Arthur Flemming, MA '28, had graduated just in time to put his degree in political science to use as a reporter, covering a Washington filled with breadlines, protest marches, and Hoover policies that weren't working.
When Roosevelt was elected, Flemming believed his alma mater could be part of the new president's vision. Not yet 30 years old, the alumnus won AU the grant that started it all: $4,000 from the Rockefeller Foundation, about the price at the time of a midsized house.
The school had a flood of applications from hundreds of federal employees competing for the 80 slots in the first semester. Two hundred students packed the converted parlors in the row houses for the second semester, eager to learn the latest ideas and take them back to their New Deal jobs. By 1937, more than 1,000 federal employees were studying at SPA, and undergraduates were clambering for the classes as well. The school answered by launching an undergraduate program.
Small and specialized before World War II, the program was inundated after the war's end by combat veterans in their 20s who knew what they wanted: to continue serving their country in peacetime. "AU was a pretty small place before World War II. It really expands greatly with the returning servicemen," says SPA dean William LeoGrande. And at AU, "a lot of them did go into public affairs."
Evolution of SPA