History and Traditions

UNI has a long and rich history of service dating back to the mid-1800’s. In 1866, an orphanage for children affected by the Civil War was established in Cedar Falls. In a few years’ time, it became apparent that the building’s usefulness would shortly be coming to an end as orphans grew up and moved out into the world. Iowans saw an opportunity and seized it; the Iowa State Normal School – an institution created for and devoted to the training of teachers – was founded in 1876. Since its inception, the institution has also gone by the names of the Iowa State Normal School, Iowa State Teachers College, State College of Iowa, and most currently, University of Northern Iowa. 

True to its roots, UNI continues to emphasize hands-on service learning and retains the proud distinction of leading Iowa’s number-one teacher education program. Today’s UNI also offers more than 90 majors to choose from, giving students the opportunity to explore a variety of interests and prepare for success after college. Outside of the classroom, UNI’s vibrant campus is home to 300+ student clubs and organizations, 17 Division I collegiate sports teams, a multitude of fine arts options, and more.

We encourage you to learn more about UNI. Take a look at our enrollment data, check out our annual budget, explore resources about UNI, or enjoy a walk back in time through our collection of historical photos.

  • Illustrated map from the Iowa State Teachers College era
  • Prexy's Pond, previously located on a portion of land now occupied by the Curris Business Building
  • Aerial photo of the University of Northern Iowa campus from 2012
  • Aerial photo of the Iowa State Teachers College campus from the 1940s
  • The original buildings of the Iowa State Normal School
Illustrated map from the Iowa State Teachers College era