Aquinas College

  • Aquinas College

    Nashville, TN

  • Aquinas College

    Nashville, TN

  • Aquinas College

    Nashville, TN

  • Aquinas College

    Nashville, TN

  • Aquinas College

    Nashville, TN


For more than 150 years, the extraordinary Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia (the “Nashville Dominicans”) have been a dynamic Catholic presence in Nashville, Tennessee. Their teaching mission is especially evident at Aquinas College, a faithfully Catholic college for both sisters and laypeople, focused primarily on teacher education and Catholic schools initiatives with solid courses in theology and philosophy. 

In 2017, Sister Mary Agnes Greiffendorf, O.P., was named president of Aquinas College.  Sr. Greiffendorf is currently on a six-month leave of absence for study, and Sister John Mary Fleming, O.P. is serving as acting president. Many other sisters are faculty members, and all Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia study at Aquinas during their initial years of formation, taking courses in theology, philosophy, and professional preparation for the teaching apostolate of the community. 

Whereas most women’s religious orders have pulled out of Catholic schools and dwindled in number, the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia have expanded into 49 schools in 28 dioceses. They are located in the U.S., Canada, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, the Netherlands and Australia. 

The Congregation itself has grown by more than two thirds since 2000. About 250 of the 300 sisters are active in various apostolates, and the average age of the Sisters is 39. Together with lay faculty at Aquinas College, they strive to live out the Dominican charisms of preaching and the salvation of souls—all with joy and fidelity to the Church.  

Aquinas is a small college that aims to grow, and only about a quarter of its students are currently lay men and women. But given the Sisters’ great reputation for excellent Catholic education, it’s a program that we recommend highly for anyone planning to teach in Catholic schools. 

Tuition in 2018-19 was $25,600. The College does not participate in federal student aid programs, but it does provide scholarships and loans from its own resources.


Aquinas College is focused primarily on teacher formation for both the Sisters and lay Catholic teachers through its School of Education and philosophy and theology courses. 

Teacher formation is a natural emphasis for the Nashville congregation, which has taught in Catholic schools since prior to the Civil War. 

The School of Education offers a Bachelor of Science degree (major in Interdisciplinary Studies) that prepares its graduates for licensure for teaching in elementary grades. It also offers Bachelor of Science degrees with majors in English and history that prepare its graduates for licensure for teaching these subjects at the secondary level. 

The School of Arts and Sciences also offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in theology, philosophy, English and history. 

For all degrees, the core curriculum includes traditional liberal arts and science courses such as literature, mathematics, and at least two courses in theology. Bachelor of Arts students take three theology courses, logic, philosophy, and ethics, in addition to other core courses. 

Courses are permeated with faith and enriched by Christian principles and values. All theologians have the mandatumand the College maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio.   

In addition to teacher formation, the college sponsors two successful initiatives in education and evangelization. The Center for Catholic Education provides spiritual and professional formation for educators and parents beyond the college, and its annual WISE Conference for Catholic School Educators provides a much-needed emphasis on Catholic identity and mission. 


Sacramental opportunities are posted outside St. Jude’s chapel on campus, where Mass is offered at least once a month.  Mass is available daily in the chapel of St. Thomas Hospital, which is just a short walk from campus. Adoration is available in Corpus Christi Chapel every day of the week, Confession is available several times a month and there are other devotions, such as the Rosary and Stations of the Cross.  There’s also participation from the College at the March for Life, World Youth Day events, and service gatherings.  Additionally, the College offers inquiry classes to help interested non-Catholics learn more about the Church and her teachings. 


Housing for students is not available. 


Aquinas emphasizes an education that upholds the dignity off the human person, and forms students so that they may grow spiritually, academically and socially.  Formal student life activities are limited, but the College has a Student Activities Board, which offers cultural, social and spiritual events for faculty, staff and students.   

Bottom Line

Aquinas has carved out an important niche in the Bible Belt for the very important and urgently needed work of preparing teachers for faithful Catholic education worldwide. 

The Dominican Sisters provide careful attention and a dynamic spirit that is very attractive to Catholic families looking for a faithful Catholic education. As the College advertises, “A spirit of joy and fidelity to the Church marks [the Sisters’] way of life and permeates the close-knit Catholic college environment of Aquinas.” 

For mature, lay students who live locally or have accommodations in the Nashville area, the College’s education program is a solidly Catholic choice. 

Questions & Answers

Each year, the Newman Society asks the colleges recommended in The Newman Guide to answer the following questions. Below you will find the responses that we received directly from Aquinas College.

Is your institution accredited by at least one regional or national education association?


Please identify each accreditor and indicate whether it is approved by the U.S. Department of Education:

Aquinas College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), a regional accreditor recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, to award associate, baccalaureate, and master’s degrees.

The Aquinas College School of Education has been granted approval by the Tennessee State Board of Education to offer programs of study leading to initial licensure at both the elementary and secondary levels.

Please cite evidence of student or alumni accomplishment, such as graduation rate, graduate school placement, job placement, awards, etc.


Please identify any notable public recognition of your institution’s academic quality in the last three years, such as rankings, awards, etc.


What is the median SAT and ACT of your incoming class? (Note that some colleges may not require one or both scores from all students) 



Additional Academic Quality information, clarification or description (optional)

Aquinas College stands in the Dominican and Catholic traditions of higher education, and its initiatives in the areas of student learning support and academic assessment grow out of these traditions.  The College’s Write Reason Plan aims to improve student writing and logical thinking skills by drawing from the historical foundation of university education, especially the Trivium (which itself originated from the heart of the Church).


Aquinas College developed the Catechist Formation Program in collaboration with the Diocese of Nashville to help pastors, principals, and directors of religious education train prospective catechists in Roman Catholic doctrine. By making available faculty, research, and scholarship prepared in the light of the Magisterium of the Church, the Program offers a systematic and organic formation program based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other catechetical documents of the Roman Catholic Church and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The program is a non-credit program supported by the College in light of its overall mission. Currently, the CFP is offered in the Diocese of Nashville and Knoxville.


The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is an approach or method of faith formation for young children 3-12 years old. It is a systematic method of Catholic faith formation for children which is rooted in the Bible, the Liturgy of the Church, and the educational principles of Maria Montessori. Training sessions are hosted on site at Aquinas College and at other locations during the year and each summer by nationally recognized and certified CGS trainers.


The Diocese of Nashville Catechetical Conference provides on-going formation for diocesan catechists. The Center for Evangelization & Catechesis works in collaboration with the Diocese to host the conference. The goal of the conference is to provide catechists with a solid formation in the teachings of the Catholic Church and to inspire within the catechist a deeper love of Christ.


The Center for Faith & Culture was founded in 2012 to promote and interpret the various cultural offerings that Nashville has to offer as well as to host the long-standing Speaker Series.

The mission of the Aquinas Center for Faith & Culture is to serve as a catalyst for the revival and renewal of Catholic life and culture in the twenty-first century. Its aim is to encourage and promote Catholic literature, art, music and film as a means of evangelizing the modern world through the invigoration of a vibrant Catholic Revival.


The Center for Catholic Education, in conjunction with the Aquinas College School of Education, serves Catholic elementary and secondary schools by providing spiritual and professional formation opportunities. These may be given for faculty and staff members of individual schools or on a diocesan level. Sessions for those engaged in school leadership as well as presentations for parents are also available.

Are more than half of the current members of your faculty practicing Catholics?


Approximately what percentage of your current faculty members are practicing Catholics?


Are members of your faculty officially informed of their responsibility for maintaining and strengthening the Catholic identity of the institution?


Are members of your teaching faculty expected, as a condition of employment, to respect Catholic teaching and comply with Catholic morality in their public actions and statements both on and off campus?


Please identify key undergraduate faculty who are noted experts in their field, have produced important publications, have leadership roles in academic associations, etc. and briefly describe such accomplishments (optional):

Sister Matthew Marie Cummings, O.P. Ed.D., Professor of Education, is nationally recognized and consulted on the integration of technology with education.

Vince Ryan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of History, is co-founder of the Crusades Studies Forum.

Sister Elizabeth Anne Allen, O.P., Assistant Professor of Education; Director of Aquinas College Center for Catholic Education. Dissertation focuses on student perceptions of how Catholic Identity is expressed in their high schools.

Katherine Haynes, PhD, Associate Professor of English, teaches medieval and renaissance literature, including Dante and Shakespeare, and has recently contributed a chapter for the upcoming MLA volume Approaches to Teaching The Divine Comedy.

Sister Mary Madeline Todd, O.P., S.T.D., Assistant Professor of Theology, received her Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome and has presented internationally on moral and spiritual theology. She is a contributor to the books Promise and Challenge and Beautiful Mercy.

Sister Thomas More Stepnowski, O.P., Vice President for Academics and Provost, has written and presented on the formation of the imagination in the Thomistic and Dominican tradition. She is a contributor to the book Reflections on Pope Francis’s Encyclical, Laudato si’

Does the institution have a department of Catholic theology, distinct from “religious studies” and other disciplines?

Aquinas College does not utilize “departments” in its academic organizational system. However, Theology is recognized as distinct from other disciplines.

Are courses in Catholic theology clearly identified and distinguished from other courses dealing with religion?

Yes. Aquinas College does not offer any courses, nor does it have any faculty, in “religion,” “religious studies” or other derivatives.

Does every faculty member in the theological disciplines have the mandatum (or the “canonical mission” for ecclesiastical faculties) approved by the appropriate Church authority, as required by Canon Law?


Do all faculty in the theological disciplines make the Catholic Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity?


Does your institution require that all theology courses be taught in a manner faithful to Scripture, Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium, and also to the principles and methods proper to Catholic theology?


Please identify the theology courses that are included in the undergraduate core or distribution requirements and the professors who routinely teach those courses:

THE 110 Fundamental Theology—Sister Gabriella Yi, OP

THE 121 Introduction to Sacred Scripture—Sister Mary Madeline Todd, OP

THE 210 Moral Theology— Sister Gabriella Yi, OP

Please describe the place of Catholic theology in your institution’s undergraduate curriculum and how it is distinct from other institutions.

The study of Sacred Theology, the crown jewel and unifying discipline of higher education, is central to the Aquinas College student experience. For this reason, each of our bachelor-level degree programs requires a minimum of two courses in Catholic theology, and most of those programs require that one of the theology courses is to be Moral Theology.

Please identify any course that every undergraduate student must take:

There are several core courses that every undergraduate student must take, notably, Moral Theology and Research & Rhetoric.

Please identity the courses that students may choose from in order to satisfy common curriculum distribution requirements:

English: Speech, Research & Rhetoric; Literature (American or English); History: Western Civilization or United States; Philosophy: Logic, Ethics, Philosophy of the Human Person; Theology: Fundamental Theology, Introduction to Sacred Scripture, Moral Theology; Foreign Language: Latin, Spanish; Fine Arts: Music or Art; Math: College Algebra, Statistics; Natural Science: General Biology; Social and Behavioral Sciences: Psychology, Flourishing of the Human Person

How many credits are required for graduation and what percent are from core / distribution courses?

Bachelor degree programs require at least 120 semester hours for graduation. Core requirements vary from 46%-56%, depending on the particular degree program.

Is every undergraduate student required to take one or more courses in which they are taught authentic Catholic doctrine and practice?


If yes, please describe them generally and note how many courses are required?

Depending on the academic program, two or three courses in Theology are required for all Bachelor-level students.

Is every undergraduate student required to take one or more interdisciplinary courses relating theology or philosophy with other disciplines?

Philosophy and Theology are integrated throughout every bachelor-level curriculum.

List the major, minor and special program areas that students may choose for specialization while pursuing an undergraduate degree:

Majors include Theology, Philosophy, English and History.

The School of Education offers the Bachelor of Science degree (major in Interdisciplinary Studies) that prepares its graduates for licensure for teaching in elementary grades. It also offers Bachelor of Science degrees with majors in English and History that prepare its graduates for teaching these subjects at the secondary level.

Minors are available in Theology, Philosophy, English, History and Psychology.

What are the three most popular majors or specialty disciplines for undergraduate students, and about what percentage of undergraduate students specialize in these disciplines?

Currently, the three most popular undergraduate programs of study are from the School of Education: Bachelor of Science, Interdisciplinary Studies (leading to elementary licensure); Bachelor of Science in English (leading to secondary licensure); Bachelor of Science in History (leading to secondary licensure).

Does each undergraduate degree program require Catholic ethical formation related to the student’s major field(s) of study?


Does your institution regularly provide academic events to address theological questions related to specialized disciplines?


Does your institution require cooperation among faculty in different disciplines in teaching, research and other academic activities?


If yes, please describe.

Academic research by faculty members is conducted in an informal and non-compulsory basis at Aquinas College. Where it occurs, cooperation is commonplace, and thus no explicit requirement are necessary. On matters of curriculum review and change, faculty members from each school meet monthly as the Curricular Committee. In this setting, cooperation is necessary as the impacts of curricular decisions for all academic programs are examined. At any time, at least one member of the Curriculum Committee has advanced academic preparation in theology.

Additional Programs of Study information, clarification or description:

Aquinas offers three graduate programs from the School of Education: the Master of Education in Teaching and Learning, the Master of Arts in Teaching, Elementary and the Master of Arts in Teaching, Secondary.

The Aquinas College Office of Catechetics has the Catechist Formation Program (CFP) in conjunction with the Dioceses of Nashville, and Knoxville. This endeavor, while not a credit-bearing program, trains volunteer catechists to serve the catechetical needs of these Dioceses. Recently, the Office of Catechetics launched an online curriculum that could serve dioceses throughout the nation.

In Fall 2013, Aquinas College launched the Center for Catholic Education which trains and supports Catholic educators across the United States.

Does the local bishop (or other competent ecclesiastical authority) select or approve the appointment of your chaplain?

Yes, by approval

Does your institution offer Mass on campus at least on Sundays and other days of obligation?


On average, about what percentage of undergraduate students attend Sunday Mass (including the Saturday vigil Mass) during the academic year? 


Does your institution offer daily Mass to students?


On average, about how many undergraduate students attend daily Mass during the academic year?


Does your institution offer the Extraordinary Form of the Mass to students at least weekly?


Are the altar servers at your institution’s Masses male only or both male and female?


Please list the schedule of Masses, noting the following for each Mass: the day and time, the Form or Rite of the Mass, and the style of music, if any (chant, traditional, contemporary, etc.):

Daily Mass is offered at St. Thomas Hospital, a few minutes walk from Aquinas College

Mass is several times a month in St. Jude Chapel on campus.

Does your institution offer Confession on campus at least weekly?


List the schedule for Confession by day and time:

Confession is offered several times a month

Does your institution offer Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at least weekly?


List the schedule for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament by day and time:

Monday-Friday  8:00 am-9:30 pm

Saturday and Sunday, 8:00 am- 4:00 pm

Please identify regularly scheduled devotions on campus for students such as the Rosary and prayer groups:

Divine Mercy chaplet 3:00, weekdays

Does your institution offer retreat programs available to all Catholic students at least annually?


Please describe any formal programs to foster vocations to the priesthood and religious life:

Sisters from St. Cecilia Congregation attend Aquinas College.

Are you aware of any graduates from your institution (not including seminary students, if any) who are ordained to the priesthood or have entered religious life? Please describe.

Reverend Justin Raines, Diocese of Nashville

Br. Vincent Bernhardt, Dominican novice, St. Joseph Province

Reverend Mr. Anthony Stewart, Diocese of Nashville

Veronica Kitzhaber, Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal

Aquinas College no longer offers residential life.

ASCD (Education) serves students in the School of Education.

Student Activities Board offers cultural, social and spiritual events for faculty, staff and students.

Delta Epsilon Sigma for baccalaureate students in Catholic colleges and universities.

Does your institution require all student clubs and activities, including those listed above, to operate in accord with Catholic teaching?


How does your institution address student clubs and activities that may conflict with Catholic teaching?

New programming, policies or procedures of any student club or organization requires the bylaws to be in accordance with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and follow the policies and procedures in the Student Handbook.

Does your institution require student services like health care, counseling and guidance to conform to Catholic ethical and moral teaching and directives?


Has your institution’s diocesan bishop (or other competent ecclesiastical authority) officially recognized the institution as Catholic?


Do your institution’s governing documents include or reference the General Norms and Particular (United States) Norms of Ex corde Ecclesiae?


Do your institution’s governing documents or institutional policies require conformity to the General Norms and Particular (United States) Norms of Ex corde Ecclesiae?


What is your institution’s mission statement:

Aquinas College is a Catholic community of learning in the Dominican Tradition with Christ at its center. The College directs all its efforts to the intellectual, moral, spiritual, and professional formation of the human person in wisdom. Students are formed individually and in Christian community so that the harmonious integration between faith and reason can permeate every dimension of their lives. Immersed in exploring the relationship between human civilization and the message of salvation, the College community embraces the Dominican imperative to preach the Gospel, serve others, and engage culture in truth and charity.

Does your institution have a written policy regarding speakers and honorees that at a minimum meets the standards established by the United States bishops in “Catholics in Political Life?”


If yes, please give the policy:

Aquinas College employees must secure prior approval of the President for guest speakers, visitors or other persons who may wish to visit the campus. Clergy or speakers on matters of faith and morals must meet the tenets of the faith and cannot hold positions that are publicly dissident.

Describe the makeup of your institution’s undergraduate student body with regard to sex, religion, home state/country and type of high school (public, private, homeschool):

The undergraduate population consists of primarily female students in education programs leading to licensure at either the elementary or secondary level. Most of these students are out-of-state and most are student-Sisters of the St. Cecilia Congregation. 97% of undergraduate students are Catholic.

Are prospective and current members of your institution’s governing board(s) informed of their responsibility for maintaining and strengthening the Catholic identity of your institution?

Yes. The Aquinas College Board of Directors maintains a membership sub-committee whose responsibility is to vet a potential member for, among other criteria, mission compatibility. In fact, the Board of Director by-laws stipulate that Dominican Sisters of S. Cecilia Convent (the owners of the College) represent a significant percentage of Board membership.

Are more than half of the current members of your institution’s governing board(s) practicing Catholics?

Yes. All members of the Aquinas College Board of Directors are Catholic.

Do Catholic members of your institution’s governing board(s) make the Catholic Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity?


Is your institution’s president a practicing Catholic?


Does your institution’s president make the Catholic Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity?


A Message from the President

A message from the president is not currently available.

Visit Campus

Get in touch with Aquinas College to schedule your campus visit:

615-297-7545, ext. 220

4210 Harding Pike
Nashville, Tennessee 37205