Our History

Graduate School USA

GSUSA History

Celebrating 99 Years of Service

Graduate School USA is celebrating 98 years of service to government. Since the beginning, our focus has been on developing individuals and making government more efficient and effective.

The first U.S. organization created to provide continuing professional education to the federal community, we opened our doors in October 1921 as the USDA Graduate School. We were established by the Secretary of Agriculture with the express purpose of offering professional development courses for USDA scientists, but our scope quickly expanded. Over the years, the School has grown to serve state and local governments; international organizations; the private sector; the contracting community; nonprofits; the military; and individuals seeking career change or advancement.

Shortly before our 90th anniversary, the School moved from our parent agency to become an independent, nonprofit organization known as Graduate School USA.

The world has changed since 1921, and Graduate School USA has changed with it. Still, we continue to contribute to the strengthening of public service and to empower individual learners and the communities they live and work in.

The USDA Graduate School offered its first classes on October 17, 1921. After work, 176 USDA employees gathered at the Department of Agriculture building on the Mall. These students could choose from six science classes, an economics class, and a statistics class. Science courses included biochemistry, plant genetics, and animal genetics. Most students and teachers were from the department's own staff.

The courses included in our first "catalog" (a single typewritten sheet of paper) can all be listed here:

  1. Agricultural Economics
  2. Statistical Methods
  3. Biochemistry
  4. Mycology
  5. Plant Physiology
  6. Genetics
  7. Physics of the Air
  8. Statistical Mechanics Applied to Chemical Problems

Classes met twice a week and cost $15 for one semester, $25 for two.

For the last 95 years, Graduate School USA has worked closely with a range of agencies and organizations, growing our knowledge of government and developing an extensive resource pool of staff, curriculum experts, and instructors. We no longer teach courses in agricultural science, but we offer a full range of government-focused courses and services.

From 176 students in a DC building, to thousands worldwide each year, the diversity of our programs and participants contributes to a rich community of practice that emphasizes learning and experiences beyond the classroom. We deliver courses in Washington, DC; across the U.S.; and around the world.

From eight courses to more than 250, a single sheet of paper will no longer do. You can search our website, and download a current nationwide schedule or an annual catalog.