Xavier University of Louisiana has the distinction of being founded by the first Catholic saint to have been born a US citizen: St. Katherine Drexel. As a member of the wealthy, philanthropic Drexel family (her grandfather was the founder of Drexel University), St. Katherine used her inherited wealth to provide educational opportunities for Native American and African American students across the US, including the academy (founded in 1915) that would grow into Xavier University of Louisiana. Today, Xavier is ranked in the top 30 regional institutions in the South, and stands as the only historically black Catholic university in the US.
As a Catholic university, Xavier is known for combining dedication to Catholic faith with rigorous liberal arts education; in the Catholic tradition, Xavier emphasizes holistic learning and development in both intellectual and spiritual realms. With its commitment to the liberal arts tradition, all Xavier students go through a common curriculum rooted in the humanities and sciences, while also acknowledging Xavier’s unique heritage with required courses in African Diaspora Studies and Theology. Two colleges – the College of Arts and Sciences, and the College of Pharmacy (one of only two in the state) – make up Xavier’s academic homes.
Undergraduate research has been one of the core commitments in Xavier’s curriculum for the last decade, with students working closely alongside faculty mentors to learn and practice research with real-world relevance. Students gain experience at academic conferences and in publication as well. Many of Xavier’s students are preparing for careers in the sciences and health sciences, and the university has been acclaimed as the most successful in the nation for sending black graduates to medical school, one of the most productive for graduating black pharmacists, and #1 for black graduates in biology, physics, and the physical sciences. Xavier has one of the highest rates of Health and Human Services and National Institutes of Health funding out of historically black institutions.
Xavier University of Louisiana had an exceptional mission from the very beginning, committed to providing education for African-American Catholics in Louisiana and beyond in the face of segregation and Jim Crow, but the Xavier of today is an object lesson in diversity. Around 70% of the student body is African-American, while only a quarter is Catholic; students of all races and religious backgrounds have always been welcome. More than half comes from Louisiana, with 40 other states and 15 nations represented among the 3000 strong student body.
A dynamic student life at Xavier includes a surprisingly large number of student organizations and clubs, with everything from honor societies to recreation and cultural groups. The Campus Recreational Sports department works to keep students healthy, active, and sharp mentally and physically, with both competitive and free-play sports and games. The Xavier Gold Rush (men’s) and Gold Nuggets (women’s) varsity athletic teams compete in the NAIA, a conference that is home to many other HBCUs (having been the first to admit historically black colleges); four men’s sports, and five women’s sports, include basketball, tennis, and volleyball.