Article Info

published: 12/3/13

La Sierra University

About La Sierra University

La Sierra University (La Sierra or LSU) is a Seventh-day Adventist co-educational university located in Riverside, California, United States, and accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the Adventist Accrediting Association. La Sierra offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral level degrees.

Founded in 1922 as La Sierra Academy, it later became La Sierra College, a liberal arts college, and then was merged into Loma Linda University in 1967. In 1990, La Sierra separated from Loma Linda University to become an independent institution.

Since becoming independent in 1990 it has won multiple national and world titles in the Students in Free Enterprise competition. In the late 2000s and early 2010s, controversy arose involving the teaching of evolution in La Sierra's science curriculum. La Sierra has also been the subject of controversy due to its students' low CPA exam pass rates and high levels of student debt after graduation.


La Sierra was founded in 1922 when the Southeastern California Conference, one of the regional governing bodies of the Adventist church, obtained 300 acres (120 ha) of land in an unincorporated area of Riverside County from Willits J. Hole. The land was once a part of a large Mexican land grant named Rancho La Sierra, giving La Sierra its current name.

Since its founding in 1922 as La Sierra Academy, La Sierra has morphed through a number of stages. In 1927, the school became known as La Sierra Academy and Normal School when it expanded into offering courses for future teachers. Later that year, after course offerings were expanded, it became known as the Southern California Junior College.

In 1939, the school was renamed La Sierra College. It was first accredited as a four-year liberal arts college in 1946. In 1964 the city of Riverside annexed much of La Sierra lands and nearby Arlington, placing the college within Riverside's city limits.

In 1967, the college merged with Loma Linda University, becoming Loma Linda University's College of Arts and Sciences. During this time, La Sierra's School of Education, School of Business and Management, and its Division of Continuing Studies were founded.

In 1990, the two campuses were reorganized into separate institutions and the La Sierra campus became La Sierra University. However, La Sierra is still a major feeder school for Loma Linda University, particularly for Loma Linda's medical programs. After the separation of the two campuses into independent institutions, Fritz Guy became president of LSU. He was followed by Lawrence T. Geraty in 1993.

In 1999, over 20 percent of the student body signed a petition criticizing the university's core curriculum due to its alleged lack of focus on the Bible, politically liberal leanings, and "subversive attacks on Christianity and monotheism".

La Sierra sold approximately 200 acres of its land to a developer in 2000, in what the university described as "the most significant physical change to La Sierra in the institution's 78-year history." The land, which the school formerly used for agriculture and a dairy, became a planned development known as "Riverwalk".

In 2007, Randal Wisbey, previously president of Columbia Union College, became president of La Sierra University.

Creation–evolution curriculum controversy

In the late 2000s, the university's science curriculum became a subject of controversy as the school was accused of teaching evolution in its biology classes, contrary to the teachings of the Adventist church. Concerned about the allegation, a campaign collected over 6,300 signatures to an online petition which called for Adventist universities to teach the Genesis creation narrative.

The university's Board of Trustees unanimously affirmed those beliefs but some viewed that as inadequate. In 2010, the regional accreditation agency responsible for LSU, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, gave the university an eight-year accreditation extension despite concerns over academic freedom and institutional autonomy. La Sierra was accused of apostasy by the executive committee of the Michigan Conference, one of the church's regional governing bodies. In 2011, the denominational accreditation agency, the Adventist Accrediting Association, gave La Sierra an accreditation extension ending in 2012, but required it to make changes to better promote Adventist teachings.

In October 2011, the Board of Trustees voted in favor of a proposal stating "that creation be taught in university classrooms as faith, rather than science, and that students be told that it could not be proven with scientific methods." Prior to the vote, three out of four trustees in favor were dismissed from the board, including a former United States ambassador.

All three were women. In February 2012, one of the five faculty signers of the proposal was dismissed from the university. In May 2012, the American Association of University Professors sent a letter informing the university of its concerns regarding the professor's dismissal in relation to the issues of academic freedom and tenure.


La Sierra's 150-acre campus is located in the La Sierra neighborhood[8] of the city of Riverside. The school is a member of the American Public Gardens Association, which has designated the campus an arboretum.

The first buildings built on the campus were two-story separate male and female dormitories.
The university opened a $23 million science complex in the fall of 2006 which houses its mathematics, computer science and biology programs,. and is in the process of building a new structure for its School of Business, with a scheduled opening date of fall of 2012.


La Sierra University is composed of the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Business, School of Religion, and School of Education. The university offers undergraduate and graduate curricula in applied and liberal arts, sciences, business and management, religion, and programs for professional education in fulfillment of requirements for teaching credentials. The highest degree offered is the Ed.D.


La Sierra primarily competes as an independent school within the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics's Association of Independent Institutions. Men's sports include baseball, basketball and soccer; women's sports include basketball, softball and volleyball. The Golden Eagles will be part of the California Pacific Conference as of the 2013-14 school year.

More from Religion Facts:


1. Wikipedia, used under GDFL (with minor edits)