University Mission and History

MissionFounded in 1901 at St. Clara College in Sinsinawa, Wisconsin, home of the Sinsinawa Dominicans, the university began as a women's college under the fundamental values that continue to guide the university today—rigorous education, encouraging diversity of thought, a commitment to social justice, and close mentoring of students to enable them to make a positive difference in the world.

The school became known as Rosary College upon moving to River Forest, Illinois, in 1922 and rapidly grew its enrollment and programs over the next decades, including adding graduate programs and becoming co-educational. To reflect its stature as a respected, comprehensive and modern university, the school was re-named Dominican University in 1997, reflecting its Catholic Dominican heritage.

Dominican is now viewed as a premier Catholic university and repeatedly is named among the top master's-level universities in the Midwest for academic excellence and its continuing commitment to social justice. While maintaining its core Catholic identity, the university enrolls and mentors students of all faith backgrounds. Living out the ideals of our founding sisters and those of Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, founding father of the Sinsinawa Dominicans, the university is committed to giving compassionate service and to participating in the creation of a more just and humane world. 

As an early partner of the Interfaith Youth Core, new ministry initiatives have focused on promoting interfaith learning and understanding with a particular strength in building interfaith cooperation through dialogue and service.

Vision Statement

Dominican University will be an innovative leader in empowering graduates from diverse backgrounds to meet the challenges of an increasingly interdependent world.

Mission Statement

As a Sinsinawa Dominican-sponsored institution, Dominican University prepares students to pursue truth, to give compassionate service and to participate in the creation of a more just and humane world.

Identity Statement

Dominican University is a diverse, relationship-centered community rooted in a vibrant liberal arts and sciences education, offering rigorous, integrative, and innovative undergraduate, graduate and professional programs. At the heart of the University is its Catholic, Dominican tradition, grounded in the compatibility of faith and reason, which affirms the dignity of the human person and concern for the common good. The University's curricula, research and campus life demonstrate a commitment to ethics, community service, social justice and global citizenship. Dominican University educates one student at a time in the company of others, engaging a multiplicity of cultural, religious and secular worldviews, transforming students, faculty and staff into agents of positive change.


Dominican University was founded as St. Clara College in Sinsinawa, WI in 1901 by the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary. In 1922, under the leadership of Mother Samuel Coughlin, the sisters relocated the institution to its current location in River Forest, IL, where it was renamed Rosary College. The new college began immediately instituting new programs and improving its curriculum, establishing one of the first study abroad programs in the country in 1925 and offering courses in library science leading to the university's first master's degree in 1949. Recognizing its responsibility to all students, Rosary College became coeducational in 1970. In May 1997, in the context of an aggressive strategic plan, the school name changed to Dominican University, communicating the increasingly comprehensive nature of the university's programs and, at the same time, its continued commitment to its Catholic Dominican mission.

Our Founder

November 4, 2006 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli, OP, founder of the community of Dominican sisters of Sinsinawa, WI and of St. Clara Academy, the school that grew into Dominican University. To celebrate this momentous anniversary, we prepared a brief history of our community’s first leader.


Dominican University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association as a baccalaureate and master’s degree granting institution. The university is approved by the Illinois State Board of Education and the State Approving Agency for Veterans Affairs.

For information on our program accreditation, please visit the Accreditation page.