History of UMass Dartmouth

Began as two local textile schools

UMass Dartmouth traces its roots to 1895, when the state legislature chartered the New Bedford Textile School and the Bradford Durfee Textile School in Fall River.

Modernized into multi-purpose institutions

As the region’s economic base shifted from textiles to more diverse manufacturing and service industries, the colleges changed, too. They diversified their curricula, responding to the needs of new generations of students.

By the middle of the 20th century, the colleges were growing rapidly, spurred by such forces as the GI Bill and the clear economic and social advantages of a well-educated citizenry. They had become multipurpose institutions, preparing engineers, health care workers, teachers, and business leaders—and had forged new identities: New Bedford Institute of Technology and Bradford Durfee College of Technology.

Established a dramatic new campus

In 1960, the state legislature created Southeastern Massachusetts Technological Institute (SMTI) by merging the New Bedford Institute of Technology and the Bradford Durfee College of Technology. The 710 acre campus in North Dartmouth, part way between New Bedford and Fall River, was established in 1964. The dramatic campus design was the work of architect Paul Rudolph, then dean of Yale’s school of Art and Architecture.

Developed a comprehensive university

There was a clear public demand for a comprehensive university, and in 1969 SMTI became Southeastern Massachusetts University (SMU). The university continued to grow through the 1970s, when its first residence halls were finished and through the ’80s, as research and studio facilities came into being.

Expanded science, engineering, and art

In 1988, the Dion Science and Engineering Building was opened, as was the Cedar Dell Townhouse Complex.

Also in 1988, the Swain School of Design in New Bedford merged with the university’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, strengthening programs in art and artisanry. The Swain merger brought additional art facilities in New Bedford to the university.

Joined the UMass system

In 1991, a new University of Massachusetts structure combined the Amherst, Boston, and Worcester campuses with Southeastern Massachusetts University and the University of Lowell (now UMass Lowell). Thus Southeastern Massachusetts University became the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

Expanded academics and research

In 1994, UMass Dartmouth received approval to offer its first PhD degree, in Electrical Engineering. It also offers several joint doctoral programs with other UMass campuses.

In 1997, construction was completed for the School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST), located on 2.6 acres in New Bedford near Buzzards Bay. A full program of research and development is now supported in this new facility.

And starting in 1997, student/faculty teams have engaged in landscaping beautification projects across campus.

Created a vibrant arts center

In 2001, the university opened the Star Store campus in downtown New Bedford, a structure transformed from a landmark department store into a vibrant arts center located in the city’s historic district.

Supported new technology, manufacturing, and start-up companies

The university opened a new $14 million Advanced Technology and Manufacturing Center in Fall River, also in 2001. The 60,000 square foot research and development center features conference space, specialty labs in acoustics, optics, telecommunications, materials, textiles and environmental engineering, as well as incubator space for start-up companies.

Increased continuing education

In 2002, the university opened the Professional and Continuing Education Center in Fall River in the fully renovated Cherry and Webb building. A second centrally located Center for Professional and Continuing Education opened in New Bedford in 2004.

Two new student residence buildings, Oak Glen Hall and Pine Dale Hall, were also completed in 2002.

Opened a new building for the Charlton College of Business 

In fall 2004, the university opened a new building for the Charlton College of Business on the Dartmouth campus.

It also broke ground for another two new student residence buildings, to meet the increasing demand for on-campus housing.

Introduced the Woodlands community

Six new residence halls, part of the Woodlands Community, opened its doors to upperclassmen in 2005, offering fully furnished, apartment-style living for the 21+ student population. Located near the Tripp Athletic Center, Woodlands Community also has a commons building that offers a 3,000 square foot function room that can seat up to 300 people, six smaller meeting rooms and a café.

Strengthened focus on science, research, and innovation

In 2007, the university opened a 22,000-square-foot Research Building, the first at UMass Dartmouth devoted entirely to research. This building strengthens the "Innovation Triangle" in southeastern Massachusetts that includes major research and development centers in New Bedford and Fall River.

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