Shimer College (often referred to as Shimer i/ˈʃaɪmər/ SHY-mər) is a very small, private, undergraduate liberal arts college in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States. Founded by Frances Wood Shimer in 1853 in the frontier town of Mt. Carroll, Illinois, it was a women's school for most of its first century. It joined with the University of Chicago (U. of C.) in 1896, and became one of the first junior colleges in the country in 1907. In 1950, it became a co-educational four-year college, took the name Shimer College, and adopted the Hutchins Plan of Great Books and Socratic seminars then in practice at the U. of C. The U. of C. relationship ended in 1958.
Shimer enjoyed national recognition and strong growth in the 1960's, but was forced by financial problems to abandon its campus in 1978. The college then moved to an improvised campus in the Chicago suburb of Waukegan, remaining there until 2006, when it moved to the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in the Bronzeville neighborhood in the Douglas community area of Chicago.
Classes are exclusively small seminars in which students discuss original source material rather than reading textbooks. The core curriculum, a sequence of courses in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and integrated studies, comprise two-thirds of the course work required for a degree.
Shimer has offered a study abroad program in Oxford, England, since 1963 and a weekend program for working adults since 1981. Applicants to the school are evaluated on their academic potential, based primarily on an essay. No minimum grades or test scores are required. The Early Entrant Program, in place since 1950, allows students who have not yet completed high school to start college early. Shimer has the third highest rate of graduates who complete doctorate degrees of any liberal arts college in the country. Fifty percent of students go on to graduate study; over twenty percent complete doctoral degrees.
Shimer resides on the IIT main campus, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. There, students maintain Shimer College traditions but also participate in IIT student life. Shimer practices democratic self-governance to an extent that it states "is rare among institutions of higher education". Since 1977, the college has been governed internally by faculty, staff, and students working through a structure of committees and an egalitarian deliberative body called the Assembly. Shimer enrolled 119 full-time students in 2011. Notable alumni include poets, authors, political theorists, experimental artists, and computing pioneers.
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