John Dee Bright College

History and Character

The John Dee Bright College honors the legacy of Drake alumnus Johnny Bright, who graduated in 1952 with a bachelor’s degree in education. After a successful career with the Canadian Football League, Bright became a beloved principal, teacher, and coach in Edmonton, Canada, where an elementary school now bears his name as testament to his impact as an educator there.

An all-around athlete who set 20 Drake records in football, basketball, and track, Bright is perhaps most famous for his prowess as a football halfback and quarterback. He was a clear favorite to win the 1952 Heisman Trophy when, in October, 1951, in what would become known as the “Johnny Bright Incident,” he suffered a broken jaw from a vicious, racially motivated attack after a play at Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University). Bright, undaunted continued to practice and play—his jaws wired shut for weeks after the incident—and completed his degree, even though the injury ultimately would result in his finishing fifth in Heisman balloting in 1951.

Johnny’s legacy of grit, resilience, and determination as an athlete lives on at Drake: In 2006, Drake named the Stadium’s football gridiron “Johnny Bright Field.” With the establishment of Bright College, which welcomed its first cohort in Fall 2021, the University honors Bright’s complete legacy by celebrating his dedication to teaching and learning.

Planning for Bright College began in April, 2019, with the development of the innovative, high-impact, integrated, interdisciplinary curriculum that would become the cornerstone of the Bright College learning environment. Swift approval by Drake’s Board of Trustees and the Higher Learning Commission, Drake’s accrediting organization, in Spring, 2020, launched a year of implementation planning and student and faculty recruitment. Bright College was publicly announced on September 1, 2020, in a ceremony that featured Dwana Bradley, another Drake school of education alumna and then-president of the Des Moines school board, and Wayne Ford, who graduated Drake in 1975 and went on to a successful career in politics and public service in Iowa. During the next eleven months, despite a global pandemic, the University marshalled the financial and human resources necessary to develop its programs and support services.

In these early years, Bright College has been led by its founding dean and a group of ten faculty members broadly representing the colleges, schools, and academic divisions of the University. Drake Faculty are invited to teach seminars and courses in Bright College based on their excellence as educators and their commitment to effective, innovative, student-centered and collaborative learning. The intensely collaborative, innovative, and forward-thinking dispositions Bright himself embodied on and off the field live on in the commitment to access, inclusion, and excellence demonstrated daily by the faculty, staff, and students of The John Dee Bright College and the many Drake alumni, donors, and community partners who have helped to bring it to life.



The John Dee Bright College at Drake University offers access to high-quality post-secondary education to those otherwise underserved by, or underrepresented in American higher education. Our students take an active, collaborative approach to learning as part of a community distinguished by interdisciplinarity, high-impact practices, and engagement in the world beyond college. They develop both foundational disciplinary knowledge and universally transferrable skills that will help them achieve their personal and professional aspirations.



Bright College is founded on the view that we learn best by doing. We prize collaborative, hands-on, engaged, problem- and challenge-based practices that connect coursework to live, relevant issues, problems, issues, questions, and topics in learners’ lives and the world beyond campus.

This approach to learning works best when it takes place in a learning community, where each participant is motivated to advance the success of each individual in the group and of the group as a whole. The cohort model, in which students progress through the program together as part of a community of learners, puts collaboration and teamwork at the center of the learning environment, helping students develop skills that will sustain their professional success, personal aspirations, and lifelong learning.

We recognize that such an approach requires a high level of academic and non-academic support to ensure students develop the non-cognitive attributes necessary to engage in active learning and to connect their learning to their lives outside of college.

Finally, the Bright College approach derives from the observation that real life is interdisciplinary and that the responsibilities and challenges of professional success and personal fulfillment require an integrated mindset that allows individuals to see the world from numerous different perspectives at once.

Thus, our approach integrates interdisciplinarity; active learning; collaborative community-building; and wrap-around student support to provide a unique, immersive learning environment that allows students to develop an array of disciplinary, digital, and non-cognitive competencies.

The Drake University College of Arts and Sciences is comprised of the divisions of Humanities, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and Fine Arts.

Areas of Study

Academic Regulations

Graduation Requirements


The information in this catalog does not constitute a contract between the university and the student. The university reserves the right to make changes in curricula, admission policies and processes, tuition and financial aid, academic standards and guidelines, student services and any other regulations or policies set forth in this catalog without giving prior notice.