Students hanging out in New Hall quad


Introduction to Notre Dame de Namur University

Mission Statement

Founded upon the values of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and rooted in the Catholic tradition, Notre Dame de Namur University serves its students and the community by providing excellent professional and liberal arts programs in which community engagement and the values of social justice and global peace are integral to the learning experience. NDNU is a diverse and inclusive learning community that challenges each member to consciously apply values and ethics in his/her personal, professional and public life.

Vision Statement

Notre Dame de Namur University will be recognized in the San Francisco Bay Area as a leader in integrating community engagement into high-quality academic programs. NDNU’s programs will be widely known for their innovative synthesis of liberal arts learning, professionally-oriented learning and core values.


Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU) is the only four-year accredited university in San Mateo County.

Founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in 1851, NDNU is a Catholic, not-for-profit, coeducational institution serving 2000 traditional age and adult students from diverse backgrounds. The university is fully accredited and offers 37 undergraduate, graduate and teacher credential programs. The 50-acre campus is located in the city of Belmont on the San Francisco Peninsula in Silicon Valley.

The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur came to the San Francisco Bay Area from their mission schools in Oregon. While visiting the Bay Area they established an institute of higher learning, College of Notre Dame, in the city of San Jose. The school was chartered in 1868 as the first college in the state of California authorized to grant the baccalaureate degree to women.

The Sisters soon outgrew their facility in the South Bay and moved the campus to Belmont in 1923. They purchased Ralston Hall, the country estate of William Chapman Ralston, San Francisco financier and founder of the Bank of California. Ralston Hall became the center of the campus and in recent years has been designated as a California Historical Landmark.

Since then, the university has undergone a number of changes. In 1955, College of Notre Dame began offering its first evening classes, followed by the introduction of teaching credential programs in 1965. Initially a women’s college, the institution 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.

In an effort to provide access to a greater number of students, the university began offering partnerships in specific degree programs with local community colleges in 2009, allowing students to complete an NDNU degree on the community college campus. NDNU first achieved its status as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, meaning its undergraduate population is at least 25% Hispanic, in 2009, and maintains that status to this day. In 2010, NDNU launched its Gen 1 program for first-generation students, and a nursing partnership was created with Samuel Merritt University. Online degrees were added in 2012, and a new Ph.D. program in art therapy, NDNU’s first doctoral program and the first Ph.D. program in art therapy in the nation, was established in 2013.

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