Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 31, 2004
St. Mary's College now gives degrees
New designation makes it a university college
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Students at St. Mary's College will no longer have to transfer to other universities to complete their degrees.
That's because the Alberta government has designated St. Mary's a university college, which gives it the right to offer degrees in several areas.
Alberta Minister of Learning Lyle Oberg announced the designation in early May.
The formal change in name to St. Mary's University College will take place June 16, after official notification is published in the Alberta Gazette.
"This is very exciting," said college president Terrence Downey. "We are making history."
Students have choices
Over the past seven years, St. Mary's has built a successful university transfer program in which students complete up to two years of study at the college before finishing degree programs at other postsecondary institution. Now they will have the option to complete their degrees right at the college.
"We were never able to give degrees until this notice (from the provincial government) came through last week," Downey said May 20.
"All the other Catholic colleges in the country (except for St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., and St. Thomas University in Fredericton) give degrees through other institutions and so in that sense we are the only ones in Western Canada and the only ones west of the Maritimes to give our own degrees."
Beginning in September, St. Mary's will offer three degrees: a three-year bachelor degree with a concentration in general studies, a three-year degree with a concentration in English and a four-year degree with a major in English.
Each of the new degree programs requires a demanding range of courses in both liberal arts and the natural sciences, as well as mandatory courses in ethics and theology.
St. Mary's had been lobbying the province for university college status for years "because there is a very strong demand in this city for undergraduate BAs at a Catholic institution," Downey said.
He said St. Mary's is planning to add several degree programs in the future, including a bachelor of education degree within the next five years to train teachers to teach in the Catholic school system. The college currently offers post-degree professional courses for teachers.
"We are (also) planning to offer degrees in psychology, history, and sociology - one in all the disciplines as we continue to grow," Downey said. "We will keep adding them as we go."
The transfer program, which offers university-level courses in 27 different disciplines, will continue in conjunction with the independent degree programs. Courses in this program include history, math, science, English, computer science, human kinetics, political sciences, economics, philosophy, psychology, sociology and theology.
St. Mary's offers the same quality education as other Alberta universities with a few obvious advantages, including smaller classrooms, individual attention and an emphasis on spiritual development, Downey said.
"All of our students aren't Catholic but they appreciate being in an institution that attends to their spiritual development as well as their academic development."
St. Mary's had only 25 students when it first opened its doors to full-time students in 1997. It now has 450 and expects to have 550 in September.
"We are starting to run out of room," Downey said. "(But) we are developing facilities as we go."
He said several buildings on the college campus can be renovated if needed.