Built in 1917, the Little Building is not only a notable historic structure, it is also cornerstone of the Emerson College campus. The 12-story mixed-use building is now a residence for the students who come to study communications and performing arts.
To retrofit the ornate heritage building for the 21st century, ELKUS|MANFREDI ARCHITECTS‘s imaginative restoration adds a new floor behind the parapet, a move which expanded residential capacity from 750 to 1,035 beds.
Discrete structural interventions stabilized the building, and the aging façade was updated with ultra-high-performance concrete replacements (novel scanning and modeling methods ensure a high level of detail).
Adapting historic structures is far more sustainable than building from scratch, yet updating the structure with new MEP systems, rainwater harvesting and a more efficient envelope are crucial environmental considerations.
Emerson College is a private college with its main campus in Boston, Massachusetts. It also maintains campuses in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California and Well, Limburg, Netherlands (Kasteel Well). Founded in 1880 by Charles Wesley Emerson as a “school of oratory,” the college offers more than three dozen degree and professional training programs specializing in the fields of arts and communication with a foundation in liberal arts studies.
The college is one of the founding members of the ProArts Consortium, an association of six neighboring institutions in Boston dedicated to arts education at the collegiate level. Emerson is also notable for the college’s namesake public opinion poll, Emerson College Polling, which is operated by the Department of Communication Studies.
Originally based in Boston’s Pemberton Square, the college moved neighborhoods several times, and is now located in the Theater District along the south side of the Boston Common. Emerson owns and operates the historic Colonial, Paramount, and Cutler Majestic theaters, as well as several smaller performance venues.
Emerson College’s permanent move from the Back Bay to its current location revitalized and preserved the distinct character and profiles of the surrounding neighborhoods, which comprise many significant historic landmarks and structures – the most notable being Boston Public Garden and Boston Common. Presently, the majority of the college’s acquired properties were reclaimed, renovated and/or restored without having to introduce new developments into the Downtown core. Abutting the southeast corner of the Boston Common, the 8-acre urban campus at the intersection of Boylston Street and Tremont Street is served by Boylston station on the MBTA Green Line and Chinatown station on the Orange Line. In addition, Emerson College extends its campus outside Massachusetts state, operating in a fourteenth-century castle in the Netherlands and a major academic center on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood for its long-established Los Angeles program.
Is Emerson College a prestigious school?
Emerson College’s ranking in the 2022-2023 edition of Best Colleges is Regional Universities North,
What is Emerson College known for?
Emerson College, a non-profit educational institution, draws independent minds from diverse backgrounds around the world through its highly regarded academic programs in communication, the arts, and the liberal arts.
Why is Emerson College stranger things?
It’s no surprise why “Stranger Things” writers used Emerson College as its backdrop. The college is renowned for its communications, liberal-arts and arts programmes. Hence, Emerson College — with its popular majors in journalism and film — serves as the perfect setting to represent Wheeler’s ambitions.
Charles Wesley Emerson founded the Boston Conservatory of Elocution, Oratory, and Dramatic Art in 1880, a year after Boston University closed its School of Oratory. Classes were held at Pemberton Square in Boston, where ten students enrolled in the conservatory’s first class. The following year, the institution changed its name to the Monroe Conservatory of Oratory, in honor of Charles Emerson’s teacher at Boston University’s School of Oratory, Professor Lewis B. Monroe. In 1890, the name changed again to Emerson College of Oratory and was later shortened to Emerson College in 1939.
The college expanded and rented space at 36 Bromfield Street, and moved to Odd Fellows Hall on Berkeley and Tremont Streets in the South End of Boston. With the new location, the college’s first library was established in 1892. Henry Lawrence Southwick, a faculty member and alumnus, became a financial partner for the college with Emerson. This financial partnership led to the acquisition of the Boston School of Oratory from Moses T. Brown in 1894.
At the turn of the century, faculty members Henry and Jessie Eldridge Southwick and William H. Kenney purchased the college from Dr. Emerson. Soon after, the college rented a new location in Chickering Hall.
Dr. Emerson retired in 1903 and William J. Rolfe, a Shakespearean scholar and actor, was named the second President of Emerson College of Oratory. His service as president lasted until his retirement in 1908.
As the Student Government Association of the college held its first meeting in 1908, the third president of the college, Henry Lawrence Southwick, was inaugurated. He introduced the study of acting and stagecraft into the college curriculum. During his tenure, the college rented a new building at 30 Huntington Avenue in Copley Square. The college was also granted the right to award Bachelor of Literary Interpretation (B.L.I.) degrees. In addition, Emerson became the first school with a collegiate-level program in children’s theater in 1919. The school offered its first course in Journalism in 1924.
The college purchased its first piece of real estate with a new women’s dormitory building at 373 Commonwealth Avenue in the Back Bay, and started intramural sports in 1931 with the organization of volleyball games.
In 1930, full charge and control of the college was transferred to the Board of Trustees by William H. Kenney, Henry Lawrence Southwick, and Jessie Eldridge Southwick.
When Harry Seymour Ross was appointed the fourth president of Emerson College in 1931, the first course in Radio Broadcasting was taught by the program director of WEEI, a Boston AM radio station. The purchase of buildings at 130 Beacon Street and 128 Beacon Street a year later began the presence of Emerson College in Boston’s Back Bay. Emerson kept ownership of these buildings until summer 2003.
In the following years, a professional training program in Speech Pathology (1935) and the first undergraduate program in Broadcast Journalism (1937) were offered for the first time in the United States. Construction of a theater behind 128–130 Beacon began, and the institution was granted the right to award Master of Arts degrees.
In the post-war era, the G.I. Bill of Rights and the Broadcasting curriculum contributed to the rebalancing of the student body from a primarily-female population to an equally-balanced population of men and women. Boylston Green, the first president to have no prior association with the college, used his background as a dean of students to enhance extracurricular activities, including the establishment of a student activities fee. These efforts led to the first publication of Emerson’s student newspaper, The Berkeley Beacon, in 1947, which is still in production today.
Emerson also saw major development in its broadcasting program. A one-year Certificate of Broadcasting was offered via evening classes. The FCC awarded the college a 10-watt license in 1949, and WERS, the first educational FM radio station in New England, was born. The station’s power was increased to 300 watts three years later, and 18,000 watts by 1953.
At the start of the decade, in 1950, Emerson College became a member of the New England Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, an accreditation association for schools and colleges in New England.
President Green left the college in 1949 after being selected as president of the University of the South, and Godfrey Dewey served as Acting President until 1951. At that time, Jonathon French was appointed as Acting President, and he became president in December of that year, despite never being formally inaugurated.
The college suffered from a severe financial crisis in 1952, and sought $50,000 in emergency funding. At the time, the Chairman of the Corporation stated that without these funds, the college had three alternatives: go broke, sell out, or merge with another institution. Led by the National Alumni Council, a grassroots campaign was launched to improve the financial situation of the college. The efforts led to the resignation of the Council of Trustees, which was then replaced mostly by alumni. The new board elected a former Emerson history professor, S. Justus McKinley, as the fifth President of Emerson College.
Pulling out of its financial crisis, the college started to develop its programs with new facilities. In 1953, Emerson opened The Robbins Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic at 145 Beacon Street, furthering the Communication Sciences and Disorders Program. A television studio was dedicated at 130 Beacon in 1954, with its first closed-circuit TV program the following year as WERS-TV. The first annual spring musical, Lady in the Dark by Moss Hart, was presented. Later, the school was authorized. to grant honorary degrees, Bachelors and Masters of Science in Speech, and a Bachelors of Music in conjunction with the Longy School of Music.
As the 1960s started, 373 Commonwealth Avenue was sold to purchase a dormitory at 100 Beacon Street for 609 undergraduate and 29 graduate students. A year later, a building at 150 Beacon Street was obtained for dorms, a dining hall, and administrative offices. With major gifts from Elisabeth Abbot Smith and J.F. Buzzard, the college library moved from the fourth floor of 130 Beacon Street into its own building at 303 Berkeley Street. In 1964, two buildings were purchased: 96 Beacon Street, which became the student union building, and 132–134 Beacon Street, which became a dormitory. The campus remained primarily in Back Bay until the late 1990s.
In 1967, Richard Chapin, former Dean of the Harvard Business School was inaugurated as the seventh president of Emerson College.
Shortly afterwards, an academic planning committee approved a new course of study for general education requirements. The first level of this program replaced the college-wide requirements with a two-year interdisciplinary course of study and electives. In order to accommodate this new program, the building at 67–69 Brimmer Street was purchased. The Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies was born. A year later in 1972, the college gained authorization to grant BFA, and MFA degrees.
Though Emerson College has moved to various locations within the city of Boston, the appointment of Allen E. Koenig (the ninth President of Emerson College) almost took the college completely outside of Boston. As soon as he was inaugurated in 1979, Koenig initiated talks with Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts to relocate Emerson and merge the two schools. However, an agreement was never reached and the plan was dropped entirely.
At the start of the 1980s, Koenig made a proposal to the Board of Trustees for a major renovation of the college’s facilities. The plan allowed for new performance spaces, classrooms, and faculty offices at Brimmer Street; remodeling the Library and Learning Resources Center at 150 Beacon; remodeling the 303 Berkeley building for the Humanities and Social Sciences Division; a new radio/audio complex at 126 Beacon; and construction of two new television studios behind 130 Beacon. In 1984, 335 Commonwealth Avenue was purchased for Administration and the Communication Studies department. The college also received the authorization to grant MFA degrees in Creative Writing.
Despite the newly purchased Commonwealth Avenue buildings, Lawrence, Massachusetts, was soon being discussed as a new location for Emerson College, about 44.5 km (27.7 mi) away from Boston. The Mayor of Lawrence announced that the necessary land would be taken by eminent domain and sold to Emerson for a token payment of $100. However, the five affected private landowners disagreed with this arrangement and fought the city in court. Three years later in 1988, Judge John Forte ruled in favor of the City of Lawrence. The river-front site in Lawrence was proposed as the new campus for the College. However, as real estate values in Boston dropped and the costs of constructing a new campus increased, the plans were put on hold and eventually abandoned when Koenig resigned as president in 1989. In 1988, the college bought a building at Zero Marlborough Street (also known as 6 Arlington Street) for dormitories and a dining hall.
John Zacharis became the tenth President of Emerson College and faced a college fractured by the failed move to Lawrence, Massachusetts. Over the course of two years, he worked to restore unity to the campus by purchasing a building at 180 Tremont Street, now called the Ansin Building. This purchase started a transition from Back Bay to the Boston Theater District. Zacharis went on medical leave in 1992 and died of leukemia shortly after.
During Zacharis’s leave, speech pathologist Jacqueline Weis Liebergott was appointed as Acting President and, a year later, inaugurated to become the first female president of the college. Shortly after, she submitted a 10-year master plan to the Boston Redevelopment Authority which involved moving the college to the Washington Street Theatre District.
In the mid-1990s, a planning document of the college’s future plans was drafted and public hearings were held. The college also extended health care benefits to domestic partners of gay and lesbian faculty, administration and staff. Under the plan, dental coverage and tuition waivers were also available. That same year, the college debuted online with a $100,000 gift from Mrs. Mary E. Tufte. Financed by the contribution, The Tufte Lab was placed on the fourth floor of the Ansin Building and dedicated in Mrs. Tufte’s honor. The lab was the catalyst for a telecommunications/fiber optic network installation, which was completed in October 1995.
In addition, the college announced the purchase and restoration of The Little Building (1994) across the street from the Ansin Building and next to Emerson’s Majestic Theatre. Restoration was completed on the facades of the college’s buildings at 126, 128, 130, 132–134, 168 Beacon Street, and 21 Commonwealth Avenue.
In 1998, Emerson purchased the Walker Building (Boston) at 120 Boylston. The building currently hosts the school’s Department of Television, Radio, Film Production, the Institutional Advancement (Alumni and Development) department, and the Government and Community Relations department. It also contains the school’s library and many of its classrooms.
The Tufte Performance Production Center (PPC) at 10 Boylston Place opened in 2003. The 11-story steel-and-glass building houses the Department of Performing Arts and includes two theaters (The Semel Theatre and The Greene Theatre), two television studios, makeup and costume labs, faculty offices, and an exhibition area. Also that year, the Cutler Majestic Theatre finished renovations and re-opened as one of the main stages of Emerson Stage productions.
Circa 2001 Emerson adjuncts voted to establish a union and in 2004 ratified its first contract with the college. The Affiliated Faculty of Emerson College, American Association of University Professors (AFEC-AAUP) represents 240 adjunct faculty members at Emerson College as of 2022.
In 2004, it was announced that the buildings at 96, 100, and 132 Beacon had been sold and would be vacated by the Fall 2006 semester. Construction of a new 14-story residence hall at 150 Boylston Street began in March 2004, and was completed in September 2006. It is the first entirely-new residence hall in Emerson’s history. The facility includes residential suites, athletic facilities, offices and meeting rooms for student organizations, informal gathering places for off-campus students, spaces for small-group rehearsals and performances, and dining facilities.
The school purchased the historic Paramount Theatre (Boston) on Washington Street in 2005, with plans to build a new complex at the site including a 565-seat main stage theater inside the existing Paramount Theater and a 125-seat black box theater in an adjacent new building. Plans also included a 200-seat film screening room, eight rehearsal studios ranging from 700 to 1,900 square feet (65 to 177 m2), six smaller rehearsal spaces, a sound stage for film students, a new scene shop, and a dormitory.
In May 2006, the Campus Center in the Piano Row building was named the Max Mutchnick Campus Center after a major gift from the 1987 graduate and co-creator of the television sitcom . In the same year, the school exercised its purchase option on the Colonial Theatre, adjacent to the Little Building, and then converted the upper floors of the building to a 372-bed dormitory. With the addition of dorm space here and at the Paramount Theatre, the school hoped to accommodate up to 75% of its students in on-campus housing by 2010.
In September 2006, a long-running labor dispute between the administrators and faculty union was resolved. The administration limited the union’s role in promotion and tenure, and brought department chairs into administrative roles, where they were not covered by the union. In response, the college agreed not to dismantle the union.
In September 2007, students in Emerson Alliance for Gays, Lesbians, and Everyone (E.A.G.L.E.) as well as the Student Government Association (S.G.A.) received the gender neutral bathrooms they had pitched to the administration in the spring. In September 2016, every bathroom on Emerson’s campus was converted into a gender inclusive restroom.
On December 2, 2009, President Liebergott announced she would step down in June 2011. On September 8, 2010, the college announced she would be succeeded by M. Lee Pelton of Willamette University.
On March 18, 2010, the newly renovated Paramount Center officially opened, with Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino illuminating the Paramount’s original art deco marquee, which Emerson had restored. In addition to the 590-seat Paramount Theatre, the Paramount Center also houses an experimental black box theater, the Bright Family Screening Room, a sound stage, a scene/prop production shop, nine rehearsal studios, six practice rooms, four classrooms, 20 faculty offices, and a student commons area.
As of 2014, two students are suing the college for mishandling their rape cases and failing to provide their Title IX rights.
In late 2019, Marlboro College announced that it would merge with Emerson at the end of the 2019–20 academic year. Under the agreement, finalized on July 23, 2020, Marlboro gave its endowment to Emerson, which created the Marlboro Institute of Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies. Marlboro students were guaranteed admission and tenure-track faculty were guaranteed teaching positions at Emerson. At that time, Marlboro had approximately 150 students. In December 2020, President Lee Pelton announced his planned departure from the college in June 2021 to assume a new role as CEO and President of the Boston Foundation.
Emerson College is divided into two schools (School of Communication and School of the Arts) and eight departments (Marketing Communication; Communication Studies; Journalism; Communication Sciences & Disorders; Performing Arts; Writing, Literature & Publishing; Visual & Media Arts; Liberal Arts & Interdisciplinary Studies) offering 31 undergraduate majors and 19 minors (Bachelor of Arts/Fine Arts, or Science), and 12 graduate degree programs (Master of Arts/Fine Arts, or Science). Though the college’s programs are primarily focused on communications and the arts, the curriculum is delivered through a liberal arts and sciences education model, where students are required to take courses from other academic disciplines and also have the opportunity to declare a minor outside their major.
Emerson College is ranked by U.S. News & World Report in the Regional Universities North category. In 2021, it is ranked tied for 8th best overall, tied for 3rd in the Most Innovative Schools category, tied for 11th in Best Undergraduate Teaching, and 50th in the Best Value Schools category.
In 2018, Emerson admitted 36% of applicants, and is ranked 6th in the Universities-Master’s (North) category according to U.S. News & World Report. There are 3,871 undergraduate and 1,048 graduate students as of 2019. Tuition for the 2018–2019 academic year is $46,016 for a full-time student; approximately 76% of students receive financial assistance in scholarships and grants, low-interest loans and part-time employment.
The college is a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (Division III), the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC), and the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC). Emerson previously competed as a charter member of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) from 1995 to 2013. The college was also a charter member of the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC), which it competed in from 1984 to 1989. The athletics department has men’s and women’s lacrosse, tennis, basketball, cross country running, golf, volleyball and soccer teams, in addition to a women’s softball team and a men’s baseball team.
The women’s softball team defeated Western New England College in 2007 to clinch the GNAC championship and earn the department’s first appearance in the NCAA tournament. In 2012, Emerson’s women’s volleyball team defeated Rivier to become the 2012 GNAC Champions. In 2019, the men’s basketball team won its first NEWMAC title in program history. In 2022 the women’s soccer team defeated Clark Univeristy to clinch the NEWMAC title.
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