Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is a public, residential, liberal arts college in North Adams, Massachusetts. It is part of the state university system of Massachusetts.[3] It is a member of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges. Originally established as part of the state's normal school system for training teachers, it now offers a wide variety of programs leading to Bachelor of Science and Arts degrees, as well as a Master of Education track.

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
The MCLA logo is patterned after the original gates from Murdock Hall that now serve as the college gates.
Former names
North Adams State College (1960-1997)
State Teachers College of North Adams (1932-1960)
North Adams Normal School (1894-1932)[1]
Endowment$11.522 million[2] (2017)
PresidentDr. James F. "Jaimie" Birge
Academic staff
87 full-time
42 part-time
Location, ,
42.691672°N 73.103921°W / 42.691672; -73.103921
CampusRural, 105 acres (0.4 km²)
ColorsNavy and Gold          
AffiliationsMassachusetts Deptartment of Higher Education
Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges


MCLA was founded in 1894 as North Adams Normal School, and it offered first instruction at post-secondary level three years later. By 1897, the Normal School enrolled just 32 students and employed four teachers. Out of those 32 students, only three of them were men In 1932, North Adams Normal School became State Teachers College of North Adams. Along with the name change, it added an upper-division curriculum and awarded the first degree (baccalaureate). Four years later, the school instituted an upper-graduate program. In 1960, the college changed its name to North Adams State College and, later in 1997, to Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, the latter name reflecting its position as the public liberal arts college within the Massachusetts state university system[1].

In 2004, President Mary Grant initiated collaborations with other institutions to strengthen MCLA's leadership position. The college launched the Berkshire Compact for Higher Education and MCLA Gallery 51.[4] MCLA also is the lead partner in the Berkshire STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Pipeline Network.

In 2008, Governor Deval Patrick signed the Higher Education Bond Bill that includes $54.5 million for a new Center for Science and Innovation at MCLA. On Oct. 4, 2013 the newly named Feigenbaum Center for Science and Innovation was opened on the MCLA campus.[5]

In 2014, Dr. Mary Grant left the college and Dr. Cynthia F. Brown was appointed Interim President of the college.

On March 5, 2015, Dr. Greg Summers was unanimously named the 12th President of the school by the college's board of trustees. Dr. Summers later withdrew his acceptance to be the 12th President of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, citing family health concerns.[6]

On December 9, 2015, Dr. Jamie Birge was chosen by the trustees to be the 12th President of the school.[7]


MCLA has a rolling admissions plan but requires graduation from an accredited secondary school or a GED. MCLA uses SAT or ACT composite scores for entrance consideration. MCLA accepts transfer students with grade-point average requirements or with an associate degree.

MCLA awards the bachelor of arts and a bachelor of science on the undergraduate level and also confers master's degrees in both education and business administration, as well as a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS). MCLA offers 19 major programs of study and 35 minors. On average, MCLA offers 300 academic courses each semester.

Graduation from MCLA requires completing 120 credits of academic work. From these 120 credits, about 40 should be college-wide core curriculum credits. Another 40 credits are required to complete a major. Like many higher education programs, 40 upper-division credits are also required. MCLA has a college residence requirement saying at least 45 credits must be earned in residence at the college. Students must earn at least a 2.0 grade point average overall and a 2.0 in their major.

Distinctive educational programs

MCLA offers internships for undergraduates through the Berkshire Hills Internship Program. It also offers undergraduates coursework in other countries through its travel abroad program. MCLA belongs to the Massachusetts Council for International Education (MaCIE), College Consortium for International Studies (CCIS), and the National Student Exchange (NSE). Through these associations and connections, students are sent on semester- or year-long programs to colleges around the world.

The college Honors Program[8] includes ten percent of the student body for whom it offers special interdisciplinary courses in such topics as "The Mathematics of Fairness," "Ethics and Animals" or "The Romantic Movement." The college is authorized by the state to grant the distinction "Commonwealth Scholar" to students who complete the honors program with a capstone thesis.


MCLA has 13 varsity sports. The college's varsity teams compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) at the NCAA Division III level in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC). Active intercollegiate female teams are basketball, volleyball, tennis, cross country, soccer, softball, and lacrosse; while active intercollegiate male teams are baseball, basketball, golf, cross country, tennis and soccer. The college also has NERFU club rugby which was re-activated in 2011.

From 1963, the college's athletic teams were known as the Mohawks, after the Mohawk Trail which runs along Massachusetts Route 2. In response to concerns over using a Native American name (Francis Boots, cultural-preservation officer of the Mohawk tribe, has told college officials that his people were not honored by the name[9]), the mascot was changed to the Trailblazers in 2002. In 2013, a new mascot, the Mountain Lion, was adopted.[10]

The most successful team in the college's history was the men's ice hockey team, which was cut in 2003.

Organization and administration

MCLA is governed by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education. Beyond that, MCLA has extra-institutional representation of 11 voting members and the Board of Trustees, whose members are appointed by the governor which has 11 voting members. A student representative to the board of trustees is elected every spring by the student body to sit for one academic year. Administration positions include 12 men and 24 women. Academic affairs is headed by the vice president for academic affairs. Business and finances is headed by the vice president for administration and finance. Student affairs is headed by the vice president of student affairs. The full-time instructional faculty has 52 men and 36 women. The academic governance body, All College Committee, meets an average of nine times each year.


The school has two student publications: The Beacon,[11] a weekly newspaper, and Spires, a literary magazine published each year. Radio Station WJJW broadcasts for 140 hours each week, and episodes of the student-run college TV news program, Beacon Web News, are produced once a week. MCLA also has one faculty publication: The Mind's Eye,[12] and one alumni publication, Beacons & Seeds,[13] which comes out twice a year.

Notable alumni


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