New Programs Open Doors to New Opportunities

August 2, 2016

In fall 2017, Mary Baldwin University will debut four new residential cohorts, academically focused living-learning programs designed to appeal to goal-oriented students and to cultivate long-term student success by integrating meaningful experiences in and out of the classroom.

Mary Baldwin College Dining hall, Friday May 6, 2016. (Photo by Norm Shafer).
Mary Baldwin College. (Photo by Norm Shafer).

This fall, Mary Baldwin is piloting the idea with two fast-track programs in health sciences and education, and will roll out the four new cohorts fully next year: Murphy Deming Scholars Program in health sciences, Education Leaders, Young Women Entrepreneurs, and Shakespeare and Performing Arts. The concept is to leverage the institution’s existing strengths in leadership development — think: Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership — and integration of rich experiential opportunities, like internships, volunteer work, and studying abroad.

“These new focused academic opportunities will appeal to strong students who are ambitious and know what they want to get out of college,” said Lois Williams, vice president of enrollment management. “It’s exciting because the cohorts are built on our institutional strengths, and we believe they will both shape our future academic profile and make a real difference in outcomes for graduates.”

Essential to each new program will be a residential component, a compelling focus on life after college, an accelerated path to a degree, experiential learning opportunities, professional networking, and special advising.

Mary Baldwin College professor Rick Plant teaching American Women's Autobiography, Friday May 6, 2016. (Photo by Norm Shafer).
Mary Baldwin College professor Rick Plant teaching American Women’s Autobiography. (Photo by Norm Shafer).

The Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership, which just celebrated its 20th anniversary, is an example of a successful cohort program at Mary Baldwin with a focus on preparing cadets for life in both military and civilian career paths. VWIL offers an advanced leadership certificate and extensive co-curriculum including opportunities for community service, networking with alumnae and other military and civilian leaders, participation in the cadet corps, physical training, and faculty and staff advisors.

The new programs differ from the Mary Baldwin’s existing Leadership Gateways for incoming freshmen, which are designed to help students make the leap from high school to college success through support, connection, and direction. The new cohorts are an integrated approach to the entire college experience designed to help students get what they need out of college and position them well for their next step, whether that is graduate school or a career.

The new opportunities dovetail with Mary Baldwin’s mission and place in the higher education market as a small university, which is more complex than traditional four-year colleges and offers a wider range of programs, but remains small and personal. Institutional leaders hope that the transition to Mary Baldwin University, which becomes official on August 31, will help signal to prospective students and the broader public that Mary Baldwin continues to evolve to be responsive to the changing needs of families and the community. The transition coincides with another exciting milestone for Mary Baldwin: its 175th anniversary in 2016–17.

“This is the first example of new ways that we will showcase our value as a distinctive small university of the 21st century. We are nimble and are creating innovative ways to respond to student interest and societal needs,” said Mary Baldwin President Pamela Fox. “Central to our mission is to be responsive to needs of today’s students, who will benefit from the intentional focus; from the integration of rich outside-the-classroom learning, networking, and connection with practicing professionals; from the liberal arts general education core of the undergraduate curriculum; and from having faculty and staff mentors.

“These programs are another way that Mary Baldwin is responding to issues that families across the nation are facing, including the cost of college. These are designed to be fast tracks to degrees; if students complete degrees in shorter time frame, college cost is reduced while value is enriched, and the pathway to advanced study or career is very clear.”