The New School was founded in 1919 by a group of progressive intellectuals looking for a new, more relevant model of education, one in which faculty and students would be free to honestly and directly address
the problems facing societies.
The founders, among them Charles Beard, John Dewey, James Harvey Robinson, and Thorstein Veblen, were teaching at Columbia University during the First World War. When they took a public stand against U.S. entry into the war, they were censured by Columbia's
president. The outspoken professors resigned from Columbia and joined with other progressive educators to create a new model of higher education for adults, a school where ordinary citizens could learn from and exchange ideas freely with scholars
and artists representing a wide range of intellectual, aesthetic, and political orientations. The school was called the New School for Social Research and was later renamed The New School.
From the beginning, The New School maintained close ties to Europe. Its founders had modeled the school in part after the Volkshochschulen for adults established in Germany. Then, during the 1920s, Alvin Johnson, The New School’s director, became co-editor
of the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. While working on this massive undertaking, Johnson collaborated regularly with colleagues in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. It was they who made him aware of the danger the Nazi movement presented
to democracy and the civilized world before many in the United States had grasped the seriousness of the situation. In 1933, when Hitler came to power and began to purge Jews and politically hostile elements from German universities, Johnson responded.
With the financial support of philanthropist Hiram Halle and the Rockefeller Foundation, he obtained funding to provide a haven in the United States for scholars whose careers (and lives) were threatened by the Nazis, called the University in Exile.
This institution was given a home at The New School and sponsored more than 180 individuals and their families, providing them with visas and jobs. Some of these refugees remained at The New School for many years and some moved on to other institutions
in the United States, but the influx of new people and new ideas had an impact on the U.S. academy far beyond any particular university or institute. The University in Exile was fully incorporated into The New School in 1934; it was later renamed
the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science and was eventually called The New School for Social Research (NSSR).
As a group, these leading intellectuals helped transform the social sciences and philosophy in this country, presenting new theoretical and methodological approaches to their fields. Today NSSR continues to attract distinguished and socially active faculty
who challenge long-held theories and push scholarship and social discourse in new directions. NSSR remains true to the idea of a school of free inquiry for students and faculty of different ethnicities, religions, and geographical origins who are
willing to challenge academic orthodoxy, connect social theory to empirical observation, and take the intellectual and political risks necessary to improve social conditions.
Scholars who have graced the school’s halls include economists Adolph Lowe and Robert Heilbroner, political scientists Arnold Brecht and Aristide Zolberg, sociologists Emil Lederer and Peter Berger, psychologists Max Wertheimer and Jerome Bruner, historian
Charles Tilly, and philosophers Hannah Arendt, Leo Strauss, and Reiner Schürmann.