Holy Names University and Samuel Merritt University Exploring Innovative Alliance

Collaboration Would Include Shared Campus

Oakland, Calif.  (Nov. 16, 2017) — Holy Names University and Samuel Merritt University have begun discussions to explore an innovative alliance that would include developing a shared campus in the Oakland hills.

The governing boards of the universities have signed a non-binding letter of intent, the first phase in creating a shared plan for growth and sustainability at their respective institutions. The letter of intent provides a framework for talks, with the goal of reaching a more formal agreement in 2018.

The two universities would not merge but would jointly expand and modernize the Holy Names campus in the Oakland hills over a period of several years. Samuel Merritt would relocate from its main campus in North Oakland when the project is completed. 

“Together, we are exploring a creative alliance that would enhance student opportunities while maintaining the institutional independence of both universities,” said Michael Groener, interim President of Holy Names University.

“Each of our universities was founded in Oakland more than a century ago, and we have a deep commitment to this community. It is exciting to explore the potential ways our collaboration could help us better serve people throughout Oakland,” said Sharon Diaz, President of Samuel Merritt University.

While each university would remain separate, with distinct governing boards, faculties and administrations, Holy Names and Samuel Merritt would look to take advantage of the shared campus through complementary programs and resources, opportunities for community service, and common facilities such as the library and dining areas.

The proposed Samuel Merritt-Holy Names alliance — two universities on a single campus — represents an exciting and innovative model for higher education, and comes at a time when both universities are at a critical point in their missions to grow and prepare future leaders.

Samuel Merritt, a Sutter Health affiliate, is capped for space at its current location and has been seeking to develop a new main campus in Oakland for several years. Holy Names, like many small liberal arts colleges in the nation, is working to develop a sustainable model to grow enrollment and expand academic opportunities.  

 “This collaboration would allow Holy Names to advance its strategic vision and create a campus for the 21st century,” said Barbara Hood, Chair of the Board of Trustees at Holy Names, noting that the University is restructuring its academic programs to concentrate on its core strengths.  

“The challenges facing smaller liberal arts colleges and specialty universities today are immense,” said Jonathan Brown, Chair of the Board of Regents at SMU and president emeritus of the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities.  “Each of us has a history of focusing on the current and future needs of our students, and we are working together to achieve synergies that will protect and enhance this commitment to our students.”

While an alliance between a faith-based liberal arts university and a secular professional university presents a new model in higher education, Holy Names and Samuel Merritt share compatible missions and values.

Since 1909, Samuel Merritt has prepared highly skilled and compassionate healthcare professionals, working to positively transform the experience of healthcare in diverse communities. Holy Names, founded in 1868 by the Sisters of Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, is an inclusive and rigorous academic institution offering a liberal arts and professional education that empowers students for leadership, service, and promoting the common good.

With a combined history of 260 years in Oakland, both universities are committed to the city and its residents. The universities would continue to collaborate with a broad network of local organizations to provide extensive volunteer and educational support to the community.

A state-of-the-art campus would add to Oakland’s revitalization and provide a modern community resource. The universities have retained consultants to study the feasibility of meeting the needs of both institutions by building new instructional facilities and student housing.  

Should the discussions advance, alternatives for an expanded campus in Oakland would be submitted for public comment and review and be subject to city and state regulatory approval. The universities will also engage with faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors, and the Oakland community as they move through the process.

Media Contacts:

For Samuel Merritt – Debra Holtz, dholtz@samuelmerritt.edu, 510-409-7936

For Holy Names – Sonia Caltvedt, caltvedt@hnu.edu, 510-436-1405


About Holy Names University:

Holy Names University (HNU) was founded in 1868 by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. Rooted in Catholic intellectual and spiritual traditions, the university’s mission is to empower and prepare a diverse student body for productive lives of leadership and service in a complex world. HNU offers a liberal arts and professional education through 15 undergraduate majors and seven master’s degree programs. HNU’s student-centered education, with small class sizes and courses in varied formats and schedules, meets the current needs of adult learners, including first-generation students and working adults. The university’s idyllic, 60-acre campus is nestled in the Oakland hills of California and offers panoramic views of San Francisco Bay. To learn more, visit www.hnu.edu

About Samuel Merritt University:

Samuel Merritt University has been educating students since 1909 to become highly skilled healthcare practitioners who positively transform the experience of care in diverse communities.  Nearly 1,900 students are enrolled at SMU campuses in Oakland, Sacramento, and San Mateo as well as in online programs.  The University offers bachelor’s degrees in nursing; master's degrees in nursing and physician assistant; and doctoral degrees in nursing practice, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and podiatric medicine.  Samuel Merritt University is affiliated with Sutter Health, a not-for-profit network providing comprehensive healthcare in more than 100 Northern California communities. For more information, visit www.samuelmerritt.edu

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