If there is one single word that describes Notre Dame de Namur, that word is community. Like other universities, we are a community of teachers, scholars and learners committed to excellence and dedicated to the pursuit of truth in the Catholic intellectual tradition. At NDNU, we have a strong commitment to providing high-quality professional education that will equip our graduates to immediately take their place in society or prepare them for more advanced study. That education is built on a liberal arts foundation that helps broaden students’ worldview and develop critical thinking skills.
But an equally strong commitment to the Catholic social justice tradition and the Hallmarks of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur means that we are acutely aware of the needs of the larger society that surrounds our campus. Hence, NDNU also seeks to develop in its students a deep commitment to becoming valued, contributing members of whatever community in which they find themselves members as they go through life. And that commitment begins at our doorstep: the larger community that exists right outside the gates of the University, up and down the San Francisco Peninsula, and throughout the Bay Area. We take our responsibilities to that community seriously; so seriously, in fact, that undergraduate students, staff and faculty routinely devote 100,000 hours or more a year to a variety of community service projects.
Our engagement with the community goes beyond only community service projects; NDNU has always been committed to giving our students the opportunity to learn from, and give back to, the community in which they live by offering everything from community-based learning courses to service opportunities and internships with local businesses as well as community service and other nonprofit organizations. In 2007, we launched the Dorothy Stang Center for Social Justice and Community Engagement to be the focal point for the University’s community engagement activities, including training of faculty and student leaders. Sr. Dorothy was a Sister of Notre Dame who was martyred in Brazil in February of 2005 for her work defending indigent farmers and the environment in the Amazon rain forest. She inspires us to continue the work of social justice. In recent years, we have labored hard to create an academic plan that embeds community engagement in the fabric of the academic environment through which our students pass. It is our goal to give every student—traditional day, undergraduate, evening intensive and graduate—the opportunity to learn from and contribute in a meaningful way to the community.
The University, the fifth oldest in California, was founded in 1851 by the Sisters of Notre Dame, Catholic nuns from Namur, Belgium, who educated young women displaced by the French Revolution. Later, they established schools for women and children in Oregon and California at the outset of the California Gold Rush.
Today, NDNU is a fully accredited master's university with a student body of 2,000. The University is big enough to host three separate schools—the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business and Management and the School of Education and Leadership—offering 25 liberal arts and career preparation undergraduate programs, 15 graduate degrees and four credentials, yet it is small enough to boast a 13-to-1 student-teacher ratio. Our size allows our students to form strong, personal bonds with fellow students and teachers. It is in those bonds that community begins.