 9, 1930). "How Much Freedom in the New Schools?". The New Republic. Vol. 63, no. 814. pp. 204–206.
  5. ^ "Gerald R. Ford: Commencement Address at Chicago State University". Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  6. ^ "Winning Her Point In A Man's Arena". Ebony. Vol. 30, no. 8. Johnson Publishing Company. June 1975. pp. 44–46, 48, 50, 52. ISSN 0012-9011.
  7. ^ Hawes, Christine (May 7, 1992). "Chicago State Now Success U". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on December 5, 2021. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Isaacson, Melissa (November 29, 2009). "Problems and Discontent Bedevil Chicago State". The New York Times. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  9. ^ "March to mediocrity". Chicago Tribune. April 25, 2009. Archived from the original on April 28, 2009.
  10. ^ Cohen, Jodi S. (April 30, 2009). "Chicago State University president: Next President Wayne Watson booed by students, faculty". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on May 3, 2009. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  11. ^ Lourgos, Angie Leventis; Cohen, Jodi S. (September 25, 2009). "Commission cites concerns with Chicago State accreditation". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on September 26, 2009. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  12. ^ "Chicago State University Strengthened By 10-Year Re-Accreditation". Chicago State University. Archived from the original on June 30, 2013. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  13. ^ Cohen, Jodi S. "UIC reviews dissertation by Chicago State University official amid allegations of plagiarism". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on March 15, 2019. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  14. ^ Ihejirika, Maudlyne (February 3, 2019). "UIC to pay nearly $700,000 to former CSU provost wrongly accused of plagiarism". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  15. ^ Cohen, Jodi S.; St. Clair, Stacy. "Judge upholds verdict in Chicago State University whistleblower case". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on August 29, 2014. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  16. ^ Johnson, Dick (March 26, 2014). "CSU Employee Says He Was Fired For Exposing Ethics Issues". NBC Chicago. Archived from the original on March 28, 2014. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  17. ^ "Chicago State University's new president has previous education experience in Chicago". Chicago Sun-Times. October 8, 2016. Archived from the original on September 9, 2018. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  18. ^ "Chicago State University Sends Layoff Notices To All Employees". CBS Chicago. February 26, 2016.
  19. ^ Bosman, Julie (April 10, 2016). "Chicago State, a Lifeline for Poor Blacks, Is Under Threat Itself". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 12, 2016. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  20. ^ Cohen, Jodi S.; Bowean, Lolly. "Chicago State University graduation rate drops to 11 percent". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on May 7, 2016. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  21. ^ a b Berkman, Seth; Longman, Jeré (February 8, 2017). "Her Team Is 0-24, but She Might Deserve Coach of the Year Honors". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 16, 2017. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  22. ^ Rhodes, Dawn (September 27, 2016). "Only 86 freshmen at Chicago State University, as total enrollment drops 25 percent". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on September 30, 2016. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  23. ^ Rhodes, Dawn (September 16, 2016). "Amid jeers, Chicago State pays president $600,000 to leave, names interim leader". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on September 18, 2016. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  24. ^ Grimm, Andy (September 14, 2016). "Chicago State to part ways with president after 9 months on job". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  25. ^ Rhodes, Dawn (September 21, 2016). "Chicago State University president to be paid severance within days". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on September 22, 2016. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  26. ^ "Editorial: Chicago State's Code of Silence". Chicago Tribune. October 6, 2016. Archived from the original on October 14, 2016. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  27. ^ Rhodes, Dawn; Matuszak, Peter (February 4, 2017). "Despite financial struggles, Chicago State has for years worked to open $60M second campus". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on February 8, 2017. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  28. ^ Cohen, Jodi S. (March 9, 2017). "Chicago State University to finally pay whistleblower $4.3 million". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on March 10, 2017. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  29. ^ "rankings". Retrieved May 16, 2019.
  30. ^ Erin Biba. "Biblio Tech". Wired (January 2007): 33.
  31. ^ Lee Edwards, Gwendolyn Brooks Library To Be Dedicated At Chicago State University Thursday, Block Club Chicago, October 18, 2018,
  32. ^ "Chicago State University Announces Plan to Leave Western Athletic Conference in June 2022". January 14, 2021.
  33. ^ "Chicago St. to WAC". Retrieved August 15, 2015.

Further reading