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UCLA Extension turns 90

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"I am one of the fortunate millions who have benefited from the opportunities afforded by UCLA Extension ... I knew that if I was going to be as successful in life as I wanted to be, I needed to develop my mind just as much as I was developing my body. And UCLA Extension made it possible..."

So wrote Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who enrolled in Extension classes during the 1970s as a young actor and bodybuilder. His remarks help celebrate Extension's 90th anniversary as Los Angeles institution, opening the doors of academic opportunity to all.

The program started in 1917 as an outpost of UC's northern California campus at 2nd and Hill streets. Under the guidance of self-made administrator Nadine Crump, fall classes included practical salesmanship, Greek drama and household art. In the winter, courses on navigation and nautical astronomy, Russian and a four-section course in "moral education" kept students busy. By 1919, the same year UCLA's Vermont Avenue campus opened, Extension instructors taught 97 classes to 1,684 students.

Coursework developed in sync with the times: In 1921, when Donald Douglas began manufacturing aircraft in Santa Monica, Extension taught "The Gas Engine," and "How a Plane Flies." The burgeoning movie industry was represented by "Motion Pictures: The Film as a Factor in Molding Tomorrow's Citizenry."

Nadine Crump headed the program when it began in 1917.
Copyright © Photo courtesy of UCLA Extension

During World War II, aircraft production employees as well as medical personnel treating parasitic infections in the Pacific got training at Extension. In the 1950s, the program prepared engineers to become managers in the dawning era of computers. Extension was also home to the Theater Group, which evolved into the Los Angeles Center Theater Group.

Leonard Freedman, professor emeritus of political science and Extension dean for three decades starting in the 1950s, recalled the program's role in nurturing the flowering of culture in a city that, while booming in population, "was largely lacking any major cultural focus.

"We were in the fortunate position of being asked to take on the role of reaching out to the larger community," he said. With financial support from the Ford Foundation, Extension offered lectures at Royce Hall featuring such eminent speakers as Aldous Huxley and Henry Kissinger, discussion groups on topics like modern art and cultural anthropology, and weekend seminars at UCLA's Lake Arrowhead complex on "Man and His Environment."

Extension has continued to grow with the times — and to help create them. In 1996, the program took a leap into the virtual classroom with "Creative Writing for Beginners," taught entirely via e-mail. Now a global leader in the Web arena, Extension offers a vast range of online classes and certificate programs to students around the world. Today, Extension offers more than 4,500 classes a year, from ever-popular screenwriting classes to workshops examining post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans returning from the Middle East conflict. Students receive practical knowledge that they can use at work a day after class. Most Extension instructors are working professionals who bring their experience and contacts to class along with their knowledge of a given field.

"UCLA Extension has always been grounded in the dynamic creative economy of Los Angeles, reflected in the content of our programs, our marketing messages and images, and through the individual students and instructors we bring together," said UCLA Extension Dean Cathy Sandeen. "UCLA has played a significant role in the success of Los Angeles, and for 90 years, UCLA Extension has served as a vital link between the campus and the community."

For more information or to register for a class (faculty and employees receive a 25% discount), visit UCLA Extension online. Read Extension student success stories and add your own.

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