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Creating a Higher Education Legacy in Monterey

Updated on September 18, 2019
Dean Traylor profile image

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects including education and creative writing.

Naval Postgraduate's Hermmann Hall. One major educational/military institution in Monterey.
Naval Postgraduate's Hermmann Hall. One major educational/military institution in Monterey. | Source

Very few small towns have a college. Monterey boasts a few

Picturesque Monterey, California is not known as a college town. Instead, its recent fame was that of being the old stomping grounds of John Steinbeck, and the current location of a world-class marine aquarium.

Still, the small seaside city is located in a region where several top-notch colleges are within hours drive north. On top of that, there are at least a few satellite campuses and a new public university within or just outside its borders.

These are not your typical colleges, ether. One is a west-coast campus for a prestigious east-coast liberal arts college. Another is the post-graduate school for the U.S. military.

In addition, a fully equipped and enclosed public university recently opened on the grounds of a former military base. With these campuses, the former location of a major fishing cannery industry, is quickly transforming itself into a destination for those seeking a higher education.

A Brief History of Monterey

Located 100 miles south of San Francisco and a few miles north of Big Sur, Monterey has played an important part in California’s history. It started as a Spanish military and administrative center in 1602 and later became a sleepy Mexican town in mid 1800s. In 1846, it became the site in which Mexico handed California to the United States. Also, in 1846, it became the first state capital of the Golden State before Sacramento became its permanent capital.

The town’s importance as a political power may have dissipated; however, this town knew how to reinvent itself. In the late 19th and early 20th century, it became known as a major fish cannery center. This was helped mainly by its location to San Francisco (100 miles north), and proximity to the major fishery of Monterey Bay.

A history of Monterey cannot be complete without mentioning its contribution to literature. A local legend, John Steinbeck, drew much of his inspiration from Monterey; in particular, districts such as Cannery Row became the backdrop for his stories.

These days, the town has a population of over 27,000. But, it is also a major tourist destination. In addition to Cannery Row historical district and Old Fisherman’s Warf, it boast the world renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The aquarium, along with the bay, attracts oceanographers and biologists as well as tourists. And, it can be argued, is possibly the reason Monterey is starting to become an intellectual center.

Also, from its days under Spanish rules to the present, Monterey has had some form of military presence within it vicinity. Although Fort Ord, a major army base, has been closed down, military schools have become the reason that Monterey is still an important town for the armed forces. It too is the reason that Monterey’s academic transformation is taking place.

Monterey Bay Aquarium
Monterey Bay Aquarium | Source

The Closest Thing to an Ivy League Education

To view Monterey’s growth as an educational center, one must consider its surroundings. In addition to that, one must look at the quality of schools within 100 miles of its borders. When looking this broad range, some significant schools come into view. It’s also an indication that the town is not far from some of the country’s most elite universities not named as the traditional “Ivy League.”

More than 100 miles up the coast is Stanford University in Palo Alto and several campuses of the University of California school system. Stanford has been nicknamed the “Ivy League” of the West or one of the “Hidden Ivies”. In numerous polls throughout the country, Stanford ranks as one of the most selective and prestigious universities in the country. Some polls have the school ranked at or above the eight Ivy League schools.

It’s no accident that Stanford is often placed in the same company as the East Coast institutions. Harvard, Yale, and Princeton served as models for higher learning when the school was founded in the last 1800s.

The other significant school is University of California in Berkeley. It is the flagship of the UC system – a set of highly regarded research-oriented institutions that have been touted as being some of the best public universities in the country. Also, in comparison with all national universities (public and private), it has been ranked within the top 20 or 30 in polls conducted by U.S News and World Report and other media groups.

Berkeley is often referred to as “Public Ivy”: a term given to elite public universities. As a research institution, Berkeley has distinguished itself in several academic areas including science, engineering, education, business, and law.

There are two other UC schools of interests nearby. UC San Francisco is known as a top medical institution. Twenty-six miles north of the Monterey Bay area is UC Santa Cruz.

UCSC is unique. This particular institution resides within a coastal forest, and has a non-traditional grading system. Instead of A’s or B’s, students are given write-ups by the professors (however, at the time of this writing, the traditional grades were given as options). Most importantly, it contains several highly regarded academic programs. As a side note: Richard Moll, the man who coined the term Public Ivy was an admissions officer for UC Santa Cruz.

So what about the schools within or just outside Monterey’s city border? They’re just as impressive. However, they are not as well known as the ones to the north of the town. They can also be divided into at least two sections: military or language institutions.


Military and Education

As mentioned, the military played a vital role in Monterey’s educational offerings. Cal State Monterey Bay, the newest public university in the state resides on the former grounds of Fort Ord.

Additionally, the city is home to the prestigious Naval Postgraduate School. Established in 1909 at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, the postgraduate school for the military academy moved west in 1942 to the former site of Hotel Del Monte in the heart of the city.

Since that time, the institution has allowed military cadets and officers in all branches of the military to pursue graduate and doctoral degrees in various programs such as engineering and business administration. The school is also open to civilian employees of the government, a limited number of Department of Defense employees, and military officials from other countries.

Naval Postgraduate Institute is not the only military institute in Monterey. The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) operates out of the Presidio of Monterey. The institute offers foreign language instruction to active military personals (all services) selected Department of Defense employees, civilians in government jobs and various law enforcement agencies. DLIFLC is considered by many as being one of best foreign language program in the country. It offers lessons in more than 15 languages

“Language Capital of the World”

DLIFLC can be easily placed in two categories that define higher education in Monterey. While it is primarily a military institute, it is also a “language” institute. DLIFLC is not the only language learning institution in town, either.

The east coast liberal arts institution, Middlebury College, has been designated as a member of the “little Ivy” group (elite liberal arts colleges and universities). It also has a satellite campus in Monterey.

According to its website, Middlebury College’s The Monterey Institute of International Studies offers “professional graduate degrees with an international focus.” There are 15 programs offered, which includes business, international education, trade, and terrorism studies. Most importantly, it offers foreign language programs that are considered some of the best in the country.

The Monterey Institute, as well as DLIFLC, has helped to give Monterey a reputation of being the “Language Capital of the World.”

Creating a Legacy

Monterey and its surrounding communities are home to several institutions of higher learning. In addition to the institutes mentioned, one of California’s 110 community colleges, Monterey Peninsula College is located in the coastal town.

The city has been the center of many things in California. In this latest inception, Monterey looks to become an academic leader in the country, as well as in the state.

Extra: The Ivy Schools

Throughout this article, schools were classified in various ways. This includes the premiere colleges (some within or near Monterey). Here are some of the classifications and brief explanation behind them.

  • Ivy League - the traditional elite universities located in Northeast United States (Brown, Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Cornell, Penn, Columbia, Princeton)
  • Hidden Ivies - schools considered to be elite but not mentioned as part of the Ivy League (most west coast schools)
  • Public Ivy - Elite public universities
  • Hidden Ivy - Elite liberal arts colleges and universities.

Cal State Monterey Bay
Cal State Monterey Bay

Summary: Institutions in or near Monterey

A recap of schools of higher learning in or near Monterey

  • Cal State Monterey Bay
  • Naval Post Graduate School
  • The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center
  • The Monterey Institute of International Studies (Middlebury College)
  • Monterey Peninsula College (community college)

© 2014 Dean Traylor


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