Notre Dame de Namur University — formerly the College of Notre Dame — is a private coeducational Catholic university located in Belmont, California in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is the fifth oldest college in California and the first college in the state authorized to grant the baccalaureate degree to women.
The university is organized into three schools: College of Arts and Sciences, School of Business and Management and School of Education and Leadership. Notre Dame de Namur University offers 22 undergraduate degrees, 12 graduate degrees and four credentials. In addition to traditional undergraduate and graduate programs, the university offers an evening bachelor’s degree completion program for working adults as well as an online degree program.
Notre Dame de Namur University was founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur as College of Notre Dame in 1851 on 10 acres in San Jose, California. The college was chartered in 1868 as the first college in the state of California authorized to grant the baccalaureate degree to women. In 1922, the Sisters purchased Ralston Hall, the county estate of William Chapman Ralston, founder of the Bank of California. The college opened its doors in Belmont in 1923.
The college introduced evening classes in 1955, and in 1965, started the teaching credential programs. Originally a women’s institution, College of Notre Dame became coeducational in 1969; three men graduated as part of the class of 1970. The college expanded its offerings to include master’s degrees in 1972 and added evening undergraduate programs in 1987.
In 2001, the college established four schools: School of Arts and Humanities, School of Sciences, School of Business and Management, and School of Education and Leadership. The name was changed to Notre Dame de Namur University that same year.
Notre Dame de Namur University is located in Belmont, California on the San Francisco Bay Area Peninsula, next to Silicon Valley and the foothills of the Pacific Ocean. The campus is less than 30 miles from downtown San Francisco and downtown San Jose.
Notre Dame de Namur University offers traditional dorm living in Julie Billiart Hall and St. Joseph’s Hall, named for the co-foundresses of the Sisters of Notre Dame, Sister Julie Billiart and Sister St. Joseph Blin de Bourdon. These halls were built in 1951 and 1957, respectively. The Carroll, Kane and Wilkie Apartments, built in 1966, are available for upperclassmen. Students also have the option of suite living in New Hall, which was built in 2005. New Hall suites feature four rooms joined by a common area and sharing a bathroom. Residence hall floors are co-ed with the exception of a women’s floor located in Julie Billiart Hall or St. Joseph’s Hall.
Cuvilly Hall, named for Sr. Julie Billiart’s birthplace, is one of the main instructional buildings and houses the bulk of business classes. St. Mary’s Hall is the largest instructional building and includes classrooms, science labs, and two computer labs, as well as the public safety, registrar, and business offices. Gavin Hall is the smallest of the three main instructional buildings.
The Notre Dame de Namur University campus developed around Ralston Hall Mansion. William Chapman Ralston built Ralston Hall shortly after purchasing the property in 1864. William Ralston was a pivotal figure in the gold and silver bonanzas, which helped Ralston amass wealth. Ralston Hall was built with a steamboat gothic design on the interior, which is rumored to have been influenced by Ralston’s love of boating from a young age. The interior of Ralston Hall is strikingly shaped like the inside of a boat. Ralston Hall was built as an entertainment destination. After William Ralston passed away, his business partner, William Sharon, came to control the mansion. Sharon was a United States Senator representing Nevada from 1875 to 1881. Ralston Hall has been used for a variety of jobs throughout its history; Ralston Hall held one of the largest American weddings when William Sharon’s daughter Flora married Sir Thomas Fermor-Hesketh of England. Notre Dame De Namur was chartered by the State of California in 1868 but was not affiliated with Ralston Hall until 1922. The mansion was a finishing school for young women until 1898. From 1901 until 1921 Ralston Hall was titled Gardner Sanitarium, it was a mental institution. Since 1923 Ralston Hall has been affiliated with Notre Dame de Namur University.
Until April 2012, the mansion housed admissions, administrative and faculty offices, and its first floor rooms, including a ballroom modeled after the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, were rented for events. However, in late 2011, a preliminary assessment of the structural integrity of Ralston Hall suggested that occupants may not be safe in the event of an earthquake. The building is unoccupied indefinitely, until funds can be raised to complete a replacement or retrofit of the masonry foundation, in addition to extensive seismic work on the upper floors. The renovation is estimated to cost a minimum of $12 million.
Notre Dame de Namur University offers some bachelor degree programs at local community college campuses. Students who have completed enough units to enter Notre Dame de Namur University can take the remaining classes for their bachelor’s degree on the community college campus and receive a degree from the university. The university established a partnership with Mission College in Santa Clara, California in 2008 to offer a human services degree on the community college campus. A similar program was established with Cañada College in Redwood City, California in 2009. In 2010, intensive business, art, and psychology degrees were added to the partnership with Cañada College.
Notre Dame de Namur University is a nonprofit organization governed by a Board of Trustees.
University administration consists of a president, a provost, vice presidents for enrollment management, advancement, and finance and administration, a dean of students, and deans of the three schools.
The university is organized into three schools: College of Arts and Sciences, School of Business and Management, and School of Education and Leadership. Each school is led by a dean under the leadership of the provost.
The Associated Students of Notre Dame de Namur University (ASNDNU) serves as the student governing body at the university. ASNDNU is led by a president, vice president, treasurer and secretary, with senators representing each university club or organization. It is responsible for acting in the interest of the student body, raising and allocating funds, making recommendations to university administration regarding university policies and procedures, appearing on university boards, committees and councils as appropriate and to uphold the mission of the university.
Notre Dame de Namur University is a liberal arts institution offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees, certificates and credentials. The university offers the following degree programs:
In addition to the degrees offered on the campus, three programs are available 100% online: Master of Public Administration, Master of Science in Management and Master of Science in Computer and Information Science.
According to U.S. News & World Report's 2013 America's Best Colleges rankings, Notre Dame de Namur University tied for 58th in the Western United States for regional schools whose highest degree is a Master's.
Beginning in 2013, Notre Dame de Namur University will be the first university in the United States to offer a Ph.D. in Art Therapy. The Art Therapy Ph.D. is also the first doctoral program offered at the university. The university's master's degree in art therapy is recognized internationally as one of the leading art therapy programs in the world.
As part of the university's mission of social justice, and the goal of equipping students with "what they need to know for life", NDNU offers over 20 community-based learning (CBL) courses, designed to promote learning through community engagement. These courses involve partnerships within the community, and work for an outcome of affecting positive social change. Many of the academic programs at NDNU offer CBL courses, including psychology, sociology, theatre, communications, Spanish, natural science, and music.
Notre Dame de Namur University maintains a student exchange program with Emmanuel College, Boston, MA, also founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Students at Notre Dame de Namur University may study off-campus for a semester or year at its sister college. Students participating in this programs can transfer credits and financial aid.
Notre Dame de Namur University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College Commission.
Accredited and Approved Programs at Notre Dame de Namur University:
Dorothy Stang Center
The Dorothy Stang Center for Social Justice and Community Engagement (DSC) was established on the NDNU campus in honor of the work of Sister Dorothy Stang, SNDdeN, who was murdered in Brazil due to her efforts to aid the poor farmers and the environment in that country. The Center works to increase awareness around the issues of social and environmental justice, as well as encourage dialogue and activism in these areas. Members of the NDNU and the larger community can work with the DSC to create positive social change, and come to a greater understanding of the issues that affect the community.
The Notre Dame de Namur University Argonauts compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II, Pacific West Conference, except for men’s lacrosse, which competes in the Western Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (WILA). The mascot, the Argonaut, is named for the mythical Argonauts who sailed with Jason in search of the Golden Fleece. The school colors are blue, gold and white.
The university offers eleven athletic programs:
Gen 1 Program
Notre Dame de Namur University (CA) received a CIC/Walmart College Success Award to inaugurate the Gen I Program. All participants will live on campus and become members of a living/learning community. Students in the community will be offered sessions on time management, financial literacy, stress management, and other similar skills needed to succeed in college as well as recreational and social activities. All participating Gen I students will work regularly with a staff member during the first two weeks of the academic year to gain a better understanding of their academic skill levels. Gen I students will receive guidance in course selection based on the assessment. A peer mentor program also will be put in place. Students who successfully complete the Gen I Program will receive a scholarship toward tuition for their sophomore year.