Southwestern College has its roots in the tradition of the Methodist circuit riders, whose love of education helped shape the educational landscape of the 19th century. Founded in 1885 by the Southwest Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the college graduated its first class of three students June 3, 1889. The City of Winfield contributed resources to the original campus. In 1909 its name was changed from Southwest Kansas Conference College to Southwestern College, and in 1917 the school earned accreditation by the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges.
Over the next 125 years the history of the college would be marked by several seminal events:
- The merger, in 1926, of the Winfield College of Music with Southwestern, an event that further augmented already-strong performing arts programs.
- A 1950 fire that destroyed the interior of Richardson Hall, the college’s administration building. The reconstruction of this building was symbolic of the renewal of the college’s relationships with the Methodist denomination and with the city of Winfield.
- The opening in 1994 of the first Professional Studies Center, a storefront in downtown Winfield. With this step the college signaled its commitment to reach learners in all stages of life development, unrestrained by physical location.
Today the college thrives both on the main campus and throughout the world.
Traditional-aged students are housed and educated on a wooded 85-acre site in Winfield, Kansas. The curriculum and extensive co-curricular activities are designed to prepare Southwestern’s graduates for “leadership through service in a world without boundaries,” as its vision statement declares. The college has been forward-thinking in its approach to technology, and was one of the first in the nation to issue laptop computers to all students. Campus facilities have seen major upgrades and expansion during the past quarter century, with the most recent addition being the complete renovation of Richardson Performing Arts Center and the construction of Richard L. Jantz Stadium.
Working adults of all ages complete college degrees through the Professional Studies program. On-ground centers are in several locations in Kansas and Oklahoma, but the majority of learners choose to complete classes online. The college commitment to accessibility and logistical ease has led to leadership in educational options for military personnel.
Graduate degrees are offered both on the main campus and through Professional Studies, with the college enrolling its first doctoral students (Doctorate in Educational Leadership) in 2012.
The college continues to be accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.