Mission and History


Throughout its history, the University of Wisconsin-Superior has committed to improving the lives and livelihoods of people in northwestern Wisconsin and beyond by seeking knowledge and spreading it to all who may benefit.

Such commitment is reflected in its mission statement:

"The University of Wisconsin-Superior fosters intellectual growth and career preparation within a liberal arts tradition that emphasizes individual attention, embodies respect for diverse cultures and multiple voices, and engages the community and region." (Approved by the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, Feb. 6, 2015)

To accomplish these ends, the University will:

  1. Provide students with a carefully articulated and comprehensive foundation in liberal studies as a base for all degree programs.
  2. Award associate and baccalaureate degrees in selected fields in education, arts, humanities, sciences, social sciences, business, and pre-professional programs.
  3. Offer graduate programs in areas associated with its undergraduate emphases and strengths.
  4. Extend its undergraduate and graduate resources beyond the boundaries of the campus through alternative delivery of programs.
  5. Expect scholarly activity, including research, scholarship and creative endeavor, that supports its programs at the associate and baccalaureate degree levels, its selected graduate programs, and its special mission.
  6. Maintain an inclusive campus community that challenges students to develop their intellectual, personal, cultural, and social competencies.
  7. Engage in appropriate inter-institutional relationships and community partnerships to enhance educational and service opportunities.
  8. Foster, with University of Wisconsin-Extension, the development of cooperative and general outreach programming and the integration of the Extension function with that of this institution.

History Timeline

1893: Wisconsin Legislature establishes the Superior Normal School, the university's predecessor.

1896: First students begin classes.

1897: First students graduate.

1909: Launches pioneering full-scale training program for teaching kindergarten.

1914: Original campus building (Old Main) burns to the ground.

1916: Old Main rebuilt; first academic institution in Wisconsin to be accredited.

1923: First in state to offer four-year program for high school teachers.

1926: School becomes Superior State Teachers College and grants first bachelor's degree.

1950s-1960s: Enrollment grows, campus boundaries expand, new buildings go up. College adds degrees in Business, Sciences, Art and Music.

1964: College renamed Wisconsin State University-Superior.

1965: Education Specialist degree first offered for principals, superintendents and school business managers.

1967: The Lake Superior Research Institute created to research, teach and publicize the Great Lakes Region.

1971: Campus joins UW System and becomes the University of Wisconsin - Superior.

1977: The Center for Continuing Education and the Extended Degree Program created to serve adult learners across northern Wisconsin and beyond.

1985, 1988: School begins offering graduate degrees in Instruction and Special Education.

1998, 1999: UW-Superior launches the Transportation and Logistics Management major and the Transportation and Logistics Research Center

2003: The Health and Wellness Center is completed, the first new campus building in 30 years, and named Marcovich Wellness Center in 2010 after alumnus and regent Toby Marcovich.

2004: The Great Lakes Maritime Research Institute is established to pursue research efforts in marine transportation, logistics, economics, engineering, environmental planning and port management.

2009: The Yellowjacket Union, replacement to Rothwell Student Center, is opened.

2010: Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve is designated.

2011: Swenson Hall is opened.

History Narrative


In 1893, the Wisconsin legislature established a "normal school" in Superior to train school teachers. The Superior Normal School, which evolved into the University of Wisconsin-Superior, welcomed its first students in 1896. By providing trained, well-educated teachers, the institution helped the small towns and rural areas of the region to grow and prosper.

The school's first class graduated in 1897. Three young men completed the "full course" and nine women and men met the requirements of the shorter "elementary course." These early graduates were pioneers who first brought the benefits of public education to the region's children regardless of their race, social status or economic standing.

New Ideas

Innovation and quality were hallmarks of Superior Normal School from its earliest days.

In 1909, the institution became Wisconsin's first normal school to offer a full-scale training program for the then-new idea of kindergarten. In 1923, it was the first to offer a four-year program for high school teachers. In 1916, Superior Normal School earned accreditation for its academic programs. Today, UW-Superior maintains the longest continuous accreditation of any academic institution in Wisconsin.

College Status

In 1926, after training a generation of teachers, Superior Normal School became Superior State Teachers College and granted its first bachelor's degree in Education. Arthur Dudley Samuel Gillett, the college's first president, was a member of its first graduating class.

More Than Teaching

After World War II, the teachers college added undergraduate degrees in other academic fields. In 1950, it offered its first graduate degree, a master of arts in School Administration. The next year, the Board of Regents changed the institution's name to Wisconsin State College-Superior to better reflect its broader role.

Enrollment Booms

As the college's enrollment grew substantially in the 1950s and '60s, so did its physical size and academic programs. New buildings went up as the college added Business, Science, Music and Art degrees. The college started several graduate programs in education, including guidance and counseling, reading and school psychology, along with a Specialist in Education degree in 1965 to further the professional training of school principals, district superintendents and business managers.

University Status

In 1964, officials reclassified Wisconsin's state colleges as universities and the institution was renamed Wisconsin State University-Superior.

In 1971, it joined the University of Wisconsin System and became the University of Wisconsin-Superior.

Innovation Continues

UW-Superior has continued to focus its academic programs to meet the needs of students and employers. In 1985, the school added a graduate degree in instruction followed by a graduate degree in Special Education in 1988. Since then, the university has added such innovative undergraduate programs as Legal Studies, Art Therapy, Transportation and Logistics Management and Sustainable Management, which also includes a master's program.