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Graduate School USA : Celebrating 95 Years of Service



Graduate School USA is celebrating 95 years of service to government. Since the beginning, our focus has been on developing individuals and making government more efficient and effective.


The first U.S. organization created to provide continuing professional education to the federal community, we opened our doors in October 1921 as the USDA Graduate School. We were established by the Secretary of Agriculture with the express purpose of offering professional development courses for USDA scientists, but our scope quickly expanded. Over the years, the School has grown to serve state and local governments; international organizations; the private sector; the contracting community; nonprofits; the military; and individuals seeking career change or advancement.


Shortly before our 90th anniversary, the School moved from our parent agency to become an independent, nonprofit organization known as Graduate School USA.


The world has changed since 1921, and Graduate School USA has changed with it. Still, we continue to contribute to the strengthening of public service and to empower individual learners and the communities they live and work in.


THEN: USDA Graduate School, 1921

The USDA Graduate School offered its first classes on October 17, 1921. After work, 176 USDA employees gathered at the Department of Agriculture building on the Mall. These students could choose from six science classes, an economics class, and a statistics class. Science courses included biochemistry, plant genetics, and animal genetics. Most students and teachers were from the department’s own staff.


The courses included in our first “catalog” (a single typewritten sheet of paper) can all be listed here:


  1. Agricultural Economics
  2. Statistical Methods
  3. Biochemistry
  4. Mycology
  5. Plant Physiology
  6. Genetics
  7. Physics of the Air
  8. Statistical Mechanics Applied to Chemical Problems


Classes met twice a week and cost $15 for one semester, $25 for two.


Life in the U.S., 1921

A look at just a few of the people and events that shaped our world 95 years ago.


  • Warren G. Harding was inaugurated as 29th President of the United States on March 4, succeeding President Woodrow Wilson.
  • Georgiana Simpson (University of Chicago); Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander  (University of Pennsylvania); and Eva Beatrice Dykes (Radcliffe College) become the first three African American women to earn PhDs.
  • Albert Einstein received the Nobel Prize for Physics.
  • Bessie Coleman became the first woman of African American and Native American descent to earn a U.S. aviation pilot’s license, and the first person of African American and Native American descent to earn an international aviation license.


In popular culture:


  • A World Series game was broadcast on radio for the first time.
  • Eskimo Pies, and Mounds, Baby Ruth, and Oh Henry! candy bars were introduced.
  • The first White Castle restaurant opened in Wichita, Kansas, launching the world’s first fast-food chain.
  • The first Miss America pageant was held in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
  • Among the year’s most popular songs were “Second Hand Rose,” “There’ll Be Some Changes Made,” “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” “April Showers,” and “Ain’t We Got Fun?”


In Washington, DC:


  • The Dupont Circle Fountain was dedicated.
  • The Phillips Memorial Gallery (now The Phillips Collection) opened at 1600 21st Street NW.
  • Suburban Gardens—the first and only major amusement park in Washington, DC, and the only local amusement park at the time open to African Americans—was opened in Deanwood by a black-owned real estate and development company.
  • The Washington Senators (later known as the Washington Football Club and the Washington Pros) were formed for the 1921 American Professional Football Association (now the NFL).
  • The Washington Star carried ads encouraging Washingtonians to try out a hot new craze: the pogo stick!


NOW: Graduate School USA, 2016

For the last 95 years, Graduate School USA has worked closely with a range of agencies and organizations, growing our knowledge of government and developing an extensive resource pool of staff, curriculum experts, and instructors. We no longer teach courses in agricultural science, but we offer a full range of government-focused courses and services.


From 176 students in a DC building, to thousands worldwide each year, the diversity of our programs and participants contributes to a rich community of practice that emphasizes learning and experiences beyond the classroom. We deliver courses in Washington, DC; across the U.S.; and around the world.


From eight courses to more than 250, a single sheet of paper will no longer do. You can search our website, and download a current nationwide schedule or an annual catalog.