On a recent sunny afternoon, the Maryville University community gathered on campus in front of Donius University Center for commencement. It was not only a celebration of the graduating class, but of the exciting path the school is on, as well. “The word is getting out about Maryville, and we’re very thrilled about how much more buzz there is about the university in St. Louis and around the country than ever before,” says president Mark Lombardi.
That buzz may stem from the national recognition Maryville has garnered in the past year. For the first time, U.S. News & World Report moved the West County institution into the national universities category, with a ranking on its Best Colleges 2012 list. It is a prestigious honor that Maryville now shares with Washington University and Saint Louis University. “The ranking shows that other institutions are watching what you’re doing and recognizing that you’re providing a high-quality educational product,” Lombardi notes.
Maryville’s reputation has grown, in part, due to efforts carried out through a strategic plan developed in 2007 after Lombardi became president. The plan has several goals in mind, including enhancing existing majors while developing new ones, updating facilities and greatly improving technology, Lombardi explains. “It’s designed to take us from a strong metropolitan institution, to the next great university in St. Louis—a mid-sized private university with a comprehensive set of programs both at the undergrad and graduate levels.”
With 10 new buildings in the past 13 years, Maryville has paid special attention to the quality of its facilities to enhance its 50 undergraduate, 10 graduate and four doctoral programs. Gander Hall revealed a new full-service dining hall in 2011, the science labs are currently undergoing state-of-theart renovations, and the university will break ground next year on Earl E. and Myrtle E. Walker Hall, a new health professions building. In addition, a new residence hall opened in 2010, with plans for more student housing in the near future, helping to augment the ‘Live Maryville’ experience. “Our students and alums love the sense of community the university provides, so everything we do with building and growth is centered about strengthening that community,” Lombardi notes.
The focus on community has paid off: Enrollment for fall 2011 was 3,900, and the institution expects the number to surpass 4,000 for the first time this coming fall. While Maryville recruited freshman from just four states in 2001, that number jumped to 21 states by 2011, with the university also attracting more international students. “It has helped us bring a more diverse student population—in terms of perspective, attitude and experience—to campus, and that enriches the entire educational process,” Lombardi says.
The diversity does not end with students’ hometowns. About half of Maryville’s students are traditional undergrads while the other half is made up of graduate, weekend, evening and online scholars. The new School for Adult and Online Education, reorganized from the weekend and evening college, allows even more people to receive a Maryville education. For example, a new online nursing program was just launched with 97 students, far beyond the initial expectations of 30 enrollees. “We’re in an era now where some adults have to go back and learn new careers, so I think it’s a moral and ethical imperative for universities to provide adult and online programs so they can receive that education,” Lombardi says.
And with the growing cost of higher education, the university has taken strides to examine its internal efficiencies and organizational structure in order to keep tuition and fee increases low. In 2012, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and Forbes each named the school a great value for higher education.
The long history of Maryville has helped to build its reputation through the years. Founded in 1872 by the Religious of the Sacred Heart, the now-secular university marked 50 years on its 130-acre West County campus in 2011, and Lombardi looks to honor that tradition as Maryville moves forward into the future. “This has always been a very strong university. Our plans are ambitious, but we’re building on a solid foundation.”