St. John’s College in Santa Fe, NM, was founded in 1961 as a branch of one of the oldest colleges in America. St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD, was founded in 1696 as King William’s School, which then became St. John’s College after the Revolutionary War. Any university that old will have many stages, and St. John’s has been a traditional liberal arts college and a military college in its history, but the university truly found its center in the 1930s when it developed its unique Great Books curriculum. An enthusiastic bidding campaign for a new St. John’s campus was won by Santa Fe, which established St. John’s Santa Fe campus in 1961. Today St. John’s is one of New Mexico’s most prestigious universities in its own right, known for its academic rigor.
Academic ProgramsSt. John’s is known for its Great Books curriculum, which was developed in 1937 as an innovative way to revitalize the institution, which had suffered major financial setbacks in the Great Depression. Rather than conventional textbooks and courses, the undergraduate curriculum is based on a 4-year reading list of the great books of western civilization – the Greek and Roman philosophers, Renaissance masters, and other acknowledged, canonical works up to the modern age. The Great Books reading list encompasses, every genre, including philosophy, science, literature, religion, politics, poetry, and even music, for a full grounding in the history of ideas and human accomplishment. The Santa Fe campus also offers a three-semester Eastern Classics MA program focused on the great books of Asian tradition.
Classroom experience at St. John’s is unconventional as well. Classes are largely discussion and participation based; faculty members are called Tutors and focus on facilitating student activity, rather than dictating the proceedings. St. John’s provides an incredibly low 8:1 student/faculty ratio, giving students the opportunity to built strong mentoring relationships with their tutors, and even the largest classes are kept at no more than 20 students, with most being much smaller. Nearly all of St. John’s students (almost 90%) go on to graduate education and eventually into professional careers such as medicine, law, and education.
Student LifeWhile the Santa Fe and Annapolis branches of St. John’s share a curriculum and methodology, St. John’s is very much its own place, steeped in the Southwestern heritage of one of the oldest cities in the US (founded by the Spanish explorers in 1610). The St. John’s campus is at the base of Monte Sol, in the foothills of the southern Rocky Mountains, and is widely considered one of the most beautiful campuses, in one of the most inspiring locations in the west. Santa Fe is a significant part of student life as well; an old, multicultural city, Santa Fe is an artistic center of the Southwest, with generations of arts, music, and literature, as well as cultural events and resources, including a vibrant restaurant scene.
Students at St. John’s College work hard, but a wealth of student organizations and clubs give students the means to develop friendships, explore their skills and talents, and networking for the future. From theater to pottery, dancing to literature, students have developed their own groups, while official events and activities build community. Service and engagement are also a significant part of student life at St. John’s, including student-led community projects in the Santa Fe area. And of course, New Mexico is a national and international destination for outdoor sports and recreation, which the college facilitates with access to bicycles, kayaks, and other gear.
NOTE: In 2018, St. John’s College once again lived up to its reputation as an independent, iconoclastic institution by cutting its tuition from $52,000 to $35,000. For the move, the New York Times christened St. John’s “The Most Contrarian College in America.”