St. Mary’s College of California is a small campus in the foothills outside of Oakland (in Moraga, CA). A Catholic school in the LaSallian tradition, St. Mary’s says that students “enter to learn, and leave to serve.” Social justice pervades the very active and hands-on learning here. Founded during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, St. Mary’s celebrated 150 years in 2013.
St. Mary’s has a 4-1-4 calendar, which allows students to remain on campus or travel the world for “Jan term” in January. St. Mary’s College requires students to take two religion courses during their four years here; there are many options that fulfill this requirement. Professors here use the Socratic method for many courses, emphasizing reading, discussing and debating material of all topics. In my recent tour, a St. Mary’s professor demonstrated this to a group of about 15 college counselors by presenting us with a Shakespearean sonnet and having us read and discuss its meaning. St. Mary’s has a strong creative writing program, and also offers an MFA in creative writing. St. Mary’s College also has strong programs for students interested in the natural sciences. Ninety-five percent of students go abroad at some point during college.
I’ve visited St. Mary’s College twice and I love this campus. With just over 2,800 students, and most of them living on campus, there is a real feel of community here. Professors are approachable and available, academic help and tutoring are easy to access, and students feel connected to this school, which calls itself an “athletic powerhouse.”