Briar Cliff University

This article is about the university in Sioux City, Iowa. For the university in Long Island City, New York, see Briarcliffe College.
Briar Cliff University
Motto Mater Gratiae Caritas
Motto in English
Mother of Grace, Love
Type Private
Established 1930
Affiliation Franciscan (Roman Catholic)
Endowment $9.5 million[1]
President Dr. Hamid Shirvani
Students 1,174 (fall 2013)
Location Sioux City, Iowa, USA
Campus Urban (70 acres (28 ha))
Colors Blue and Gold          
Nickname Chargers
Affiliations Great Plains Athletic Conference
Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi
Roman Catholic Diocese of Sioux City

Briar Cliff University is a private, Franciscan, Roman Catholic, liberal arts university located in Sioux City, Iowa, United States.


In March 1929, Mother Mary Dominica Wieneke, Major Superior of the Sisters of Saint Francis of Dubuque, along with the Most Rev. Edmond Heelan, Bishop of the Sioux City Diocese, co-founded Briar Cliff College after meeting with members of the Sioux City community, who committed to raising $25,000 to support the establishment of a Catholic women's college in Sioux City. The twelve foundresses of the College were carefully chosen by Mother Dominica. They were led by Sister Mary Servatius Greenen, who was named the first president.[2]

Briar Cliff University dedication, 1930

On September 18, 1930, the college, named Briar Cliff after the hill on which it is located, was dedicated. Four days later, 25 women started classes in Heelan Hall, the only building on campus at the time. In 1937, the university’s two-year program was extended to four years. Fifty-five men were admitted to Briar Cliff in 1965 and co-education was formalized in 1966 with the admission of 150 full-time male students. In 1967, the campus added the residence hall Toller to the facilities available to students, and continued in 1968 with the addition of Noonan Hall. In 1982, the athletic programs also received a new venue as the Newman Flanagan Center was built to house athletic competitions, coaches' offices, and recreational classes.

New Master's programs were implemented in the summer of 2001. The college officially became a University on June 1, 2001. Online courses were first offered to students in 2006. The Center for Justice and the Center for Health Care Initiatives were established in 2012. The first doctoral degree, the Doctorate of Nurse Practitioner, was introduced in 2013.


Briar Cliff University is a community committed to higher education within a liberal arts and Catholic perspective. In the Franciscan tradition of service, caring, and openness to all, Briar Cliff emphasizes quality education for its students combining a broad intellectual background with career development. The University challenges its members to grow in self-awareness and in their relationships to others and to God.


Briar Cliff University is situated on a scenic hilltop on the outskirts of Sioux City, a few minutes from downtown. Sioux City (which has a population of about 90,000) is located on the Missouri River and is the principal city of a three-state metropolitan area. Directly across the river are the states of South Dakota and Nebraska.[3]

The campus includes four residence halls, as well as other buildings used for administrative, athletic, and artistic purposes. These buildings include the following:

Residence Halls

Academic Buildings

Athletic Buildings

Centers for the Arts

Student Union


Organization and administration

Briar Cliff University is accredited as a degree-granting institution by Higher Learning Commission. It is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. It is licensed by the Iowa Department of Education to certify teachers. The social work program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. The nursing program is accredited by the National League for Nursing.[3] Prior to the Fall 2011 semester, the academic year consisted of three 10-week terms, September through May. As of Fall 2011, the academic year consists of two semesters, as well as a January Term, a May Term, and a Summer Term. The average class size is 19 students.[3]

Academic profile

Briar Cliff offers four-year academic programs and pre-professional programs in over 30 fields of study, culminating in a Bachelor's degree. Two-year Associate of Arts degrees are also available in two areas. A Master of Arts degree is also offered in the fields of kinesiology and human performance, management (with emphasis on health care administration or human resource management), nursing (nurse practitioner or nurse educator) and applied behavior analysis. The applied behavior analysis program relies heavily on a partnership with the Pier Center for Autism, a local non-profit dedicated to providing care and opportunity for autistic children.[4]

Liberal arts

Briar Cliff focuses its academic curriculum around a liberal arts core. Each student is required to take a class in seven, different intellectual areas in order to graduate from the university. Each area is designed to develop a student's base of knowledge in many, diverse areas of study. These areas of competency are known as foundations. The areas of foundations include:

Honors Program

Briar Cliff offers an honors program to those students who qualify. In order to qualify, a student must enter Briar Cliff with an ACT score of 26, or obtain a 3.75 GPA after at least 12 credit hours on campus. Students who are admitted into the honors program receive certain benefits which include priority selection of classes, as well as admittance into honors-only courses. In addition to the previously stated, the honors program also takes a cultural experience trip to a domestic location. Previous trips include Cleveland, San Francisco and New York City.

Franciscan Core

To enhance students' knowledge regarding St. Francis of Assisi, Briar Cliff has instituted a core class for all freshmen which is named "Franciscan Core". This class focuses on the life and work of St. Francis, as well as how those teachings are connected to the global landscape of modern America. Some of the aspects of this class include discussions over environmental responsibility, peacemaking and social justice. This class also includes a service component in which students support local causes and nonprofit organizations.

International Program

In an effort to globalize the student experience, Briar Cliff has started new, exchange programs with universities around the world. Through these programs students from Rwanda, South Korea, Venezuela, Mexico, Canada and many others have studied at Briar Cliff. These programs also offer Briar Cliff students the opportunity to study abroad at institutions like the Catholic University of Korea.

Student life

In addition to academic programs, Briar Cliff University offers a wide range extra-curricular activities. These activities are the primary responsibility of the Director of Campus Activities. Some of these programs include intramural sports, faith sharing and Bible study groups, as well as over thirty clubs and organizations. Campus organizations include a variety of major-specific clubs (like psychology club and education club), as well as multicultural and leadership clubs.

Arts and drama

In addition to university sponsored clubs and organizations, Briar Cliff also offers musical organizations that are open to all members of the university. These include Cliffsingers, which is the university's choir, Chamber Choir, and jazz band. The Cliff Singers are under the direction of Dr. Sean Burton. Dr. Burton is an accomplished director as well as author of The Unaccompanied Choral Music of Pierre Villette: A Conductor’s Analysis.[5] Briar Cliff also offers programs in drama and visual art. Visual arts are housed in North Hall, a building on campus that includes classrooms as well as studio space. Studio art work is displayed in the Clausen Art Gallery, a part of the Stark Student Center. Student artwork has also been on exhibit in the Sioux City Art Center, which also hosts the annual reception for The Briar Cliff Review, a literary magazine published by the University's English department.

YMCA partnership

In 2012, Briar Cliff announced a partnership with the Norm Waitt Sr. YMCA of Siouxland.[6] Originally opened in Sioux City in 1892, the YMCA now sits just across the Missouri River in South Sioux City, Nebraska. This partnership allows all full-time Briar Cliff students access to the facilities and classes the YMCA has to offer.

Student government

Briar Cliff Student Government (BCSG) is the legislative body of the Briar Cliff Student Body. The efforts of BCSG include keeping an open line of communication between faculty, administration, and the student body, offering various campus programming for students, and constructing projects that will broaden the college experience for Briar Cliff students. Some of these projects include construction of a disc golf course as well as an outdoor basketball court. There have been a form of student government at Briar Cliff since its earliest days in the 1930s and 40's.

Cliff News

Cliff News is the official student news paper of Briar Cliff University. Although the name has changed over the years, there has been a student newspaper at Briar Cliff since the inception of a communications major as an academic field. The Cliff News covers various aspects of student life including issues facing students, sports, and campus affairs.


Briar Cliff University teams are known as the Chargers; the teams uniform colors are royal blue and gold, matching the official colors of the university.[3] Briar Cliff offers eight intercollegiate athletic programs for men and nine for women. Its teams, nicknamed the Chargers, compete in the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) and are nationally affiliated with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer, track & field and wrestling; while women's sports include basketball, cheerleading, cross country, dance, golf, soccer, softball, track & field and volleyball.


Both men's and women's basketball have strong traditions at Briar Cliff. The Women's Basketball has made countless appearances in the NAIA Women's Basketball tournament. The most recent national appearance was in the 2012-13 season, and they reached the Final Four the year before that.[7] The men's basketball program last reached the national tournament in the 2011-2012 season, where they made it to the Sweet Sixteen before being eliminated.[8]

Panamanian Pipeline

During the late 1970s and continuing into the 1980s, the Briar Cliff men's basketball head coach Ray Nacke was able to recruit players from Panama to play basketball for him. These players, labeled the Panama Pipeline by a 1981 Sports Illustrated article, included several players who played for the Panama national team, such as Eddie Warren, Mario Butler, Ernesto "Tito" Malcolm, Mario Galvez, Reggie Grenald, and, fan favorite, Rolando Frazer.[9] The Pipeline helped Nacke's squad to a number of NAIA Regional Championships, a number of berths in the NAIA National Tournament, and, in 1981, earned a #1 national ranking for the first, and only, time in Charger history.

Track and field

The Chargers track and field program has a history of both individual, and team success. In 2000, Sharline Maxwell became the first Charger to win an individual national championship in any sport. She did so by winning the NAIA Indoor Championship in the 400m dash. Maxwell would go on to win two more championship in her time at Briar Cliff.[10] More recently, the Charger men have been a frequent visitor to the NAIA Championships, both indoor and outdoor. In 2013, The Briar Cliff men's track team took four individuals to the NAIA Indoor Championships, and returned with four, individual All-Americans. This group was highlighted by Augustus Cowan who won a national title in triple jump.[11]


In 2001, Briar Cliff began its football program, while 2003 marked the first official varsity season for the program. In their first year, the Chargers garnered a 0-10 record. The following year, the team recorded its first win, one of three on the season. To date, the Chargers have compiled a record of 23-85.[12] The Briar Cliff football team played their home games at Memorial Field until 2013 when they began playing home games at the Dakota Dome, on the campus of the University of South Dakota, about 25 miles northwest.[13]

Baseball and softball

Briar Cliff University offers both baseball and softball as spring sports. Each one of these teams competes in the Great Plains Athletic Conference. The baseball team plays their home games at Bishop Mueller Field, a baseball complex shared with Bishop Heelan High School. After previously playing their home games at the SYA Riverside Complex, the BCU softball team moved back to the university's campus in 2013, where they too share the field with Bishop Heelan High School.

NAIA World Series

In 2005, Briar Cliff University Baseball upset Bellevue University, ending Bellevue's 10-year run of winning the Region 4 title, to make it to the Super Regional Round against Dakota State.[14] Briar Cliff swept the two games of the super regionals winning an extra-inning affair (7-6) and closing out Dakota State with a blowout win (13-1) to advance to the 2005 Avista NAIA College World Series. Briar Cliff would lose to Spalding University (9-3) and to Biola University (4-1). This was their first and only appearance in the NAIA College World Series. More recently, in 2015 the BCU baseball team won the GPAC conference with a conference record of (14-6). Snapping the team's streak of 6 straight losing seasons.

See also


  1. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2011 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2010 to FY 2011" (PDF). National Association of College and University Business Officers. January 17, 2012. p. 22. Retrieved February 13, 2012.
  2. "culture.templar.rosemont - Mother Mary Dominica Wieneke - msg#00002 - Recent Discussion". Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Official website re background of Briar Cliff University Archived December 4, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-04-24. Retrieved 2013-04-21.
  7. "Briar Cliff clips Mount Mercy to reach Final Four". Sioux City Journal. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  8. "Briar Cliff's season ends with "sweet sixteen" setback". Sioux City Journal. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  9. "CNN Sports provided by Bleacher Report -". Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  11. "Briar Cliff University Athletics News". Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  12. Briar Cliff University Athletics. "ISSUU - Briar Cliff Football by Briar Cliff University Athletics". Issuu. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  13. "Briar Cliff to play home football games at DakotaDome". Sioux City Journal. Retrieved 24 December 2014.

External links

Coordinates: 42°31′47″N 96°25′24″W / 42.529601°N 96.423227°W / 42.529601; -96.423227

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