Ursuline Academy of Dallas
I will serve
4900 Walnut Hill Lane
Dallas, Texas, (Dallas County), 75229
|Religious affiliation(s)||Roman Catholic|
|President||Gretchen Z. Kane|
|Student to teacher ratio||10:1|
|Hours in school day||~7|
|Campus size||27 acres|
|Color(s)||White and Red|
|Academic Dean||Birgitt Lopez|
|Dean of Students||Kayla Brown|
|Admission Director||Michele Snyder|
|Athletic Director||Michael Jensen|
Ursuline Academy of Dallas (commonly referred to as Ursuline or UA) is a Catholic college preparatory high school for girls located on Walnut Hill Lane, in the area around Preston Hollow in Dallas, Texas, United States. It is a member of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas and was founded in 1874, making it the oldest school in the city of Dallas.
Founded by the Ursuline Sisters under the motto of "Serviam," meaning "I will serve," Latin, Ursuline is a relatively small high school, enrolling a mean of 800 students each year with a 10:1 average student-teacher ratio. Ursuline also shares close ties with its brother school, the Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas.
- School uniforms 1
- Big Sister/Little Sister program 2.1
- Intramurals 2.2
- Powder-Puff 2.3
- Snowball 2.4
- Freshman Convocation, Sophomore Serviam Ceremony, Junior Ring Ceremony 2.5
- Serviam 2.6
- Athletic facilities 3.1
- Soccer 3.2
- Laptop program 4.1
- Wireless access 4.2
- Blackboard 4.3
International affairs 5
- Brazil 5.1
- Chile 5.2
- Peru 5.3
- England 5.4
- China 5.5
- Notable alumnae 6
- Graduation 7
- Accreditations and affiliations 8
- References 9
- External links 10
All students wear saddle shoes with white shoelaces every day. Students are also permitted to wear a navy or red fleece purchased from the school store Bear Necessities each day. On Wednesday, all students can wear a sweatshirt of their choice from either Ursuline, Jesuit, or Cistercian. Wednesdays have to come to be called "Wooly Wednesday." Blazers with the official school crest are worn on days when the school attends Mass or for other important school assemblies.
Appearing on the blazer are school pins, which are given out to all students at Freshman Convocation and the Sophomore Serviam celebration, and also to student members of organizations such as National Honor Society, Ambassadors, and the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.
As the oldest school in the city of Dallas, Ursuline has had over 140 years in which to develop strong traditions in which all members of the community participate at one time or another. Although some have come and gone over the years, some have remained strong since their induction and are still practiced at the school today. They are the main factor contributing to the school's intense pride and the strong community of current students, alumnae, and parents who support Ursuline.
Big Sister/Little Sister program
The incoming Freshman class is paired with a Junior at the beginning of the year. They decorate each other's locker and have a Big Sis/Little Sis picnic on the lawns of St. Joe's, located behind the convent on the east side of campus. The program is intended to give incoming students access to a mentor who can give them much needed advice for navigating such a rigorous school, but students only get out of it what they put into it. Some students become fast friends with their Big Sis, while others remain merely acquaintances. Despite this, the program creates strong ties between the Freshman and Junior classes and the Sophomore and Senior classes, which are most notably seen at Intramurals.
One of the high points of the Ursuline school year is Intramurals, which occur in November during the last week before the Thanksgiving holiday. Each class chooses a theme that is generally a pun using their class name, class year or class color. For example: Seniors of the Caribbean, Martin Luther King JUNIOR, The Adventures of Sophy-Doo, the Green mile, and Bananas. Classes compete in hallway decoration, volleyball games, skit, and spirit, which includes a canned food drive to help local social service agencies. Each class chooses a theme to base their spirit around and is represented by a color:
- Freshmen - Green
- Sophomores - Yellow
- Juniors - Red
- Seniors - Blue/Black
During Intramurals, students compete in a variety of ways:
- The main competition. The score is graded on amount of cans collected in the can drive, amount of cheering and/or class effort during volleyball games, ability to sing the Alma Mater, amount of cheering during hallway decoration, and amount of cheering during lunch periods, etc. Members of each class also wear clothing in their class color with their Ursuline skirt. Points are deducted from the final spirit score of each class for offenses such as unsportsmanlike behavior. Only three classes have won spirit all four years of attending Ursuline. The two most recent being the class of 2006 and the class of 2010.
- Hallway Decoration
- Each grade is given a section of Main Hall to decorate based on their class color and their chosen theme. Creativity, effort and artistic merit are taken into consideration for scoring.
- Volleyball Games
- Each class's volleyball team plays the others'. The winner is determined in the same manner as a typical round robin tournament.
- Each class creates a skit relating to their theme and performs it for the school. The skit must involve all class members and incorporate themes of the other three classes. The skit is graded on audibility, humor, and creativity. Crude or cruel jokes result in disqualification of the class, but are usually disregarded and are more prominent with juniors and seniors. The class of 2010 was the most recent to win skit all four years.
- Each class creates a mural of their theme which incorporates the other classes as well. Artistic merit is the most important factor in this competition. Note: Judges disqualify murals for semantics and technicalities.
From the 2004 games on, Intramurals prizes are awarded to the class which earns the most points per category. The competitions are judged by a panel of faculty and alumnae. Most recently, the class of 2014 won all five categories, resulting in a "Senior Sweep".
Every year in the fall, the school's juniors go head to head with the seniors in a 'friendly' flag football game. Both sides pick a theme while sporting the grade's colors: seniors in blue and juniors in red. The week before the game the rivalry is at its strongest and lines are being drawn. Generally, the game is won by seniors, the only classes to win as juniors were the classes of 2012 and 2013, although the class of 2014 tied. However, the class of 2015 won as juniors and seniors. On the day of the game, players paint their faces and dress in their special Powderpuff shirts. In recent years, the date of the game has been moved to the same day as the Jesuit Homecoming football game, which has received some criticism from the student body. The focus of the game has been shifted from a junior/senior rivalry to "community building," in tandem with the mission of the Academy.
Snowball is the formal dance for Ursuline seniors, held in December before the Christmas Holidays. Because it is sponsored solely by Ursuline, males are only allowed to the dance if they have a date, and, until 2006, students could not attend unless they had acquired a male date. Males are normally asked in creative ways, some of which include writing the question on his car or unveiling a large sign at a school function. Many times multiple people, including his parents, are involved in the asking.
Another unique aspect of Snowball is the selection of queen and court. Unlike typical homecoming celebrations, the queen and court are not selected by a popularity vote; instead, Ursuline uses a unique random selection method. Members of the senior class each receive a cupcake, some of which contain almonds for the court, and one in particular contains a walnut. The recipient of the walnut-filled cupcake is crowned queen, while the court is made up of those who receive the other nutty cupcakes.
Freshman Convocation, Sophomore Serviam Ceremony, Junior Ring Ceremony
These services mark members of each class as members of the Ursuline community. At Freshman Convocation, each student receives a pin of a white cross with a rainbow swooping out to the side. Intended to be worn on her blazer, each pin is handed out during a processional ceremony during a formal Mass held after school. Big Sisters are asked to attend to show their support for their Lil' Sisters.
Sophomore Serviam occurs much later in the school year, also as a formal Mass. One student is selected to give a speech at the ceremony based on her response to a questionnaire handed out and returned to the Campus Ministry Department and her total number of logged service hours. Every student then receives another pin to be worn on her blazer. It is a silver shield with green accents in the shape of the school crest with the word 'Serviam' printed beneath it on a ribbon.
The last formal ceremony of the year is Junior Ring, held in the spring. Students wear red gowns similar to graduation gowns worn by other high schools and colleges. Each girl creates her ring in January using the school's design as a base and adding her own personal touches (i.e., the metal, stone, an interior inscription, etc.). Some students do not purchase rings, opting not to have a class ring or using one which has been passed through the family for years. No matter what, the school makes sure that each girl has a ring to receive at the ceremony, whether or not she will be keeping it. After the Mass, there is a small reception, during which students twist one another's rings in an effort to build up good luck.
Serviam, meaning "I will serve", is a major part of Ursuline life. Girls are required to perform a set number of hours each semester, adding up to a total of 100 hours by graduation. However, most students easily exceed the required number of hours by far. Services hours can be accumulated over all breaks and holidays, including summer vacation between school years, and seniors are set up with local charities, hospitals, and public schools to perform community service on Monday mornings in lieu of classes. During the 2005-2006 school year, students performed over 630,000 hours of service in both local and international communities.
Ursuline Academy offers:
- Cross Country
The Jane Neuhoff Athletic Center, completed in 1996, is used for home volleyball matches/tournaments, basketball games, summer camps and DPL play-off/all-star games for volleyball and basketball.
A softball field is also located on campus, just south of the gym and it is used for home softball games/tournaments, summer camps and DPL play-off games.
Other facilities used by the Athletic Department are at Greenhill (swimming, soccer), the Village (tennis), Jesuit (soccer, lacrosse, track & field), Loews Natatorium (swim/dive, soccer), Bachman Lake (crew), Norbuck Park (cross country) and University of Dallas (lacrosse).
Ursuline Academy's nationally renowned varsity soccer team won 24 consecutive state titles, between 1991 and 2014. The program is typically nationally-ranked. The school, however, did not have a soccer field on campus, but one was recently approved by the city council and added to the campus on October 9, 2014. The program use to rely on outside facilities to conduct practices and host home games.
On February 25, 2011, the Ursuline Academy of Dallas varsity soccer program was featured in a Yahoo! homepage article, debating the legitimacy of the state championship streak.
In 1996, Ursuline joined a program called Anytime, Anywhere Learning. As part of this program, all incoming students purchase a laptop from the school manufactured by Toshiba. Every couple years, the incoming freshmen receive an updated version of the laptop, with the current model being a Fujitsu Stylistic Q702. Currently, any necessary classroom software is included with the laptop, along with a four-year warranty, on-site service, the ability to get a "hot spare" loaner laptop during repairs, and wireless access throughout the school.
The Ursuline campus is fully wireless. Anywhere in the campus, students may access the Internet as well as print to printers located in each class room and in the library. Signal strength, of course, varies, but with the implementation of the 802.11b system in fall 2003, coverage and speed vastly improved.
Blackboard was implemented by the school's technology department as a student and faculty resource in the spring of 2003 on the basis that many colleges and universities utilize it on a daily basis, and as part of her college preparatory education, the Ursuline student should familiarize herself with its intricate and often convoluted inner workings. Many classes now use the built-in digital dropbox and quizzing system in lieu of the more analogue and traditional hard-copies. Some teachers are greening up their classrooms, while others are simply speeding up the grading process. Some clubs and other student organizations use its forum system to communicate and send mass emails.
Ursuline Dallas has partnered with Instituto Nossa Senhora Da Piedade in Ilheus, and recently with Instituto Santa Úrsula in Ribeirão Preto,Brazil.
Ursuline Dallas is partnered with Colegio Santa Ursula Vitacura in Santiago, Chile.
Ursuline Dallas is in a partnership with Colegio Santa Ursula in Lima, Peru
Ursuline Dallas has partnered with Ursuline High School in Wimbledon, England. 
The Ursuline name, known globally, has been brought in a unique way to Beijing, China. In June 1997, Ursuline Academy of Dallas formed a partnership with Huaxia Academy of Beijing, the first private girls school to open in China since the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s. The unique partnership was formalized in a written agreement, the first of its kind between private secondary schools in the U.S. and China. The agreement calls for five steps of educational and cultural exchange:
- Principal visits
- Student communications
- Exchange of curriculum and technology ideas
- Use of technology to expand joint communications
- Teacher and student exchanges
Ursuline Academy has served as a model in the development of Huaxia, providing the pattern for educational features ranging from curriculum and structure to the design of school uniforms. In establishing the partnership, the Huaxia school leadership found Ursuline's long heritage particularly appealing, as well as its emphasis on moral education, academic excellence, and tradition. The exchange has also built friendships and understanding across cultures and continents.
Huaxia Academy was founded in 1996 with just over 100 students. Today the Beijing school has an enrollment of more than 1000 young women.
Exchanges with Huaxia students, teachers and administrators continue at least once a year. During these visits, schools exchange ideas about curriculum, student life, and school management. Members of visiting delegations attend classes, tour historic landmarks, and participate in other activities to learn more about the distinctive culture of the host country. Visiting students reside with host families and students during their stay.
- Melinda French Gates, 1982 Valedictorian, Philanthropist, Businesswoman, Wife of Bill Gates
- Dina Powell, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs
- Becky Wade, 2007, National Champion in the 3000m steeplechase event at the U.S. Junior Outdoor Championship, represented Team U.S.A at the 2008 IAAF World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
Ursuline graduation is the culmination of four years of "spiritual formation and faith development, respect for the uniqueness of the individual, development of the whole person, development of a nurturing community spirit, a commitment to peacemaking, and Serviam (I will serve) as a lived reality" (from the Ursuline mission statement). Each year at the end of May, the young women of Ursuline Academy don their final Ursuline uniform: A long, white dress.
The graduation ceremony is a very formal affair, with Ursuline students performing a deep bow on the front lawn in front of the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The school provides a white, wide-brimmed hat and a dozen red roses for each student. The graduating class is also asked to sing a song of their choosing.
Accreditations and affiliations
Ursuline Academy is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS), and the Texas Catholic Conference Education Department (TCCED).
The Academy is affiliated with Ursuline Education Services (UES), National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), and The College Board, and is a member of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS).
Ursuline's case study was entered into the Smithsonian Institution's Permanent Research Collection on Information Technology and Society in Washington, D.C. The program was also recognized in 2000 as a Selected Program for Improving Catholic Education at the 1999 SPICE Symposium, sponsored by NCEA.
In 1993, Ursuline Academy was designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a "Blue Ribbon School."
- "URSULINE ACADEMY." Handbook of Texas.
- Ursuline Academy 2006-2007 Student Handbook (spiralbound ed.). 2006.
- "Ursuline Academy of Dallas: Academics - Technology". Ursuline Academy Overview. Fall 2008. Retrieved 19 December 2008.
- Ursuline Academy of Dallas Web site
- Ursuline Academy of Dallas from the Handbook of Texas Online