Saint Louis University revealed
Despite being only a short MetroLink ride away from Washington University, Saint Louis University (SLU) remains relatively unknown to Wash. U. students.
“I really don’t know anything about them other than they are one of the few other private universities in St. Louis,” sophomore Samantha Alford said. “There aren’t any easy interactions between the two schools.”
Bishop Louis William Dubourg founded SLU in 1818 under the name Saint Louis Academy. Dubourg had fled the Dominican Republic in 1793 and lived in Baltimore, Md. He served as the president of Georgetown University from Oct. 1, 1796 until early 1799. He eventually arrived in St. Louis, where he established a church in the city and an academy for future priests, in 1817.
SLU is not only the second oldest Jesuit university in the nation after Georgetown, but it is also the oldest university west of the Mississippi River.
According to SLU’s mission statement, its main goal is “the pursuit of truth for the greater glory of God and for the service of humanity.”
“It is dedicated to leadership in the continuing quest for understanding of God’s creation and for the discovery, dissemination and integration of the values, knowledge and skills required to transform society in the spirit of the Gospels,” the statement says.
There are currently 8,119 undergraduate students enrolled in SLU as well as 3,502 graduate students and 1,692 professional students. This year’s enrollment of 13,313 marks the first year that SLU’s enrollment passed 13,000. The student-faculty ratio is 12:1 and the average class size is 23. Of all the students, 57 percent are from out of state. Students come from all 50 states and 75 countries.
Eighty-seven percent of students receive financial aid, but that number has increased in recent years, with 97 percent of freshmen for the 2008-09 academic year receiving financial aid. The university’s endowment is currently $750 million, while $288,890,925 is given in scholarships and financial aid.
SLU has six undergraduate and nine graduate colleges and programs. The youngest of these colleges is the undergraduate College of Education and Public Service, established in 1998, while the oldest, the College of Arts and Sciences, was established with the university in 1818. The SLU Graduate School was established in 1832, while the SLU School of Law and School of Medicine were established in 1843 and 1891 respectively.
SLU, the only university in the city to compete at the Division 1 level, competes in 16 D1 sports in the Atlantic-10 Conference. Its mascot is the Billiken, which is an elf-like doll created in 1908 by St. Louis art teacher Florence Pretz. According to SLU’s 2010 profile, the Billiken became the mascot of SLU after various media outlets and cartoonists noted the resemblance between the toy and then-football coach John Bender. The Billiken doll became a fad for the next few years before fading into obscurity, but the name stuck. There is currently a miniature statue of the Billiken on campus; the inscription on the accompanying plaque says that students who rub its belly will receive good luck.
The Billikens have won ten Division I national championships, all in men’s soccer, most recently in 1973. Rick Majerus, who won the John Wooden Award for Coach of the Year when he led University of Utah to the national championship game of the 1998 NCAA Tournament, has been the coach of SLU’s men’s basketball team since 2007. The team finished fourth in the A-10 conference for the 2009-10 season with a record of 23-13.
Graduating SLU student Kat Patke has noticed an increase in school spirit in her time at the university. She attributes this increase to improved athletic teams.
“There has been a lot of school spirit here, especially since SLU made an effort to rejuvenate the basketball program by bringing in Rick Majerus,” Patke said. “Our men’s soccer and volleyball teams have also been doing really well the past few years, so school spirit has been increasing as the teams have been getting better.”
The Billikens play in the 10,600-seat Chaifetz Arena, which opened in 2008, which has improved school spirit as a result of its opening.
“The university previously had to use shuttle systems to take students to the games downtown,” Patke said. “It’s much easier with everything on campus.”
SLU is located in Midtown, near the Grand Metrolink stop. It is situated blocks away from the Fox Theatre, a popular destination for plays and musicals, and Powell Hall, home of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, the second-oldest symphony orchestra in the nation.
“Our neighborhood has come a long way since I was a freshman,” Patke said. “There is a lot to do around the neighborhood, such as the theater district, and there are a lot of great restaurants that students are able to go to on all sides of campus.”
Although part of Midtown has a reputation for being dangerous, Patke praised the university’s efforts to make sure that students are safe.
“I recognize that it is in Midtown and that if it’s dark, I shouldn’t be walking around alone,” Patke said. “There have been times when I had to return to campus at 4 in the morning, but I was able to call the Department of Public Safety and ask for an escort service to take me back to the university.”
Despite SLU’s Jesuit tradition and religious origins, it is open to students of all backgrounds and encourages such diversity.
“[SLU] welcomes students, faculty and staff from all racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds and beliefs and creates a sense of community that facilitates their development as men and women for others,” its mission statement says.
Despite SLU’s proximity, many Wash. U. students know very little about the university.
“I know it has a nice arch,” sophomore Sarah Michaels said, referring to the arch at the entrance of SLU’s main campus.
While Patke does not know how it could be achieved, she hopes to see more connections made between Wash. U. and SLU.
“I don’t know why there isn’t more interaction between the two universities,” Patke said. “Geographically speaking, it makes sense.”
Sophomore Tara Seely didn’t really know a lot about SLU either but recently went to the NASA Missouri Space Grant Consortium, which Wash. U. and SLU both participated in.
“The research being conducted by students at Wash. U. and students at SLU didn’t have a significant caliber difference,” Seely said.
Patke has enjoyed her four years at SLU and says that other students at the university seem similarly happy.
“If I had to do it over, I would definitely still come here. I have really enjoyed my time here,” Patke said.