La Sierra University

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La Sierra University
La Sierra University seal.png
Seal of La Sierra University
Former names
La Sierra Academy
La Sierra Academy and Normal School
Southern California Junior College
La Sierra College
Loma Linda University La Sierra College of Arts and Sciences
MottoTo Seek, To Know, To Serve
Established1922 (1922)
Religious affiliation
Seventh-day Adventist Church
Endowment$35 million[1]
PresidentJoy Fehr
ProvostApril Summitt
Location, ,
United States

33°54′41″N 117°30′06″W / 33.91139°N 117.50167°W / 33.91139; -117.50167Coordinates: 33°54′41″N 117°30′06″W / 33.91139°N 117.50167°W / 33.91139; -117.50167
CampusSuburban, 150 acres (61 ha)
ColorsGold   and Blue  
NicknameGolden Eagles
Sports9 varsity sports
MascotGolden Eagle
La Sierra University Logo.png

La Sierra University (La Sierra[4] or LSU[5][6][7][8][9]) is a private Seventh-day Adventist university in Riverside, California. Founded in 1922[10] as La Sierra Academy, it later became La Sierra College, a liberal arts college, and then was merged into Loma Linda University in 1967 and named La Sierra College of Arts and Sciences. In 1990, La Sierra College of Arts and Sciences separated from Loma Linda University to become La Sierra University, an independent institution. It is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and the Adventist Accrediting Association (AAA).[11]

Since becoming independent in 1990, La Sierra University has won multiple national and world titles in the Enactus (formerly Students in Free Enterprise) competition.[12] In the late 2000s and early 2010s, controversy arose involving the teaching of evolution in La Sierra's science curriculum.[13] La Sierra was founded in 1922 when the Southeastern California Conference, one of the regional governing bodies of the Adventist church, obtained 300 acres (120 ha) of land[14] in an unincorporated area of Riverside County from Willits J. Hole.[15] The land was once a part of a large Mexican land grant named Rancho La Sierra, giving La Sierra its current name.[15]


Since its founding in 1922 as La Sierra Academy, La Sierra has morphed through a number of stages. In 1927, the school became known as La Sierra Academy and Normal School when it expanded into offering courses for future teachers. Later that year, after course offerings were expanded, it became known as the Southern California Junior College.[16] In 1939, the school was renamed La Sierra College. In 1940, the high school section split to form La Sierra College Preparatory School. The preparatory school is now named La Sierra Academy and is still located near the university. La Sierra College was first accredited as a four-year liberal arts college in 1946.[16] In 1964 the city of Riverside annexed much of La Sierra lands and nearby Arlington, placing the college within Riverside's city limits.[15][17]

In 1967, the college merged with Loma Linda University, becoming Loma Linda University's College of Arts and Sciences.[16][18] During this time, La Sierra's School of Education, School of Business and Management, and its Division of Continuing Studies were founded.[16]

In 1990, the two campuses were reorganized into separate institutions, and the La Sierra campus became La Sierra University.[16] La Sierra remains a major feeder school for Loma Linda University,[1] particularly for Loma Linda's medical programs.[4] After the separation of the two campuses into independent institutions, Fritz Guy became La Sierra's president.[19] He was followed by Lawrence T. Geraty in 1993[20] and Randal Wisbey in 2007. Joy Fehr assumed the office in 2019.

In 1999, over 20 percent of the student body signed a petition criticizing the university's core curriculum due to its alleged lack of focus on the Bible, politically liberal leanings, and "subversive attacks on Christianity and monotheism".[21]

La Sierra sold approximately 200 acres of its land to a developer in 2000, in what the university described as "the most significant physical change to La Sierra in the institution's 78-year history."[22] The land, which the school formerly used for agriculture and a dairy, became a planned development known as "Riverwalk".[17][23]

Biology curriculum controversy[edit]

In 2009, the university's science curriculum became a subject of controversy as the school was publicly accused, primarily by former pastor David Asscherick, La Sierra University student Carlos Cerna, and former La Sierra University student Louie Bishop,[24] of teaching exclusively evolution in its biology classes, which the accusers felt was contrary to the teachings of the Adventist church.[25] Concerned about the allegation, a campaign collected over 6,300 signatures to an online petition which called for Adventist universities to teach the Genesis creation narrative.[26]

The university's Board of Trustees unanimously affirmed the Seventh-day Adventist Church's 28 Fundamental Beliefs but some[who?] viewed that as inadequate.[26] In 2010, the regional accreditation agency responsible for La Sierra, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, gave the university an eight-year accreditation extension despite concerns over academic freedom and institutional autonomy.[27] La Sierra was accused of apostasy by the executive committee of the Michigan Conference, one of the church's regional governing bodies.[28] In 2011, the denominational accreditation agency, the Adventist Accrediting Association, gave La Sierra an accreditation extension ending in 2012, but required it to make changes to better promote Adventist teachings.[25]

In June 2011, three La Sierra University staff members resigned after a recording surfaced in which they were heard consuming alcohol and speaking critically of church officials. They alleged that they were compelled to resign in relation to the ongoing controversy but the university denied those allegations; the staff members sued the university but lost their case.[29][30][31][32] Later that year, the board of trustees voted in favor of a proposal stating "that creation be taught in university classrooms as faith, rather than science, and that students be told that it could not be proven with scientific methods." Prior to the vote, three out of four trustees in favor were dismissed from the board.[33][34] One of the five faculty signers of the proposal was dismissed from the university[33] which the American Association of University Professors protested as a violation of academic freedom and tenure.[35][36][37][38]


La Sierra's 150-acre campus[4] is located in the La Sierra neighborhood[17] of the city of Riverside. The school is a member of the American Public Gardens Association, which has designated the campus an arboretum.[39][40]

The first buildings built on the campus were two-story separate male and female dormitories.[14]

The university opened a $23 million science complex in the fall of 2006, which houses its biology, computer science, and mathematics departments.[20]


Frances E. Barnard Memorial Observatory
Alternative namesLa Sierra Edit this at Wikidata
LocationRiverside, Riverside County, California
Coordinates33°54′38″N 117°30′19″W / 33.91056°N 117.50528°W / 33.91056; -117.50528
EstablishedFebruary 28, 1971
Main16-inch Cassegrain reflector
Secondary12-inch reflector
La Sierra University is located in the United States
La Sierra University
Location of Frances E. Barnard Memorial Observatory

The Frances E. Barnard Memorial Observatory is located behind the main La Sierra campus at the base of Mount Two-Bit.[41] The observatory was named for Frances Evelyn Barnard, mother of Marion Cecil Barnard, who donated the money necessary to build the observatory and purchase two telescopes (one of which is currently mounted to the concrete pier inside the building).[42]


La Sierra University is composed of the College of Arts and Sciences,[43] Tom & Vi Zapara School of Business,[44] H.M.S. Richards Divinity School,[45] and School of Education.[46] The university operates on the quarter system.[47]

CPA exam pass rate[edit]

In 2011, La Sierra had the worst first-time pass rate on the certified public accountant exam in the state, coming in at 5.3%. Overall, the school had a pass rate of 18%, making it the state's third worst (out of 298) in preparing students for the exam.[48] In 2015, La Sierra was ranked second overall in the state, coming in at 47.9%.[49]


Lee Grismer, a biology professor at La Sierra, has been noted for discovering multiple species of geckos in Southeast Asia.[50][51]

Student life[edit]

Student debt[edit]

La Sierra University ranks first in California in the average amount of debt held by graduates. According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, average indebtedness for the 68 percent of students at La Sierra who borrowed was $42,934.[52] An earlier report by U.S. News & World Report stated that "In 2011, La Sierra University's graduating class had the highest average debt of any school in the country. That year, students with loans left the Riverside, Calif., institution owing an average of $54,885." The university disputed this report, citing a "reporting error", and stated that, according to US News' formula, La Sierra's debt average for 2011 should have been $42,934. LSU also stated that the average debt for all students graduating in 2011 was $29,363.[53]

In 2014, a study from the Institute for College Access & Success reported that the average debt for all La Sierra students graduating in 2013 was $25,171.[54]


La Sierra is a leading school in the Enactus (formerly Students in Free Enterprise, or SIFE) program. Since the inauguration of the SIFE World Cup (now Enactus World Cup) in 2001,[55] the school has represented the United States twice, in 2002 and 2007, and won both times.[56][57][58] In the United States competition, La Sierra has won the national championship seven times, from 1994 to 1997 and again in 2002, 2007, and 2016,[59][60][61] has been first runner up three times, in 2000,[62] 2001,[63] and 2008,[64] and has been second runner up once, in 2009.[65]


The La Sierra Golden Eagles started competing in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics' California Pacific Conference in the 2013-14 school year.[66] The school became an NAIA member in 2010;[67] prior to joining the California Pacific Conference, the Golden Eagles played within the NAIA's Association of Independent Institutions.[66] Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross-country running, and soccer; women's sports include basketball, softball, volleyball, cross-country, and soccer.[7][66]

La Sierra formerly competed in the NCAA Division III level as an independent school.[citation needed]

Honors program[edit]

Founded in the 1990s, Honors at La Sierra involves a general education package with courses that are discussion and project-based and designed to lead into one another.  Cohorts of about 20 students take courses in the arts, sciences, religion, and other areas, taking part in research and community involvement projects and going on an international trip at the end of their sophomore year.  Honors is also a community of scholars, centered around the program's dorm (South Hall), where students study, socialize, and live.

See also[edit]



  • Klotz, Esther H. and Joan H. Hall. Adobes, Bungalows, and Mansions of Riverside, California, Revisited, Joan H. Hall, 2005. ISBN 0-9631618-6-5.

Citations and notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "California Baptist University & La Sierra University". 951 Magazine. July 23, 2005. Archived from the original on October 9, 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  2. ^ a b "IPEDS - La Sierra University". Retrieved 25 June 2015.
  3. ^ NAICU – Member Directory Archived November 9, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b c La Sierra University. "About La Sierra University | La Sierra University". Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  5. ^ "The Accreditation of La Sierra University: Creationism Goes Extreme". 2013-01-09. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  6. ^ "Judgment granted in favor of church in LSU-3 lawsuit — ADvindicate". Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  7. ^ a b "La Sierra University". Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  8. ^ "La Sierra University Church". Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  9. ^ "LSUC | LSU Student Missions". Archived from the original on 2016-06-23. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  10. ^ "La Sierra University | Best College | US News". Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  11. ^ La Sierra University. "Accreditations | Academics | La Sierra University". Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  12. ^ "La Sierra University Enactus Team Wins National Championship". 2016-05-19. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  13. ^ Olson, David (2012-05-10). "RIVERSIDE: La Sierra professor, board members dismissed - Press Enterprise". Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  14. ^ a b Robison, James I.Southeastern California Academy Pacific Union Recorder. June 29, 1922, p. 3 Accessed April 7, 2011
  15. ^ a b c Klotz, pages 228-230.
  16. ^ a b c d e "La Sierra University: Our History".
  17. ^ a b c "Riverside, California | City of Arts & Innovation | At Home in Riverside". Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  18. ^ Beach, W. R. Loma Linda University and La Sierra College to Merge. Review and Herald, May 11, 1967, p. 32 Accessed April 7, 2011
  19. ^ "Riverside: La Sierra's first president is graduation speaker". The Press-Enterprise. 2012-06-13. Retrieved 2012-06-13.
  20. ^ a b Marisa, Agha (June 13, 2007). "Retiring president helped La Sierra University forge identity". Press Enterprise. Archived from the original on May 20, 2011. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  21. ^[permanent dead link]
  22. ^ [1]
  23. ^ [2]
  24. ^ Ferrell, Vance La Sierra Evolution Crisis Intensifies La Sierra Evolution Crisis Intensifies. July, 2010 Accessed March 31, 2020
  25. ^ a b Kellnor, Mark A. La Sierra University Granted Window to Show its Faithfulness to Church’s Creation Belief. Adventist Review, March 24, 2011. Online Edition. Accessed April 7, 2011.
  26. ^ a b David Olson (2009-11-17). "La Sierra University debate over creationism continues | Inland News | | Southern California News | News for Inland Southern California". The Press Enterprise, Retrieved 2011-04-25.
  27. ^ "La Sierra University Receives Eight Year Accreditation Renewal". Washington, D.C. Targeted News Service. August 20, 2010.
  28. ^ "Citing Apostasy, Michigan Conference Removes La Sierra University From Employee Subsidy". Spectrum Magazine. 2010-05-26. Retrieved 2011-04-25.
  29. ^ La Sierra University Resignation Saga: Stranger-than-Fiction. July 1, 2011 Accessed March 31, 2020
  30. ^ Read, David Green Spot Whiskey: drinking with the LSU-four. December 20, 2013 Accessed March 31, 2020
  31. ^ Press release by McCuneWright, LLP Accessed March 31, 2020
  32. ^ Appeal Dismissed, Ending Lawsuit Against La Sierra University and Church. February 16, 2015 Accessed March 31, 2020
  33. ^ a b Olson, David (2012-05-10). "RIVERSIDE: La Sierra professor, board members dismissed - Press Enterprise". Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  34. ^ Posted by ERV on May 16, 2012 (2012-05-16). "La Sierra University: We want our scientists to make us look good, not teach our students science – erv". Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  35. ^ {{ authors[i].name }}. "AAUP Demand Letter Regarding Academic Freedom Greer". Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  36. ^ Olson, David (2012-06-13). "EDUCATION: La Sierra University academic freedom questioned - Press Enterprise". Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  37. ^ [3]
  38. ^ "American Association of University Professors Issues Letter of Concern Regarding La Sierra". 2012-06-11. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  39. ^[permanent dead link]
  40. ^ [4]
  41. ^ "La Sierra University Student Handbook 2016-2017" (PDF). Retrieved 2017-02-05.
  42. ^ La Sierra University: History of the Observatory Archived 2013-08-13 at the Wayback Machine
  43. ^ La Sierra University. "College of Arts & Sciences | College of Arts & Sciences | La Sierra University". Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  44. ^ La Sierra University. "School of Business | School of Business | La Sierra University". Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  45. ^ La Sierra University. "Divinity School | Divinity School | La Sierra University". Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  46. ^ La Sierra University. "School of Education | School of Education | La Sierra University". Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  47. ^ "La Sierra University | Best College | US News". Retrieved 2016-05-29.
  48. ^ "Here's How California Schools Did on the CPA Exam in 2011". Going Concern. 2012-09-10. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  49. ^ National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) (2016). Wilkins, Matthew; Mittelstaedt PhD CPA, Greg; Ulrich CPA, Mark (eds.). Candidate Performance on the Uniform CPA Examination. Vervante. ASIN B01D3Q378Y.
  50. ^ Elizabeh, Lechleitner (27 April 2011). "La Sierra field biologist takes home new species of gecko". Adventist News Network. Archived from the original on May 3, 2011. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
  51. ^ Lucas, Laurie. "RIVERSIDE: La Sierra University professor discovers new Gecko species". The Press-Enterprise. Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  52. ^ Pender, Kathleen (2012-10-18). "Student debt rises 5 percent to $26,600 for class of 2011 - Kathleen Pender – Net Worth Plus". Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  53. ^
  54. ^ Muckenfuss, Mark (2014-11-12). "FINANCES: State among lowest for average student debt - Press Enterprise". Retrieved 2016-06-21.
  55. ^ "Account Suspended". Archived from the original on 2012-08-25. Retrieved 2012-09-18.
  56. ^ La Sierra University Wins SIFE World Cup 2007 Archived 2009-05-28 at the Wayback Machine Accessed April 7, 2011
  57. ^ 2007 SIFE World Cup Results Archived 2009-09-02 at the Wayback Machine
  58. ^ "2002 SIFE World Cup Results" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-01-06. Retrieved 2011-04-25.
  59. ^ [5]
  60. ^ The Drury Mirror[permanent dead link]
  61. ^ "Enactus United States - Enactus United States National Exposition 2016". Retrieved 2016-05-29.
  62. ^ [6]
  63. ^ [7]
  64. ^ [8]
  65. ^ [9]
  66. ^ a b c La Sierra University Becomes 10th Cal Pac Member
  67. ^ 2010 NAIA Convention Recap -Day Four

External links[edit]