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Private Support Helps CUNY BA Turn 40

April 13, 2011 | Partners and Supporters

The transformative effect of student scholarships is a well known fact of higher education.  At CUNY, this is perhaps nowhere more clearly demonstrated than at the CUNY Baccalaureate program, more commonly known as “CUNY BA.” As part of the celebration of its 40th anniversary this year, CUNY BA is highlighting the role of its private benefactors in supporting scholarships and nurturing student success.

Over the past decade and a half, CUNY BA has raised scholarship support for over 800 students.  Thomas W. Smith, managing partner of Prescott Investors, established an academic fellowship program in 1994 and has since donated over $ 3 million to support over 600 students. Other major donors have included Richard and Mary Beth Ketchum, who provide scholarships for students studying education or human services and for studying abroad and Diego Hidalgo, an international diplomat, has provided scholarships for students in Political Science/International Affairs and the Arts. CUNY BA has also received grants from the Diamond, Ford and International Study Abroad Foundations among others.

In the late 1960s, a group of faculty and students suggested that CUNY should allow individual faculty and students to define programs of study, with access to courses across campuses and in February, 1971, the NYS Board of Higher Education authorized a University-wide Bachelor of Arts Degree, to be based at the Graduate Center.  First known as the CUNY Baccalaureate Program and renamed in 2008 CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies, the degree is still commonly called “CUNY BA.”

Mentoring is CUNY BA’s cornerstone.  In any given semester, more than 400 full-time professors work with students as they build their individualized degrees. CUNY BA students are regularly recipients of major national and CUNY awards.  There are almost 7,000 graduates, a majority of whom have gone on to graduate education and work in careers related to their self-designed studies. The program’s success was recently recognized by the program’s 2010 Middle States Association reaccreditation process, which called CUNY BA “The gem of the University.”