History and Mission


In 1867 members of the German Reformed Church laid plans to establish a college named after the distinguished sixteenth-century scholar and reformer, Zacharias Ursinus of the University of Heidelberg, Germany. In 1869 the legislature of Pennsylvania granted a charter to Ursinus College. The buildings of the former Freeland Seminary were acquired, and instruction was begun on September 6, 1870.

The college is historically related to the German Reformed Church and its successor, the United Church of Christ. Today Ursinus is independent and non-sectarian. Throughout its diverse history, it has never strayed from the egalitarian vision on which it was founded.

Educational Mission

The mission of Ursinus College is to enable students to become independent, responsible and thoughtful individuals through a program of liberal education. That education prepares them to live creatively and usefully and to provide leadership for their society in an interdependent world.

Liberal education is provided through an academic program that empowers the intellect, awakens moral sensitivity, and challenges students to improve society. Students gain intellectual curiosity, the capacity to think analytically, critically, and creatively, and the skill to express thoughts with logic, clarity, and grace. Further, they develop a deepened sense of human history and an understanding of who they are as persons, what they ought to do as citizens, and how they best can appreciate the diversity and ambiguity of contemporary experience.

The faculty is the cornerstone of our academic program. Faculty members are dedicated to teaching and learning and set high standards for themselves and for students. They choose to be active scholars because they are involved teachers, seeking to transmit their enthusiasm for learning to their students.

The faculty joins with the professional staff in an educational program that extends outside of the classroom. As a predominantly residential community, the College fosters a shared life and provides an opportunity for the comprehensive personal development of all students. By taking an active part in the varied programs of the campus, students have the opportunity to develop their intellectual, creative, and physical talents and to strengthen their personal values in the context of the principles and traditions of Ursinus.

The College seeks students of varied backgrounds who actively search for meaning and purpose in their lives. It nurtures a sense of community by engaging students and faculty together in an unfinished conversation about liberal learning—how it is grounded in the fundamentals of human experience, broadens the mind, enhances compassion, and prepares us for a life of service.
Liberal education is more than a set of courses; it requires students to integrate insights of various academic disciplines, and to participate actively in the learning process. It takes place best among students of diverse backgrounds actively searching for meaning and purpose in their lives. In order to help students appreciate the diversity and ambiguity of their world, the college seeks to include issues of race, class, and gender across the curriculum.

Statement on Human Diversity at Ursinus College

We believe that human beings derive meaning and purpose through their common bonds as well as their uniqueness as individuals. While engaging with difference can be difficult and uncomfortable, intellectual and personal growth is enhanced by acknowledging, understanding, and embracing the similarities and differences among groups and individuals.

The celebration of, and respect for, human diversity at Ursinus is based on the following:

  • The unique ideas, perspectives and life experiences of individuals from diverse backgrounds enrich the intellectual and social openness of the College.
  • Diversity is essential in fulfilling the foundation of Ursinus College’s mission to prepare students “to live creatively and usefully, and to provide leadership for their society in an interdependent world.”
  • Individuals whose education has been grounded on mutual understanding and the affirmation of the value of human diversity are best prepared to contribute to the making of a just and equitable society.

This statement on human diversity informs and guides the Ursinus College community as it establishes and implements educational and administrative policies and practices.

Statement on Federal Discrimination Act

Ursinus College does not discriminate on grounds of race, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age or disability in the administration of its educational programs or activities or with respect to employment. The President of Ursinus College is responsible for the overall implementation of this policy. Inquiries should be directed to the Title IX Coordinator.

Ursinus College complies fully with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. The guidelines adopted by the College and a copy of the Act are available for inspection in the Office of Academic Affairs during regular business hours.

Academic Freedom and Professional Concerns

Ursinus College endorses the following statement on academic freedom provided by the American Association of University Professors and the Association of American Colleges, as amended most recently in 1989 and 1990:

  • Teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the adequate performance of their other academic duties; but research for pecuniary return should be based upon an understanding with the authorities of the institution.
  • Teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject, but they should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject. Limitations of academic freedom because of religious or other aims of the institution should be clearly stated in writing at the time of the appointment.
  • College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.