How did you receive your Girl Scout volunteer training?
Was it in a classroom with other new volunteers, led by an experienced volunteer?
Was it a telephone conference call, with you alone in your living room?
Perhaps you watched an online video? Read a packet of papers that came in the mail?
When you were taught how to perform a friendship circle, did you hold the actual hands of a living, breathing human being, or did you have to make do with the throw pillows on your couch?
Chances are, you did not head to the nearest university to major in Girl Scouts. But that was the practice in the earliest days of the movement, especially in areas where troops were just forming.
In 1922, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller fund awarded the first of many grants to the Girl Scouts to train a group of young women who would teach Girl Scout Leadership Training Courses at colleges as universities. The program was extremely popular and quickly spread across the United States.
Reports for 1925 indicate that 6,000 young women had taken courses in the first three years they were offered. Training courses were available at 116 universities, colleges, and technical schools, located in 39 states and territorial possessions.
Participating institutions included Wellesley, Smith, Vassar, Columbia, New York University, Cornell, University of North Carolina, and the University of Texas.
At Stanford University, for example, the Department of Education offered classes to prepare prospective troop leaders.
Typically, students from a variety of majors took the Girl Scout coursework in the spring quarter, but the smaller summer quarter classes were usually made up of rural teachers hoping to bring Girl Scouting to their schools.
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Some schools offered academic credit for the leadership training. The University of Iowa offered one credit hour to women who complete the course and run a troop for the rest of the school year.
Stanford alumna and GSUSA President Lou Henry Hoover threw her support behind college-level training and encouraged expanding the program to more and more teachers’ college whenever possible.
Girl Scout officials also hoped the courses would encourage young women to consider careers in the Girl Scout movement.
GSUSA partly revived this idea with the website Girl Scouts University (http://gsuniversity.girlscouts.org/), which provided online training and enrichment courses. However, the website has not been updated in over two years.
This Girl Scouts University should not be confused with an earlier incarnation, also called Girl Scouts University (http://www.gsuniv.org/history/). This site somewhat links to the newer GSU site. Notably, it still has valuable history resources produced by the former National Historical Preservation Center.
©2018 Ann Robertson