A Brief History

Northeastern traces its roots to the beginning of teacher training. The University was founded in 1867 in Blue Island, Illinois, as the Normal School, Cook County’s first teacher training institution. Northeastern has a rich tradition of educational innovation and prides itself in preparing teachers and administrators who make a difference in Chicago. That tradition continues to this day and has expanded to include all of the University’s academic disciplines, allowing the University to fully embrace the community in which it resides.

Over the years, the name, location, and mission of the University have changed, but the commitment to learning and teaching has continued from generation to generation. The University has not only changed and grown, but it has expanded to address specific urban needs. The Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies (CCICS) was established in 1966 as an important expression of the University’s commitment to inner city communities and especially to the African American community. Three years later, in 1969, the University’s El Centro location was founded with a special focus on service to the large, diverse and growing Latino community. In 1978, the University opened the Chicago Teachers' Center, now the Center for College Access and Success (CCAS), to offer professional development programs for urban teachers and administrators. More recently, NEIU joined the University Center of Lake County in 1996 as a founding member of a consortium of public and private universities offering baccalaurate- and master’s-level course work in Lake County. To complete the picture, this mix of essentially urban locations and partnerships also includes the Gensburg-Markham Prairie, which the University acquired in 1973. Consisting of 104 acres of unspoiled Illinois prairieland, it is located just south of Chicago—a beautiful preserve for future generations to learn from and enjoy. In 2014, Northeastern opened its new El Centro location, an award-winning facility along a highly visible stretch of the Kennedy Expressway. In 2015, the University broke ground on its first residence hall.

This rich history tracks the dynamic growth of the city and the region. While keeping faith with its original mission—to provide an important resource for students from Illinois—today Northeastern attracts students from all over the world and is poised to become a model of regional public education with a truly global mission. Northeastern’s learning environment is enriched though the community’s ethnic, cultural, age and language diversity. Throughout our history the University has maintained, fostered and celebrated its commitment to diversity.

Today, Northeastern offers its students more than 80 undergraduate and graduate programs in the arts, sciences, education, and business. Faculty encourage students to integrate classroom instruction with field-based learning, research and service, locally and around the globe.