Saint Mary's College of California: Wikis


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Saint Mary's College of California
Motto Signum Fidei
Established 1863
Type Private,
Roman Catholic,
Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools
Endowment $105.5 million[1]
President Br. Ronald Gallagher, F.S.C.
Faculty 190
Students 4,768
Location Moraga, CA, United States
Campus Suburban, 420 acres
Colors Red and Blue         
Nickname Gaels
Mascot Gael Force One

Saint Mary's College of California is a private, coeducational college located in Moraga, California, United States, a small suburban community about 10 miles east of Oakland. It is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church and administered by the De La Salle Christian Brothers. It is known for its Liberal Arts education, including its Great Books and Seminar programs, its business program, which in recent years has become the college's most popular program, and nursing program, partnered with Samuel Merritt University, whose campus is in Oakland. Recently the college has garnered national attention for its men's basketball program.

The college's official literature states that Saint Mary's mission is guided by three traditions: Liberal Arts, Catholic and Lasallian.



The Saint Mary's College chapel with the statue of St. John Baptist De la Salle in front.

St. Mary's College began in 1863 as a diocesan college for boys established by Most Rev. Joseph Alemany, OP, Archbishop of San Francisco, California. Unhappy with the archdiocese's operation of the college, Archbishop Alemany applied for assistance from Rome and St. Mary's College was handed over to the De La Salle Christian Brothers in 1868.

In 1889, the college moved east across San Francisco Bay to Oakland, California. The location on the corner of 30th and Broadway became affectionately known as "The Brickpile" and Saint Mary's College would call Oakland home until 1928, when it moved further eastward to Moraga. The Oakland site is a California Historical Landmark and is marked by a commemorative plaque. The former San Francisco site is now the site of the St. Mary's Park neighborhood.

During its first years in Moraga, the college nearly went bankrupt, but eventually managed to gain financial security when it was bought by Archbishop John Joseph Mitty, for whom a residence hall is now named. During World War II the college was used by the United States Navy for the training of pilots. Gerald Ford was briefly stationed at the school and served as a naval instructor.[2] The navy erected many buildings, including the world's largest indoor pool, but only one, Assumption Hall, remains on the campus as the school had little use for most of the buildings after the war. Saint Mary's continued to be a male-only school until 1970s, when it became coeducational. Since then, more women have come to the college and by 2004, 60% of the students were women. For the 2006-2007 school year, the student-teacher ratio was 12:1 with no student-teachers leading classes.[3]

There are still roughly two dozen Christian Brothers living and working at the school, and the school presidents have always been brothers. However, recognizing the dwindling number of Christian Brothers, in 2003 the college's bylaws were changed to allow the election of a non-Christian Brother to the presidency if no qualified Brother exists or steps forward. The current president is Brother Ronald Gallagher, FSC who took office in 2005.


There are presently four schools of study at Saint Mary's: the School of Liberal Arts, the School of Science, the School of Economics and Business Administration (SEBA), and the School of Education. The school also had the School of Extended Education for adults seeking to further their education and other non-traditional undergraduate students, but the program was discontinued in 2006. Saint Mary's College prides itself on being a Liberal Arts institution, and the majority of students are in the School of Liberal Arts. However, the most popular major is Business Administration. This is then followed by Communication, Psychology, Liberal and Civic Studies (primarily a major for students seeking to become teachers), and English.

The School of Science has in the past few years grown as a result of a new science building, Brousseau Hall, which has made the college more appealing to students wishing to major in the life sciences.

As a reflection of the school's liberal arts tradition, most students are allowed to take a broad array of courses to fulfill the college's general education requirement. Two courses in humanities, one each in math and science, two in social sciences, two in religious studies, foreign language as needed, and a diversity course are required of almost all students. However, aside from a common lower division religious studies course (introduction to biblical literature), students can take a variety of different courses to fulfill these requirements (for example, a course on U.S. History and a course on Psychology would satisfy the social science requirement). Freshmen and sophomore students who are undecided about their major often take advantage of the wide degree of flexibility offered in the general education requirements.

The school also has graduate programs in fine arts, psychology and business. One of the most successful of these programs is the MFA program in writing. The school also once had the Graduate Liberal Studies program, which was discontinued in the early 2000s.

One of the school's most notable faculty members is religious studies professor Hatem Bazian, who teaches a class on Islam.


Collegiate Seminar

In addition to these general education courses, students must take four Collegiate Seminar or Great Books courses. Although modeled after the academic programs at St. John's College, this program is unique to Saint Mary's College in that only the four courses are required, and that they are integrated into all majors of study (including non-liberal arts majors such as business and science). The four courses must be taken in order, two freshmen year, and the other two during the sophomore, junior or senior years. These classes deal with the most important literature and philosophy of the time, and are meant to include discussion of the text rather than lecture. Most notably, all teachers, even those who generally teach subjects far from literature and philosophy, teach seminar classes. Since all professors teach seminar, one criticism of the program is that the experience varies widely depending on the teacher. Some are prone to lecture even during discussions and dominate the conversation, while others will remain silent even if the students are not discussing the text. However, the program's advocates argue that Collegiate Seminar encourages students to ask questions about the texts rather than rely on professors to dictate information, and teaches them to logically articulate their thoughts and ideas more than students who do not go through such a program. There have also been discussions for decades about whether the program is too focused on western civilization.

Below are the four seminars and a sampling of some of the texts read: Greek Thought

Roman, Christian & Early Medieval Thought

Renaissance Thought

Modern Thought

Integral Program

The Integral program is a major at Saint Mary's College that incorporates the Seminar method for all of its classes, modeled almost completely after St. John's College. It is a four year program, with students unable to enter Integral after freshman year. Instead of just taking four classes integrated as part of the general education, Integral majors' entire curriculum, including subjects not traditionally related to the "classics," is done in the Seminar style. For example, math is taught through reading and discussing Euclid and Galileo, rather than actually completing numerical problem sets. In addition, the Seminar portion of the program, while twice as long (eight semesters vs. four), moves much more quickly and covers more material than the traditional Seminar program. The program does not have any tests, and students average 100-200 pages of reading per night.

Because of the small number of students, those students who are in the program remain with the same class for their entire four years. While many students enjoy the uniqueness of the program and the intimate class setting, others find that either the isolation of the program from the rest of the campus (aside from a small number of electives that are allowed, Integral majors take classes only with other Integral majors, and only Integral students take Integral classes, which are all taught by a small number of exclusively Integral professors) or the intense focus on the classics are not for them. These students may transfer after their sophomore year to another major, with almost all of their general education requirements fulfilled.

While the Integral program is housed in the School of Liberal Arts and Integral majors receive a Bachelor of Arts degree, integral students graduate separately from the other Liberal Arts majors and are the last students to receive their diplomas during the commencement ceremony.

January Term

January Term, or Jan Term for short, is a unique academic session in which during the month of January students are required to take one class and encouraged to take one outside their major. Jan Term classes are more intensive than a normal fall or spring class. Instead of meeting two or three times a week, they meet four times a week for two hours and 30 minutes, and students must take four Jan Term classes to graduate. This differs from many colleges at which January Term or "Intersession" is optional. Each year, a committee meets to determine the year's Jan Term theme, and the process includes a vote of the final three selections by the community. Classes during Jan Term range from Shakespeare to Star Trek, and students have the option to travel abroad for their January class. There are also optional quarter credit classes for Jan Term and during the semesters, such as digital photography or weight training.


Saint Mary's Gaels logo

The nickname of sports teams at Saint Mary's is the Gaels, which had been changed from the "Saints" in the late 1920s. Saint Mary's College was once known for its American football team led by "Slip" Madigan, which dominated west coast football, indeed beating USC and Cal during the thirties, and with several wins against eastern powerhouses during the 20s,30s and 40s including winning the 1939 Cotton Bowl by crushing favored Texas Tech 21 to 13. Another memorable win during this period was St. Mary's stunning upset over USC in 1924, 14-10. The most notable win came in 1930, when Saint Mary's traveled to New York to play Fordham University. Fordham was a heavy favorite, as the Rams had won 16 straight games going back to 1928. They featured the first version of an offensive line known as the "Seven Blocks of Granite," a formidable unit that later would include the likes of Vince Lombardi. Few thought that a tiny west coast school could defeat a team like Fordham. Nevertheless, Saint Mary's recovered from a 12-0 halftime deficit to win, 20-12. The Gaels was known for their flashy style that reflected the personality of their flamboyant coach. Madigan traveled to New York for the Fordham game with 150 fans on a train that was labelled "the world's longest bar." To stir up publicity for the game, he threw a party the night before and invited not only sportswriters, but such celebrities as Babe Ruth and New York mayor Jimmy Walker. In 2004, however, after a long period of decline, the football team was finally disbanded after a dismal 1-11 2003 season. Because of Title IX they were required to devote more funds to the school's other growing programs. Saint Mary's is currently well known for its basketball, baseball and women's volleyball teams. A wide variety of intramural and noncompetitive sports also are available on the campus.

Almost all of the Division I varsity teams compete in the West Coast Conference. In 2001 the women's basketball and soccer teams competed in their respective NCAA tournament's, with both teams advancing to the second round. The 2001 women's soccer season ended with the Gaels being ranked 12th in the nation, after receiving rankings as high as 5th (Soccer Buzz) and 7th (NSCAA) in the nation earlier in the season. The women's volleyball team has played in the postseason for the past three years, advancing to the "Sweet Sixteen" in 2004.

The men's basketball team is becoming recognized nationally as one of the top mid-major programs in the country. The team received at-large bids to the NCAA tournament in 2005 and 2008, but in both cases lost in the first round. The Gaels also have spent parts of the past two seasons ranked in both the Associated Press and ESPN Top 25 polls. In 2008, the team got off to a strong start and at one time had the longest active winning streak in the nation before an injury to star guard Patty Mills, who was their leading scorer at the time. Mills came back in time for the WCC Conference tournament, but after a loss to Gonzaga in the WCC tournament finals, the team was not selected for the NCAA tournament. Saint Mary's was invited to participate in the NIT.

Another successful sports program at Saint Mary's is rugby, which, though not well known in the United States generally, is the oldest athletic club at Saint Mary's. The men's rugby team has enjoyed a rise in the past few years. Revitalized with a new coaching staff and increasing alumni support, the team has finished the season ranked among the top ten teams in the country for three consecutive years, competing with large high-profile schools such as California, Ohio State, and the military academies. In 2008, the men's rugby team reached the Final Four of the USA Rugby Division One National Championship tournament, losing to Cal Berkeley 41-31 in the semi-finals, and was also ranked at #2 in the nation for Division 1 Collegiate Rugby at the seasons end.

Student life

There are only a few clubs, limited to service clubs, diversity clubs, academic clubs, and special interest clubs on campus. The Associated Students of Saint Mary's College (ASSMC) oversees the club and serves as the student government. Each class elects a president and vice-president, as well as several other student senators. The entire school elects the ASSMC president and the three executive vice-presidents (Administration, Student Affairs and Finance). The Student Involvement and Leadership office assists ASSMC and the clubs in providing programming and events on campus. A full list of student clubs and organizations can be found here.

Being a Lasallian school, community service plays a big role on campus. The Catholic Institute for Lasallian Social Action coordinates most service work on campus, and each year students perform many hours of community service. In January 2006, twenty-five students and two professors travelled to New Orleans to help clean up parks and rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. These trips to New Orleans have continued in subsequent years.

The campus has a chapel in which mass is held almost daily. The main student mass is on Sundays at 8 PM. There are several priests who work on campus, some of whom also teach classes. In late 2006 a Catholic youth group known as Xalt! Was started by students. It has weekly meetings in the chapel, with presentations given by professors.

It is not a requirement to be Catholic in order to attend Saint Mary's, and students do not have to take courses in Catholicism (two general Religious Studies classes are required, an introductory course of the Bible as literature and an elective of the student's choosing). Roughly half of Saint Mary’s students are Catholic.

Saint Mary's has an academic support center which helps students who have disabilities and other special needs. There are also offices set up to assist students of color (41% of the student body identifies as an ethnic minority) and first-generation college students (over one-third of the total students).

The college has a weekly newspaper called "The Collegian", a yearbook known as "The Gael," a radio station, KSMC 89.5, and a television station, GaelVision (Channel 20).

Some student organizations and academic departments sponsor a variety of people from around the world to speak at Saint Mary's College. Some of the most notable people who have spoken at Saint Mary's College since August 2006 are human rights activists Dolores Huerta and Mother Antonia, local US congressmen Ellen Tauscher and George Miller, journalists Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Russ Rymer, Czech politician/diplomat Jan Kavan, and activist/academic Bill Ayers. Ayers's speech in January 2009 caused considerable controversy, including attempts by protesters to disrupt the presentation. There have also been several forums and presentations on topics related to the Middle East and women’s studies recently. There are also classical music concerts, usually held in the chapel, featuring either groups from outside the campus, or student groups such as the Nightengaels choir.

Off-Campus Activities

Being a relatively small community of mostly long-time elderly residents or families with young children, Moraga is known for its lack of entertainment that caters to college students.[citation needed] As one sign of its suburban setting, Saint Mary's location is distinguished by having a Safeway at the bottom of the hill no matter which way you turn out of campus. However, there are several movie theaters, fast food places and restaurants within a short drive of campus, and the Orinda Theatre is only about ten minutes away. Some students also go to nearby larger towns, such as Concord, Walnut Creek and Berkeley and the cities of Oakland and San Francisco.


De La Salle Residence Hall and De La Salle quad.

Most freshmen at Saint Marys live on campus. There are six freshmen dorms (Augustine, Justin, Mitty, De La Salle, Aquinas and Assumption Halls). All freshman dorms (with the exception of Aquinas) are set up "community style," in which two or three students usually share a room and the entire floor shares a central bathroom. Floors are usually separated by sex in freshman halls (because of the shared bathrooms). The only exceptions are Aquinas hall which has students live in suites with their own bathroom, and the first floor of Assumption, which is coeducational with girls’ rooms having their own bathrooms. Aquinas is also open to upperclassmen. Currently, freshmen living on campus are guaranteed a spot on campus for their second year. Sophomores live in Becket Hall, More Hall, North and South Claeys Halls, and Ageno A, B, and C Halls. All of these halls are "suite" style living and each suite comes with three or four bedrooms, accommodates six students, and has its own bathroom and shower. Floors on suite buildings are co-ed.

Juniors and seniors enter into a housing lottery to determine if they can live on campus. Many upperclassmen live in "townhouse" buildings: Ageno East and West, Guerreri East and West, Freitas, Thille, Syufy and Sabatte Halls. All townhouses come with two or three bedrooms (accommodating five to six students), a bathroom and shower, kitchen and living room. Upperclassmen also live off-campus in Moraga, Orinda, Lafayette, and Walnut Creek. Upperclassmen resident advisers, as well as a few other upperclassmen, live in the traditionally freshman and sophomore halls. All residence hall rooms are fully furnished and come with two phones with free long distance, free Internet, and free TV cable outlet. Others often choose to live at home if they are within half an hour of campus. In addition to several student resident advisers, each residence hall also has at least one resident director, who is often a professor and lives in the residence hall.

Br. Alfred Brousseau Hall, where science classes are held.

The majority of classes are held in Galileo, Dante and Garaventa halls, which each have three floors. Most of the professors’ offices are also in these halls. A new science building, known as Brousseau Hall or by its former name, Gatehouse, was built in 2000. Sichel Hall is a smaller, media-oriented classroom building, and Syufy Performing Arts Hall houses large and small practice rooms for arts students. The newest building on campus is Filippi Academic Hall, which houses the School of Education. The library, St. Albert Hall, is located near the freshmen dorms.

The cafeteria is called Oliver Hall, but it is known to the students as "Saga," after a former operator. The Cassin Student Union, also known as Café Louis, features a sandwich shop and grill as well as a coffee shop, operated by Sodexho, the same company that runs the dining hall. Dryden Hall has recently been retrofitted into overflow seating for Oliver Hall, and the game room has been moved into the sandwich shop. Also in the student union are Delphine Intercultural Center, and the bookstore, which are separate buildings.

Athletics facilities include McKeon Pavilion (basketball and volleyball), the Saint Mary’s swimming pool, Saint Mary's stadium (soccer and lacrosse), Madigan Gym (Rec sports), Louis Guisto field (baseball), Cotrell Field (softball) as well as an additional soccer field, a rugby field and an intramural field. The college also has a tennis court area and frequently hosts the WCC tennis tournaments. The Power Plant, slightly old and antiquated, is where students work out, but the college hopes to replace it within a few years.[4] There is also a new Cardio Workout Center on the second floor of the Madigan Gym.

Two other important buildings are the Soda Activity Center and the Lefevre Theatre, where various events are held. There is also a Library. All buildings on campus except Assumption Hall are named after an important person in the Catholic religion or a person important to the school.

There is also a cross at the top of a hill on campus.

Semester Schedules

St. Mary's has a "4-1-4" system, similar to Middlebury College: Fall semester, January Term, and Spring Semester. Students are given three weeks off for Christmas following Fall semester, one week off following Jan-Term (which many students use to visit friends at other colleges, many of whom do not have a week off in January), and one week in the middle of Spring semester for Easter. Fall semester usually begins the Monday before Labor Day and runs through the second week of December. Graduation is usually the third or fourth week of May. St. Mary's also does not have a "week of preparation" for finals. The school goes directly from a regular class schedule to its finals.

Classes meet for one hour on Monday, Wednesday and Friday or for an hour and a half on Tuesdays and Thursdays. However, beginning in the fall semester of 2006, classes midday on Monday and Friday were changed to an hour and a half, freeing up time during the middle of the day on Wednesday for what the college is calling "community time," during which events (guest speakers, cultural events, concerts, BBQs, special masses, etc.) can be scheduled by various campus groups (student, faculty or staff). No classes are held during community time and all offices are closed so that the entire campus has the opportunity to attend these events if they choose.

Notable alumni

Some of Saint Mary's notable alumni are as follows: the two numbers after their name are the last two digits of the year that they graduated or will graduate (in the twentieth century unless otherwise noted).[5]

See also

Coordinates: 37°50′27″N 122°06′34″W / 37.84096°N 122.10946°W / 37.84096; -122.10946[6]


External links


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