New Students Add Diversity, Individualism to Mary Baldwin Community

September 6, 2006

One has a gospel music recording contract. A pair were valedictorian and salutatorian at the same high school. There are two sets of twins. One is the daughter of an American diplomat to Bulgaria. Three are natives of Jamaica. These and nearly 290 more life stories arrived with the students in Mary Baldwin University’s entering class of 2006.

PICTURE DESCRIPTIONMary Baldwin opened its 165th year this fall with an Orientation that introduced about 300 new students in the Residential College for Women to the 10 innovative concepts of the Mary Baldwin University Advantage. Prelminary figures – numbers are not final until the end of the add/drop period – show the college’s total enrollment, including traditional, adult, and master’s degree students, at more than 2,200.

What is the significance of the number 1,485 at Mary Baldwin? It is the number of applications for admission received this year, and it is the highest ever on record. More applications allow the college to be more selective in choosing students to admit who are the best fit for Mary Baldwin. Of those, about 300 new freshmen and transfer students arrived on campus recently, demonstrating another success — an increase of close to 30 students over last year’s entering class.

Creating a new series of materials and strategies that presented a message unified by graphics style and content went a long way toward recruiting new students, said Lisa Branson, executive director of admissions and financial aid. “More than other years, these students are able to articulate why they are here at Mary Baldwin, rather than being vague or brushing the question off with ‘I don’t know,’” she said.

PICTURE DESCRIPTIONApproximately 55 entering students in the Residential College for Women this year — an increase of more than 30 percent over last year — transferred from other colleges. They bring to the college a wide range of experiences and skills, and their admission points to a growing trend in the Commonwealth: enrolling at a private college after obtaining an associate’s degree from a community college. Mary Baldwin now has articulation agreements — which guarantee students full transfer of credits — with 10 Virginia community colleges. One of the college’s goals is to secure agreements with all 23 Virginia community colleges, encouraging even more transfer student enrollment.

Articulation agreements are also a way to encourage enrollment in Mary Baldwin’s Baldwin Online and Adult Programs, which welcomed 120 new undergraduate and 43 special degree-seeking students for a total of 1,196. Students in the program also attend classes in Charlottesville, Richmond, Roanoke, South Boston, and Weyers Cave, or online to complete undergraduate studies, postgraduate teacher licensure, or certificate programs.

The Master of Arts in Teaching program welcomed 37 new students for a total enrollment of 156. MAT maintained its enrollment, having surpassed its 10-year growth goal of 25 percent last year in a single year. The MAT, attracting both recent college graduates seeking initial licensure and seasoned educators, is offered at the main Mary Baldwin campus and at regional centers in Roanoke, Charlottesville, and Richomond.

Enrollment is steady in Mary Baldwin’s highly selective master’s program in Shakespeare studies (MLitt/MFA), offered in partnership with the American Shakespeare Center. The program’s 50 students — program coordinators say the optimum number of students in the program is about 50 — include 14 newcomers in the master of letters and 11 who will continue on to pursue a master of fine arts. Several people, including Mary Baldwin’s Fulbright teaching assistant Sahar Saba, are not enrolled as full-time students in the program, but will take advantage of selected classes.

PICTURE DESCRIPTIONThe college’s signature programs continue to be strong, too. The Program for the Exceptionally Gifted (PEG), which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, has 25 new students for a total of 75 in the program. Each PEG student bypasses all or most of high school to become a full-time residential student at Mary Baldwin. The Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL) numbers 108 this year with the addition of 34 nULLS, or first-year VWIL students. They join the ranks of the country’s only all-female corps of cadets.

This article was originally published inThe Cupola,Mary Baldwin University’s newspaper produced by the Office of Communication, Marketing, and Public Affairs.