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History

Special approaches to career education at Johnson & Wales University (JWU) have evolved over more than 90 years’ time and continue to adapt as JWU responds to the changing needs of business and industry. JWU was founded as a business school in 1914 in Providence, R.I. by Gertrude I. Johnson and Mary T. Wales. From its origins as a school devoted to business education, JWU grew to a junior college, a senior college, and ultimately, university status.

The university became well established because of its strong commitment to specialized business education and the high ideals of its founders. In 1993, JWU received regional accreditation from the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Accredited since 1954 by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, JWU consolidated its institutional accreditation under NEASC on June 30, 2000.

In 1963, the State of Rhode Island granted a charter which authorized the university to operate as a nonprofit, degree-granting institution of higher learning and to award associate degrees in the arts and sciences. In 1970, the State of Rhode Island approved a revision in the university’s charter to award baccalaureate degrees. In 1980, the governor and General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island granted a legislative charter authorizing the university to award advanced degrees.

The charter was amended in 1988, changing the institution’s name to Johnson & Wales University. In 1992, the governor of the State of Rhode Island signed a new legislative charter into law with university status.

A new career emphasis was introduced at JWU in 1973, when the university announced the opening of what is now known as the College of Culinary Arts and the addition of an associate degree program in that field. This proved to be one of the most far-reaching changes in the educational expansion of the university, leading to additional two- and four-year degree programs in the hospitality and food service fields.

In 1984, a JWU campus was established in Charleston, S.C., which offered a variety of two- and four-year programs in food service, hospitality and travel-tourism. The Norfolk, Va. campus opened to the public in 1986, offering one- and two-year food service programs.

In 1985, graduate degree programs and later a doctorate in education were introduced at the university through the Alan Shawn Feinstein Graduate School and School of Education.

In 1992, under a joint educational agreement, the university began programs on the campus of the IHM Business School in Göteborg, Sweden. JWU established a formal, independent learning site there from 1994–2004 giving business and hospitality students the opportunity to complete one year of study in Sweden and finish their degrees at one of the university’s domestic campuses.

Also in 1992, JWU opened another campus in North Miami, Fla., which now offers culinary arts, business and hospitality undergraduate degree programs.

That year also marked the university’s formal establishment of the College of Business, The Hospitality College, the College of Culinary Arts and the School of Technology. A new emphasis on general studies was introduced in 1992 as well, with the development of the School of Arts & Sciences.

The university’s School of Technology offered courses in Worcester, Mass. from 1992–2002 before moving all technology programs to Providence.

In 1993 a four-year bachelor’s degree offering in culinary arts was added at the university. A campus was also opened in Vail, Colo., offering an accelerated associate degree program in culinary arts to college graduates.

September 2000 marked the opening of the Denver, Colo. campus, which offers undergraduate degrees in culinary arts, hospitality and business. In 2000, the Vail Campus was merged with the Denver Campus.

In 2002, the university made a strategic decision to consolidate its smaller Charleston and Norfolk campuses by building a campus in Charlotte, N.C. The JWU Charlotte Campus opened in fall 2004 and offers undergraduate degree programs in business, culinary arts and hospitality. The Charleston and Norfolk campuses officially closed in May 2006.

In keeping with its tradition of focusing on the best interest of students and responding to industry, it was determined in April 2006 that beginning with the 2008-2009 academic year, JWU’s College of Business and The Hospitality College would move away from offering associate degrees and instead have students customize their education through specializations or concentrations at the baccalaureate level alone. This decision did not impact the College of Culinary Arts and the School of Technology where the two-year degree continues to be relevant.

Each year the university grows in program offerings and physical facilities. At the same time, the university also gains recognition and prestige, making contributions to the community, government and industry.

Countdown to 100 Years: 1914-1947

As JWU nears the century mark, share in our enthusiasm and pride as we recount the key moments and people that make up our university’s rich and vibrant history. We begin by celebrating our founders.
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