Jacksonville University’s modest beginnings in 1934 included “an opportunity for citizens of Jacksonville and vicinity to obtain a standard collegiate education without leaving the city’’ and “to fill the need for a center of culture for Jacksonville.’’ The William J. Porter University opened its doors as a two-year community college. Within a year, the institution was renamed Jacksonville Junior College to identify more accurately with its city and programs.

The College’s first ten years were a struggle for survival, but by 1944, the first full-time president and faculty had moved into the Kay Mansion in Jacksonville’s fashionable Riverside area. With returning World War II veterans swelling the student ranks and projected enrollments increasing, plans for another move were soon underway.

In 1947, the Board of Trustees commissioned a master plan for development of a new campus in suburban Arlington. In 1950, the College relocated to its present site in its first permanent structure, the Founders Building. With the decision to expand into a four-year program in 1956, Jacksonville Junior College became Jacksonville University. Shortly thereafter, the Jacksonville College of Music merged with the University. In 1961, JU was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and the College of Music was renamed the College of Fine Arts due to the addition of programs in drama, art and fine arts.

In May 1967, the College of Arts and Sciences was established by combining the academic divisions of business administration, education, humanities, science and mathematics, and social sciences. The Davis College of Business opened in 1979. Graduate studies leading to the Master of Business Administration degree began the following year and the Doctor of Business Administration degree started in the fall 2014. The Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences is home to the Nursing program (BSN, MSN, DNP degrees and post graduate APRN certificate programs) as well programs and degrees in the areas of Kinesiology, Communication Sciences Disorders, Health Informatics, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Occupational Therapy, and Sport Management.

In 1983, JU established its Division of Aeronautics, now the School of Aviation. The division now offers careers in aviation management or aviation management plus flight operations. The Davis College of Business added the Executive MBA program in 1984. In 1986, an adult studies program was established as the College of Weekend Studies under the administrative supervision of the Davis College of Business. This program is now the JU Adult Degree Program.

In 2003, the School of Orthodontics was established and is now part of the Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences. The two-year Advanced Education Program in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics received full accreditation without reporting requirements from the Commission on Dental Accreditation in August of 2006. The initial program offering consisted of a C.A.G.S., Certificate in Advanced Graduate Studies. Currently, a one-year Fellowship in Clinical Orthodontic Research program and a combined Certificate in Orthodontics and a Master of Science in Dentistry is offered.

In 2012, JU created a Public Policy Institute (PPI), offering the first and only Master of Public Policy (MPP) program in the state of Florida. PPI seeks to prepare graduate students for leadership roles in the public, private, and non-profit sectors through the in-depth study of public policy. As the Institute celebrates its sixth year, the development of core skills in policy analysis, quantitative methods, management, and leadership spans across multiple program offerings, including dual degree combinations with Juris Doctorate, Master of Business Administration, and Master of Science.

In Fall 2017, Jacksonville University returned to its roots in Downtown Jacksonville establishing Jacksonville University Downtown at 76 S. Laura Street. JU Downtown was created with the adult working professional in mind and with the belief that a high-quality university education should not be limited by bricks and mortar, geographic proximity, or traditional classroom hours. The downtown campus is home to the Nathan M. Bisk Center for Professional Studies. The mission of the Center for Professional Studies is to collaborate with Jacksonville University’s academic units to develop and provide quality, rigorous educational programs utilizing online, hybrid, and cohort delivery models. The center serves to support students in achieving their academic and professional goals, support faculty utilizing innovative pedagogy, support the community by ensuring graduates are workforce ready.

As part of JU Downtown, the Center shares the Downtown campus vision. Jacksonville University believes that education shapes every aspect of a person’s life, brings communities together to solve complex problems, and creates the vision for a future filled with innovation. The Downtown Campus and the Center for Professional Studies aims to connect citizens of Jacksonville to global society through higher education.