In the earliest days of Grand Valley State, between its founding in 1960 and 1968, the college had a unified vision of 19th century classical liberal arts curriculum.
The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) grew out of Grand Valley's early unitary state when the School of General Studies was established in 1968. CAS educated the vast majority of Grand Valley Students, maintaining continuity with the foundational philosophy of education. At the same time, CAS became the focus of external pressures demanding a less rigid and more contemporary interpretation of a liberal arts education. As the College of Arts and Sciences responded to these external forces, it moved so far away from the pioneer foundationalist vision that a significant rupture occurred between the College of Arts and Sciences and the pre-1970 institution.
At first, the forging of a new educational philosophy in CAS was driven by the demands of students, politicians, and civic leaders. Throughout the 1970s, however, the College of Arts and Sciences' new pragmatic leadership began to shape the college in conformity to a nationally emerging regional comprehensive college model. During the 1970s, Grand Valley used a multiple college concept. The College of Arts and Sciences was joined by Thomas Jefferson College, William James College, and College IV, each with their own educational philosophy and curricular focus. From 1982 to 2004, academic programs were placed in divisions. The modern incarnation of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences was established in 2004, the merger of the Social Sciences, Arts & Humanities and Science & Mathematics divisions.
Deans of the College of Arts and Sciences were Glenn A. Niemeyer (1970-1973), John Linnell (1973-1975), John Gracki (1975-1978), and Charles Sorenson (1978-1982).