Soka University of America
Be philosophers of a renaissance of life;
|President||Daniel Y. Habuki|
|Location||Aliso Viejo, CA, USA|
|Colors||Blue, white and gold.|
Soka University of America (SUA) 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," with an emphasis on principles of pacifism, human rights, and the creative coexistence of nature and humanity.: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. 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.
History and philosophy
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.:6 Makiguchi was an elementary school principal, strongly influenced by John Dewey and American educational progressivism.
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.
In 1987, SUA was formed as a not-for-profit organization incorporated in the state of California. Initially it was simply a small graduate school located on a 588-acre (2.38 km2) property in Calabasas, California. Formerly a ranch, the property had once been 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 architecture was designed to resemble an old hillside village in Tuscanny, with red-tiled roofs, stone, and earth colors. The 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.
Since August 2007 the Aliso Viejo campus is 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. The former Calabasas campus is now public parkland.
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.:6
- The graduate school offers a Master of Arts degree in Educational Leadership and Societal Change.
- The www.pbrc.soka.edu 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.
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::48
- Environmental Studies
- 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 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.: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.
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). Students typically study abroad in either the fall or spring semester of their junior (third) year.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Admissions and graduation rate
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. Students have been admitted into graduate programs at other universities.
Allegations of sectarianism
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.
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- "Academics Overview (MA Program)". Soka University. Retrieved 2014-08-15.
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- Snyder, Martin D. (Mar–Apr 2003). "State of the Profession:Sailing under False Colors". Academe 89 (2): 111. doi:10.2307/40252413.
- Habuki, Daniel (Sep–Oct 2003). "New University Slighted". Academe 89 (5): 6–7. doi:10.2307/40253380.
- Woo, Michelle (March 10, 2011). "Soka University of America Is a School On a Hill". OC Weekly. Retrieved 2014-08-13.
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- 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.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Soka University of America.|
- Official website
- Pacific Basin Research Center at SUA
- New West Coast College, Born of the Far East, The New York Times July 25, 2001.
- The Gandhi, King, Ikeda Community Builders Prize at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, USA
- "A Day At Soka University" (2007) at orangecounty.planjam.com
- Soka Gakkai in America: An Update with a focus on SUA (2002) Harvard Pluralism Project