With roots stretching back to the origins of the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW), the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS) has a rich history.


In its early days, UIW was known as Incarnate Word College (IWC), a small, private college for women. Among the IWC’s first degree programs were the Bachelor of Literature and Bachelor of Arts, which today are among the many fields of study housed in CHASS. The very first degree awarded, and one of the few programs dedicated to women in the region at the time, was the Bachelor of Arts conferred by Bishop John Shaw in 1910.

Courses in Spanish, Philosophy, Music and Religion were also offered, with a Bachelor of Music degree added in 1922. Through the work of Mother Columkille Colbert, CCVI, former college president, the Music program was expanded in 1931 and earned a prestigious accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) in 1935, which has continuously been held to present. The Department of Music has continued to expand adding innovative programs, ensembles and bands.

During Mother Columkille’s long tenure, she worked to expand the college’s Fine Arts area—constructing the Genevieve Tarlton Dougherty Fine Arts Center in 1963. The three-story building was dedicated to Speech and Drama, Art and Music. Additionally, the adjoining auditorium was renovated with theatre seating and air conditioning installed.

The 1970s brought new programs and new collaborations. A Master of Arts in Religious Studies was added in 1972. In 1978, a new cooperative program with the Mexican American Catholic College was established, emphasizing bilingual and bicultural studies and preparation for ministry with Hispanic people of the southwest.

Significant changes continued through the 1980s and 1990s. In 1996, Incarnate Word College became the University of the Incarnate Word. A few years later, the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences was established.

Historically, CHASS has largely been housed in the iconic Administration Building, named for Mother Columkille and which celebrates its 100th anniversary in December 2021. Today, its 21 programs span the Administration Building, the Luella Bennack Music Center- a state-of-the-art music building, concert halls, recording and art studios, the Coates Theatre and Cheever Theatre, the Ruth Eilene Sullivan Ceramic and Sculpture Studios and multiple galleries. In addition to its diverse undergraduate degree programs, CHASS offers 14 options for minors, five concentrations and two graduate-level programs.

Over the years, CHASS has welcomed thousands of students to grow, explore, wonder, create and transform into concerned and enlightened citizens through its excellent instruction, innovative programs and community engagement. The coming years may offer yet more growth and innovation, ushering new generations of students and new fields of discovery.