Campus Life

Women of USU: Then and Now, Remembering the Graduates

By Alana Miller Manesse |

The Chapel on the first floor of the south wing of Old Main in 1892. The balcony was later removed and a second floor was added to house the Geology Department.

Congratulations to all of our new Aggie graduates! Your hard work and determination are what make Utah State University a great place to learn, work, and grow. In honor of our new graduates, we wanted to reflect on our past and how the university has grown and changed over the years, all the while preparing its students for their future careers and endeavors. 

Agricultural College of Utah (ACU), now Utah State University, held its first commencement ceremony in 1894, four years after opening its doors. Held in the Old Main chapel, this ceremony honored 15 graduates: 12 men and 3 women. Degrees were awarded for completing courses in Agriculture, Domestic Arts, Civil Engineering, and Commerce. In 1894, the UAC offered courses in five areas of instruction: Agriculture, Domestic Arts, Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, and Business. Mechanical and Irrigation Engineering were offered as one-year post-graduate courses. Degrees were often gendered as women were encouraged to pursue education in the domestic arts.

In 1929, when the college was renamed the Utah State Agricultural College, bachelor’s and master’s degrees were awarded in seven course areas: Agriculture, Home Economics, Civil Engineering, Mechanical Arts, Commerce, Arts and Science, and Education. More than 270 degrees were awarded that year, with over 120 going to women. This increase in enrollment showed a national change in the emphasis of obtaining a higher education for men and women.

The Agricultural College was renamed Utah State University in 1957. In the course catalog from that year, it says, “The new name recognizes the status achieved by this institution as it grew in educational stature to meet its broad objectives set forth in the basic charter.” And grown it had! The university was home to over 60 departments and, 8 different colleges: Agriculture; Business and Social Sciences; Education; Engineering; Forest, Range, and Wildlife Management; Home and Family Living; University College; and School of Graduate Studies. Two branch colleges were located at the College of Southern Utah, Cedar City, and Snow College, Ephraim. In 1957, USU graduated over 700 graduates, with over 180 of them being women. 

Today, USU offers over 160 undergraduate degrees and 140 graduate degrees, and is still home to eight colleges, although many of their names have changed since 1957. The university impressively, serves the entire state with over 25 campuses. In 2020, USU graduated over 7,000 students, and more than one-half of those degrees were awarded to women. Today, students are encouraged to explore and find their passions, whether that is outdoor clothing design, biological engineering, or social work. Professors and mentors encourage students to push boundaries and discover. USU is particularly adept at helping students get their hands on research at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Regardless of where life will take you now that you have graduated, we are happy to have you as part of our Aggie family!

1957 Commencement held in the George Nelson Fieldhouse.

Commencement procession from Old Main, 1965.


Alana Miller Manesse
Research Assistant
Year of the Woman


Joyce Kinkead
Professor, Co-Chair
Department of English



Education 167stories Women 89stories Year of the Woman 84stories History 79stories Aggies 64stories

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