“Nowhere can the precept ‘know thyself’ be so fully realized as in a school of true expression.” --College catalog, 1905

The educational purpose of Columbia College Chicago at its founding has continuously informed the pedagogies, curricula, and student experiences as we have evolved. Unafraid of change, the College continuously incorporates new technologies into creative communications coursework to remain current and adhere to best practices. Columbia has woven itself into the fabric of Chicago and is an integral part of the South Loop community. The College’s motto esse quam videri (“to be rather than to seem”) and its original classroom philosophies of “learn to do by doing” and “theory never made an artist,” remain vital to the Columbia experience today.

  • 1890:  Named in honor of the 1893 Columbian Exposition, the Columbia School of Oratory was founded by Mary A. Blood and Ida Morey Riley as a private institution teaching elocution, oratory, and physical culture.
  • 1930s:  Expanded communications curriculum to include the growing fields of radio broadcasting and dramatic arts
  • 1940s-1950s:  Offered educational, occupational, and psychological assistance for returning World War II veterans and incorporated advertising and television programs into the growing curricula
  • 1960s:  Evolved into a liberal arts college with a “hands on minds on” approach to arts and media education with a progressive social agenda
  • 1970s-1990s:  Added many new programs of study, all of which contribute to the diverse means of expression for the student body
  • 2000s:  Enhanced student activities, opportunities, and experiences through campus-wide initiatives and programs
  • 2013:  Appointment of Kwang-Wu Kim, D.M.A., as the 10th President and CEO of the College, implementing “Achieving Our Greatness: A Strategic Plan for Columbia College Chicago” in 2015 and has directed a campus-wide refashioning of college curriculum and an institution-wide commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Building on its heritage of creativity, innovation, and strength, Columbia College Chicago continues to challenge its students  according to the school's motto, "esse quam videri" ("to be rather than to seem"). The college encourages its students to author the culture of their times, with Columbia College Chicago graduates possessing the agile and flexible skills necessary to thrive in their careers as creatives.