Matteo Ricci College formally began in 1975 as a cooperative venture between two Jesuit educational institutions:
Seattle Preparatory School, a traditional 4-year, all-male, Jesuit, American style high school; and
Seattle University, a traditional 4-year co-ed program, both founded as a single institution in 1891.
The College founders desired to establish a program that would move more and more closely toward Jesuit ideals as then articulated by the Jesuit Secondary Education Association and to form an educational model that would more closely meet the needs of its students from the end of the 20th century into the future.
In form it broke from traditional models by dropping from four years to three years at both the high school and the university, culminating in a baccalaureate degree, the Bachelor of Arts in Humanities, generally (but not necessarily) within six academic years.
As such, the program clearly expressed its experimental nature that has continued to the present, in the sense that it would continue to change and adapt as circumstances emerged. However, it was also experiential in that the program would focus on the experience of its students; that is, to be student-centered, to involve less lecturing, to use seminar format when appropriate and intensive student interactive learning, and to require extensive student verbal and written engagement in their own learning. It would seek to eliminate duplication and be interdisciplinary in nature. In the words of a founding document, the curricula at both levels of the program would be highly integrated, not for the sake of a good curriculum, but so that students could more and more readily integrate their own learning across disciplines.
Thus, the motto of Matteo Ricci College from the beginning:
Learning How to Learn.
As a program committed to the fullest possible development of each of its students, the first full class admitted at Seattle Prep in 1975 was co-ed.; however, several elements of the MRC curriculum already existed at the high school level which allowed members of the 1974 Prep freshmen class who chose to do so to move on to Seattle University (SU) in 1977 as the first university entrants of the program. The first fully MRC-formed students graduated from SU with the BAH six-year integrated (secondary and university) degree in 1981.
In 1984, Seattle Prep chose to re-establish a fourth year for students unwilling or unable to move on to the university for a variety of reasons. In response, then Dean Bernie Steckler, sought out closer links to Catholic high schools in the Seattle area by creating what would come to be known as the Consortium: a fourth-year curriculum for select seniors to be taken on their respective high school campuses. Made up in part of courses created equally by the high school and university faculties in each of the schools, programs emerged that would demand freshman college-level work. Successful completion of these courses would not only earn for the individual student Seattle University credit, but it also opened the door to a three-year degree through the Matteo Ricci College.
The five Seattle-area Catholic high schools that have made up the Consortium from 1988 to the present include: O’Dea, John F. Kennedy, Eastside Catholic, Forest Ridge and Archbishop Murphy.
Building on the College's experimental nature, then Dean Arthur Fisher developed with Dean Sue Schmitt, College of Education, a new four-year baccalaureate program to prepare interested students as teachers, something that naturally flows from the very nature of the college's goals, pedagogy, and curriculum. In 2002 the four-year Bachelor of Arts in Humanities for Teaching began, and the first class graduated in 2006.
Finally, Dean Emeritus Arthur Fisher began planning for another four-year Humanities baccalaureate degree and, after much development under the current dean, Jodi Olsen Kelly, the Bachelor of Arts in Humanities for Leadership began in Fall Quarter, 2011.
Learn more about the namesake of the College