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 $1.01 billion[1]
President Daniel Y. Habuki
Provost Tomoko Takahashi
Academic staff
Undergraduates 412
Location Aliso Viejo, CA, USA
Colors Blue, white and gold.
Nickname Lions
Soka University of America logo.png

Soka University of America (SUA) is a university located in Aliso Viejo, California, United States.[2] 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]:6It 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 a graduate school offering a Master's program in Educational Leadership and Societal Change.[5] SUA hosts the Pacific Basin Research Center and the academic journal Annals of Scholarship. The school is noted for being in the top 3 in terms of freshman's happiness in the United States.[6]

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 in Japan during the years leading up to World War II.[4]:6 Makiguchi was an elementary school principal, 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 regarded as the founder of SUA. Ikeda describes the founding of SUA as the fruition of the dreams of Makiguchi and Toda.[7][8]



In 1987, SUA was formed as a not-for-profit organization incorporated in the state of California. Initially it was a small graduate school located on the 588-acre (2.38 km2) former Gillette−Brown Ranch in Calabasas and the Santa Monica Mountains. [9] Originally the location was the site was the location of pre-Columbian Talepop, a settlement of the Chumash people. [10]It was within the Mexican land grant Rancho Las Virgenes in the 19th century.[9] In the 1920s it became the rural estate of King Gillette with a mansion designed by Wallace Neff,. In 1952 it became the Claretville seminary of the Claretian Order of the Catholic Church, and in 1977 it became the religious center of Elizabeth Clare Prophet and the Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT). [9] 1986 CUT sold the 219 acres (89 ha) property to Soka University of Japan.[9] The property was named Soka University of Los Angeles (SULA). [9]

Soka University of America initially operated a small ESL (English as a Second Language) school at the Calabasas campus, enrolling just under 100 students, but later announced its plans to expand the facility over the next 25 years to an enrollment of as many as 5000 students. [9] SULA began making plans to expand the campus infrastructure to accommodate living quarters and classrooms for this increase but ran into opposition from some of the local residents, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, environmentalists, and government representatives.[9] Opponents were seeking to protect the Chumash ancestral site, the natural habitats and ecology, and the expansive open space viewshed within the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area; and to prevent a development of unprecedented urban density adjacent to Malibu Creek State Park.[11][12]

In 1992, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA), a joint-powers authority associated with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, resorted to its powers of eminent domain to condemn the core parcel comprising the university and thereby halted SULA’s plans for expansion. [9] SULA appealed the eminent domain action, and the legal debate continued for the remainder of the decade. Soka University was prevented from developing any expansion plans at the Calabasas property and began looking for alternative sites to build a larger campus, settling on Aliso Viejo.

SUA decided to withdraw its expansion proposal and relocate to its Aliso Viejo property. They sold the Calabasas property in 2004 to coalition of agency buyers led by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA). [9][13] The Soka University of Los Angeles was closed in 2007. The former campus is now public parkland, known as King Gillette Ranch Park, and houses the visitor center for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. [13]

Founders Hall, Aliso Viejo campus.

Aliso Viejo[edit]

In 1995, the university bought 103 acres (0.42 km2) of rough-graded property for $25 million in Aliso Viejo, located in southern Orange County, California. It then spent $225 million to build the first 18 buildings of the new campus, which opened to 120 first year undergraduate students on 24 August 2001. The architecture was designed in a style resembling an Italian hillside village in Tuscany, with red-tiled roofs, stonework, and earth colors.[14] The principal academic buildings were named after the founder and Sōka Gakkai's third president Daisaku Ikeda and 20th−century peace activists Mahatma Gandhi and Linus Pauling.

Since August 2007 the Aliso Viejo campus has been the 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.


Linus and Ava Helen Pauling Hall
Student Center

SUA has an 8:1 student/faculty ratio and an average class size of 12.

  • 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.[4]:6
  • The graduate school offers a Master of Arts degree in Educational Leadership and Societal Change.[15]
  • The 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.[16]
  • 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.[17]


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.[citation needed]

SUA undergraduates get a bachelor's degree in Liberal Arts, while choosing one of four possible tracks:[4]:48

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

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.

Learning Clusters[edit]

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.[4]:68 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[edit]

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).[18] Students typically study abroad in either the fall or spring semester of their junior (third) year.

Student life[edit]

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

About half of SUA's student body is from the US, with the other half coming from 30 other countries on six continents. In 2014, Soka University was ranked #1 in Most International Students (%) among all colleges and universities by U.S. News & World Report.[19]

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 include The 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.[citation needed]

Recreation Center

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.

On the first Saturday of May each year since 2002, students participate in organizing SUA's "International Festival," involving over 900 international performers—including students—on three stages. In recent years the event has attracted more than 9,500 attendees.[20]


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.[21]

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.[citation needed]


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.[citation needed]

Admissions and graduation rate[edit]

The Soka Performing Arts Center

Admissions are competitive. As of 2014, about 43% of undergraduate applications were accepted.[1] Since 2008, tuition is free for admitted students whose families make $60,000 or less.[22]

Between 2005-2007 SUA graduated its first three undergraduate classes with an average graduation rate of 90%. As of 2007, 38% of SUA graduates had gone on to graduate programs.[23] Students have been admitted into graduate programs at other universities.[24]

Allegations of sectarianism and connection to SGI[edit]

In 2003, 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 disputed 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 has never taught nor will it teach Buddhist religious practice.[25][26][27] This has been an issue because SGI's president, Daisaku Ikeda, has been referred to as "the most powerful man in Japan".[28] The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that Ikeda cultivates the image of a "charismatic leader", although he has displayed a "violent temper" in private.[29] Former Mainichi Shimbun reporter Toshiaki Furukawa has alleged that the acquisition of personal awards and honors for Ikeda has been budgeted by the Gakkai as "charity services".[30] [source needs translation] Ikeda's personal residence in Ashiya, Hyōgo is considered a religious institution for tax purposes.[31][source needs translation]

In 2011, there were further reports of possible proselytising according to non-Gakkai staff and students[32] which received many negative comments from students, faculty, and staff.[33]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Four-Year Colleges 2015. Peterson's. July 22, 2014. p. 133. ISBN 978-0768938630. 
  2. ^ "Soka University of America". National Center for Charitable Statistics. Retrieved 2014-08-14. 
  3. ^ "Mission & Values". Soka University. Retrieved 2014-08-14. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Undergraduate Catalog 2013-2014 (PDF). Soka University. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Sharma, 1999
  8. ^ Bethel, 1990
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Preliminary Determination of Eligibility Gillette-Brown Ranch, California"
  10. ^ The Historical Ecology of Talepop, an Interior Chumash Settlement in the Santa Monica Mountains
  11. ^ Aaron Curtiss (12 December 1993). "Soka University: Fight Brews Over Land in the Santa Monicas". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  12. ^ Loesing, John (13 March 2003). "Environmentalists beat Soka University—again". The Acorn. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  13. ^ a b "Soka University campus sold to Conservation Authority". Los Angeles Business. April 22, 2005. Archived from the original on 2005-12-27.  The former campus is now managed jointly by the Mountain Recreation and Conservation Authority, the state parks department, and the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
  14. ^ Roark, Anne C. (Spring 2002). "Soka University". National Cross Talk (National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education). Retrieved 2014-08-15. 
  15. ^ "Academics Overview (MA Program)". Soka University. Retrieved 2014-08-15. 
  16. ^ {{subst:saved_book}}
  17. ^ Logan, Marie-Rose. "Annals of Scholarship". Annals of Scholarship. Marie-Rose Logan. Retrieved 23 June 2015. 
  18. ^ "Soka University of America". US News & World Report. 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-07-17. 
  19. ^ "Most International Students". US News & World Report. 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-07-17. 
  20. ^ "International Festival". Soka University. Retrieved 2014-08-14. 
  21. ^ "Peace walk brings community together: more than 70 people walk through Aliso Viejo for peace". Orange County Register. October 24, 2007. 
  22. ^ "Soka University Announces New Tuition Policy" (PDF). Soka University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-10-30. 
  23. ^ Four-Year Colleges 2008. Peterson's. July 17, 2007. ISBN 978-0768924008. 
  24. ^ Colleges in the West 2008. Peterson's. October 9, 2007. p. 86. ISBN 978-0768924206. 
  25. ^ "Soka University under fire". Religion Report (ABC). 21 May 2003. Archived from the original on 2014-08-12. 
  26. ^ Snyder, Martin D. (Mar–Apr 2003). "State of the Profession:Sailing under False Colors". Academe 89 (2): 111. doi:10.2307/40252413. 
  27. ^ Habuki, Daniel (Sep–Oct 2003). "New University Slighted". Academe 89 (5): 6–7. doi:10.2307/40253380. 
  28. ^ Watanabe, Teresa (15 March 1996). "Japan's Crusader or Corrupter?". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  29. ^ Magee, Michelle (December 27, 1995). "Japan Fears Another Religious Sect". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  30. ^ Furukawa, Toshiaki. Shisutemu to shite no soka gakkai. Tokyo: Daisan Shokan. p. 236. ISBN 978-4807499229. 池田大作が海外で表彰、名誉博士号等を受けるにはそれなりのコストがかか池田大作がゴルバチヨフと面会するための工作費は数十億円社会福祉団体から「福祉功労賞」を授与されれいる。 
  31. ^ Shinbun Akahata Henshūbu (2000). Seikyō ittai kōmeitō sōka gakkai seiken sanka o tō 2. p. 113. ISBN 4406027327. 兵庫県芦屋市にある「関西戸田記念館」も非課税対象の「教内地」「礼拝所」 ... 創価学会・公明党幹部はこれを「芦屋の池田名誉会長宅」(矢野絢也委員長、月刊『文藝春秋』九三年十月号)と呼んでいます。 
  32. ^ Woo, Michelle (March 10, 2011). "Soka University of America Is a School On a Hill". OC Weekly. Retrieved 2014-08-13. 
  33. ^ Kissell, Ted (March 14, 2011). "About That Soka University Cover: A Note From the Editor". OC Weekly. Retrieved 2015-04-02. 


  • 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.

External links[edit]