Atlanta is a city without bounds; it seems, sprawling out in almost every direction. Born in 1837 as a settlement called “Terminus”, Atlanta grew out of the need to provide a rail link between Savannah and the Midwest. The city has since become a crossroads for commerce of every sort and a pop cultural icon whose identity and appeal are both distinctly regional and massively global at the same time.
It grew slowly at first, with only 30 residents and six buildings in 1842. After being renamed and officially incorporated as Atlanta in 1847 the town soon became a crossroads for several railroads and a center for the distribution of military supplies curing the Civil War. The city was razed to the ground by General William T. Sherman in 1860, but would prove to become a phoenix and shining example of “The New South” by trebling in population by the first decades of the 20th century.
Skyscrapers shot up, city limits expanded, streetcar suburbs popped up, and the city became the veritable boomtown it remains today. Today, Atlanta is still an important transportation and logistics center bolstered now by the construction of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport—the world’s busiest. As a result, Atlanta has also become a hub for consular and diplomatic missions in the US.
However today, Atlanta has outgrown its beginnings in transportation and logistics to become a city with a truly varied economy. Media and entertainment have become some of Atlanta’s most important industries not only for employing the city’s residents but also for influencing American culture at large. Not only is it home to Ted Turner’s media empire, but the city has also produced many music icons having been, at one time or another, a mecca for country music, Southern Rock, and most recently Hip Hop.
While the city’s sprawling nature gives rise to its notorious traffic jams, it also means there is an endless constellation of neighborhoods, commuter communities, and satellite cities to explore. Atlanta has experienced considerable gentrification since the 1970s, which has restored many architecturally distinct streetcar suburbs in East Atlanta built for the upper middle class during the late 19th and early 20th centuries as well as industrial areas on the westside where warehouses and factories have become galleries, retail space, and loft-style apartments.
In all, Atlanta is a dynamic city of contrasts and one with something for everyone. It is at once big and impersonal while at the same time retaining reminders of small-town Southern charm; it is a city whose culinary scene likewise swings between smokey glazed ribs and Zagat-rated gastronomic creations; and beyond all it is a city with a strength in higher education. Read on to discover some of Atlanta’s best institutions of higher education.
Top Universities in Atlanta GA
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Founded in 1836, Emory is a private research university with one of the largest endowments in the nation and the world. It was founded by the Methodist Church in 1836, but closed following the Civil War. It struggled to reopen during Reconstruction until a wealthy New York banker saved it. Its schools of medicine and law both became regionally significant throughout the 20th century and today it is one of the fastest-growing research universities in the US.
The Emory student body is uncharacteristic of universities in the South. Indeed, 74% of students come from outside the Southeastern United States and International students make a significant showing. Referred to as a “Hidden Ivy”, Emory consistently ranks competitively across a number of fields, but has particular strength in the fields of Biomedical Engineering, Public Health, Writing, and a number of medical research fields. The law school is also consistently ranked within the best in the country.
Better known as ‘Georgia Tech’, this public research university was founded in 1885. True to Atlanta’s New South identity, Georgia Tech was founded as part of an effort to build an industrial economy in the South. It was founded as a trade school but has since become an important nationally recognized technical institute and Research University. The university’s engineering program has been ranked within the top ten programs in the world. It is also consistently ranked as one of the top ten public universities in the US.
This combination of strengths in research, engineering, and an increasingly significant business school and MBA program means that Georgia Tech has become an important source of startup companies and entrepreneurship. Because of its origins as a trade school and its strengths in technical education, the university has close ties to the industrial world. The university is very successful in placing its students into competitive internships and full-time jobs. Indeed, it has established an Undergraduate Cooperative Education Program—a five-year program that allows undergraduate students to alternate between semesters of formal education and semesters of full-time employment. This program has been named by US News & World Report as one of it’s top 10 “Programs That Really Work” for five years running.