Soka University of America

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

Soka University of America
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 $1.04 billion[1]
President Daniel Y. Habuki
Provost Tomoko Takahashi
Academic staff 564 (around 200 in United States)
Students 444
Undergraduates 436
Postgraduates 8
Location Aliso Viejo, CA, USA
Colors Blue, white and gold.
Nickname Lions
Soka University of America logo.png

Soka University of America (SUA)[2] is a university located in Aliso Viejo, California, United States. The university's mission is to "foster of a steady stream of global citizens committed to living a contributive life,"[3] with an emphasis on principles of pacifism, human rights, and the creative coexistence of nature and humanity.[4] It has a graduate and an undergraduate program.

A much larger and older sister school, Sōka University of Japan, is located in Hachiōji, Tokyo. SUA encompasses a four-year liberal arts college and an ESL Teaching graduate school. SUA hosts the Pacific Basin Research Center and the academic journal Annals of Scholarship.

History and philosophy[edit]

SUA is secular and nonsectarian, though established by Sōka Gakkai, a lay Buddhist organization. SUA's history and educational philosophy originate in Sōka Gakkai, particularly in the work of Tsunesaburō Makiguchi, who founded Sōka Gakkai as a small group of educators dedicated to social and educational reform during the years leading up to World War II.[5] 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 Sōka Gakkai organization grew, Makiguchi's educational philosophy became the centerpiece of a number of Soka schools in Japan founded by his successors, Jōsei 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.[6][7]

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. 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.

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 principal academic buildings were named after the founder and Sōka Gakkai's third president Daisaku Ikeda and twentieth century peace activists Mahatma Gandhi and Linus Pauling.

Founders Hall

In 2003, a controversy arose concerning SUA's relationship with Sōka Gakkai International (SGI). The university offers a non-sectarian curriculum, but most of its funding has come from members of Sōka Gakkai International (SGI), which has been described as "overzealous". Two professors charged that the university was not independent from Sōka Gakkai International (SGI) and claimed 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 members of the Sōka Gakkai International (SGI), that there was no evidence of preferential treatment, and that Soka University of America never has or will teach Buddhist religious practice.[8][9][10]

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.[11] 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 operating endowment and has raised in excess of $100 million for a scholarship endowment. This is a surprisingly large endowment for a university that as of 2014 had yet to graduate its tenth undergraduate class.

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. 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, George Washington University, Oxford University, Stanford University, St. Johns, University of California, Berkeley, University of California, San Diego, 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.[12]

In 2011 Soka University of America celebrated its 10th anniversary in conjunction with the city of Aliso Viejo.

The Soka Performing Arts Center
Linus and Ava Helen Pauling Hall
Student Center


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

  • The undergraduate college offers a bachelor's degree in Liberal Arts with emphasis areas in Environmental Studies, Humanities, Social & Behavioral Sciences, or International Studies. Classrooms typically use seminar methods.[13]
  • The Pacific Basin Research Center supports research on the humane and peaceful development of the Asia-Pacific Region, including the Latin American border states. 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. 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 [Peer reviewed?].


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

SUA undergraduates get a bachelor's degree in Liberal Arts, while choosing one of four possible tracks:

  • Environmental Studies
  • Humanities
  • International Studies
  • Social & Behavioral Sciences[4]

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.[14] Each year several Learning Clusters travel within and outside the United States (South America, Central America, China, India, and Korea as well as other places) with funding from the Luis & Linda Nieves Family Foundation.

Study abroad

All undergraduate students at Soka University of America must study a non-native language. The languages offered are Spanish, French, Mandarin Chinese, and Japanese. The language must be studied for 2 years and 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). Student's typically study abroad in either the fall or spring semester of their junior (third) year.

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

Student life[edit]

About half of SUA's student body is from the US, with the other half coming from 30 other countries on six continents. In 2012, Soka University was ranked #1 in Most International Students (%) among all colleges and universities by U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges 2012.[15]

SUA is a residential college and students live on campus in one of eight residential buildings. Parking is free on campus and a free half hourly shuttle service is offered to enrolled students.


Clubs on campus includeThe Pearl (student news/opinion magazine), Model United Nations, Vita Leones Philharmonic Orchestra, Sualseros (Salsa Dancing), Rhythmission (hip-hop dancing), Ghungroo (dances of India), Josho Daiko (Japanese taiko group), Medical Path Group, Student Movement for Nuclear Disarmament, Scuba Club, Keep Soul, Humanism in Action, Ka'Pilina Ho'olokahi (Hawaiian and Polynesian dances) and Animal Collective.

Since 2002, students have hosted an annual Halloween Fair for the community, transforming the recreation center into a "haunted house" and providing food and game booths, such as bounce houses, henna, face painting, and various other carnival-like games.[16]

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.[17] Soka University held its 11th Annual International Festival in 2012 with 9,500 attendees.[18]


In 2007, a group of SUA students 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.[19]

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 a successful two-day conference each year since 2005, featuring student-written research papers as well as keynote speakers such as former John Dewey Society President Jim Garrison and Sarah Wider of the The Ralph Waldo Emerson Society.

Recreation Center


Soka University teams, nicknamed athletically as the Lions, are part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), primarily competing in the California Pacific Conference (CalPac). Sports, for both men and women, include cross country, soccer, swimming and track & field.


There have been reports of possible proselytising according to non-Gakkai staff and students.[20] Surprisingly enough for a university with a Buddhist background, the only Buddhist Studies class offered is in Buddhist Arts. Religion is included as a field of study in the Humanities concentration.

See also[edit]




  • 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.
  • Soka University of America, Official Halloween website, October 31, 2011.
  • "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[edit]