Dominican University of California

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Dominican University of California
DU shield.gif
Former names
Dominican College (1890–1931)
Dominican College of San Rafael (1931–2000)
MottoVeritas Fax Ardens (Latin)
Motto in English
Truth is a Flaming Torch
Established1890; 131 years ago (1890)
Endowment$33 million
PresidentMary B. Marcy
Location, ,
United States

37°58′47″N 122°30′48″W / 37.97972°N 122.51333°W / 37.97972; -122.51333Coordinates: 37°58′47″N 122°30′48″W / 37.97972°N 122.51333°W / 37.97972; -122.51333
CampusSuburban, 80 acres (32 ha)
Colors  Black
AthleticsNCAA Division IIPacWest
AffiliationsNAICU CIC
Sports11 varsity teams
MascotChilly the Penguin Edit this at Wikidata

Dominican University of California is a private university in San Rafael, California. It was founded in 1890 as Dominican College by the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael. It is one of the oldest universities in California.

Dominican is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). More than 60 academic majors, minors and concentrations, including 11 graduate programs are offered with an average class size of 16. In fall 2020, Dominican had 1374 undergraduate students, including 354 transfer students. Ninety-one percent of students are from California, 6% are from other states and 3% from other nations. In fall 2020, 100% of incoming first-year students received financial aid, 68% identify as ethnically diverse and 23% are the first in their family to attend college. In 2019, Dominican University of California introduced a Test-Optional Policy, allowing first-year students applying for admission to have the option to submit SAT or ACT scores, beginning with the fall 2020 cohort.

The university is a member of NCAA Division II and competes in the Pacific West Conference.


Early history[edit]

The history of Dominican University of California can be traced back to 1850. It was in this year that Joseph Sadoc Alemany was appointed Bishop of Monterey. At the time of this appointment, he was in Italy attending a meeting of the Dominican Order, a Roman Catholic religious order founded by Saint Dominic de Guzmán in France in 1216.

Bishop Joseph Alemany

As Bishop Alemany was returning to his new post in California, he stopped in Paris at the Dominican Monastery of the Cross and expressed his desire to have a few Dominican Sisters join him to teach the children of the Forty-niners. A Belgian novice, Sister Mary of the Cross Goemaere (1809-1891) volunteered to accompany the new bishop and to begin a school in his new diocese. Within three years, nine women (three American, one Mexican, and five Spanish) joined Sister Mary to form the Congregation of the Most Holy Name. In 1854, the Dominicans moved to Benicia.

Following the leadership of Mother Mary Goemaere, Mother Louis O'Donnell (1887-1929) moved the motherhouse, a school and novitiate from Benicia to San Rafael in 1889.

In 1890 the Congregation of the Most Holy Name, under the auspices of Mother O'Donnell, filed Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State of California. With the encouragement of faculty of the University of California in Berkeley, a junior college was opened in 1915, and in 1917 a four-year college, Dominican College, was formed. At that point Dominican College became the first Catholic college in California to grant the bachelor's degree to women. Originally a female-only institution, Dominican College became coeducational in 1971.

Academic timeline[edit]

  • 1917 – Dominican became the first Catholic college in California to grant the bachelor's degree to women.
  • 1924 – The State Board of Education certifies Dominican to recommend candidates for public school teaching credentials.
  • 1926 – Dominican was placed on the approved list of the Association of American Universities.
  • 1931 – Dominican College of San Rafael was recognized by the American Association of University Women and in 1932, the Marin County Chapter of that group was established
  • 1931 – Dominican became a member of the Northwestern Association of Colleges.
  • 1950 – Dominican opened its graduate program to men.
  • 1963 – Archbishop Alemany Library opened.
  • 1971 – Dominican became fully coeducational.
  • 1984 – Dominican opens the Ukiah Center, in Mendocino County, creating a satellite campus offering Teacher Credential Programs and MS in Education Programs
  • 1990 – Dominican's Nursing program received accreditation from the National League of Nursing.
  • 2000 – Dominican College of San Rafael becomes Dominican University of California
  • 2006 – Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance program initiated
  • 2007 – Dominican opens a new Science Center
  • 2009 – Dominican's School of Business and Leadership was accepted into the Association of Asia Pacific Business Schools
  • 2010 – Dominican opened a federally funded national research facility focused on Sudden Oak Death
  • 2012 – Dominican received an $8 million-plus gift to update Meadowlands Hall
  • 2014 - The university's School of Business and Leadership is renamed the Andrew P. Barowsky School of Business
  • 2014 - Began publishing master's theses and faculty scholarship online in Dominican Scholar
  • 2014 - The Dominican Experience commenced
  • 2016 - Working as a voter education partner for the Commission on Presidential Debates, Dominican hosts College Debate 2016.
  • 2018 - Dominican partners with Make School, enabling Dominican to offer a Minor in Computer Science and Make School to offer an accelerated bachelor's degree in Applied Computer Science under Dominican's oversight.
  • 2019 - Dominican introduced a Test-Optional Policy, beginning with students applying for admission in the Fall 2020 cohort.
  • 2020 - In partnership with the State of California, California Volunteers, and several California public and private universities, Dominican launched the Civic Action Fellowship.
  • 2020 - Dominican was named the 2020 recipient of the ACE/Fidelity Investments Award for Institutional Transformation, in recognition of a deep commitment to student opportunity and success.


Dominican University of California sign.jpg

Dominican occupies approximately 80 acres (32 ha) in central Marin County in the City of San Rafael. It is situated in a residential neighborhood at the base of San Pedro Mountain. The gardens of the University are a combination of four former family estates and contain over 100 species of trees. A seasonal creek flows east to west through the middle of campus.

Residence halls[edit]

Almost 90% of freshmen live on-campus. Freshmen are automatically guaranteed a residency on campus while sophomores, juniors and seniors receive on-campus housing through a lottery. All residence halls are co-ed with gender specific bathrooms. Each hall has a "resident advisor" who oversees the students.

Points of interest[edit]

Ansel Adams Collection[edit]

In the 1980s, an alumna remembered that she had her picture taken when she was a student at the college in the 1950s. She went in search of the print. While she didn't find her photograph, nearly 100 original Ansel Adams photographs were discovered scattered across campus. These photographs, taken by the not-yet-famous Adams between 1932 and 1952, are part of the Dominican private collection.

Della Robia Collection[edit]

Enameled terra-cotta sculptures grace the entryways to Meadowlands Hall, Guzman Hall, Archbishop Alemany Library and Caleruega Hall. These terra-cotta sculptures have been made for centuries by the Della Robia family, a famous Florentine family of sculptors and ceramicists which started with Luca della Robbia.

Forest Meadows Amphitheater[edit]

Forest Meadows Amphitheater

Forest Meadows Amphitheater is an amphitheater on Dominican's Campus. While it used to hold the University's Commencement ceremonies, the amphitheater is now used by the Marin Shakespeare Company during the Shakespeare Festival in the fall. The company has been using the amphitheater since 1967.


Dominican focuses on interdisciplinary studies. In the sciences, the University involves undergraduates in sophisticated research projects, and encourages students to present at national academic conferences and publish in peer-reviewed journals. In the humanities, students can combine dance and musical performance with the study of philosophy, literature, world cultures, and religion. Dominican also offers undergraduate and graduate programs in business, education, counseling psychology, occupational therapy and nursing. It follows a semester system: Fall (August–December) and Spring (January–May). Classes are also offered in the summer.

Partnership with Make School[edit]

In 2018, Dominican University of California and San Francisco-based Make School submitted an application to the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) to enter an incubation relationship. The partnership enabled Dominican to offer a minor in Computer Science and Make School to offer an accelerated bachelor's degree in Applied Computer Science under Dominican's oversight.


The University is organized into three schools with the following departments:

School of Liberal Arts and Education

  • Art, Art History, Media and Design
  • Education Studies
  • Literature, Language and Humanities
  • Music, Dance and Performing Arts
  • Psychology
  • Public Affairs

Barowsky School of Business

  • Business

School of Health and Natural Sciences

  • Counseling Psychology
  • Natural Sciences and Mathematics
  • Nursing
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Physician Assistant
  • Public Health


Organization and administration[edit]

Dominican is a non-profit organization, governed by a privately appointed Board of Trustees, along with the University President, Provost, Vice-Presidents and Deans. The Board currently has 30 voting members who serve three 3-year terms and meet four times annually. The Trustees elect a President to serve as the general manager and chief executive of the university. Mary B. Marcy was appointed the 9th President of the University in July 2011.

Student government[edit]

The Associated Students of Dominican University (ASDU) is the student government for Dominican and helps students plan and provide campus activities, distribute activity funds, initiate changes in policy, and represent themselves to the University's administration and the broader community. This group of elected student representatives serves both as the student activities association and the student government board. The members of the ASDU Senate are composed of representatives from all four class levels of regular day program students.

Student life[edit]


The Dominican Penguins are the athletics teams for Dominican University of California. Since 2005, the Penguins have competed in the NCAA Division II, Pacific West Conference. The university currently fields 11 teams: Men's Basketball, Cross Country, Golf, and Soccer; Women's Basketball, Cross Country, Golf, Soccer, Softball, Tennis, and Volleyball. Dominican also supports Men's Lacrosse, which competes in MCLA Division I.[1]


Shield Ceremony[edit]

Shield Ceremony at Dominican University of California

Each fall, the university holds a Shield Ceremony, a tradition that started in the 12th century when Saint Dominic Guzman created the Dominican order. It now continues every fall during Convocation, when the Dominican seniors officially greet the incoming freshmen with a special gift: an illustration of a shield that reflects an inspirational motto. The motto, written by the seniors, is intended to help guide the freshmen throughout their college years and beyond. Four years later at Commencement, a hand-crafted wood carving of the illustrated shield is presented to the graduating class. All of Dominican's shields, dating back to the early 1920s, are displayed on campus in the Meadowlands Residence Hall, Guzman Lecture Hall and the Shield Room.

Convocation/Family Weekend (formerly Spirit Week)[edit]

Once a year, Dominican invites all students and their families for a celebration of the University and its students. It opens with Convocation, a celebration of the academic achievements of Dominican students. Throughout the celebration, all are invited to explore the campus, attend special classes, meet with the President and faculty and cheer on the Dominican Penguins at competitive games. Family Weekend concludes on Sunday with an athletic scrimmage and tailgate party.

Senior Thesis[edit]

Most academic departments at Dominican require a senior thesis/project, a one-year culminating experience that offers evidence of accomplishment in a discipline or area of inquiry. Like a master's thesis, the senior thesis gives students an opportunity as undergraduates, to explore in-depth issues that interest them. The major determines the nature of the thesis/project, which can take many forms: a research document, a novel, a business plan, a portfolio of poetry, or original works of art.

Baccalaureate Mass, Hood Ceremony, Commencement[edit]

Held the day prior to Commencement, Baccalaureate Mass is a unique tradition that reflects Dominican's Catholic heritage. The Mass, planned and led by members of the graduating classes, is held at St. Raphael's Church in downtown San Rafael. Students and their families, faculty, staff and friends of the University are invited to attend.

On the eve of Commencement, Dominican honors the academic achievement of graduating students with The Hood Ceremony. Each graduating senior and graduate student receives a hood, which is a colorful, historic symbol of scholastic excellence. This ceremony is a time-honored tradition in which the students and faculty wear their academic regalia. Conferral of the hood symbolizes that students have joined the community of educated people.

On a Saturday morning in May, the campus community joins graduating students, their families and friends for Commencement. The Dominican tradition includes a procession led by a bagpiper.

Clubs and organizations[edit]

There are more than forty student clubs and organizations at Dominican with categories including Athletics, Campus Diversity, Religious, Social and Major-Related.

Notable people[edit]

  • Etel Adnan, Lebanese writer and artist, art department head[2] and philosophy professor, 1952-1972[3]
  • Melba Beals, journalist, was among the nine African-American teenagers who over 50 years ago advanced the civil rights movement with the integration of Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.[4] Today, Beals lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, and teaches journalism at Dominican University of California, where she is the chair of the communications department.[5]
  • Urso Chappell, graphic designer, writer, and world's fair historian.
  • Marion Irvine, "The Flying Nun", broke numerous age-group records in distance running events.
  • In 2006, Major General Angela Salinas was the first Hispanic female to become a United States Marine Corps general officer.
  • Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kawānanakoa, member of the House of Kawānanakoa. She is commonly referred to as a princess despite never officially being granted such a title.
  • Killian Larson, American professional basketball player who currently plays in Europe.
  • Angela Salinas, Major General, Marine Corps Base Quantico.
  • Hannah Stocking, American YouTuber, internet personality, and model

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Athletics".
  2. ^ Tafoya, Harry (October 18, 2018). "Etel Adnan May Be the World's Greatest Living Colorist". KQED Arts. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  3. ^ "Online Archives of California, Etel Adnan papers". Online Archives of California. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  4. ^ "Melba Beals To Be Honored for her Role in Civil Rights Movement". Dominican University of California. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  5. ^ Department of Communications, Dominican University of California.

External links[edit]