Soka University of America: Wikis

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Soka University of America
060907-005-SokaU-FoundersHall.jpg
Founders Hall and Peace Lake
Motto
Be philosophers of a renaissance of life;
Be world citizens in solidarity for peace;
Be the pioneers of a global civilization.
Established 2001
Type Private
Endowment $500 million
President Daniel Y. Habuki
Provost Tomoko Takahashi
Faculty 59
Students 363
Undergraduates 355
Postgraduates 8
Location Aliso Viejo, CA, USA
Colors Blue, white and gold.
Nickname Lions
Website www.soka.edu
Soka-logo.png

Soka University of America (SUA) is a university located in Aliso Viejo, California, United States. The school's mission is to foster a steady stream of global citizens committed to living a contributive life—with an emphasis on principles of pacifism, human rights, and the creative coexistence of nature and humanity.[1] It has a graduate and undergraduate program.

SUA received accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) four years ahead of schedule in 2005.[2] A much larger and older sister school, Soka University of Japan, is located in Hachiōji, Tokyo. SUA encompasses a four-year liberal arts college and a graduate school. It is also host to the Pacific Basin Research Center and the academic journal Annals of Scholarship.

Contents

Main Features

SUA reported a 9:1 student/faculty ratio and an average class size of 13.

  • The undergraduate college offers bachelor's degrees in Liberal Arts with emphasis areas in Environmental Studies, Humanities, Social & Behavioral Sciences, and International Studies. Classrooms are designed as centers of dialogue and discussion, emphasizing seminar methods.[3]
  • The graduate school offers a Master of Arts degree in Second and Foreign Language Education concentrating on Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) education. The graduate school offers a 6:1 student/faculty ratio and graduated its tenth class in 2006.
    Linus and Ava Helen Pauling Hall
  • The Pacific Basin Research Center conducts research on the humane and peaceful development of the Asia-Pacific Region, including the Latin American border states. Toward this end it awards grants and fellowships to researchers studying public policy interactions in the Pacific Rim in such areas as international security, economic and social development, educational and cultural reform, environmental protection and human rights. In keeping with the educational mission of the university, the Center also sponsors campus conferences, occasional lecture series, and student seminars that extend and support its research activities.
  • The academic journal Annals of Scholarship has been edited at SUA since 2005, when Humanities Professor Marie-Rose Logan joined the faculty. Annals of Scholarship promotes the study of the development of methodological and historical criteria in all the disciplines with an emphasis on the interaction between Art Practices and the Human Sciences in a Global Culture.
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Curriculum

Embracing the traditions of Humanistic education, Student-centered learning, and educational progressivism, SUA has adopted a series of innovative curricular structures that deeply affect undergraduate life. The low student:teacher ratio allows small, student-centered seminars to be a mainstay of all students' educational experience, even in introductory level classes. "Learning Cluster" courses combine practical experiences and academics to develop student research skills.

Residence Halls: "Horizon," "Aurora," "Abeona," and "Sunrise"

There are no traditional discipline-based departments at Soka University. Instead the university has focused on interdisciplinarity, a progressive movement in collegiate curriculum that has defined many American colleges and universities, including the nearby University of California, Irvine.

At SUA, students choose courses of study within several interdisciplinary Concentrations:

  • Environmental Studies
  • Humanities
  • International Studies
  • Social & Behavioral Sciences

The Humanities Concentration seeks to prepare global citizens by examining the breadth and depth of human constructions of meaning, value, and creativity. In order to promote understanding among diverse groups of people, the courses in humanities explore how and why different perspectives about the world have arisen in different cultures and historical periods. The concentration is structured to show the ways in which the traditional disciplines of art history, history, literary studies, music history, philosophy, and religious studies can address common topics and concerns through a variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches.

The International Studies Concentration is designed to provide students with an in-depth understanding of the global arena, with a special focus on the Pacific Basin. Students learn to integrate complex and diverse historical experiences with the study of national, regional, and global issues. Beyond providing substantive knowledge, the concentration highlights the sources of war and peace, including the peaceful resolution of conflict, human rights, the aspirations of people to live free and independent lives, indigenous and local movements, economic development, security issues, and the growing role of regional and worldwide organizations in the international arena. The role of culture, ethical conduct, and the contribution of individual initiative are examined in each of these topics.

The Social and Behavioral Sciences Concentration (SBS) strives to understand human lives, human behavior, and institutions (formal and informal) in their social contexts. The concentration embraces an interdisciplinary approach to examining cultural diversity, social problems, and human behavior, incorporating perspectives from sociology, economics, psychology, anthropology, linguistics, and political science. These courses provide students with tools to examine and address global issues and concerns.[1]

Learning Clusters

Learning Clusters are three week intensive courses focused on a significant problem of contemporary relevance. Faculty and students develop Learning Clusters in collaboration during each fall semester. The primary goal is to produce an "educated response" and build student skills for research, critical thought, and active engagement in the world. Learning clusters typically create a collaborative final project designed to be shared with the "off campus" world in some way. Examples have included historical research, policy analysis, film making, game theory, and peace proposals. Examples of web-based projects include "The History and Future of Anti-Sweatshop Campaigns" and "Ethnic Conflicts in Pacific Asia," both from January 2007. Other Learning Clusters have focused on documentary film, poverty in Orange County, education reform, water resource issues, and armed conflicts around the world.[4]

Study Abroad

Student Center

All undergraduate students at Soka University of America study abroad for one semester in a country whose language they are studying (costs included in tuition). The experience has become a rite of passage on campus during the first decade of SUA's operation, with numerous students sharing familiarity with specific cities abroad, such as Quito (Ecuador), Shanghai (China), or Hachioji (Japan).

Tuition

On March 5, 2008, Soka University announced a new undergraduate tuition policy in order to increase diversity and access to education. Effective with the 2008-2009 academic year, free tuition will be offered to admitted students whose annual family income is $60,000 or less. Room and board fees will still apply.[5]

2009-2010 Tuition: $24,606 2009-2010 Room and Board: $9,360

Admission

Annual undergraduate admission application deadlines are October 15 (for Early Action) and January 15 (for Regular Admission). At the annual Lions Roar Open House high school and middle school students and their families are invited to tour campus, participate in financial aid workshops, take part in Q&A sessions, enjoy a Talent Blast by SUA students and have lunch in the Soka Bistro. The average GPA of admitted Soka students is 3.8 and the average SATR and SATM is 1170.

Faculty Research

Soka University of America is a research and teaching hybrid. Faculty carry teaching loads comparable to major research institutions so they may pursue scholarship while focusing attention on teaching.

Several senior faculty came to Soka University with significant publishing records. Most faculty are actively pursuing research and publication agendas—at times involving students directly.

In January 2007 and January 2008, Anthony Mazeroll (Biology) took a dozen students on a research trip to the Amazon to study fish ecology. And in January 2008, Gaye Christoffersen (International Studies) took a group of students on a research trip to Beijing. This pilot program of student/faculty research abroad will expand beginning 2009 with research trips planned to South America, Central America, China, India, and Korea as well as other places.

Undergraduate Life

About half of SUA's student body is from the US, with the other half coming from 30 other countries on six continents. SUA is a residential college and students live on campus.

Activities

A high level of club activity is common at Soka University, with students participating in about 35 clubs on campus, including The Pearl (student news/opinion magazine), One (literary magazine), Model United Nations, Vita Leones Philharmonic Orchestra, United Nations Association, Sualseros (Salsa Dancing), Rhythmission (hip-hop dancing), Gunghroo (dances of India), Breakdancing, Josho Daiko (Taiko group), Medical Path Group, Baseball Club, Basketball Club, Humanism in Action, Green Planet, Judo, Amnesty International, and Activist Collective.

Since 2002, students have hosted the community in an annual Halloween event that transforms the first floor "crypt" of the recreation center into a "haunted house."[6] On the first Saturday of May each year since 2002, students participate in organizing SUA's "International Festival," involving over 600 international performers—including students—on three stages.[7]

Activism

SUA students have taken an anti-war and human rights message off campus and into the Aliso Viejo community. A student group convinced the SUA administration to sign-up with the Worker Rights Consortium, an organization that monitors the production conditions for apparel sold to universities in the United States with the expressed purpose of rooting-out sweatshop practices.[8]

Soka Education Student Research Project (SESRP)

The SESRP is a student initiated and run project established in 2004 to encourage serious study and research related to the methods and philosophy of education at Soka. Students have organized three consecutive and successful two-day conferences, featuring student-written research papers as well as keynote speakers such as Sarah Wider of the The Ralph Waldo Emerson Society.

History and Philosophy of SUA

SUA is secular and nonsectarian, though established by Soka Gakkai, a lay Buddhist organization. SUA's history and educational philosophy originate in Soka Gakkai, particularly in the work of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi who founded Soka Gakkai as a small group of educators dedicated to educational reform.[9] Makiguchi was a principal of an elementary school in Japan. He was strongly influenced by John Dewey and American educational progressivism.

Tsunesaburo Makiguchi ca. 1930

Between 1930-1934, Makiguchi published his 4-volume work, Sōka Kyōikugaku Taikei (Value Creating Education System), to argue for his belief that education should proceed through dialog instead of "force-feeding" information to students. This student-centered and humanistic philosophy, he argued, made "the purpose of education" an effort "to lead students to happiness." Education, he asserted, should be directed toward "creating value" for the individual and society. Makiguchi was a pacifist and an ardent believer in religious liberty and freedom of conscience. Jailed by Japanese authorities during the Second World War for ideas and actions inimical to the war-effort, he died in prison in 1944. After the war, as the Soka Gakkai organization grew, Makiguchi's educational philosophy became the centerpiece of a number of Soka schools in Japan founded by his successors, Josei Toda (a former elementary school teacher) and Daisaku Ikeda, who is also regarded as the founder of SUA. Ikeda describes the founding of SUA as the fruition of the dreams of Makiguchi and Toda.[10][11]

In 1987, SUA was formed as a not-for-profit organization incorporated in the state of California. It initially was simply a small graduate school located on a 588-acre (2.38 km2) property in Calabasas, California. The property was once the site of a large settlement of Chumash people, a Native American community, so when the university tried to expand to accommodate an undergraduate program it met resistance from environmentalists seeking to protect the Chumash ancestral site and the wilderness terrain. SUA decided to relocate.

Laguna Beach side of Wood Canyon with SUA in the Distance (2007).

In 1995, the university bought 103 acres (0.42 km2) of rough-graded property in Aliso Viejo in southern Orange County for $25 million. It then spent $225 million to build the first 18 buildings of the new campus, which opened to 120 first year undergraduate students on August 24, 2001. The new campus's principle academic buildings were named for Soka Gakkai leader Daisaku Ikeda and noted twentieth century peace activists Mahatma Gandhi and Linus Pauling.

In 2003, SUA had a brief controversy related to its relationship with Soka Gakkai International (SGI). The university offers a non-sectarian curriculum, but most of its funding has come from SGI members. Two professors charged that the university was not independent from SGI and that they experienced religious discrimination and breach of contract. One professor took legal action based on these allegations, but the case was dismissed. Administrators refuted allegations of sectarianism and religious discrimination, stating that the majority of faculty and staff are not SGI members, that there was no evidence of preferential treatment, and that SUA never has and never will teach Buddhist religious practice.[12][13][14]

In April 2005 the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority closed on the purchase of SUA's campus in Calabasas, which is now public parkland managed jointly by the Mountain Recreation and Conservation Authority, the state parks department, and the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.[15] After the sale of the Calabasas campus, the graduate school moved to the Aliso Viejo campus.

As of August 2007 the Aliso Viejo campus was home for all of SUA's graduate, undergraduate, and research programs. The Aliso Viejo campus is bordered on three sides by Aliso and Wood Canyons Regional Park encompassing a 4,000-acre (16 km2) county wildlife sanctuary. SUA has at least a $400 million dollar operating endowment and has raised in excess of $100 million for a scholarship endowment.

Between 2005-2007 SUA graduated its first three undergraduate classes with an average graduation rate of 90%. More than a third of the students in each of the first three graduating classes have gone on to graduate school. Forty percent of the 2006 graduating class entered graduate school (compared to 20% at Claremont McKenna in the same year). Cumulatively, 38% of SUA graduates have gone on to graduate programs, according to the 2008 Peterson's Guide to Four Year Colleges (p. 2228). Students have been admitted into graduate programs at Cambridge University, Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Teachers College, Duke University, Harvard University, Hawaii Law, Indiana University, London School of Economics, New York University, Oxford University, Stanford University, St. Johns, University of California, Berkeley, UC Irvine, UCLA, University of Liverpool, University of Maryland School of Law, University of Pittsburgh, University of Southern California, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Vanderbilt University, Yale University, University of Pennsylvania, and others.[16]

References

Citations

  • Soka University of America: Undergraduate Catalog (n.p., 2007).
  • Peterson's (2007). Peterson's Colleges in the West 2008, Lawrenceville, NJ: Thomson/Peterson's.
  • Soka University of America: Undergraduate Catalog (n.p., 2007).
  • Soka University of America: Undergraduate Catalog, 2006-2007 (n.p., 2006), 66.
  • Marla Jo Fisher, "Soka University offers free tuition," MyOChigh March 6, 2008.
  • Cynthia Furey, "Halloween Happenings," Orange County Register, October 11, 2005.
  • "Soka University's 6th Annual International Festival Coming on May 6, 2006," Our Aliso Viejo, October 4, 2005.
  • "Peace walk brings community together: more than 70 people walk through Aliso Viejo for peace," Orange County Register, October 24, 2007.
  • Soka University of America: Undergraduate Catalog, 2006-2007 (n.p., 2006), 6.
  • Soka University of America: Undergraduate Catalog, 2006-2007 (n.p., 2006), 7.
  • Sharma, Namrata (1999). Value Creators in Education: Japanese Educator Makiguchi & Mahatma Gandhi and their relevance for the Indian education. New Delhi: Regency Publications.
  • Bethel, Dayle M. ed. (1990). Education for Creative Living: Ideas and Proposals of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press.
  • "Soka University under fire," Religion Report, May 21, 2003.
  • Martin D. Snyder, "State of the Profession-Sailing Under False Colors," Academe (March-April 2003)
  • Daniel Habuki, "New University Slighted," Academe (Sept-Oct 2003)
  • "Soka University campus sold to Conservation Authority," Los Angeles Business, April 22, 2005.
  • Peterson's Guide to Colleges in the West (2008), p.86

External links

Coordinates: 33°33′17″N 117°44′07″W / 33.554722°N 117.735361°W / 33.554722; -117.735361


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