The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois. It was founded by oil magnate John D. Rockefeller and the American Baptist Education Society in 1890 as a coeducational, secular institution. The first classes were held in 1892. During World War II, the University made important contributions to the Manhattan Project – and it became the site of the first isolation of plutonium and the creation of the first artificial, self-sustained nuclear reaction (by Enrico Fermi in 1942).
Today, the University enrolls nearly 16,000 students in the College of the University of Chicago, various graduate programs and interdisciplinary committees organized into four divisions, six professional schools, and a school of continuing education. The College grants degrees in 56 academic majors and 40 minors. Its academic disciplines are divided into five divisions: Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, Social Sciences, Humanities, and the New Collegiate Division – which administers interdisciplinary majors and studies that do not fit in another division.
Undergraduate students are required to take a distribution of courses to satisfy the university’s core curriculum known as the Common Core. Roughly 80% of the classes at University of Chicago contain no more than 19 students, and are generally led by a full-time professor. The Core requires 15 courses, tested proficiency in a foreign language, passage of a swim test, and up to three physical education courses. Popular majors include economics, biological sciences, political science, math, and English.
The University of Chicago hosts 19 varsity sports teams, all called the Maroons, with 585 participants. The Maroons compete in the NCAA’s Division III as members of the University Athletic Association (UAA).
Students run over 400 clubs and organizations, the largest being the University Theatre while the Model U.N. is the second largest. Other organizations include the twice-weekly student newspaper The Chicago Maroon, the University-owned radio station WHPK-FM and the organizing committee for the University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt – an annual event in which large teams of students compete to obtain notoriously esoteric items from a list.
The main campus consists of 211 acres in Hyde Park and Woodlawn, seven miles south of downtown Chicago. On-campus undergraduate students participate in a house system in which each student is assigned to a smaller community within their residence hall called a “house.” There are 38 houses, with an average of 70 students in each. Freshmen are required to participate in the house system, and housing is guaranteed every year thereafter.