The Graduate School of Arts and Science was founded in 1886 by Henry Mitchell MacCracken, a professor of philosophy and logic, and vice-chancellor at New York University.
MacCracken believed that universities should respond to the needs of modernity by giving unprecedented priority to advanced research and professional training. New York University was the second university in America to award a Ph.D. on the basis of academic performance and examination.
In addition to the emphasis on excellence in research, MacCracken recognized the urban environment as both source and inspiration for academic life. He believed that the University’s best interests lay in its interactions with the city. By the early 1900s, the Graduate School had introduced courses concerned with major global issues, and the curriculum reflected movement toward progressive values.
MacCracken's new vision of graduate training attracted ever-growing numbers of young women and men to doctoral programs. The first female graduate students entered the University in 1888. Today, women constitute over half of the 4,500 master’s and Ph.D. graduate students enrolled in 54 departments and programs, as well as in a growing number of institutes and interdisciplinary research areas.
Mirroring the cultural diversity of New York City, the Graduate School of Arts and Science is an urban, diverse, and internationally focused major research center, with students from more than 100 countries. The Graduate School still honors the ideal expressed by Albert Gallatin, the University's first president, who articulated the institution’s primary goal: "A private university in the public service."