John Paul the Great Catholic University

San Diego, California

John Paul the Great Catholic University may be situated in San Diego, California, but the small, specialized university can trace its spiritual heritage to Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. It was there in 2000 that a visiting Dr. Derry Connolly had the inspiration to develop a college in his hometown. Connolly, an administrator at the University of California, San Diego, decided that he wanted to replicate the Steubenville religious fervor on a new campus in the nation’s eighth largest city. With his background in technology and business, he also wanted to combine evangelization with entrepreneurship, especially as it relates to what is known as New Media. Beginning with the initial class in 2006, the university offers undergraduate degrees in communications media and business. In fall 2009 it will add an M.A. in biblical theology and an M.B.A. in entrepreneurial business. Then, in the following year, there will be new undergraduate degree programs in computer engineering and video game development. The first-year class consisted of 30 students, and that increased to 81 in the winter 2009 quarter. All except two of the latter are Catholic. The current campus is one large, industrial building located in northern San Diego about one mile from student apartments and one mile from a parish church. During its first year of operation one classroom was used, but expansion has continued to two floors since The Newman Guide

quick facts
Founded: 2003 (first students in 2006) Type of institution: Very small, specialized university Setting: Urban Undergraduate enrollment: 81 ( spring 2009) Total academic year cost: $25,500 (tuition and room (no board) for 2009–10) Undergraduate majors: Two

five key Points
1. Emphasis on New Media and business with strong Catholic identity. 2. Offers new niche majors with evangelization opportunities. 3. A Senior Business Plan might lead students to create start-up companies. 4. Small classes offered in a widely acclaimed city. 5. Low cost for California institution.


John Paul the Great Catholic University

From the Financial Aid Office
“JP Catholic offers a number of institutional grants and scholarships, along with work-study opportunities. “Our scholarships are awarded primarily on merit and are designed to reward leadership at school and Church, creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. Institutional grants are based on your financial need. Grants and scholarships are awarded for your first three quarters (the first academic year) and are renewable throughout your education at JP Catholic, but you must maintain a 3.0 GPA and demonstrate an ongoing commitment to our mission. “Work study is given to students based on need, as well as a student’s talents and our need for workers. A work-study position is similar to a job—you maintain your employment by showing up on time and doing good work! “Every student is encouraged to apply for financial aid, and the earlier you apply the more likely you are to earn a substantial amount of financial help. We also participate in a partnership with Wells Fargo through which deferred loans—loans that do not have to be paid until after graduation—are available to our students. Your eligibility for loans is determined by your or your parents’ personal credit. “Contact Martin Harold at for more details.” then. Long-range plans anticipate a campus with up to 1,600 students. The institution is approved by the state of California and has begun the accredit160

ing process with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Members of the first graduating class will receive their diplomas in December 2009. President Connolly told us, “Parents could be understandably nervous about letting their children go to a new college. I tell them to pray about it. In the time we’ve been open, I have had no calls from parents who have any regrets about their decision.” The university has two “core commitments”: spiritual and intellectual. The latter applies to the unique curriculum while the former is a straightforward dedication to Catholicism. The university describes this commitment as: “The spiritual development of all students, faculty and staff, and striving to put into action, in our lives and in the lives of those we touch, the teachings of Jesus Christ, being unapologetic for and uncompromising with His Word.” Although the university has a specialized curriculum—business and media majors—it works to provide a Catholic education through requiring one course every quarter on some aspect of Catholic philosophy, theology, history, ethics or culture. One would expect a college education in upscale San Diego to be expensive, but JP Catholic is priced far below what the average private institution in California charges. Tuition and room fees for 2009-10 academic year were $25,500. Financial aid includes merit scholarships, work-study options and deferred loans through Wells Fargo Bank.

JP Catholic has the consent of Bishop Robert Brom of the Diocese of San Diego to use the word “Catholic,” independent of the diocese. The university is governed by an 11member board of trustees. The chair of the board is a permanent deacon and banker. The other members include one priest and several The Newman Guide

John Paul the Great Catholic University

people engaged in senior positions at area businesses. Dr. Connolly, the president and one of the five founders of the university, also is a member. Dr. Connolly has worked as a professor and administrator at the University of California – San Diego for 11 years, and he continues his employment there while building JP Catholic. His academic specialty is unusual for a university president but appropriate given JP Catholic’s emphasis; he has a Ph.D. in Applied Mechanics from Cal-Tech, 15 years of employment with IBM and Kodak, and eight patents to his name. A native of Ireland, Dr. Connolly and his wife Lidy have five children.

Public Identity
According to the university, “John Paul the Great Catholic University will intentionally seek to avoid causing controversy and confusion among its students in matters of faith. JP Catholic seeks to shape and form solid Catholic leaders and innovators poised to put into action the teachings of Jesus Christ, and not to become agitators for change on matters of doctrine.” President Connolly adds, “The most important part of our university is the Catholic dimension. The only type of student who would want to be here is someone for whom faith is important.” One faculty member added, “If our students don’t know the Lord or the Faith, we haven’t sucThe Newman Guide

ceeded.” Bishop Brom celebrated the first Mass in the small Blessed Sacrament campus chapel in September 2006, and an Opening Mass was held shortly afterward in the neighboring Good Shepherd Catholic Church. Such a beginning was appropriate for what one student said was “a Catholic identity that drives everything that we do here.” Speakers on campus have included Steve McEveety, producer of The Passion of the Christ; representatives of Sony Online Entertainment; Act One, a Christian acting group; the Goretti Group, dealing with chastity; and freelance scriptwriters. Outside speakers are vetted for their orthodoxy. The patron of the university is the 17thcentury Italian St. Joseph of Cupertino. The Franciscan priest is also the patron of student test takers.

JP Catholic is emphatic in its fidelity to the Magisterium. “All teaching faculty,” the university reports, “will commit to harmony with Catholic Church teachings (the pope and bishops) in speech and action. Faculty, staff, students or volunteers who knowingly in public speech or actions take positions against the Catholic Church compromise their relationship with JP Catholic. JP Catholic expects all trustees, faculty and staff to celebrate the positive spiritual and entrepreneurial components of 161

John Paul the Great Catholic University

its mission and eschew cutting down what the institution is striving to build.” The mandatum is required for all faculty members who teach theology. Currently, the only theology professor describes himself as a “biblical Thomist.” Overall, there are six full-time faculty and nine adjunct professors. All professors must maintain some part-time work outside the university in their field, whether it is in business or media. The business math course, taught by Alan Lane, is started by prayer and—when applicable—raises Catholic themes such as tithing and the need to place the acquisition of money in its proper perspective. Business morality themes are addressed in theology. Tom Dunn, adjunct professor of digital media production, said to us, “From day one, we show students the scripture passages that call us to be perfect, that they should not settle for something less. No matter what they may end up being called to do, they must do it in a way that is truthful and faithful to Christ.” Although JP Catholic is not a liberal arts institution per se, it has a 57-credit core curriculum. This includes four Catholic religious studies courses as well as four philosophy courses such as “Catholic Social Teaching” and others that have a Catholic approach. The university assumes that most students will be called to work in business, entertainment and the new digital media. Although there is a certain evangelization component present, one student reported, “It

doesn’t mean that everything we end up doing is openly ‘religious,’ but our faith will be part of what we do.” In the third and fourth years, students participate in teams to develop a Senior Business Plan. This project allows students to bring their entrepreneurial skills and values together to create a blueprint for a company. The university expects that half of the students will use these plans to launch their own businesses after graduation. The university has developed a study abroad program. In March 2009, 30 students participated in the program which included one week in Rome and one week in Ireland.

Spiritual Life
Mass is offered daily on campus. The campus chaplain, appointed by the bishop, hears confessions twice weekly and by appointment. Adoration also takes place every afternoon on campus. Students attend Sunday Mass at Good Shepherd or elsewhere. There have been several visiting Mass celebrants, including Bishop Brom and Monsignor Jim Lisante, a television news commentator. Students have become involved in Good Shepherd and other parishes, and this activity includes teaching CCD classes, pro-life work, helping with homeless people and attending prayer and worship services.


The Newman Guide

John Paul the Great Catholic University

Classes begin and end with prayer, reinforcing what the theology professor told us, “Everything the university does, every course and field, is permeated with themes from theology and philosophy.”

Residential Life
Students live in the Legacy Apartment Homes complex spread through four different buildings. An additional apartment is used for a chapel, prayer and studying. Men and women reside in separate parts of the complex, and no visitation between men and women in each other’s apartments is permitted except in the common rooms maintained by the resident assistants. A resident director lives in the building and works with seven residential associates. “Households” according to the Franciscan

Student Activities
The college continues to develop student organizations. In addition to the local parishcentered activities, there are informal events such as a monthly ”open mic” or variety program. There is a writing group. And the university has set up some intramural sports.

Message from the President
Dear Parents and Prospective Students: John Paul the Great Catholic University is proud to welcome students who are eager to “Impact Culture for Christ” and respond to Pope John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization through the channels of new media, business and technology. We are energetically committed to Christ and His Catholic Church, and seek to transform the world through love and fidelity to Him. JP Catholic is unique in many ways: classes run year-round, to better keep up with the breakneck pace of modern innovation. Our curriculum focuses on action—business students learn to create viable companies and launch them during their senior year, and media students work with cameras and equipment from the first day of class, write feature-length screenplays and direct a short film as a final project. We offer different media tracks for directors, writers, producers and journalists. All students take a solid liberal arts core in philosophy, theology, literature, art and music. Most of all, we are committed to Christ and hope to draw all the world into an intimate relationship with Him, beginning with our own students. May God bless you—and, if you want to “Impact Culture for Christ,” we hope to see you at JP Catholic! In Christ, Dr. Derry Connolly

The Newman Guide


John Paul the Great Catholic University

University of Steubenville model are in formation; some of the men have joined together to form a Knights of David household. The apartments form a typical complex and also house people who are not part of the university. These residential units are near the university’s building. Students carpool, walk or ride bicycles to class. Related to residential life, the university encourages chastity through teaching scripture and St. Francis de Sales’ work on chastity. The university has weekly get-togethers during which participants talk about spiritual life, including chastity. The Rosary is recited nightly in the student residences.

mercial carriers. Amtrak and other rail and public bus systems are available. Among the road systems that traverse the area is Interstate 5, which runs from Mexico to Canada.

The Bottom Line
John Paul the Great Catholic University is part of the new breed of small Catholic colleges born from the crisis in higher education of the past generation. Its founders are implementing a formidable vision: Create a traditionally orthodox institution that prepares students for 21st-century careers in entrepreneurial business and media technology. As the college moves into its fourth year of matching evangelization with vocation, they face the usual early challenges. But they are approaching them with faith as well as with the start-up enthusiasm they seek to impart to their students. Their patron’s admonishment to “Be Not Afraid” might be their watchword. JP Catholic is establishing a unique niche among Catholic colleges. Their approach has earned our admiration, and students with an entrepreneurial streak would do well to investigate this opportunity. After all it brings together three attractive components: A strong Catholic identity; an impressive, modern curriculum; and one of the most livable and appealing cities in the country.

The Community
Sunny San Diego is one of the most attractive American cities. With a population of about 1.3 million, it presents a broad array of economic, social and cultural opportunities. The diversified economy includes naval, other military and port facilities; tourism; biotec h nolog y; marine science; and many startup businesses, particularly in the area of technology. Among the cultural offerings are the San Diego Museum of Art, the San Diego Zoo and a wide range of professional sports teams. San Diego is one of the safest large cities in the nation. The city, located near the Mexican border, is a major transportation hub. The San Diego International Airport handles 18 com164

The Newman Guide