President's Blog

Posted on 9/4/2013
Huffington Post

Distance Education: Four Things To Look For In An Online Program

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is a pioneer in distance education and has delivered quality distance programs for over 40 years. During that time, the delivery of instruction has evolved and much has been learned about the needs of students learning in non-traditional settings. Advances in technology have enabled greater opportunities for student engagement with professors, peer students and content.

As the second oldest distance education program in the nation, our college developed its programming alongside traditional campus classes, instilling our values and setting high standards for both types of students.  Over the past decade, the field of distance education has exploded with many other colleges and universities adding distance programs in concert with their traditional offerings. Other educational enterprises have opened their doors with online programming as their only mode of education. Today, students have so many opportunities and choices for online education. Here are four things to consider when making your choice.

  1. Decide your major. This should be the first filter in making a decision. This research should be combined with information about a school’s academic reputation. The institution should be regionally accredited to guarantee that courses will transfer and that the degrees earned will be recognized by all other institutions of higher education. Other important considerations are graduation rates, internship opportunities, placement rates and support for technology.
  2. Be sure there is involvement from regular, full-time faculty.  The commitment of full-time faculty adds authenticity and integrity to your degree while also improving your satisfaction and success. Knowing how the curriculum in the online program is developed and assessed will help you make an informed choice about programs. Ideally, faculty who design and deliver courses for online programs are well-connected with the institution, are dedicated to its mission and teach in its traditional formats. Heavy reliance on adjunct faculty, who deliver courses designed by others, creates a disconnect in the teaching and learning process. The availability of services that support student learning such as virtual office hours, online tutoring and help desk support is vital to ensuring student success in online programs.
  3. Examine policies and practices. Take a good look at policies, particularly those, which demonstrate the commitment of the institution to the success of its online students. Flexibility and understanding about the circumstances of life that arise and policies that demonstrate this understanding are critical! What happens when you need to interrupt your studies to attend to a sick child?  
  4. Seek colleges and universities that actively encourage involvement. Engaging online students in important traditions, ceremonies and celebrations enriches your overall educational experience. Nothing better demonstrates the importance of online students to the mission and future of an institution than including them in the events that make up its fabric and tell its story! At Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, our online students participate in our long-standing Ring Ceremony, and receive their black onyx class ring alongside our traditional students. And, I can tell you that receiving that ring for them is just as meaningful as it is for those students who lived on campus for four years.

Posted on 8/1/2013
Huffington Post

Top Five Reasons to Choose a Women's College

Is a women's college relevant to the educational, social and leadership needs of today's woman? The answer is yes!

As president of the oldest Catholic women's college in the nation, I am constantly witnessing the difference that single-gender education is making in the lives of women on my campus and at the 46 other women's colleges throughout the United States. 

And, in my ten years of teaching women’s programs, I have found that not only is a women's college relevant; it is a game-changer for the students who choose it over other co-educational institutions--changing their lives and giving them a voice. I often tell parents and prospective students that although not a women's college graduate myself, after working in both co-ed and single gender mathematics classrooms throughout my career, I have witnessed the difference in my own students and have come to be a huge proponent for women's colleges today.

So, I encourage students looking for colleges to give serious consideration to women's colleges. The benefits to single-gender education are huge, and should be considered for the following five reasons:

#1: Women find their voice. ¹
Studies show that women are better learners when they are in a single-gender environment. ¹ A woman is twice as likely to ask questions, speak up and participate more when she is in a class of other female students, which means she learns more because the long-standing barriers for women are lifted. This is especially true in fields where women are under-represented such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

#2: Women get involved. 
Students are more likely to get involved both academically and socially through activities such as student government and other leadership activities at a women's college than they are at a co-educational institution.¹ Women's colleges are also strong supporters of diversity issues, and most women find a campus environment that is inclusive and encouraging of diversity. 

#3: Women’s colleges prove value over time. ¹
Women at women’s colleges are more likely to graduate in four years, more likely to pursue an advanced degree and aspire higher in their career decisions than their counterparts at co-educational institutions. Over time, these women often earn more than women at co-ed institutions. Women's colleges overall have higher academic achievement standards and more personal attention, allowing students to thrive as well as participate in higher level thinking activities. In general, women's college graduates are confident, articulate a high achiever in the workforce and well prepared for a career change or advancement.

#4: Women are fierce friends. 
Students at women's colleges build strong, life-long relationships during their undergraduate years. ¹ A women's college can seem like a big sorority--with women leading women through rich social activities and honored traditions that stand the test of time, such as Ring Day and Big Sis-Little Sis here at The Woods. Annual Reunions are a highlight for women’s college graduates, as alumnae remain closely connected to their alma maters. These relationships provide much more than social value… they provide a network of relationships that facilitate personal and career support and strengthen their desire to help their communities for a lifetime.

#5: Where there are women, there will be men. 
Most people believe that choosing a single-gender college will mean that they will never have the chance to see, talk to or interact with students from co-educational experiences, especially men. Not true. Many women's colleges are located near other colleges and universities and have, over decades, forged strong relationships with those institutions where they offer co-educational activities both academically and socially between the students. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College hosts a number of events that are co-ed. Just because it is a women's college doesn't mean that men aren't on campus... believe me, they are on campus--often!

 ¹ Women’s College Coalition – Hardwick Day Comparative Alumnae Study March 9, 2012. http://www.womenscolleges.org/files/news/2012HardwickDayComparativeAlumnaeStudyAToolkitforUsingtheFindingstoTellYourStory.pdf