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
Soka University of America logo.png

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 (SUA) is a four-year liberal arts university located in Aliso Viejo, California, United States.[2] The university's mission is to "foster 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]:6 It has a graduate and an undergraduate program.

A much larger and older sister school, Soka University of Japan, is located in Hachiōji, Tokyo. SUA encompasses both 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 three in terms of first-year student happiness in the United States as measured by retention rates.[6]

History and philosophy[edit]

Tsunesaburo Makiguchi ca. 1930

SUA is a secular and nonsectarian university founded by Daisaku Ikeda, president of the Soka Gakkai International. SUA's philosophical foundation originated in the work of Tsunesaburō Makiguchi, who created a society for 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.

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 World War II for ideas and actions inimical to the war effort, he died in prison in 1944. After the war, as the Soka Gakkai organization grew, Makiguchi's educational philosophy became the centerpiece of a number of Soka schools in Japan advocated by his successors, Jōsei Toda (a former elementary school teacher) and Daisaku Ikeda, who is 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 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] In 1986, CUT sold the 219 acres (89 ha) property to Soka University of Japan.[9]

Soka University of America(SUA), originally called Soka University of Los Angeles (SULA), initially operated a small ESL (English as a Second Language) school at the Calabasas campus, enrolling just under 100 students. In 1990 SUA announced plans to build a future liberal arts college on campus [11] and plans to expand the facility over the next 25 years to an enrollment of as many as 5,000 students.[9] SUA began making plans to expand the campus infrastructure to accommodate living quarters and classrooms for the proposed expansion, but ran into opposition from some local residents, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, environmentalists, and government representatives.[9] Opponents sought 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.[12][13]

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 SUA’s plans for expansion.[9] SUA appealed the eminent domain action. In 1994, SUA opened a small graduate school, offering an MA in Second and Foreign Language Education with a concentration in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL.) 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.

The Graduate School held its first commencement in December 1995, and in the same year SUA acquired a 103-acre site in Aliso Viejo for a private non-profit four-year liberal arts college. The Aliso Viejo campus opened May 3, 2001 to a freshman class of 120 students from 18 countries and 18 states. In June 2005, Soka University received its accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC.)[14]

SUA sold the Calabasas property in April 2005 [15] to a coalition of agency buyers led by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA).[9][16] 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.[16] In 2007 the Calabasas campus was closed and the Graduate School relocated to the Aliso Viejo campus. [17]

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.[18] Three academic buildings were named after the founder and Sōka Gakkai's third president Daisaku Ikeda and his wife, Kaneko Ikeda; 20th−century peace activists Linus Pauling and Eva Helen Pauling; and Mohandas Gandhi and Kasturba Gandhi. An additional academic building dedicated in 2012 was named after Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai. [19]

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.[20]
  • 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.[21]
  • 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.[22]


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

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 two years, then all undergraduate students at Soka University of America study abroad for one semester in the spring or fall of their junior year in a country whose language they are studying (costs included in tuition).[23] SUA was the first liberal arts college in the US to require mandatory study abroad for all students when it opened in 2001.[24] The first students went abroad in 2004.

Student life[edit]

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

About 60% of SUA's student body is from the United States, with the other 40% coming from 30 other countries on six continents. In 2014 and 2015, Soka University was ranked #1 in Foreign Student Factor (Highest % of International Students)among National Liberal Arts Colleges by U.S. News & World Report.[25]

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), Student Movement for Nuclear Disarmament, Scuba Club, Keep Soul, Humanism in Action, Ka'Pilina Ho'olokahi (Hawaiian and Polynesian dances), Soul Wings (chorus), Instant Radio (band), Cats in Crowns (jazz),Kendo and Circle K.[26]

Recreation Center

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.[27]


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.[28]

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 Ralph Waldo Emerson Society.[citation needed]


Soka University teams, nicknamed 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. [29]

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, full tuition Soka Opportunity Scholarships are available for admitted students whose families make $60,000 or less.[30]

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.[31] Students have been admitted into graduate programs at other universities.[32]

Allegations of sectarianism[edit]

In 2003, two professors claimed they experienced religious discrimination, breach of contract as well as age discrimination. One professor took legal action against SUA based on these allegations, but her case was dismissed on summary judgment.[33] University administrators disputed all allegations of discrimination, and noted that the majority of faculty and staff are not Buddhist, there was no evidence of preferential treatment, and reaffirmed that Soka University has never taught nor will it teach Buddhist—or any other—religious practices.[34][35][36]

In 2011, Michelle Woo wrote an article for an issue of OC Weekly, a local publication in Orange County, California, in which she mentioned possible proselytizing of non-Buddhist staff and students.[37] The article was strongly refuted by Soka University students, faculty, and staff.[38]

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 "Preliminary Determination of Eligibility Gillette-Brown Ranch, California"
  10. ^ The Historical Ecology of Talepop, an Interior Chumash Settlement in the Santa Monica Mountains
  11. ^ "Soka University Expansion Stirs Calabasas Controversy," Los Angeles Times, Sept. 24, 1990,
  12. ^ Aaron Curtiss (12 December 1993). "Soka University: Fight Brews Over Land in the Santa Monicas". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  13. ^ Loesing, John (13 March 2003). "Environmentalists beat Soka University—again". The Acorn. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  14. ^ University Catalog 2014-2016, Soka University of America, pg. 5
  15. ^
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ University Catalog,Soka University of America, pg. 5S
  18. ^ Roark, Anne C. (Spring 2002). "Soka University". National Cross Talk (National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education). Retrieved 2014-08-15. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Academics Overview (MA Program)". Soka University. Retrieved 2014-08-15. 
  21. ^ {{subst:saved_book}}
  22. ^ Logan, Marie-Rose. "Annals of Scholarship". Annals of Scholarship. Marie-Rose Logan. Retrieved 23 June 2015. 
  23. ^ "Soka University of America". US News & World Report. 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-07-17. 
  24. ^ "New West Coast College, Born of the Far East" by Todd S. Purdon, New York Times, July 20, 2001, Pg 1
  25. ^ "Most International Students". US News & World Report. 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-07-17. 
  26. ^
  27. ^ "International Festival". Soka University. Retrieved 2014-08-14. 
  28. ^ "Peace walk brings community together: more than 70 people walk through Aliso Viejo for peace". Orange County Register. October 24, 2007. 
  29. ^
  30. ^ "Soka University Announces New Tuition Policy" (PDF). Soka University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-10-30. 
  31. ^ Four-Year Colleges 2008. Peterson's. July 17, 2007. ISBN 978-0768924008. 
  32. ^ Colleges in the West 2008. Peterson's. October 9, 2007. p. 86. ISBN 978-0768924206. 
  33. ^ Woo, Michelle (April 18, 2011). "Former Soka University Professor Loses Appeal in Religious Discrimination Case". OC Weekly. Retrieved October 21, 2015. 
  34. ^ "Soka University under fire". Religion Report (ABC). 21 May 2003. Archived from the original on 2014-08-12. 
  35. ^ Snyder, Martin D. (Mar–Apr 2003). "State of the Profession:Sailing under False Colors". Academe 89 (2): 111. doi:10.2307/40252413. 
  36. ^ Habuki, Daniel (Sep–Oct 2003). "New University Slighted". Academe 89 (5): 6–7. doi:10.2307/40253380. 
  37. ^ Woo, Michelle (March 10, 2011). "Soka University of America Is a School On a Hill". OC Weekly. Retrieved 2014-08-13. 
  38. ^ Kissell, Ted (March 14, 2011). "About That Soka University Cover: A Note From the Editor". OC Weekly. Retrieved 2015-04-02. 


  • Bethel, Dayle M. ed. (1990). Education for Creative Living: Ideas and Proposals of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press.
  • Sharma, Namrata (1999). Value Creators in Education: Japanese Educator Makiguchi & Mahatma Gandhi and their relevance for the Indian education. New Delhi: Regency Publications.

External links[edit]