Feb 24, 2024  
Catalogue 2013-2014 
Catalogue 2013-2014 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Campus Resources

The Academic Campus

The Residential Campus

The Academic Campus

The Libraries

The libraries at Vassar are extraordinary and rank among the very best liberal arts collections in the United States both in the number of titles (over 1,000,000 print volumes) and in their exceptional variety and depth. The libraries include the Frederick Ferris Thompson Memorial Library, considered one of the most beautiful Collegiate Gothic buildings in the country; the Helen D. Lockwood Library; the Art Library; the George Sherman Dickinson Music Library; and the Martha Rivers and E. Bronson Ingram Library, which also houses the Catherine Pelton Durrell Archives and Special Collections.

The Vassar Libraries effectively merge traditional materials with newer technologies, giving students extraordinary access to a broad range of print materials (books, journals, manuscripts, rare books, and archives) and electronic resources (electronic journals, indexes, full-text indexes, databases, web-based resources, and videos). The library routinely schedules programs and workshops to teach students how to utilize these resources efficiently.

Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center houses one of the oldest college art collections in the country. The collection contains more than 18,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, and photographs spanning the history of art from ancient Egypt to contemporary America. It is particularly noted for its collection of 19th- and 20th-century European and American art, Greek and Roman sculpture and ceramics, Old Master prints, 19th-century British watercolors and drawings, and photographs. In addition to the main gallery, the Lehman Loeb Art Center also includes a sculpture garden, a project gallery for short-term exhibitions related to academic work, a seminar room where members of the campus community can request particular works to be brought for close examination, and a state-of-the-art computerized collection catalogue/imaging system.

Computing and Information Services

Vassar is connected to the Internet with a 600Mbps link that allows the Vassar community to draw on resources from around the world. Vassar provides over 15,000 Ethernet ports across campus, and wireless connectivity essentially everywhere. Every student dorm room has an Ethernet connection to the campus network as well as wi-fi. Vassar does not require students to purchase a computer, but 98% of students do have a personal computer. All students have 24-hour access to computers and printers in residence hall clusters. Clusters are also available in the College Center, the Computer Center, the library, and academic buildings. Central and departmental servers provide access to course materials and specialized software. Numerous classrooms are equipped with computer projection for presentations, and many departments also have dedicated computer laboratories for hands-on learning. The Digital Media Zone, a state-of-the-art space dedicated to collaborative learning and the exploration of high-end technologies, is located in the library’s after-hours study space.

The Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve

An invaluable resource for the entire community but especially for Vassar scientists, the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve encompasses over 500 acres, 416 of which are actively managed as a preserve, and a wide range of habitats-floodplain forests, shrublands, grasslands, wetlands, streams, and ponds. Located on the preserve, the Priscilla Bullitt Collins Field Station houses a library, classroom, laboratory, computers, and a weather station. The preserve supports numerous ongoing faculty-student research projects as well as Exploring Science at Vassar Farm, an educational outreach program that introduces local school children to hands-on-science and gives Vassar students training as science educators. On the acreage adjacent to the preserve are the Vassar rugby fields, cross country trails, community gardens, and the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, a member-supported organic farm.

Division-Specific Resources


The Art Department ’s offerings are divided into three areas of study-art history, studio art, and architecture-each with its own resources. Based in Taylor Hall in between the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center and the Art Library, the department offers direct access to Vassar’s extraordinary collections as well as courses covering the full range of art worldwide in lecture halls and seminar rooms equipped with state-of-the-art projection systems. The Studio Art program has sculpture and printmaking facilities in the Doubleday Studio Arts Building, drawing studios in Ely Hall, and photography, new media and video, and painting studios in New Hackensack, where studio art majors also have individual studios. Architectural study takes place in New Hackensack and Taylor Hall in studios equipped not only with traditional drafting tools but CAD and graphic design workstations.

The Dance Department  in Kenyon Hall features three dance studios, the Frances Daly Fergusson Dance Theater with a fully sprung dance stage and seating for 244, a rehearsal green room, and production facilities.

The Drama Department  is located in the Vogelstein Center, which houses a 320-seat theater with a traditional proscenium stage, a small black box studio, and production spaces and classrooms equipped with advanced technology. The department also produces work in the Hallie Flanagan Davis Powerhouse Theater, a black box theater seating 135.

Sanders Classroom is home to the English Department , with seminar rooms for discussion-based teaching, lecture rooms, a 158-seat auditorium, and a computer classroom for the study of digital media.

Also headquartered in the Vogelstein, the Film Department ’s facilities include the Rosenwald Film Theater, a screening space with surround sound, 35mm and advanced digital projectors; a sound-proof studio equipped with lighting grid and green screen; and high tech classrooms/editing labs devoted to film editing, digital editing, Avid systems, and multimedia.

The Belle Skinner Hall of Music, home to the Music Department , houses the Mary Anna Fox Martel Recital Hall, a small chamber concert hall, one of the nation’s finest college music libraries (with nearly 75,000 books, scores, and sound and visual recordings), the electronic music studio, practice rooms and faculty studios, and the college’s extensive historic and modern instrument collections, including 65 Steinway pianos, six harpsichords, and seven pipe organs, among them an organ designed for the Martel Recital Hall by master organ builder Paul Fritts of Tacoma, Washington.

Foreign Languages and Literatures

The modern language programs (French , German , Hispanic Studies , Italian , and Russian ), except for Chinese and Japanese , are located in Chicago Hall which houses the Foreign Language Resource Center (FLRC), a multimedia facility incorporating a networked computer classroom, a 30-seat film and video theater/lecture space, and video viewing facilities for individual and small group use, and media production studios. All classrooms in Chicago support Internet-based and multimedia presentations, and direct foreign language television is available through satellite-based providers.

Chinese and Japanese  as well as Greek and Roman Studies  are housed in Sanders Classroom, with seminar rooms, lecture rooms, “smart” classrooms, and a 158-seat auditorium.

Social Sciences

The social science departments (Anthropology , Economics , Education , Geography , History , Philosophy , Political Science , Religion , and Sociology ) are housed in Blodgett Hall, Ely Hall, the Maria Mitchell Observatory, Rockefeller Hall, and Swift Hall. In each of these buildings, besides department lounges and libraries, there are classrooms designed for discussion-based teaching and lecturing, classrooms equipped with computer projection, and computer laboratories with discipline-specific software.

The Anthropology Department , located in Blodgett Hall, has laboratories for archaeology and physical anthropology as well as for digital media and sound analysis. The Archaeology and Physical Anthropology Labs contain equipment for geoarchaeological and geophysical surveys and analysis of osteological, zooarchaeological, palynological materials and artifacts. The Digital Media Lab is equipped for video editing, photo manipulation, and video playback. The Sound Analysis Lab houses equipment for analyzing and producing sound for linguistics, music, and cognitive science research and teaching.

The Natural Sciences

Each of the sciences has its own “smart” classrooms, faculty offices, laboratory spaces, and sophisticated instrumentation in addition to resources shared by various departments and programs.

The Scientific Visualization Laboratory is a computing space dedicated to research and teaching in the natural sciences. It is designed to be both a classroom for sessions requiring the use of high-end software tools and a research facility where Vassar faculty and students develop individual and collaborative projects. It is equipped with high-end multiprocessor workstations as well as state-of-the-art audiovisual hardware.

The Wimpfheimer Nursery School, one of the first laboratory schools in the U.S., has a twofold mission-to provide quality early childhood education and to serve as a laboratory for observation and research on child development and education. Students in developmental psychology classes and educational theory classes routinely use Wimpfheimer for observation and research.

The Interdisciplinary Robotics Research Laboratory, the first at an undergraduate institution in the U.S., is dedicated to the exploration of the technology of autonomous machines, the simulation of such systems, and the use of these technologies in studies of telepresence, virtual reality, and related phenomenon.

Home to the Biology Department , Olmsted Hall of Biological Sciences supports the process of biological inquiry from molecules to ecosystems. Major instrumentation and facilities include genomic/proteomic/biochemical instrumentation, including a DNA microarray scanner; a cell imaging facility, including epiflorescent and confocal microscopes with image acquisition and analysis tools; physiological instruments, such as microinjection tools; cell, plant, and animal culturing facilities, including sterile cell culture; a phytotron with a dozen controlled environment chambers; a large greenhouse; an herbarium; and a vivarium.

In the Seely G. Mudd Chemistry Building, Chemistry Department  faculty and students carry out experiments using an extensive array of state-of-the-art instrumentation for molecular structure determination, spectroscopy, chromatography, and other specialized techniques. Recent acquisitions include a liquid chromatography electrospray ionization quadrupole time of flight mass spectrometer (LC-ESI-MS) used to study the structure and composition of lipids and proteins, and a charge-coupled device (CCD) dual source X-ray diffractometer used to determine the three-dimensional arrangement of atoms in molecules.

The Computer Science Department  features a dedicated network of high-powered Linux workstations housed in two laboratories available 24 hours a day. In addition to these 25 workstations, resources are maintained for advanced research and techniques such as 3D modeling, computational linguistics, interdisciplinary projects, and GPU-accelerated parallel algorithms. Students may also access a High-Performance Computer cluster supporting multiple parallel and distributed computing paradigms.

Ely Hall houses the Earth Science and Geography Department , with laboratories devoted to research in geophysics, climate change, water and sediment chemistry, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Major instrumentation includes an X-ray diffractometer for studying crystal structures, geophysical surveying equipment (electrical resistivity meter, magnetometer, and ground penetrating radar), a Silicon Graphics Workstation for geophysical and 3D terrain modeling, a coulometer and Chittick apparatus for carbon analysis, an alkalinity titrator, and a 16-seat computer lab for cartography, spatial data analysis, and numerical modeling. The department also maintains field equipment such as sediment samplers and corers, stream gauges, Yellowsprings Instruments sondes for in-stream water chemistry monitoring, tablet PCs, a weather station at the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve, and Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers for field work and environmental investigations.

The Mathematics Department  is located in Rockefeller Hall, with classrooms, offices, and a lounge-library that houses a collection of books of particular interest to undergraduates.

Sanders Physics houses the Physics and Astronomy Department , with computer laboratories equipped for work in observational astronomy (image processing and data analysis) and computational physics. Physics research labs contain multiple laser systems, including 6 Watt and 4 Watt 532 nm continuous wave lasers and an ultrafast laser capable of producing sub-picosecond pulses. The optics lab is equipped for spectroscopy and applied optics studies. The acoustics lab features a 1:2 (half-size) reverberation chamber and state-of-the-art acoustic transducers and computing equipment, allowing for study in a wide range of areas from architectural acoustics to psychoacoustics. Physics teaching labs are equipped with instrumentation for majors to perform various classic experiments, including ones in holography, crystal structure, and blackbody radiation. The Class of 1951 Observatory includes a double-domed structure which houses a 32-inch reflecting telescope (tied for largest in New York State) and a 20-inch reflecting telescope, each equipped with a CCD camera and spectograph, as well as several small telescopes and a solar telescope. The observatory also has a warm room for controlling the telescopes, a classroom, and an observation deck. Students also do research using data from the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes and other national observatories.

Based in Blodgett Hall, the Psychology Department  maintains state-of-the-art laboratories for research in physiology, neurochemistry, experimental learning and electrophysiology, as well as observation and testing suites with sophisticated audio and video recording equipment for the study of development, individual differences, and social behavior. In addition, the Wimpfheimer Nursery School, adjacent to Blodgett, serves as an on-campus laboratory for students pursuing coursework and research in developmental psychology.

Interdepartmental and Multidisciplinary Resources

Interdepartmental programs (Biochemistry , Earth Science and Society , Geography-Anthropology , Medieval and Renaissance Studies , Neuroscience and Behavior , and Victorian Studies ) and multidisciplinary programs (Africana Studies , American Studies , Asian Studies , Cognitive Science , Environmental Studies , International Studies , Jewish Studies , Latin American and Latino/a Studies , Media Studies , Science, Technology and Society , Urban Studies , and Women’s Studies ) have the use of all of the division and department resources that are relevant to their fields of study.

The Residential Campus

Main Building and College Center

Main Building, Vassar’s oldest and largest building, is the heart of the residential campus. A handsome and monumental structure designed by James Renwick, Jr., it houses the Office of the President, the College Center, and other administrative offices. The top three floors serve as a residence hall for approximately 300 students. In 1986, Main was named a National Historic Landmark, along with the Empire State Building and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The College Center, at the rear of Main Building, is the hub of campus life. The center provides rooms for social, educational, and extracurricular activities and auxiliary services for the college community. It houses the Office of Campus Activities, a post office, the Vassar College Bookstore, a computer store, the WVKR radio station, offices for student government, organizations, and publications, the Retreat dining area, the Kiosk coffee bar, and Matthew’s Mug.

The College Center also includes the College Information Center, the James W. Palmer III ‘90 Gallery, and the multipurpose room. The College Information Center disseminates information about campus events as well as local area events and points of interest. The Palmer Gallery is open year-round with rotating exhibitions featuring the work of faculty, students, local artists, and arts organizations.

Residential Houses

Residential life is an essential component of a Vassar education, giving students the opportunity to experience the value of being part of a diverse community. In addition to Main, there are seven coeducational residence halls, one hall for women only, and one cooperative (where students do their own shopping, cooking, and cleaning). Most students live in one of these houses through their junior year. Most seniors (and some juniors) choose to live in one of the college’s partially furnished apartment complexes - the Town Houses, Terrace Apartments, and South Commons. Within easy walking distance of the library and academic buildings, these apartments house four to five students, each with his or her own bedroom.

The residence halls are self-governing and self-directing, with leadership provided by elected student officers and members of the residential life staff. House fellows - faculty members who live in the residence halls, many with families - help to create a sense of community. They serve as informal academic advisors and play a major role in the intellectual and cultural life of the house. Working with the house fellows are house advisors, full-time residential life professionals. Each house advisor oversees the operation of two residence halls and provides ongoing support to house leaders and residents.

Students, too, are important members of the residential life team. Chosen and trained by the dean of students, student fellows work with the first-year students on their halls to make the transition to life at Vassar as smooth as possible. Each residence has a house intern, also a student, who coordinates the activities of the student fellows. Finally, every residence elects student officers who help to set, and enforce, house policies. The president of the house sits on the Vassar Student Association Council, the legislative body of the student government.

Campus Dining

Campus Dining operates dining facilities in three buildings on campus. The All Campus Dining Center in Students’ Building serves the entire community as a central dining facility. Remarkably flexible and efficient, it provides seating for over 1,000 people in pleasant and well-lit dining areas of various sizes.

Breakfast at the dining center offers made-to-order omelets, freshly baked pastries, and a self-operated waffle station. Lunch and dinner feature traditional and vegetarian dishes, made-to-order hot and cold sandwiches, pizza, grilled items, a full salad bar, a self-serve stir fry station, a wide selection of hot and cold beverages. On the third floor, the UPC Café serves cappuccinos and espresso drinks.

The College Center houses three dining facilities. The Retreat offers fresh baked pastries, made-to-order sandwiches and grill items, pizza, fresh soups, a salad bar, a full range of snacks and convenience items, hot and cold beverages, and daily weekly specials. The Kiosk coffee bar, located at the north entrance, serves coffee, cappuccino, espresso, fresh baked pastries, and other specialties. The Vassar Express counter on the second floor offers students a quick, bagged lunch alternative from Monday through Thursday during the hectic lunch period.

Matthew’s Bean, located on the ground floor of the Vassar Library, provides a pleasant atmosphere plus a variety of Fair Trade coffee drinks for a quick study break.

Student Government and Extracurricular Activities

Every student at the college is a member of the Vassar Student Association (VSA), the student government. The VSA Executive Board is composed of six elected officers who act as a team to oversee the day-to-day operations of the VSA. They serve on VSA Council and meet weekly to discuss issues, agenda items for council meetings, and funding requests. Their office is located in the College Center 207, above the Kiosk. They hold weekly office hours that are open to all interested students.

The VSA Council, the legislative body of the student government, is made up of elected representatives from each class, all residence houses, and on-campus apartment complexes in addition to the Executive Board. The council meets weekly on Sunday nights at 7:00pm in College Center room 223. Meetings are open to all students, minutes are public, and any student can bring agenda items.

The VSA leadership represents the student body in college policy-making, which affects both educational and personal lives. The VSA leadership works with the faculty, administration, alumnae/i, and trustees. Students are elected to serve on many important committees of the college, such as the Committee on Curricular Policies, the Committee on College Life, and the Campus Master Planning Committee. These student representatives are coordinated through the VSA Council.

One of the VSA’s main functions is to oversee student organizations and interest groups and to allocate funds to support them. Any student can begin an organization, but in order to get funding from the VSA, he or she must first get “authorization” by submitting a constitution, demonstrating activity for a year, and then coming before the council for approval.

The range of student organizations–over 125 in number–is as broad and as diverse as the interests of Vassar students. There are currently well over 100 organizations and club sports-political groups, social action groups, newspapers and literary magazines, comedy troupes, and many others.

Performing Arts: There are numerous student drama groups - Future Waitstaff of America, Idlewild, Merely Players, Philaletheis, Shakespeare Troupe, Unbound, and the Woodshed Theater Ensemble - who produce plays throughout the academic year in the Susan Stein Shiva Theater. In some cases they produce traditional repertoire, but they often showcase new works by student playwrights as well. There are also several comedy troupes, each with its own style and performing tradition - Improv, Happily Ever Laughter, No Offense, Indecent Exposure - as well as numerous a cappella groups, several dance troupes, a circus arts group, several instrumental and choral ensembles.

Publications/Communications: Vassar students publish the Miscellany News, a weekly paper, and the Vassarion, the college yearbook. In addition, there are numerous student literary magazines and political journals as well as an FM radio station, WVKR, one of the most powerful college stations in New York State.

Cultural/Religious/Identity Groups: The Vassar community includes students from a wide variety of backgrounds. Cultural, religious, and identity groups include Access, Act Out, African Students Union, Asian Students Alliance, Black Students Union, Caribbean Students Alliance, Catholic Community, Christian Fellowship, Council of Black Seniors, Episcopal Church of Vassar College, MEChA, Poder Latino, Queer Coalition of Vassar College, South Asian Students Alliance, Transmission, Unitarian Universalists, Vassar Islamic Society, Vassar Jewish Union, Vassar Pagan Circle, Vassar International Students Association, and the Women of Color Alliance.

Service/Political Action: Vassar has a long tradition of social activism and volunteer work. Some of the service and political action groups include: Amnesty International, Challah for Hunger, CHOICE, College Democrats, Democracy Matters, Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, Forum for Political Thought, Grassroots Alliance for Alternative Politics, Vassar Green Party, Habitat for Humanity, Homework Club, Hunger Action, Moderate Independent Conservative Alliance, Operation Donation, PEACE, Vassar Animal Rescue Coalition, Vassar Haiti Project, and the Vassar Prison Initiative.

Clubs/Organizations: The list is never complete because groups form and disband in response to student interests and initiatives, but a sampling of active clubs and organizations includes: Aikido Club, Ceramics Club, Debate Society, Equestrian Club, French Club, Nordic Team, Outing Club, PHOCUS Photography Club, Run Vassar, Sailing Team, Ski Team, Synchronized Skating, Vassar Bikes, Vassar Filmmakers, Vassar Quidditch, and Vassar Ultimate Frisbee.

Sports and Fitness

The college’s goal in athletics and physical education is to meet the full range of needs of a diverse community - from scholar-athletes among the top competitors in their sports to weekend players looking for recreation to non-athletes interested in keeping fit. The athletics and physical education program offers a wide range of intercollegiate varsity, club, intramural, recreational, and fitness options.

Vassar is a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III, the Liberty League, and the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) and competes in the Seven Sisters Championships. On the varsity level, women compete in basketball, cross country, fencing, field hockey, golf, lacrosse, soccer, squash, swimming and diving, tennis, track, and volleyball. Men compete in baseball, basketball, cross country, fencing, lacrosse, soccer, squash, swimming and diving, tennis, track, and volleyball. Club teams include badminton, cycling, men’s and women’s rowing, men’s and women’s rugby, sailing, skiing, Ultimate Frisbee, and weight lifting. Intramural sports include badminton, basketball, touch football, golf, ping pong, indoor and outdoor soccer, softball, squash, tennis, and coed volleyball.

The Athletics and Fitness Center is a 53,000-square-foot facility that includes a 1,200-seat basketball gym, an elevated running track, and a 5,000-square-foot weight training/cardiovascular facility. Walker Field House, adjacent to the Athletics and Fitness Center, contains five tennis courts and accommodates a variety of sports including volleyball, basketball, fencing, and badminton. The building also houses a six-lane swimming pool with a four-foot moveable bulkhead and diving well, locker rooms, and a sports medicine facility. Kenyon Hall contains six international squash courts, a recently upgraded volleyball court, a varsity weight room, and a rowing room.

Outdoor facilities include a nine-hole golf course, 13 tennis courts, and numerous playing fields. Prentiss Field has a quarter-mile all-weather track, two soccer fields, field hockey game and practice fields, and a baseball diamond. The J. L. Weinberg Field Sports Pavilion, opened in 2003, includes locker rooms, a sports medicine facility, and a laundry facility. The Vassar College Farm contains a rugby field and practice grids. Rowing facilities include a boathouse and a 16-acre parcel of land on the Hudson River.