Skidmore became one of seventeen colleges to develop external bachelor's degree programs—universities without walls—with Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities (UECU) funding from the Ford Foundation and the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. In 1970-71, pursuant to a proposal from Skidmore’s Committee on Educational Policies and Planning, the college agreed to a one-year experimental affiliation with UECU. In spring 1971, the Skidmore faculty voted to extend the experiment for two more years. Mark Gelber of Skidmore‘s English Department became the University Without Walls' first director, and UWW admitted its first students in 1971-72. In 1975, Skidmore withdrew from UECE and began to confer its own bachelor's degrees on UWW graduates. Crucial to this decision was an exhaustive year-long faculty review and the creation of the Skidmore University Without Walls standing faculty committee to provide oversight and ensure the program‘s integrity.
UWW developed many significant initiatives consistent with its core philosophy. In the 1970s, it provided specialized training to workers in New York State's Head Start program by offering Child Development Associate certificates and baccalaureate degrees in early childhood education. During the 1970s and 1980s, UWW's nursing program in New York City enabled nurses to earn a baccalaureate degree while working full-time. In 1974, motivated by the Attica inmate revolt, which resulted in thirty-nine deaths, Mark Gelber initiated a UWW program at maximum-security Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, New York, supported by a grant from New York State's Higher Education Opportunity Program and later by federal funds. In 1985, the program was extended to Comstock's medium-security Washington County Correctional Facility. It taught about a hundred students a year from Great Meadow and about sixty students a year from Washington and was extended to prison employees as well as inmates before closing in 1995, when state and federal funding were discontinued. Other UWW initiatives included a program in Law Enforcement Administration for police and state troopers and programs for employees at the NASA Space Center in Goddard, Maine, and with the Petroleum and Steel Industries of Qatar.
Advancements in technology enabled UWW to devise innovative ways of serving its students. A modest initiative to offer courses on campus, designed originally as group independent studies, developed, with the support of a Sloan Foundation grant of almost half a million dollars, into an ambitious curriculum of more than 100 on-line courses that was a model in the field. Skidmore became not only one of the few small liberal arts colleges to have a distance learning program but also at that time the only one with on-line courses.
In the twenty-first century, UWW continued its tradition of enabling cohorts of professionals to pursue a baccalaureate degree while working full-time. Its fruitful partnership with the Teachers Union of Antigua and Barbuda was instigated by UWW graduate Colin Green ‘01 with the support of Austin Josiah, UWW '90, at that time Chief Minister of Education in Antigua. The Antigua program produced more than seventy Skidmore graduates: teachers, educational administrators, and leaders in government, business, and social work. These graduates include twelve of Antigua and Barbuda's forty public school principals, seven school department heads, and seven current and former members of the Antigua and Barbuda Ministry of Education. At UWW's last Commencement, May 2011, Skidmore awarded Colin Greene an honorary doctorate in recognition of his advocacy for equitable access to excellent education on a global scale.
During its forty year history, UWW has graduated more than 1500 students, as young as eighteen and as mature as ninety-five. It has served students from as nearby as Saratoga Springs, including many Skidmore employees; from all over the United States; and from as far away as Switzerland, Qatar, Dubai, Israel, Mexico and Italy. Its students have ranged from poets to scientists, from psychologists to city planners, and from artists and musicians to seasoned business professionals. It was ideally suited for such cohorts as young film actors, who could pursue their baccalaureate education without interrupting their blossoming careers in Hollywood. UWW graduates have served their alma mater in many ways and include two members of the Skidmore Board of Trustees. This booklet honors UWW's forty-year history most appropriately through the words of its graduates and reflections from faculty and staff.
(Source: Commemorative Book of Reflections, excerpted from the introduction, by Kristin E. Mishkin, Director, University Without Walls, May 2011.)