Vassar College­—located in New York’s scenic Hudson Valley—is an independent, coeducational, residential liberal arts college, which fosters intellectual openness and lively exploration through its widely varied course offerings. Founded in 1861 to offer women a fully equivalent education to that of the best men’s colleges of the period, Vassar became the first women’s college in the nation to expand its mission to coeducation by opening its doors to men in 1969. Today’s students, who meet each other as equals, are encouraged to develop diverse perspectives through engaging in lively dialogues with faculty and fellow students, which encourage them to achieve the insight and confidence needed to function most creatively in today’s complex world. Consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country, Vassar continues to be renowned for pioneering achievements in education, and for the beauty of its campus in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Land Acknowledgment

We acknowledge that Vassar stands upon the homelands of the Munsee Lenape, Indigenous peoples who have an enduring connection to this place despite being forcibly displaced by European colonization. Munsee Lenape peoples continue today as the Stockbridge-Munsee Community in Wisconsin, the Delaware Tribe and the Delaware Nation in Oklahoma, and the Munsee Delaware Nation in Ontario. Read the full statement.

President

Vassar President

Elizabeth H. Bradley, PhD, was inaugurated as Vassar’s 11th president on September 24, 2017. President Bradley is a noted public health expert who created the first Masters of Health Administration on the African continent with the Clinton Health Access Initiative and pioneered a model of innovation scale-up with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She continues to be a strong advocate for education and public health, regularly publishing opinion pieces in ForbesBloomberg News, and other national outlets as well as peer-reviewed research, including more than 325 peer-reviewed papers. She has co-authored three books, including The American Healthcare Paradox: Why Spending More Is Getting Us Less. She also served on the New York governor’s COVID-19 advisory panel, New York Forward and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and Council of Foreign Relations.

Efforts during President Bradley’s tenure to support faculty include recruiting a cluster hire of faculty whose scholarship is in the area of race and racial equity, expanding research and travel funds for a range of faculty member’s scholarly efforts, and support for the implementation of the “intensives,” a faculty curricular innovation that expand beyond the traditional classroom. Enhancements to student life include the addition of staff in mental health, residential life, and affinity group spaces as well as the development of new programs including the Engaged Pluralism Initiative and Summer Immersion in the Liberal Arts, a two-week program that helps prepare incoming first-year students from underrepresented groups to forge connections and build community before arriving for the Fall Semester. President Bradley has also improved students’ on-campus experience through the renovation of many of Vassar’s residential, classroom, and administrative buildings.

President Bradley has expanded Vassar’s global reach by forming partnerships with institutions of higher education in India, Rwanda, and Scotland—as well as founding the Vassar Institute for the Liberal Arts, which will serve as a physical space to convene scholars and thought leaders from Vassar, our local area, and around the globe. Closer to home, President Bradley has forged strong student connections, sending weekly emails to all Vassar students; opening her home to students to host game nights and on snowy days, sanctuary for those in need of hot chocolate and cookies; and holding weekly office hours on Sunday nights for students to speak with her privately about any issue. Learn more about President Bradley.

Mission

The mission of Vassar College is to make accessible “the means of a thorough, well-proportioned and liberal education”* that inspires each individual to lead a purposeful life. The College makes possible an education that promotes analytical, informed, and independent thinking and sound judgment; encourages articulate expression; and nurtures intellectual curiosity, creativity, respectful debate and engaged citizenship. Vassar supports a high standard of engagement in teaching and learning, scholarship and artistic endeavor; a broad and deep curriculum; and a residential campus that fosters a learning community.

Founded in 1861 to provide women an education equal to that once available only to men, Vassar is now open to all and strives to pursue diversity, inclusion, and equity as essential components of a rich intellectual and cultural environment in which all members, including those from underrepresented and marginalized groups, are valued and empowered to thrive. *From the College’s First Annual Catalogue

History

Matthew Vassar (1792-1868), a prosperous Poughkeepsie brewer, became a pioneer for women’s education and the study of the liberal arts in the United States when he founded Vassar College in 1861. On September 26, 1865, the College welcomed its first class of 353 students, offering young women an education equal to that of the best men’s colleges of the day. Vassar hired the finest instructors and acquired the most up-to-date equipment for study and research, including a modern observatory and an art gallery. Coeducational since 1969, the College set the standard for a new form of distinctively equal coeducation. Today the College continues to energetically support critical inquiry and to inspire the advancement of knowledge. Recognized as one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country, Vassar has not only successfully fulfilled its founder’s goals, but expanded them to accommodate the evolution of modern society. Read more

Facts & Stats

Students
2500
Faculty
355
Student:Faculty
8:1
Average AID Award
$54K
Majors
51
Varsity Teams
27

These figures are for the 2021/22 academic year.

Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

Students in Bridge Buildiong

Vassar is committed to working toward a more just, diverse, equitable, and inclusive college community where all members feel valued and are fully empowered to claim a place in—and responsibility for—working, living, and learning together.

We believe that social difference is not a barrier or challenge, but rather an essential aspect of a strong community. Collaborating across such differences, a concept at the very core of Vassar’s values, is necessary for social transformation and critical for the well-being of any community and its members. Through programs such as the Engaged Pluralism Initiative and the Office of Student Growth and Engagement, the College affirms the necessity of creating a diverse campus that reflects our lives as members of multiple local and global communities.

Sustainability

Drone shot of the Residential Quad

Since our founding, Vassar has always been bold in its action. We recognize that climate change is an existential crisis, and we are dedicated to combating it in the most effective ways possible.

In 2016 Vassar committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2030, and we are proud to already be more than halfway to achieving that goal—reducing our carbon footprint from 30,550 metric tons (mTons) of greenhouse gas in 2005 to just 15,000 mTons in 2021. We continue to work towards our long-term target of sequestering more carbon than we emit, becoming Climate Positive.

Vassar’s Climate Action Plan touches on all aspects of Vassar’s operations, from how the College designs its new buildings to how it treats its natural areas. With much of the work already underway, the following are just a few examples of our efforts in action:

  • Vassar has invested almost $13 million in its Near-Term Decarbonization Plan, sharply decreasing our carbon footprint by 2023.
  • As of July 1, 2021, all of Vassar’s purchased electricity is 100% renewable.
  • All new building projects will use fully electric heating and cooling systems, with no reliance on fossil fuels or combustion. This includes the Vassar Institute for the Liberal Arts, as well as the planned Admission and Career Education Center.
  • Sustainability is entwined within the student experience, with local and sustainably grown food served at campus dining facilities; free bus passes provided for all students to ride Dutchess County Public Transit; student clubs and volunteer programs; and many other efforts.

While we consider the world’s most critical challenges, we also believe in practical application—and it is our responsibility, as global citizens, to make every effort and take every opportunity to effect change. At Vassar, we will continue to push ourselves, to dig deep, and use our collective creativity to be a part of the solution.

Learn more about sustainability at Vassar and download the Vassar Climate Action Plan.

Statement on Academic Responsibility and Respect for Persons

Vassar College values freedom of expression and supports deep engagement in and equitable access to teaching, learning, scholarly research, and artistic endeavor. The College is committed to the pursuit of knowledge, freedom of inquiry, and informed, robust, and inclusive debate. Vassar’s faculty and students may engage with an array of disciplines and issues and are free to explore contested ideas and political positions. Our community welcomes forms of dissent and protest that acknowledge and encourage the expression of different perspectives. Read the full statement.