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New School Human Relations Center records

 Record Group
Identifier: NS-02-03-01


The Human Relations Center was a long-running program (1951-circa 1986) at the New School organized by women and directed primarily toward the personal, social and career development of women. The collection consists primarily of materials dating from the 1970s, and includes publicity materials regarding courses, seminars and public programs and materials connected to the partnership with the Head Start program, and special training programs.


  • 1953 - 1986
  • Majority of material found within 1968 - 1975



3.4 Cubic Feet (4 boxes; 4 folders)

Language of Materials


Scope and Content of Collection

The collection consists of four series, General files, Head Start project, Special training programs and courses, and the Vera List Center accession. The General series consists primarily of publicity materials, including fliers announcing courses, seminars, symposia and other educational events, as well as Ruth Van Doren's correspondence. The series connected to the collaboration with Head Start contains correspondence regarding students, correspondence between the Center and various agencies for potential field placement, course evaluations by students, teachers, and directors, course syllabi, reading lists, financial reports, and files of special courses offered to Head Start staff and parents. The Special training programs series contains course material and correspondence regarding field placement connected to various of the training programs. The collection includes some program materials from the period after Ruth Van Doren's retirement but no significant administrative records generated by Van Doren's successor, Carla Stevens. The Vera List Center accession consists of early program files of Alice Rice Cook, course announcements, course coordinator and course enrollment lists, and special event files. It also consists of mission statements covering the whole time of operation of the center, and also reports on the problems and future of the center from Carla Stevens from 1984-1986. One folder consists of Ruth Van Doren's files.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use. Files containing student records are restricted for 120 years after person's known or estimated birth (or group of persons, like a class). Files with faculty or other personnel salary, performance reviews, hiring information are restricted for 50 years from creation date of item (or last creation date in file). Please contact for appointment.

Conditions Governing Use

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives. Please contact:

Historical and biographical notes

The Human Relations Center was a long-running program at The New School organized by women and directed primarily toward the personal, social and career development of women. The entity that grew into the Human Relations Center began in 1951 with a single course offering, Women in the Community: A Workshop in Human Relations." Led by Alice Rice Cook, the workshop would help women achieve "a competent handling of human relations, of oneself and one's surroundings." The following year, there were seven courses offered under the title, Community and Personal Resources: Workshops for Self-Development. By fall of 1953, the program, soon formally named the Human Relations Workshops, launched its first annual conference and offered eleven workshops. The program and its roster of offerings continued to grow into the 1960s and 1970s. At the height of its popularity in the 1970s, as many as three thousand students enrolled in more than seventy-five Human Relations Center courses each semester. Alice Rice Cook directed the Human Relations Center until her retirement in 1966. Ruth Van Doren took over from Cook as director and led the program until the mid-1980s. In 1986, under the directorship of Carla Stevens, the Center was renamed the Vera List Center for Adult Studies. In 1993, the Center ceased to offer a discrete program of study.

In its first decade, the Human Relations Workshops remained separate from the two schools that comprised the New School's Adult Division. By 1963, under a new name, the Human Relations Center, the workshops were clustered with other New School programs offering students a certificate track. The certificate-conferring Human Relations Center was "for adults who seek new opportunities for personal development and new ways in which to contribute to society." While de-emphasizing its focus on women, courses offered during this period still explored "human potentialities" and "problems in marital adjustment," while also adding a slate of more traditional academic subjects. In 1968, with the Center focused on the "dilemmas and aspirations of people in a perplexed age," the program began offering a course of intensive vocational training opportunities for paraprofessional aides in social work, school psychology, and eary childhood education. The Center, now renamed the Human Relations Work-Study Center, continued to add new training opportunities, including community planning and community health care and, later, dance, art and drama therapy. These programs often involved field placement at city agencies, and students earned academic credit that could be applied toward a BA degree at the New School. In the early 1970s. the Center partnered with the Head Start Program of New York to open up educational and employment opportunities to a lower-income population.

From its inception and throughout its nearly forty-year history, the Human Relations Center, in content, structure and mission, reflected wider social and cultural changes in the United States, particularly with regard to the role of women. The program in the 1950s caught the emergence of the feminist second wave, in which women--especially white, middle and upper middle class women--were increasingly examining the constraints they felt personally and professionally from having their sphere limited to domestic duties as housewife and mother. (Indeed, Betty Friedan, a pioneer of the 1960s feminist movement, later came to speak at a Human Relations Center conference.) The Human Relations Center of the era was geared toward empowering women to learn about and enter a wider world, enabling them to expand their horizons from traditional women's roles and prepare to more actively participate in society. A unique attribute of the Human Relations Center was its focus on giving women an experience of autonomy in planning their own course of study. Later the program's focus upon vocational support, in particular opening up opportunities for lower-income women and minorities, reflected social and political efforts to acknowledge and combat racial as well as gender inequality. The Center's teaching philosophy, too, reflected trends in education reform, with a commitment to experiential learning, self-directed workshops and alternative paths to college degrees. The Center grew in popularity during the Women's Liberation and human potential movements of the 1970s, drawing the leading lights of the day to conferences and seminars. Guest speakers included Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, Abraham Maslow, Margaret Mead, Betty Friedan, and Caroline Bird.


Alice Rice Cook (1900?-1973) was an educator and management consultant who founded the Human Relations Center at the New School for Social Research in 1951 and directed the program until 1966. Born in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, Cook graduated from Smith College in 1921, received an MA from Radcliffe College in 1924 and was a graduate fellow at Columbia University in 1934–1935. Before her tenure at the New School, Cook was supervisor of the Employee Relations Training Program at City College of New York, served as dean of Briarcliff Junior College, and was an instructor in self-evaluation at New York University, as well as working as a business consultant in human relations and communications. She was president of the E. L. Cook Brick Company and supervised employee relations for the Arma Corporation from 1943 to 1945. With Lillian M. Gilbreth, Cook co-authored, The Foreman in Manpower Management in 1947.


Ruth Hendricks Van Doren (1918-2005) was born in Detroit, Michigan. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Smith College (1938), she worked for Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in New York City and as a reporter for the Nutley Sun in New Jersey. She went on to teach first grade and at St. Elizabeth's College before going to work for the Human Relations Center. She became director of the Center upon Alice Rice Cook's retirement and remained in the position until retiring in 1980.



Bonham, George W., ed. Women on Campus: The Unfinished Liberation. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2006.

Salmans, Sandra. "Adult Education Goes to Market." New York Times, August 3, 1986.

New York Times obituary, May 1, 1973.

St. Augustine Record obituary, Feb. 11, 2005.

Organization and Arrangement

Arranged in four series: 1. General; 2. Head Start project; 3. Special training programs and courses; 4. Vera List Center accession

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection brings together four main accessions transferred to the New School Archives between 2012 and 2019. Some materials were transferred from storage in the Schools of Public Engagement Dean's Office; others had been collected by librarians in Fogelman Social Sciences Library; a third accession came as part of a larger accession of records from the New School President's Office; and a fourth accession arrived in 2019 from the Vera List Center for Arts and Politics.

Related Materials

Records from the early years of the Human Relations Center will be found in the Publicity Office records (NS.03.01.05). The New School course catalog collection (NS.05.01.01), the New School Bulletin collection (NS.03.01.02), and the New School press release collection (NS.03.01.07), document program offerings and public programs. The Human Relations Center event recordings collection (NS.07.02.10) include audio recordings from a number of Human Relations Center events.

Guide to the New School Human Relations Center records
New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
February 1, 2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • September 5, 2019: New School Archives staff added series for records from a new accession from the Vera List Center (2019.NS.10).