Global, Historical Influences from 1940 through the 1980s on the Addition of Departments and Programs at Trinity College

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If someone were to compare the curriculum of Trinity College from 1900 to its curriculum now in 2012, he or she would see few similarities.  In the 1900 curriculum he or she may see a department of Hygiene but such a department would not be found in the 2012 curriculum, and in 2012 he or she may see Women, Gender, and Sexuality but the curriculum from 1900 surely would not have mentioned such a program.  Over time, higher education curricula change to adapt to the growing and changing world surrounding it, and oftentimes curricula reflect social and historical influences and changes.  But each institution is affected differently by different historical happenings.  Throughout the history of Trinity College, what global, historical influences have influenced the addition of departments at programs at Trinity?

From 1940 through the 1980s there were a number of major global, historical happenings which influenced the addition or subtraction of departments and programs at Trinity College.  The major historical happenings which had the greatest effects on Trinity departments and programs were World War II and US relations with the Soviet Union, but the Vietnam and Korean Wars also had influence.  These historical happenings had such a profound influence on the US and its international relations that Trinity College made ample change to adapt.

World War II (1939-1945) had both immediate and delayed impacts on Trinity’s departments and programs.  The first departmental impact the war had on Trinity was experienced while the war was still in progress. In the 1942-43 academic year at Trinity, Trinity introduced the International Relations department[i].  This department, which examined “World Affairs”, demonstrates how a historical happening such as a war can immediately influence higher education curriculum.  A few years later, in 1948, Trinity split up the previous “History and Political Science” department into the two separate departments of History and Political Science.[ii] In Peter Knapp’s book Trinity College in the Twentieth Century, Knapp explains, “A desire to effect the separation [of history and political science] had been evident for several years prior to World War II, but in the late 1940s, it became clear that gradual changes in the subject matter of the two disciplines and a new emphasis on the importance of the study of political science in relation to the world scene made such a division necessary and timely.”[iii] Trinity’s students, faculty, and administration noted the impact war had on America and they changed Trinity’s curriculum to keep up with the changing United States.  World War II not only affected the implementation of departments and programs at Trinity, but their alteration as well.

While the war was still in progression, Trinity added a program simultaneously with the International Relations department known as the Navy V-12 College Training Program.  During the war the U.S. Navy, having supported a large shipbuilding program, had a shortage of naval officers.  In order to supplement that need, The Navy created the V-12 program[iv] which was implemented in 131 colleges and universities nationwide.[v] The program prepared its student-participants to become officers for the Navy as well as the Marine Corps, and on July 1st, 1943 the Navy V-12 program was implemented at Trinity.[vi] The program called for a basic curriculum which was determined by the Navy and which had to be completed within four semesters.[vii] The program also called for courses which were not so “basic” such as celestial navigation and a number of other mathematics courses.[viii]

After the war’s end in 1945, the Navy V-12 program ended at Trinity,[ix] but the presence of the military certainly was gone.  In 1944, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act was passed.  This act, better known as the GI Bill, gave money to World War II veterans for a variety of uses, one of which was tuition to college.[x] In the end, 3.5 million students utilized this provision of the bill, sending 3.5 million veterans to colleges and universities across the nation,[xi] and allowing for an influx of students at Trinity in the subsequent years of the bill’s passage[xii], enough for Trinity to implement an office of veteran affairs.[xiii] The influx of veterans on Trinity’s campus incited change in Trinity’s curriculum.  In the 1946-47 academic year, Trinity added a program called “Preparation for American Foreign Service”[xiv] and soon after added “Preparation for Government Service”.[xv] Trinity also added a department titled “Military Science” in 1949, but this department only lasted for one year.[xvi]

The combination of the termination of the Navy V-12 program and the influx of war veterans was a problem on Trinity’s campus.  “Although the College’s experience with the military had ended with the disbandment of the V-12 unit in 1945, the hundreds of veterans who attended Trinity had done much to keep the spirit of service alive.”[xvii] Fortunately for the patriots on Trinity’s campus, shortly after the end of World War II, then chief of staff of the War Department Dwight D. Eisenhower signed General Order No. 124.  This order established Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) units across the country.[xviii] In 1948 Trinity College established its own AFROTC unit[xix] which constituted the establishment of the new department Air Science and Tactics in 1950.[xx]

Separate from direct military influences on Trinity’s curriculum, there were less-obvious influences of World War II on Trinity’s departments and programs.  World War II saw dramatic innovations in the worlds of science and engineering, earning the World War II era the title of “the Birth of Big Science”.[xxi] After the war’s end, politicians and researchers feared that advancement in these fields would halt.  In order to ensure that the fields of science and engineering continued to grow and advance, the federal government established the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 1950.[xxii] In the 1950s and 1960s the NSF along with the U.S. Office of Education funded curriculum projects in all levels of education.[xxiii] In 1960 alone, the federal government gave $462 million to colleges and universities for research and development purposes.[xxiv] This funding led to an increase of focus on science and engineering programs in higher education throughout the country, so much so that throughout the 1960s Trinity classified its engineering program under the “Special Programs” section of its bulletin instead of grouping it with the rest of Trinity’s majors.[xxv]

The NSF continued to push science advancement in higher education (and is still intact today) which led to the addition of several new science departments at Trinity.  These departments included Astronomy, implemented in the 1964-65 academic year; Physical Sciences, implemented in 1966-67; Biochemistry, implemented in 1972-73; and most-importantly a Computing Coordinate major, implemented in 1975-76.[xxvi] The computing coordinate major became extremely successful and eventually turning into the “Engineering and Computer Science” major in 1985-86[xxvii] and then strictly “Computer Science”.  But what made this department so important was its permeation throughout the rest of the curriculum.  In the 1970s, computer incorporation throughout Trinity’s whole curriculum was so prevalent that by the end of the decade the NSF “hailed Trinity as a model for other colleges and universities.”[xxviii] World War II had a significant impact on Trinity’s science curriculum as well as its national accreditation.

In addition to the influences of World War II on Trinity’s addition of departments and programs, the US’s relations with the Soviet Union influenced these additions as well.  One of the first influences our relations with The USSR has on Trinity’s curriculum occurred during the 1965-66 academic year.  Starting in 1957 with the USSR’s launch of Sputnik, the US and the USSR entered the “Space Race” which was the era from 1957-1969 in which the US and the USSR competed to be the first country to have a man land on the moon.[xxix] Throughout the first part of the Space Race, Trinity’s Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps department was named Air Science and Tactics, but in the 1965-66 academic year, the departments name was changed to Aerospace Studies which incorporated traditional air science with the science of outer space.[xxx] In addition to other factors, which will be discussed later, the end of the Space Race led to the termination of the Aerospace Studies department, which also constituted the end of the AFROTC program at Trinity.  In 1969, the US successfully had landed Neil Armstrong on the moon and one could therefore say the US “won” the Space Race.  One year after this feat occurred and the Space Race was over, in the 1970-1971 academic year, Trinity had its last year of the Aerospace Studies department and therefore its last year of the AFROTC program.[xxxi]

The Space Race had another profound impact on education.  The Soviet launch of Sputnik sent a panic wave through political America.  America had to be better than the USSR and also had to be prepared for whatever the Soviets could do if they controlled outer space.  The launch of Sputnik became a catalyst for the formulation and passage of the National Defense Education Act of 1958.[xxxii] This act aimed at “providing aid to education in the United States at all levels, public and private. NDEA was instituted primarily to stimulate the advancement of education in science, mathematics, and modern foreign languages” as well as other areas.[xxxiii] Although one would think this act would have had a heavy influence on Trinity’s curriculum, that proved not to be the case.  Because science was already being pushed by the Trinity administration due to the NSF, we cannot say for sure whether the NDEA had an influence on the science curriculum at Trinity.  But in the other areas of mathematics and modern languages little advances were made.  No new math department was added and the modern language department already existed at Trinity prior to the passage of the act.  The one difference that was made was the addition of a Russian department in 1959 which strictly taught language courses at the time.[xxxiv] Any other effects of the act were not felt until much later and are doubtful.

The Russian department became part of the modern languages department at Trinity and stayed there for another twenty years.  However in the 1980-81 academic year, Trinity added a Russian and Soviet Studies department.[xxxv] This department not only taught language courses but history and culture courses as well.   During this time, around 1980, the US and the USSR were not at ease with one another.  For a number of years, the US and the USSR entered a state of détente, but during the Cold War in 1979, that détente ended when the USSR invaded Afghanistan during the Carter presidency.[xxxvi] This combined with the knowledge of Soviet nuclear weapons created a Soviet scare throughout America.  This scare led to the addition of the Russian and Soviet Studies department at Trinity.  You need to know your enemy, right?

In addition to US-Soviet relations and World War II, the Vietnam and Korean wars impacted departments and programs at Trinity, but they did so on a much smaller scale.  In fact, the Vietnam and Korean wars did not inspire the addition of any departments or programs at Trinity.  However, they did end one.  When the Vietnam War and Korean War each began, Trinity’s AFROTC program was still in effect.  But after the end of the Korean War, student interest in the program declined.  By the end of the 1960s, the program was the target of student protests on campus.[xxxvii] By the 1970s, during the Vietnam War, interest in the program was scarce because the view of the military during that time was so negative.[xxxviii] In the fall of 1970 it was agreed upon by both Trinity’s trustees and the Air Force personnel that the program would end in July of 1971.[xxxix] Although the Korean and Vietnam Wars were not influential in adding Trinity departments and programs, they still were influential in what departments and programs lived at Trinity.

From 1940 through the 1980s Trinity College embraced the global happenings which surrounded it.  These historical happenings rocked America and rocked college campuses as well.  These happenings were too big to ignore.  The effects World War II had on the addition of departments and programs at Trinity were so profound that they shaped a large portion of the Trinity curriculum today in the sciences and other fields such as politics with the addition of political science and international relations courses.  US relations with the Soviet Union also will have lasting impressions on the Trinity curriculum, and the Vietnam and Korean Wars will also have influenced Trinity’s history.  It is safe to say that every department and program that arrives at Trinity or was erased from Trinity arrived or left there for a specific reason.    By looking at the historical context in which a department is placed, we can gain excellent insight as to the department/program’s roots, especially ‘neath the elms.  Trinity always has been and always will be affected by the world outside of its campus.  Who knows what departments we will see next?

[i] “Trinity College Hartford, Connecticut Bulletin”, 1942-1943

[ii] Bulletin, 1948

[iii] Knapp, Peter J., and Anne H. Knapp. 2000. Trinity College in the twentieth century: a history. Hartford, Conn: Trinity College., 142

[iv] “University History–Navy V-12.” University of Richmond, 2009.

[v] Knapp, 98

[vi] Knapp, 98

[vii] Knapp, 98

[viii] Knapp, 99

[ix] Knapp, 100

[x] Kennedy, David M., Lizabeth Cohen, and Thomas A. Bailey. The American Pageant. 13th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006., 853

[xi] DeVane, Willian Clyde. Higher Education in Twentieth-Century America. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1965., 124

[xii] Knapp, 121

[xiii] Bulletin, 1948

[xiv] Bulletin, 1946-47

[xv] Bulletin, 1949

[xvi] Bulletin, 1949

[xvii] Knapp, 143

[xviii] “Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Factsheet.” U.S. Air Force, November 23, 2010.

[xix] Knapp, 143

[xx] Bulletin, 1950

[xxi] Rudolph, John L. “From World War to Woods Hole: The Use of Wartime Research Models for Curriculum Reform.” Teachers College Record 104, no. 2 (March 2002): 212–241.

[xxii] “National Science Foundation History.” National Science Foundation, February 24, 2012.

[xxiii] Rudolph

[xxiv] DeVane, 126

[xxv] Bulletins 1961-1972

[xxvi] Bulletins 1964-1965,19 66-1967, 1972-1973,19 75-1976

[xxvii] Bulletin 1985-86

[xxviii] Knapp, 412

[xxix] “The Space Race.” The History Channel Website, 2012.

[xxx] Bulletin 1965-66

[xxxi] Bulletin 1970-1971

[xxxii] Sufrin, Sidney C. Administering the National Defense Education Act. The Economics and Politics of Public Education Series 8. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1963., 2

[xxxiii] “National Defense Education Act —” Infoplease, 2005.

[xxxiv] Bulletin 1959

[xxxv] Bulletin 1980-1981

[xxxvi] Kennedy, 964

[xxxvii] Knapp, 387

[xxxviii] Knapp, 143

[xxxix] Knapp, 387