Aurora University

Mission and History

Our mission

Aurora University is an inclusive community dedicated to the transformative power of learning.


We draw upon the rich legacies of Aurora College and George Williams College to welcome learners to our campuses in Illinois and Wisconsin. Today, as in the past, we prize the twin virtues of character and scholarship and affirm our commitment to the values of integrity, citizenship, continuous learning and excellence.

  • We will adhere to the highest standards of integrity in every aspect of institutional practice and operation. Through this proven dedication to honesty, respect, fairness, and ethical conduct, we will lead by example and inspire our students to do the same.
  • We will exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in an educational community, founded upon the principles of mutual respect and open discourse. We will live within our means and manage our resources wisely, while creating an environment that fosters teamwork and promotes service to others.
  • We will work and live as an organization devoted to continuous learning. We recognize that the university exists in a diverse and changing world and know that we will succeed in helping students achieve their full potential only if we realize our own. We seek a growth process that is never-ending.
  • We will pursue excellence by embracing quality as a way of community life. Accordingly, we will set high expectations for ourselves, our students and our university and will work together to attain them.

The University’s core values are the foundation upon which our aspirations rest. They undergird our belief in the transformative power of learning. As members of the Aurora University community, we enter into a voluntary compact with one another to live, learn and work in ways consistent with these ideals.

Aurora University's history

Aurora University traces its origins to the 1893 founding of a seminary in the small town of Mendota, Illinois. Though established initially to prepare graduates for ministry, the institution soon adopted a broader mission and moved to a new campus on the western edge of the nearby community of Aurora. With this change came a different name, Aurora College, and a growing enrollment.

When World War II ended, the campus population swelled again as veterans enrolled in the college’s innovative evening degree program. The 1970s and 1980s saw an expansion of curricular offerings in a number of professional fields and the awarding of advanced degrees in selected disciplines. These changes culminated in the 1985 decision to rechristen the institution Aurora University.

George Williams College's history

The roots of George Williams College run deep in the YMCA movement of the 19th century. In 1884, leaders from America’s “western” YMCAs gathered on the shores of Geneva Lake in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, to attend a summer training program. Two years later, the camp was incorporated, and the first parcel of the current Williams Bay campus was purchased. Since that time, “college camp” has been a source of inspiration, recreation, education and renewal for thousands of guests and students. In 1992, Aurora University and George Williams College traditions blended when the two institutions entered into an affiliation agreement that paved the way for a merger eight years later.

Aurora University today

Today, Aurora University operates two primary campuses: a campus of 37 acres in Aurora, Illinois; and the 137.5-acre George Williams College on Geneva Lake in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. Aurora University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission to award degrees at the baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral levels. The institution enrolls approximately 5,500 degree-seeking students a year on its campuses. Classes are also offered at the Orchard Center in Aurora, Illinois and the Woodstock Center in Woodstock, Illinois.

On the Aurora campus, AU offers academic programs through the College of Arts and Sciences, the Dunham School of Business and Public Policy, the School of Education and Human Performance, the School of Nursing, and the School of Social Work. Undergraduate students participate in a wide range of on- and off-campus learning experiences. Students participate in more than 50 musical, literary, religious, social and service organizations and play active roles in campus governance.

The university also fields 24 NCAA Division III intercollegiate athletic teams.

At AU, we believe that the educational needs of our students are served best through the formation of strategic partnerships with institutions of like vision, mission and values. For example, our innovative collaborations with area corporate, civic, nonprofit, business and education partners fostered the launch of the John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School, which serves elementary and middle school students from area school districts and is staffed via a unique professional model.

Aurora University draws upon the rich legacies and distinctive traditions of Aurora College and George Williams College. This history has helped shape Aurora University, which will continue to build upon its important past to help shape the future.