‘There Remains a Place for Women’s Colleges’

To the Editor:

As president of a university that includes Maryland’s only remaining women’s college, I appreciate the complex forces underlying the decision of the Wilson College board of trustees to admit men to their undergraduate programs (“Seeking Enrollment Boost, Wilson College Will Admit Men,The Chronicle, January 13). While I cannot judge the factors distinct to Wilson that led its board to this choice, I do want to assert that there remains a place for women’s colleges in higher education. Their relevance in our dynamic global society is significant. So perhaps the more interesting story is how the strong women’s colleges have sustained their unique identities and roles in educating women as leaders through the use of innovative strategies and curriculum redesign (“Women’s Colleges Try New Strategies for Success,The Chronicle, September 11, 2011). The path we have chosen at Notre Dame of Maryland University constitutes one model among many for other institutions that seek to preserve their cherished and distinctive mission.

Over the past three decades we have expanded our offerings in our areas of traditional strength—education, healthcare, and leadership—while maintaining our flagship Women’s College as a full-time, single-gender program. While new graduate and part-time programs are co-educational, they remain tightly focused on facilitating the development of women leaders. Our School of Education, which reflects the heritage of our founding congregation, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, is the top private provider of teachers in the state and offers a doctorate in Instructional Leadership for Changing Populations. Our School of Pharmacy, the first to be established at a women’s institution, will soon graduate its first class of Pharm.D. professionals. Unique to their training is a special focus on the needs of women, both as patients and health care decision-makers for their families. Our School of Nursing trains cohorts from the region’s top hospitals to become compassionate providers of care. Our graduate leadership in management program focuses on developing a new generation of forward-looking and ethical corporate and non-profit professionals.

Today Notre Dame of Maryland University is purposeful in its mission to remain a women’s institution, with the Women’s College our full-time, single-gender undergraduate program, and women comprising 80 percent of our total enrollment in all undergraduate and graduate programs. We will not waiver in our belief in the value of single-sex education for young women, because we know that women’s colleges produce confident, capable leaders at disproportionate levels. Our solution to the challenges of preserving our mission may not be right for all, but it is working, and it enables us to continue to welcome women who seek the many benefits of studying at an institution dedicated to their success.

James F. Conneely
Notre Dame of Maryland University

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