Soka Gakkai Opens University in California

Soka Gakkai International inaugurates a brand new liberal arts college with a Buddhist bent--open to anyone.

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The university touts a secular curriculum and an initial enrollment of125 students representing 20 countries.

``People have called this Buddhist U,'' said Daniel Y. Habuki, theuniversity president. ``Yes, there are principles of Buddhism here, butwe are not intending to make the students Buddhist.

``The only way we can prove this to people is to provide a greateducation and let them see the results.''

The campus is the second in the United States built by the Soka Gakkai,which has a network in Japan of primary and secondary schools and auniversity. The first American campus was started in 1987 northwest ofLos Angeles, in Calabasas, to teach English to Japanese graduatestudents.

Today, it offers graduate degrees in foreign languages. About seven years ago, university officials initially hoped to build asmall undergraduate campus in Calabasas, but met fierce opposition fromneighbors concerned about overdevelopment. When a 103-acre siteoriginally slated for luxury homes became available in Orange County,Soka officials began planning the new university.

Initially, Soka's Orange County campus will offer bachelor's degrees inhumanities, international studies and social and behavioral science. Asthe university's enrollment grows to its projected 1,200 students,Habuki said it will expand its degree programs.


All students will study one of three foreign languages--Japanese,Chinese or Spanish--and spend at least one term of their junior yearstudying or working abroad, said Archibald E. Asawa, vice president foradministrative affairs. ``We want to create global citizens, and global citizens have to havesome experience with the world,'' Asawa said.

Tuition, which includes room and board, is $24,000. Soka Gakkai, whichhas a $40 million endowment, has made $4 million available forscholarships. Students are required to live on campus, where smoking,drug use and drinking alcohol are prohibited.

Built to resemble California's mission-style architecture, the18-building campus also provides for the typical needs of anot-so-typical college experience. There is an Olympic-size swimming pool, a gym, a 225,000-volume library and a student center. The campus also is wired with fiber-optic cables and outdoor ports for laptop computers. While many of the university's faculty members are Soka members, otherssay the attraction was the chance to start a new college.

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