06/07/2012 | Wendy Schweitzer Director of marketing, University of Mary
In 1959, the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery founded Mary College in Bismarck, N.D., with the mission of serving the people of the region. Accreditation was granted by The Higher Learning Commission, a Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, in 1969 and has been held continuously.
The college began offering master’s degrees in 1986 and changed its name to University of Mary. Nine years later, the university started offering programs online, and today the University of Mary serves over 3,100 students in Bismarck; communities throughout North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Kansas, Missouri and Arizona; and across the globe.
The University of Mary is Christian, Catholic and Benedictine. Open and welcoming to those of all faiths, everything from advising to curriculum is rooted in the Benedictine values of community, hospitality, service, moderation, respect for persons, and prayer. These values are also embodied in the concept of “servant-leadership.”
“It’s not only our Benedictine values that set us apart from other universities, it’s how we live out those values,” explains Brenda Kaspari, vice president for enrollment services at U-Mary. “As ‘America’s Leadership University,’ we know that each student has the potential to be a leader and we encourage our students to use that leadership in a way that serves others. Many of our students who are in the military find it particularly appealing that our values and mission reflect those found in all branches of service.”
Accelerated Programs for Adult Students’ Needs
Since its beginning, U-Mary has made serving adults a priority. With that experience comes a keen understanding of the unique needs of adult learners in terms of time commitment, class structure and approach. Classes are typically five to seven weeks in length, allowing students to earn some degrees in as few as 15 months. Programs are structured in a “cohort” format, in which students learn from each other and earn their degree with a group of adult student peers. Ethical servant leadership is at the core of every degree program.
With their flexibility and attention to individual needs and goals, U-Mary’s online degrees are well suited to military and civilian careers. Five bachelor’s programs are available:
- Business with concentrations in accounting, human resources, management and marketing
- Information Technology Management
- Organizational Leadership
Master’s programs include:
- MBA with concentrations in accountancy, energy management, executive, health care, human resource management and management
- Nursing with concentrations in nurse administrator and nurse educator
- Project Management
- Strategic Leadership
The university has gained extensive experience in helping students earn their degree while serving their country, particularly in the past decade as North Dakota has seen a large number of its military personnel deployed and through its MBA program offered on-post at Fort Riley, Kan. Processes have been developed within the school that provide comprehensive, ongoing support relative to deployment or temporary duty assignments.
“I enrolled at the University of Mary while deployed to Kosovo in support of peacekeeping operations and could not have asked for more out of a university,” says North Dakota Army National Guard 1LT Jarrod Simek, a student in the Master of Science in Strategic Leadership program. “The staff, professors and my peers were more than accommodating and were willing to work with my challenging schedule.”
The University of Mary programs have been designed for adult learners whose life responsibilities often require changes in schedule. For military personnel this means that the university can accommodate transfers between duty stations and deployment. On-site students can move to the online delivery system upon deployment. Online students can work toward their degree from anywhere Internet access is available. If deployment necessitates discontinuing the program, a student can withdraw without penalty and re-enter at a later date.
At the University of Mary, an academic advisor is immediately assigned to each student upon enrollment. Assistance with questions and guidance concerning programs of study, planning, policies, procedures, course registration, and completion of degree requirements are available from day one. Advisors can be contacted by telephone, e-mail and fax throughout the course of study and work closely with faculty to identify and reconcile issues specifically related to military service.
Faculty, many of whom are leaders in their specialty and hold master’s or doctoral degrees, are likewise available to monitor student progress, provide content assistance and address questions. The advisor-faculty team partners with each student to promote consistent communication, academic support and — most importantly — academic success.
In addition, there is a VA certifying official that works with students to insure that the correct forms are completed and all questions are answered in a timely manner, and technical assistance is available for any issues students may encounter during online courses.
Graduate Scholarships and
the Yellow Ribbon Program
U-Mary offers graduate studies scholarships to military personnel eligible for tuition assistance through their branch of service. And, since the Yellow Ribbon Education Enhancement Program took effect, U-Mary has provided an increased undergraduate and graduate tuition benefit to military veterans and service members that meet Veterans Administration qualifications. Through the program, U-Mary offers unlimited enrollment in both its undergraduate and graduate programs in order to serve all veterans who want to receive an education based on Christian, Catholic and Benedictine values.
“For many years, the University of Mary has offered graduate study scholarships to active duty military and National Guard students, but through the Yellow Ribbon Program a U-Mary education is affordable to even more military students,” notes Kaspari. “Enabling these men and women to earn their degree for free is one small way we can thank them for their service.”
A Military Friendly School
All of these things combine to make the University of Mary a “military friendly” school, with recognition including ranking among the 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 Military Advanced Education Top Military Friendly Colleges and Universities; the 2008 North Dakota Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Above and Beyond Award; and G.I. Jobs Military Friendly School status for 2010, 2011 and 2012.