You are here

Our Origin Story: The History of Our Graduate School

UL Grad School -- 04/04/2016

The Graduate School at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette stands among some of the best grad schools in the Southeast, offering master’s and doctoral programs in humanities, STEM, and professional disciplines.

Graduate studies at the then-Southwestern Louisiana Institute began in September 1957 with our first master’s program: Master of Education. That same year, we established master’s degrees in engineering, mathematics, and the sciences. During the 1958-1959 academic year, 15 students graduated with their master’s in education. The following year, 40 students earned their master’s degree from what would become the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. History of Our Graduate School

During the 1960s, UL Lafayette created its first computer center, led by  Dean of the Graduate School, James Oliver, who was the architect of a vigorous research agenda that led to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's first doctoral programs: a PhD in microbiology and PhD in mathematics. The PhD in mathematics program would go on to produce such notable alumni as  Peter Xiao, who holds 8 U.S. patents and is engineering director at CISCO, and Enoch Kin Lee, who is now mathematics department head at Auburn University at Montgomery. By 1968, UL Lafayette had established the PhD in computer science program — making UL Lafayette the first Louisiana graduate school to offer that degree. That same year, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette also began offering doctoral degrees in biology, history, microbiology, statistics, and English. Wiley Cash, who graduated from our PhD in English program, wrote two best-selling novels, A Land More Kind Than Home, which he wrote for his dissertation, and This Dark Road to Mercy.

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette awarded its first doctoral degree in 1971, by which time the Graduate School offered more than 20 master’s programs in disciplines like education, engineering, languages, the humanities, music, and the sciences, along with its established doctoral programs. In 1975, UL Lafayette added a Master of Business Administration degree program, which has grown to be one of the University’s largest master’s programs, and, in 1982, a master’s in computer engineering. A few years later, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette added the continent’s first doctoral program in Francophone studies, and we are still one of the only grad schools in the nation to offer that degree.

Graduate enrollment rose sharply in the early 1980s, fueling an increased focus on University research. During that time, UL Lafayette dramatically expanded its research capabilities. In 1984, it formed the Center for Advanced Computer Studies as an umbrella organization for graduate studies in computer science and computer engineering, and acquired the New Iberia Research Center, one of the nation's largest primate research centers.

In 1990, UL Lafayette became Louisiana's first Carnegie Doctoral II institution, awarded to the University because of its commitment to producing high-quality research doctorates, which serves as a true testament to the research activity of the University’s faculty and students.

After an additional decade of growth, the UL Lafayette Graduate School added the Master of Architecture program and Doctorate in Applied Language and Speech Science in 2001. The same decade, the University’s first Ed.D. program was established in educational leadership, along with a master’s in educational leadership. And, after years of building the University’s research efforts along with its graduate program offerings, UL Lafayette was named one of the top 100 public research universities in the nation by the Rockefeller Institute.

In 2012, UL Lafayette established three new graduate programs: a PhD in systems engineering that allows engineering students from different disciplines to incorporate their previous knowledge with systems theory, the executive MBA program for experienced executives looking to complement their skills with an advanced degree, and the post-master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, which pushes high-quality nurses to explore new avenues of nursing practice through academic research. 2014 saw the creation of a master’s in accounting program and an  online master’s in system technology program. Then in 2015, UL Lafayette formed a partnership with Southeastern Louisiana University to offer a BSN to DNP program, which helps nurses earn their doctorate faster.

The continued efforts of the UL Lafayette Graduate School to grow graduate education through not only sustained support of graduate students with both funding and academic resources, but also with new and inventive graduate program offerings, has seen more and more graduates each year. To date, UL Lafayette has awarded 14,465 master’s degrees and 1,082 PhDs, who all enrich the world around us  as high-quality academics, researchers, and professionals who have all been part of our remarkable community of scholars.