San Diego State University

San Diego State University (SDSU) is a public research university in San Diego, California. Founded in 1897 as San Diego Normal School, it is the third-oldest university in the 23-member California State University (CSU) system. SDSU has a Fall 2018 student body of 34,828 and an alumni base of more than 280,000.[9]

San Diego State University
Former names
San Diego Normal School (1897–1923)
San Diego State Teachers College (1923–1935)
San Diego State College (1935–1972)
California State University, San Diego (1972–1974)
MottoLeadership Starts Here
Space Grant
EstablishedMarch 13, 1897 (1897-03-13)
Endowment$302 million (2019)[1]
Budget$936.7 million (2018)[2]
PresidentAdela de la Torre
ProvostSalvador Hector Ochoa
Academic staff
1,491 (Fall 2013)[3]
Administrative staff
1,591 (Fall 2013)[3]
Students35,081 (Fall 2019)[4]
Undergraduates30,612 (Fall 2019)[4]
Postgraduates4,469 (Fall 2019)[4]
Location, ,
United States

Campus283 acres (1.15 km2) Urban
ColorsScarlet and Black[6]
AthleticsNCAA Division I FBS
Sporting affiliations
MascotAztec warrior
San Diego State College
Location5500 Campanile Dr.,
San Diego, California
Area283 acres (114.5 ha)
Architectural styleMission/Spanish Revival
NRHP reference #97000924[7]
CHISL #798
Significant dates
Added to NRHPSeptember 4, 1997
Designated CHISL1964[8]

It is classified among "Doctoral Universities: High Research Activity."[10] In the 2015–16 fiscal year, the university obtained $130 million in public and private funding—a total of 707 awards—up from $120.6 million the previous fiscal year.[11] As reported by the Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index released by the Academic Analytics organization of Stony Brook, New York, SDSU is the number one small research university in the United States in 2006 and 2007.[12][13][14] SDSU sponsors the second-highest number of Fulbright Scholars in the State of California, just behind UC Berkeley. Since 2005, the university has produced over 65 Fulbright student scholars.[15]

The university generates over $2.4 billion annually for the San Diego economy, while 60 percent of SDSU graduates remain in San Diego,[16] making SDSU a primary educator of the region's work force.[17] Committed to serving the diverse San Diego region, SDSU ranks among the top ten universities nationwide in terms of ethnic and racial diversity among its student body, as well as the number of bachelor's degrees conferred upon minority students.[16] San Diego State University consistently ranks in the top 500 universities in the world, and according to Forbes, is among the top 93rd percentile of public colleges in the United States.[18]

San Diego State University is a member of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges,[19] the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.


Established on March 13, 1897, San Diego State University first began as the San Diego Normal School, meant to educate local women as elementary school teachers. It was located on a 17-acre (6.9 ha) campus on Park Boulevard in University Heights (now the headquarters of the San Diego Unified School District). It opened with seven faculty members and 91 students; the curriculum was initially limited to English, history and mathematics.[20] In 1923, the San Diego Normal School became San Diego State Teachers College, "a four-year public institution controlled by the state Board of Education."

By the 1930s the school had outgrown its original campus. In 1931 it moved to its current location on a mesa at what was then the eastern edge of San Diego. In 1935, the school expanded its offerings beyond teacher education and became San Diego State College.[21] In 1960, San Diego State College became a part of the California State Colleges system, now known as The California State University.[22] Finally in 1972, San Diego State College became California State University, San Diego, and in 1974 San Diego State University (SDSU).[23]

John F. Kennedy, then the President of the United States of America, gave the graduation commencement address at San Diego State University on June 6, 1963.[24][25] Kennedy was given an honorary doctorate degree in law at the ceremony, making SDSU the first California State College to award an honorary doctorate. In 1964, this event was registered as California Historical Landmark #798.[8]

As a nation, we have no deeper concern, no older commitment and no higher interest than a strong, sound and free system of education for all. In fulfilling this obligation to ourselves and our children, we provide for the future of our nation-and for the future of freedom.

John F. Kennedy, President of the United States of America. Commencement address to San Diego State University, June 6, 1963, San Diego, California, USA.[26]

On May 29, 1964, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. addressed a near-capacity audience in the Open Air Theater. King discussed his vision for the future and called for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, then being debated in the Senate.[27]

We must live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools.

Martin Luther King Jr.. Public address to San Diego State University, May 29, 1964, San Diego, California, USA.[28]

In April 2012, the XIV Dalai Lama spoke at SDSU's Viejas Arena as part of his "Compassion Without Borders" tour.[29]

University presidents

... The idea that San Diego State College was a place of opportunity, a friendly place ... where the individual student was the important, chief concern of the College.

Walter R. Hepner, explaining his purpose as President[30]

SDSU has had 10 presidents, two of whom served in an acting capacity. Several structures on the campus are named in past presidents' honor, such as Hardy Tower, Hepner Hall (integrated in the university's logo), and the Malcolm A. Love Library.[31] In March 2017 President Hirshman announced his resignation for June 30, 2017; he will assume the position of president at Stevenson University in Maryland.[32] Sally Roush was the interim president until January 31, 2018.[33] On that date, the CSU Board of Trustees appointed Adela de la Torre to serve as the permanent President. She is the first woman to serve in the role on a permanent basis.[34]

  • Samuel T. Black (1898–1910)
  • Edward L. Hardy (1910–35)
  • Walter R. Hepner (1935–52)
  • Malcolm Love (1952–71)
  • Donald E. Walker (1971–72, Acting)
  • Brage Golding (1972–77)
  • Trevor Colbourn (1977–78, Acting)
  • Thomas B. Day (1978–96)
  • Stephen L. Weber (1996–2011)
  • Elliot Hirshman (2011–2017)
  • Sally Roush (2017-2018, Acting)
  • Adela de la Torre (2018–Present)


The university awards 190[35] bachelor's degrees, 91 master's degrees, 25 doctoral degrees including EdD, DPT, JD, AuD, DNP, and PhD programs in collaboration with other universities. SDSU also offers 26 different teaching credentials.[36] The university offers more doctoral degrees than any other campus in the entire California State University, while also enrolling the largest student body of doctoral students in the system.[37] In 2015, SDSU enrolled the most doctoral students in its entire history.[38]


Several buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places:[39]

  • Scripps Cottage was finished in September 1931, funded with a donation of $6,000 from Ellen Browning Scripps matched with $5,000 from the state. It was the headquarters for the Associated Women Students and was used for meetings, women's activities, and served as a lounge.[40] On September 3, 1968, the building was moved to make room for the new school. It was used mainly as a conference and meeting building, and in 1993, began serving as a center for international students.[41] With the first phase of the restoration complete, Scripps Cottage is again available for meetings, celebrations and other functions. In fiscal 2016, more than 170 events were held at the site, bringing in a total of 12,000 people.[42]
  • Aztec Bowl, costing $500,000 to construct, was dedicated on October 3, 1936, before 7,500 people, after being completed earlier that year. The stadium was initially supposed to be expanded to 45,000 seats, but instead was only expanded once with 5,000 seats in 1948.
  • The CalCoast Credit Union Open Air Theatre[43] (formerly The Greek Bowl and the Open Air Theatre) was financed by the Works Progress Administration and the state for $200,000 and originally dedicated on May 3, 1941.[44][45]
  • Hepner Hall took on its current name on January 19, 1976, when the Montezuma Mesa building was renamed to honor Walter R. Hepner Hall. On May 1, 1977, the Humanities building was named after John Adams, a professor, administrator, and archivist. The Humanities-Social Sciences building was renamed in 1986 after geographer Alvena Storm and historian Abraham P. Nasatir.[46]
  • Peterson Gymnasium was finished in 1961, making the original gym the Women's Gym until it was remodeled and reopened in 1990 as the Physical Education building.
  • In 1986, a large student apartment complex was added along with an 11-story $13 million residence hall (University Towers, on the west side of campus).[47]
  • Hardy Memorial Tower, in the Mission Revival style, resembles a Spanish bell tower and is one of the most recognizable buildings on campus. It houses the campanile chimes but also originally concealed a 5000-gallon water tank for the campus plumbing system. The building housed the university's first library, which featured murals painted by the Works Progress Administration.[48]
  • The WPA Mission Revival Communication building, Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, Faculty-Staff Club, Life Science building and Annex, Little Theatre, Physical Plant Boiler Shop, and the Physical Science building are also listed on the National Register.[39]

Other buildings on campus include:

  • The campus library, now known as the Malcolm A. Love Library, acquired its 100,000th book on May 21, 1944. By the end of World War II it was adding about 8,000 books a year.[49] In 1959, a 40,000 sq ft (3,700 m2). addition to the library was finished, but it was already deemed too small.[50] In 1952, the library had 125,000 books, and state regulations required that old books be eliminated before new ones could be added. By 1965, there were more than 300,000 books housed in a library that could hold 230,000. This was ranked highest in state colleges in terms of library size. In the 1960s, construction of a new library began, which required the relocation of Scripps Cottage. The $8 million building was designed with 300,000 sq ft (28,000 m2). of space to accommodate one million books.[51] In February 1971, the library opened, housing 700,000 books, and was named after President Malcolm A. Love for his popularity on campus and his role in bringing State to university status.[52] Governor Ronald Reagan said the library would "... serve as a lasting memorial to the man who led the college through its growing pains ... to one of the finest state colleges in California".[53] The building was five stories high and was the largest building on campus. A four-story kinetic (and sound) sculpture entitled "Hanging Discus" by sculptor George Baker was specifically designed for the library and added to the interior staircase in November 1973.[54]
  • The Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union Student Union (formerly Aztec Center) secured financing in 2010 and was completed in March 2014, replacing and approximately doubling[55] the size of the Student Union. The facility is the first student union in the United States to qualify for LEED Platinum distinction.[56]
  • The $11 million Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center opened in October 2009 and is home to the SDSU Alumni Association and the Campanile Foundation.[57]
  • In 2014, SDSU opened the newly renovated social sciences complex, Storm and Nasatir Halls. Originally built in 1957, the 137,700 square foot complex received a complete makeover to house eight academic departments from the College of Arts & Letters, newly upgraded classrooms, faculty offices, research facilities, two large lecture halls, and a food service facility. Total cost for the construction neared $74 million, began in 2012, and was completed in 2014. Included in the opening were two new named facilities: Charles Hostler Hall (a 435-seat lecture auditorium) and the J. Keith Behner and Catherine M. Stiefel Auditorium (a 252-seat lecture hall).[58]

Storm Hall was named in honor of geography department professor Alvena Storm, who served as department chair, and on the faculty for over 40 years since 1926. Nasatir Hall was named for Abraham P. Nasatir, a professor emeritus of history who taught at SDSU for 46 years (1928–74) and was later internationally recognized for his research on California history, receiving four Fulbright Fellowships.[58]

Residence halls

In 1937, Quetzal Hall, the first dormitory, opened for 40 women students and was located off campus.[44] In 1952, 50 college males conducted a panty raid at Quetzal Hall, causing $1,000 in damages. Police arrested 13 of the students and the young women later retaliated by attacking the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house.[59] In 1968, the coed dorm Zura Hall was built, and more rooms were added later.[60] Chapultepec Hall held 580 students when first built.[61]

Today, the university owns and operates housing for over 4,100 students in residence halls and student apartments, fraternity row, and language and honors housing. There are over 15 dorms on campus, and more under construction. Approximately 63 percent of first-time freshmen live in on-campus housing, while about 14 percent of the overall student body resides in on-campus housing.[62] SDSU offers themed living communities in the freshman and upperclassman housing, such as "pathways for transfers", "gender-neutral housing", and "explore San Diego".

Off-campus facilities

Mount Laguna Observatory

Since 1968, SDSU's Astronomy Department has owned the Mount Laguna Observatory located in the Cleveland National Forest.[63]

Biological field stations

Coastal and Marine Institute Laboratory (CMIL)

The Coastal and Marine Institute Laboratory (CMIL), formerly known as the Coastal Waters Laboratory, is an academic laboratory operated by the SDSU College of Sciences. It is located on a coastal site on the grounds of the old San Diego Naval Training Center (now part of Liberty Station).

Branch campuses

Imperial Valley Campus

SDSU operates a branch campus, the Imperial Valley Campus (IVC) located in Calexico, California, with an additional campus in Brawley, California. IVC includes a research park and related facilities. The campus originally served only upper division, teacher certification, and graduate students but now serves a selective cohort of freshmen and sophomores pursuing degrees in criminal justice, liberal studies, or psychology.[65]

SDSU–Georgia campus

SDSU-Georgia is a branch campus located in Tbilisi, Georgia, in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.[66] SDSU-Georgia is run in conjunction with three Georgian universities: Georgian Technical University (GTU), Ilia State University (ISU), and Tbilisi State University (TSU).[67] The SDSU-Georgia branch campus is offering courses leading to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) bachelor's degrees.[67]

Former branch campus locations

SDSU formerly operated a campus in North County (San Diego area), which was later converted into California State University San Marcos. In the South Bay, SDSU operated a campus in National City, California. This campus shared facilities with Southwestern College. The South Bay Campus is now closed indefinitely.

Student body

Fall Freshman Profile[68]
Applicants 68,897 60,55460,54558,89856,75954,320
Admits 23,676 21,31120,85820,20419,52420,183
% Admitted 34.4 35.234.534.334.437.2
Enrolled 5,680 5,3015,0115,1424,9784,671
Avg GPA 3.73 3.713.683.693.693.61
ACT 25.2 25.425.225.024.524.1
SAT* 1208 11951117111811151106
*(out of 1600)
SDSU Quick Facts (2018)[69]
Admitted High School GPA 3.93
Admitted SAT, ACT 1264, 27
Study Abroad Programs nearly 400
Number of Student Organizations 350+
Number of Greek organizations 50+
Academic Offerings nearly 160 undergraduate majors, minors & preprofessional programs

nearly 100 graduate degrees & credentials (PhD, AuD, EdD, EdS, DNP, DPT)

Undergraduate Student-Faculty Ratio 20:1

San Diego State University is consistently one of the most applied-to universities in the United States, receiving over 60,500 undergraduate applications (including transfer and first time freshman) for the Fall 2018 semester and accepting nearly 21,300 for an admission rate of 35.1 percent across the university,[70] the third-lowest admission rate in the 23-campus California State University system.[71]

For Fall 2018, SDSU received 23,051 applications for transfer admission and accepted 5,274 (an admission rate of 22.9 percent).[70]

Fall 2018 admitted freshmen had an average high school GPA of 3.93, average ACT score of 27.0, and average SAT score of 1,264 (out of 1,600; the writing section is not considered). 34.36 percent of the 68,897 freshman applicants were admitted for Fall 2018.[72]

Fall 2018 Demographics of student body[73]
* All levels, freshman through graduate
Black 3.8%
Filipino 5.6%
Other Asian 7.2%
Pacific Islander 0.2%
White (non-Hispanic) 33.7%
Native American 0.3%
Mexican 25.6%
Other Hispanic/Latino 5.1%
Two or more races 6.2%
Non-resident alien 7.8%
Unknown 4.3%

The university reached its peak enrollment in 1987 with a student body of 35,945 FTES (Full-Time Equivalent Students), which made it at the time the largest university in California and the 10th largest university in the United States.[74] Due to the overwhelming number of students and lack of facilities and majors, The California State University Board of Trustees voted to cap enrollment for SDSU at 33,000. However, in 1993 enrollment dropped to 26,800 (the lowest since 1973) due to a financial crisis.[74] Nonetheless, enrollment has fluctuated through the years and rose back to nearly 35,000 (exceeding the cap) in 2008. For the fall 2016 semester, the university had a total enrollment of 33,778 students – approximately 29,046 undergraduate and 4,732 postgraduate[75] – making it one of the largest research universities in the state of California. In fall 2013, SDSU had the most doctoral students enrolled in its history at 534 students,[37] also the highest amount of doctorate-seeking students enrolled across the 23-campus CSU system.[37]

Rankings and distinctions

University rankings
ARWU[76] 138-155
Forbes[77] 181
Times/WSJ[78] 270
U.S. News & World Report[79] 127
Washington Monthly[80] 144
ARWU[81] 501–600
QS[82] 801–1000
Times[83] 501–600
U.S. News & World Report[84] 599

USNWR graduate school rankings[85]

Business 99–131
Education 53
Engineering 141
Nursing: Master's 56

USNWR departmental rankings[85]

Audiology 30
Clinical Psychology 25
Computer Science 147
Fine Arts 59
Health Care Management 51
Mathematics 144
Nursing–Midwifery 28
Physical Therapy 79
Public Affairs 82
Public Health 23
Rehabilitation Counseling 4
Social Work 51
Speech–Language Pathology 24
SDSU rankings
Forbes Best Business Schools[86] 64
CMUP Research Universities[87] 154
USNWR National University[88] 146
  USNWR Business[88] 87
  USNWR Part-Time MBA[88] 109
  USNWR Education[88] 69
  USNWR Engineering[88] 140
  USNWR Public Affairs[88] 73
  USNWR Social Work[88] 60
  USNWR Undergraduate Business[89] 73

From 2006 to 2010, SDSU was ranked the #1 most productive research university among schools with 14 or fewer PhD programs based on the Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index. The school has since exceeded the "small research" limit with 17 PhD programs, in addition to six professional doctorates. SDSU has been designated a "Research University" with high research activity by the Carnegie Foundation. Since 2000, SDSU faculty and staff have attracted more than $1.5 billion in grants and contracts for research and program administration.[90]

SDSU is the highest enrolled university in the San Diego metropolitan area. One in seven adults in San Diego who holds a college degree attended SDSU. In 2013, SDSU was lauded for its comprehensive endowment campaign efforts, which raised over $400 million from 2007 to 2013. The Council for Advancement and Support of Education recognized SDSU for its overall performance in fundraising efforts.[91]

San Diego State was ranked the 28th top college in the United States by Payscale and CollegeNet's Social Mobility Index college rankings.[92] PayScale rated it #231 for return on investment (defined as "Difference between 20 Year Median Pay for a bachelor's grad from the institution and 24 Year Median Pay for a high school grad minus Total 4 Year Cost"), assuming in-state attendance, notably putting it above several of the University of California schools (UC Santa Cruz, UC Riverside, and UC Merced).[93][94]

Money Magazine ranked San Diego State 116th in the country out of over 1500 schools it evaluated for its 2015 Best Colleges ranking.[95]

Academic Ranking of World Universities ranked San Diego State as one of the top 200 world universities for Economics/Business (between 151-200).[96]

The Daily Beast ranked San Diego State 75th in the country out of the nearly 2,000 schools it evaluated for its 2013 Best Colleges ranking.[97]

In Graduate School Rankings, QS Global 200 Business Schools Report ranks SDSU's business college the 80th best in all of North America.[98][99] Bloomberg Businessweek ranked SDSU as #84 among business colleges in the United States.[100] As there are 1656 schools offering business degree programs in the U.S. (529 of which are accredited by AACSB, the bulk of the others by ACBSP), these rankings would put SDSU in the top 5% of American business schools (or the top 15% of American AACSB schools).[101] Its MBA program is also ranked by QS as between the 151st and 200th best in the world.[102]

The Center For World University Rankings ranks San Diego State University as #376 globally and #126 nationally as of 2017, a slightly higher global rank than either ARWU or USNWR, but slightly lower than Times. The CWUR rankings place emphasis on alumni employment and quality of teaching, rather than being purely research-based like ARWU's.[103]

SDSU is also a top producer of U.S. Fulbright Scholars, the U.S. government's flagship international educational exchange program. SDSU has had more than 40 students receive Fulbright Scholarships since 2005.[104] The university ranks No. 30 as the nation's best universities for veterans, according to Military Times Edge.[105] SDSU ranks among the top universities for economic and campus ethnic diversity according to U.S. News & World Report's "America's Best Colleges 2012".[104] Nearly 45 percent of all SDSU graduates are the first in their family to receive a college degree.[106]

Internationally, SDSU offers 335 international education programs in 52 countries. Thirty-four SDSU programs now require international experience for graduation. SDSU ranks first in California among universities of its type in California and third among all universities in California for students studying abroad as part of their college experience. SDSU also ranks 22nd among universities nationwide for the number of students studying abroad (Institute of International Education). Since 2000, nearly 12,000 students have studied abroad: a 900 percent increase in that time. SDSU's undergraduate international business program ranks eleventh in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report's "America's Best Colleges 2012". SDSU is ranked fifth in Sports Management; 23rd in the MBA/MA in Latin American Studies; and 46th in the MBA/Juris Doctor program by Eduniversal for each programs' international outreach and reputation in 2011. SDSU and Universidad Autónoma de Baja California in Mexico offered the first transnational dual degree between the United States and Mexico, in 1994, through the MEXUS/International Business program. SDSU's international business program also runs transnational dual degree programs with Brazil, Canada, Chile, and Mexico. SDSU's Language Acquisition Resource Center is one of nine sites selected by the U.S. Department of Education to serve as a National Language Resource Center.[104]

in 2010 SDSU was ranked second among universities of its type nationwide and first in California for students studying abroad as part of their college experience.[107]

SDSU is home to the first-ever MBA program in Global Entrepreneurship.[108] As part of the program, students study at four universities worldwide, including the United States, China, the Middle East, and India.[109] Corporate partners include Qualcomm, Invitrogen, Intel, Microsoft, and KPMG.[109] In 1970, SDSU founded the first women's studies program in the country.

Modern Healthcare ranked SDSU second for graduate schools for physician executives in relation to their Master in Public Health program.[110] SDSU is ranked No. 9 in Fortune Small Business's "America's Best Colleges For Entrepreneurs".[111]

The U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges for 2019 National Universities rankings awarded SDSU a spot in the top 150 national universities (#127) in the United States, classifying it as a "Top Tier" university, with particular regards to its business program.[112] U.S. News & World Report classifies San Diego State University as a "National University", whereas it classifies the other 22 universities in The California State University system as "Regional Universities".[88]

U.S. News & World Report rankings:[88] USNWR in its 2018 rankings placed SDSU 60th among Top Public Schools and 105th for High School Counselor Rankings among all universities in the nation. SDSU's College of Business Administration is ranked 87th. Additionally, its Part-Time MBA program ranks 109th. SDSU's College of Education is ranked the 71st, and its College of Engineering ranks 140th. SDSU's Audiology and its Speech and Language Pathology programs rank 27th and 25th best. Its Chemistry program ranks 131st. SDSU is home to the 26th best Clinical Psychology and 52nd best Psychology programs. Its Fine Arts program ranks 72nd. Its Healthcare Management programs ranks 48th. Its Public Affairs and Public Health programs rank 73rd and 39th. Its Rehab Counseling ranks 10th best. Furthermore, SDSU's Social Work program ranks 60th best.

In 2016, San Diego State University's Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union has achieved LEED Double Platinum status, joining an elite group of energy-efficient buildings. The recognition is shared by fewer than two dozen facilities around the world.[113]

Organization and administration

Schools and colleges

SDSU has two named schools established in the university by permanent endowments:

  • L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism Management[115]
  • Charles W. Lamden School of Accountancy[116]

Additionally, SDSU has 11 focused schools:

  • School of Communication
  • School of Public Affairs
  • School of Music and Dance
  • School of Art and Design
  • School of Exercise and Nutritional Science
  • School of Social Work
  • Graduate School of Public Health
  • School of Journalism and Media Studies
  • School of Nursing
  • School of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences
  • School of Theatre, Television, and Film


The financial endowment of SDSU is valued at $289.8 million as of June 30, 2018.[117] The primary philanthropic arm of San Diego State University is The Campanile Foundation, controlled by the University Advancement division of the university. The San Diego State University Research Foundation, an auxiliary corporation owned and controlled by the university, is the manager and administrator of all philanthropic funds and external funding for the university and its affiliated and auxiliary foundations and corporations.

As of June 30, 2013, permanent assets of the SDSU Campanile Foundation totaled $229 million.[118]

For the 2004–2005 academic year, SDSU received over US$157 million in external funding from grants and contracts, as well as an additional US$57 million in donations and charitable giving.[119] For 2005–2006, SDSU received US$152 million in grants and contracts to support research. This is followed by US$47.7 million in donations, gifts and other charitable giving.[120]

An auxiliary to The Campanile Foundation is the Aztec Athletic Association, which primarily raises funds for the student athletes in the San Diego State University athletics programs (see discussion of Athletics below and at SDSU Aztecs).

Student life

Media, newspapers, and magazines

Students began publishing The White and Gold in 1902, which was a literary magazine and newspaper.[121] In 1913, a new newspaper was established entitled Normal News Weekly.[122] The school newspaper Paper Lantern (Normal News Weekly was renamed after the addition of the junior college) became The Aztec in September 1925.[123] It was later expanded to its current name, The Daily Aztec in fall 1959. The school's annual yearbook was named Del Sudoeste (Spanish for "of the southwest") in the early 1920s. The Koala, a comedy newspaper that is widely known around the San Diego State area, is also distributed monthly on campus but is not directly connected to the school at the moment.[123]

SDSU media and publications
  • San Diego State University Press
    • The oldest university press in the California State University system with noted specializations in Border Studies, Critical Theory, Latin American Studies, and Cultural Studies
  • KCR (SDSU) College Radio
    • Student-run broadcast radio station for the SDSU community
    • "The Sound of State"
  • KPBS Public Broadcasting TV/FM
  • 360 Magazine
    • The quarterly SDSU alumni and San Diego community magazine
  • Montezuma Publishing
    • A not-for-profit organization specializing in producing course materials to serving the undergraduate and graduate students of SDSU
SDSU campus newspapers
  • The Daily Aztec, the largest daily collegiate newspaper in California, publishing daily since 1960
  • SDSU NewsCenter, official news and information for the SDSU community
  • The Koala, an independent satirical collegiate newspaper distributed on campus


Initial clubs that were first started on campus including the Debating Club, the Associated Student Body, YWCA, and in 1906, An Alumni Association.[121] The oldest club on campus was The Rowing Association.[124]

Formula SAE

Aztec Racing is SDSU's Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) student chapter. Every year, SDSU engineering students design and construct an open wheel, open cockpit race car to Formula SAE (formerly Formula Society of Automotive Engineers) specifications. Aztec Racing then competes against other universities' Formula SAE teams in an annual competition event, where the cars are raced against each other and judged on design. Attendance at Formula SAE competition is international, with several hundreds of schools competing each year. Students from other majors participate as well, frequently in the areas of management, promotion and other aspects of the project.

Greek life

Fraternities and sororities have been a part of the San Diego State University campus community for over a century. Today SDSU is home to many recognized Greek-letter organizations, most of which belonging to one of four university-sponsored governing councils. The Interfraternity Council (IFC) currently consists of 14 active social fraternities. The College Panhellenic Association (CPA) is made up of 9 active social sororities.

Fraternities (IFC)[125] Sororities (CPA)[126]

SDSU's Greek system also includes several multi-cultural Greek organizations. The United Sorority & Fraternity Council (USFC) is the governing body for 17 culturally-based Greek-letter organizations (7 fraternities, 11 sororities) and the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) is the governing body of historically African American Greek-letter organizations at SDSU (currently 3 fraternities and 3 sororities.[127]

On April 27, 1974, The Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society established an SDSU chapter. It was the first in the CSU system as well as the San Diego area.[74]

Other multidisciplinary national honor societies include Phi Kappa Phi, Mortar Board, and Phi Eta Sigma.

LGBT-Friendly campus

San Diego State University was recognized in 2016 among the best universities in the nation for supporting LGBT students. The Campus Pride Index recently ranked SDSU on its 2016 "Best of the Best" Top 30 list of LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities. SDSU has been included in this ranking for the past seven years along with institutions like Princeton University and Cornell University.[128]

SDSU was recognized in 2014 as one of 20 of the most Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender-friendly campuses in all of the U.S.[129][130] The university attains this recognition through its welcome week LGBT reception, Safe Zone ally training, Big Gay BBQs, participating in Aids Walk San Diego and Pride San Diego, hosting an LGBT college fair, and holding a Lavender Graduation ceremony and several lecture series. The university is one of the few campuses in California that is home to the gay social fraternity, Delta Lambda Phi. Additionally, SDSU was the first university in California to offer a major in LGBT studies, while also offering a minor and graduate degree in the discipline.[131] In 2014, SDSU opened a first-ever Pride Center at the former Student Organization Annex, with the mission to provide resources and help meet the needs and challenges of LGBT students.[132]


Men's Sports Women's Sports
BasketballCross Country
Swimming & Diving
Track & Field
Water Polo
† – Track and field includes both indoor and outdoor.

SDSU's intercollegiate athletic teams are referred to as the "Aztecs". The university currently sponsors six men's and thirteen women's sports programs at the varsity level.

The first major sport on campus was rowing, but it initially had no coaches or tournaments.[133] Other sports that developed early in the campus's history were tennis, basketball, golf, croquet, and baseball.[133] Early on, the school's football program had such a limited selection of players that faculty had to be used to fill the roster.[133] When the college merged with the junior college in 1921, the college became a member of the Junior College Conference. After the school won most of the conference titles in a variety of sports, the league requested that college leave out of fairness to the smaller schools. For its football program, the team outscored its opponents 249 to 52 in ten games, resulting in the first sales of season tickets in 1923.[134] From 1925 to 1926, the college played as an independent. It then joined the Southern California Conference in 1926, where it did not win a football conference championship until 1936. However, in other sports including tennis and basketball, it excelled.[134] The college remained with the conference until 1939, when it joined the California Collegiate Athletic Association.[135]

The basketball team reached and won multiple championship games during the 1930–1940s, including a conference title in 1931, 1934, 1937, and 1939. It reached the national championship in 1939 and 1940, losing in the final rounds. However, in 1941 the college returned and won the college's first national title.[135] In track, the team won conference titles in 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938, and 1939.[135] The football team won conference titles in 1936 and 1937, and the baseball team won three conference titles and placed second three times between 1935 and 1941.[135]

In 1955, the Aztec Club was established and raised $20,000 a year by 1957. The club worked in increasing athletic scholarships, hiring better coaches, and developing the college's intercollegiate athletic programs. In 1956, students approved through a vote of allowing a mandatory student activity fee, with a portion going to athletics. By the end of the decade the budget had doubled to $40,000. The campus's most successful sports program during the 1950s was cross-country, when the team won eight straight conference titles and AAU regional titles and placed high in national competitions. Basketball teams ranged from last in the conference to multiple conference, regional, and national appearances. The football program had its first undefeated team in 1951, but in the last part of the decade earned the worst records in the school's football program under the direction of head coach Paul Governali.[136]

Under Governali, the campus's football program suffered due to Governali's policy of not recruiting players. To improve the program, Love hired in 1961 Don Coryell, who led the program win three consecutive championships (1966–68), and 104 wins, 19 losses, and 2 ties by the time he left SDSU. Coryell was assisted by John Madden, Joe Gibbs, and Rod Dowhower, among others. In Coryell's first year, attendance at home games averaged 8,000 people, but by 1966 it had doubled to 16,000. This later jumped to 26,000–41,000 per game with the addition of the new San Diego Stadium. At some games, attendance was larger than at San Diego Chargers games. There were several undefeated seasons and many players broke records for most catches, touchdowns, and passing yards. In 1969, San Diego State College moved into NCAA Division I, leaving the California Collegiate Athletic Association. In 1972, Coyrell left to pursue coaching in the NFL.[137]

Basketball also did well, with the 1967–68 team being ranked the number one college-level team in the nation, although it did not win a national title. The Aztecs also won the 1960 CCAA baseball title and multiple national championships throughout the 1960s in track, cross country, and swimming.[137]

By 1970–71, the campus had 14 NCAA sports. The 1973 men's volleyball team won the NCAA national championship which was the first NCAA national title since moving to Division I status.[138]

SDSU competes in NCAA Division I FBS. Its primary conference is the Mountain West Conference; its women's rowing team competes in the American Athletic Conference, its women's water polo team participates in the Golden Coast Conference, and its men's soccer team is a single-sport member of the Pac-12 Conference (Pac-12). The ice hockey team competes in the ACHA with other western region club teams ( The crew team's championship regatta is in the WIRA (Western International Rowing Association). The university colors are scarlet (red) and black, SDSU's athletic teams are called the "Aztecs", and its mascot is the Aztec Warrior, formerly referred to as "Monty Montezuma".

Baseball & Softball

The baseball team plays at Tony Gwynn Stadium on the SDSU campus, opened in 1997 and named after former SDSU baseball and basketball player, late head coach, and Major League Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Tony Gwynn. The playing field is officially called Charlie Smith Field, after the longtime SDSU baseball head coach Charles R. Smith.[139]

The softball team plays at the SDSU Softball Stadium, completed in 2005 adjacent to Tony Gwynn Stadium.


The men's and women's basketball teams play at Viejas Arena, opened in 1997, on the SDSU campus. The court is officially named Steve Fisher Court, after longtime SDSU basketball head coach Steve Fisher. Both teams practice at the Jeff Jacobs JAM Center, a basketball practice facility that opened on campus in 2015.


The football team practices at the main campus and currently plays its games at SDCCU Stadium (formerly known as Qualcomm Stadium) in Mission Valley. In November 2018, a San Diego ballot initiative passed, giving SDSU the right to purchase and redevelop the SDCCU Stadium site in a plan known as "SDSU Mission Valley", which is to include a newly-constructed stadium for the football program.[140]


The men's and women's soccer teams both play on campus at the SDSU Sports Deck, a facility opened in 2000 that also hosts the women's track and field team. The women compete in the Mountain West Conference while the men compete in the Pac-12 Conference. In 1987, the men's team reached the NCAA Division I Men's Championship final, losing to the Clemson Tigers.


The women's volleyball team plays in Peterson Gym on the SDSU campus. The former men's volleyball team won the NCAA National Championship in 1973 (SDSU's first and only NCAA Division I national championship to date in any sport), but the program was disbanded in 2000 due to budgetary constraints and necessity to maintain compliance with Title IX regulations.[141]

Other sports

  • The women's swimming and diving team and the women's water polo team are both based at the on-campus aquatic sports complex, known as the Aztec Aquaplex. The facility was opened in 2007 and includes an Olympic-size swimming pool with a moveable bulkhead, a separate recreational pool, and a hydrotherapy spa. This facility also serves as the recreational pool for SDSU students and community members.
  • The women's rowing team is based out of the Mission Bay Aquatic Center (MBAC) in Mission Bay, just a few miles west of the main campus. The Associated Students organization of San Diego State University, in conjuction with the University of California, San Diego recreation, owns and operates the MBAC. The facility also provides opportunities for many outdoor activities and water sports for SDSU students.
  • Both the men's and women's tennis teams play at the Aztec Tennis Center, a 12-court facility opened in 2005 on the western edge of the main campus
  • The women's track and field teams practice and compete at the Aztrack (also known as the SDSU Sports Deck)


  • The San Diego State Marching Aztecs and Pep and Varsity Bands are often seen at many sporting events including Football, Basketball and even Volleyball.
  • The San Diego State University (SDSU) campus is known as "Montezuma Mesa", as the university is situated on a mesa overlooking Mission Valley and is located at the intersection of Montezuma Road and College Avenue.

S Mountain

On February 27, 1931, President Hardy permitted 500 students to paint rocks to form a 400-foot (120 m) white S on Cowles Mountain. The idea of "S Mountain" was created by the Council of Twelve and initially supported by Hardy. The giant S was lit at night for the opening football game of a season (performed by the freshman to build school spirit) along with pep rallies, and was repainted throughout its history.[40][142] At the time, it was the largest collegiate symbol in the world.[143] During World War II, the S was camouflaged to prevent it becoming a reference point for enemy bombing aircraft.[144] It was returned to its normal state in April 1944.[145] In the 1970s students stopped painting it and brush obstructed the symbol. After a 1988 brush fire it was exposed, and students repainted it. In fall 1997, a group of 100 volunteers climbed Cowles Mountain after dusk to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the school by using flashlights to once again outline the S on the side of the mountain. In 1990, a high school prank defaced the S to read as "91" in honor of their graduating class.[146]

School colors and mascot

The initial colors of the school were white and gold. When the junior college was added to the campus in 1921, its colors of blue and gold were merged, resulting in a blue, gold, and white color scheme. New colors were later chosen as gold and purple, until being replaced by scarlet and black on January 28, 1928.[147]

The school's prior nicknames for its mascot included "Normalites", "Professors", and "Wampus Cats". However, after a 1924 committee met to address the issue, the name "Aztecs" was decided on.[123] In 2003, the Aztec Warrior was approved by a student and alumni vote to become the official university mascot after the school's prior mascot, Monty Montezuma, was discontinued.[148] In 2018, SDSU discontinued use of the Aztec Warrior as a mascot.[149]

Mascot Controversy

Like other mascots referencing historical tribes and cultures, the Aztec mascot has periodically been the topic of question. It was not cited as "hostile and abusive" by the NCAA in 2005 due to a decision that the Aztecs were not a Native American tribe with any living descendants.[150] However, the Aztec Warrior has drawn criticism. A SDSU professor of American Indian Studies states that among other problems the mascot teaches the mistaken idea that Aztecs were a local tribe rather than living in Mexico 1,000 miles away.[151] The SDSU Native American Student Alliance (NASA) supports removal of the mascot, calling its continued use "institutional racism" in an official statement to the Committee on Diversity, Equity and Outreach.[152][153] Although that resolution was rejected by the SDSU Associated Students, the University Senate, which represents the administration, faculty, staff and students, had voted to phase out the human depiction of the Aztec Warrior.[154] In 2018, after the recommendation of a task force of students, faculty, and alumni who were appointed to study the issue, President Sally Roush made the decision to discontinue using the Aztec Warrior as a mascot, while retaining it as a "Spirit Leader."[155][149]


1996 campus shooting

A shooting occurred on campus on August 15, 1996. A 36-year-old graduate engineering student, while apparently defending his thesis, shot and killed his three professors, Constantinos Lyrintzis, Cheng Liang, and D. Preston Lowrey III, at San Diego State University. The shooter, who was suffering from certain mental problems, was convicted on July 19, 1997, and was sentenced to life in prison. As a memorial, tables with a plaque with information about each victim have been placed adjacent to the College of Engineering building.

2008 student drug arrests

On May 6, 2008, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced the arrests of 96 individuals, of whom 33 were San Diego State University students, on a variety of drug charges in a year-long narcotics sting operation dubbed Operation Sudden Fall.[156] It was originally reported that 75 of the arrested were students, but the inflated number included students who had been arrested months earlier, in some cases for simple possession.[157] The bust, which was the largest in the history of San Diego County, drew a mixed reaction from the community.[158]

2014 sexual assault

In late 2014, SDSU began an "It's on Us" campaign to combat an alarming pattern of sexual violence.[159] In the fall 2014 semester, there were 14 sexual assault allegations reported on or around the college area. In early 2015, SDSU was found to have wrongfully accused a male foreign exchange student of sexual assault during the fall 2014 semester and allegedly failing to afford him due process. The student's name was released in a campus-wide email immediately upon his arrest and he was quickly expelled from the university. The female student who made the accusation later admitted to not being truthful about the alleged incident. The male student later sued the university.[160]

Notable alumni and faculty

San Diego State University has over 260,000 alumni worldwide. The university is one of the top producers of U.S. Student Fulbright Scholars in the nation.[161]


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