The 1960s - Part 1

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The idea of a special program for the continuing education of women was conceived by Dr. Virginia L. Senders (lecturer in Psychology) and Mrs. Elizabeth L. Cless (Assistant to the Dean of the General Extension Division, now University College). The first program of its kind in the nation, the program was designed to mobilize all the resources of the University of Minnesota in an attempt to meet flexibly and individually the diverse time-tables, interests and questions of individual women.

The grant proposal was formally presented to President James L. Morrill for submission to the Carnegie Corporation in 1960 by a committee composed of deans from various campus departments: J.M. Nolte (General Extension), E.G. William (Students), E.W. McDarmid (Arts College), E.W. Ziebarth (Summer Session). That July, Carnegie granted $110,00 to the University to support the program over a three-year period; Senders and Class were the co-directors. Senders directed the counseling and research component of the Plan; Cless, the teaching component. An advisory committee, consisting of the co-directors, the deans who submitted the proposal, and J.W. Buchta, (Dean of University College) was appointed to set policy, as well as assist with procedural, tactical and curricular matters.

In 1962, Dr. Vera M. Schletzer (who had worked as a counselor in 1961) replaced Virginia Senders. Through Schletzer's efforts, another Carnegie grant was sought and won in the amount of $72,000, to cover 1963-1965. In 1965, the program transitioned from its experimental status to the regular continuing structure and budget of the University.

Here is the profile of the more than 2,000 women who were part of the Minnesota Plan between 1960 and 1965:


  • Most lived in Minneapolis and were between the ages of 23 and 42.

  • Nearly 75% were homemakers

  • Nearly half of their husbands had professional careers

  • 85% were married

  • Most had between 2 and 3 children

Their reasons for entering the Plan included:


  • Self-enrichment= 44.5%

  • Training in a new field= 39.5%

  • Obtaining an undergraduate degree in 5 years= 39.1%


--From Continuing education for women, a Five year report of the Minnesota Plan, by Vera H. Schletzer and others, 1967.