Skip to main content

ASU Overview


May 12, 2009

Arizona State University is creating a new model for American higher education, an unprecedented combination of academic excellence, entrepreneurial energy and broad access. The New American University is a single, unified institution comprised of four campuses throughout metropolitan Phoenix, the nation’s fifth largest city.

 ASU serves approximately 67,000 students, making it one of the largest universities in the United States. ASU students may choose from more than 250 majors and 12,000 classes. The four campuses of ASU cover 1,550 acres and include more than 450 facilities.  ASU’s roots can be found in the small community of Tempe, Ariz., in the 1880s when the school began as a teachers college on a 20-acre former cow pasture. The first class convened on Feb. 8, 1886, when 33 students met in a single room. Land for the school was donated by citizens who sought an institution to train public school teachers, and provide instruction to their sons and daughters in agriculture and the mechanical arts.  ASU became the Normal School of Arizona in 1901 and curriculum offerings improved. So did the atmosphere where President Arthur John Matthews transformed a “weedy 20-acre campus with cattle grazing in the shade of the Old Normal building” into a lush landscape that is recognized today as a national arboretum. Grady Gammage became president of Arizona State Teachers College at Tempe in 1933, a tenure that lasted nearly 28 years, including when ASU became Arizona State College in 1945. In 1958, the people of Arizona voted to make the Teachers College into Arizona State University.  During ensuing years, ASU expanded its curriculum by establishing several new colleges in areas such as the arts, law and nursing and began awarding doctoral degrees. The ASU West campus was established in 1989.  ASU was granted Research I status in 1994 by the Carnegie Foundation in recognition of its growing research capacity. Key research areas today include the development of biofuels, solar energy, green power delivery, Mars exploration, flexible electronic displays, human evolution and new vaccines.  A third ASU campus was established in east Mesa when the Polytechnic campus opened its doors to students in 1996. In 2006, another vote of the people established the Downtown Phoenix campus when a $223-million City of Phoenix bond issue paved the way for campus construction in the heart of the city.    

Michael M. Crow became the 16th president of Arizona State University on July 1, 2002. President Crow has advanced his model of ASU as the New American University, an institution that is measured not by exclusion, but rather by inclusion of students; where research and discovery is pursued that benefits the public good; and where major responsibility for the economic, social, cultural vitality, health and well-being of the community is addressed by the university’s four campuses.