"I think that one of the most gratifying parts of going back to school for me now is that I'm proving to my daughters that anyone can get an education, and teaching them that women should get an education. I think seeing me do school work will make them want to better themselves one day, too."

Newcombe Scholar - 2009
Gwynedd-Mercy College


A Mercy Tradition of Education and Service
- Gwynedd-Mercy College
  April 2010

Founded and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy in 1948, Gwynedd-Mercy College is proud of its tradition of providing a well-rounded, Mercy-based liberal arts education that not only produces prepared, compassionate graduates, but also enhances lives and careers with deep meaning. Located in Gwynedd Valley, PA, approximately ten miles from Philadelphia, the College offers associate, bachelor's and master's degrees and more than forty programs of study. The Newcombe Foundation has supported the College in its efforts to welcome mature women students, offering scholarship funding since 1981. Gwynedd-Mercy College opens its arms to mature women students by offering a unique blend of effective programming, attention to the individual, and a sense of community.

The following is an overview of Gwynedd-Mercy College's program for mature women students from Seán Lavelle, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations.

Founded as a college for women, Gwynedd-Mercy College has been a co-educational institution since 1966 and yet still retains a strong female presence on campus. Women make up approximately 74% of the student population and roughly 60% of the staff and faculty population. In fact, in recent years, Gwynedd-Mercy College has deliberately included more men in their marketing campaigns in an effort to attract a larger cohort of male applicants to the College. Still, the numbers invariably remain roughly the same from year to year. These enrollment trends pose the question: Why does Gwynedd-Mercy College attract and retain so many women from the greater Philadelphia area?

There are a number of responses to that question. First, the College reaches out to the adult learning community by offering flexible and nontraditional opportunities for degree completion. The "Gwynedd After Hours" program, run under the School of Business, is an accelerated degree-granting program. Students in this program are offered the same curriculum as day students, with many of the same dedicated full-time faculty. Students can choose to pursue an associate or bachelor's degree on a full- or part-time basis. "Gwynedd-Mercy College develops a sense of belonging for female students by offering night classes and accelerated programs to busy professionals and working mothers. They understand what a busy life schedule is and they are helpful to ensure their students find a path and succeed," explains Heather Slack '11, a business management major.

Additionally, the College offers a "Nursing Weekend" option for students who currently hold a BA or BS in another field of study. Nursing courses are scheduled for four semesters (fall and spring) on Saturdays and Sundays. Students are required to attend classes and clinicals that run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. The College also operates Center for Lifelong Learning (CLL) campuses in Center City Philadelphia and East Norriton. The CLL campuses, whose mature women student population is approximately 70%, enable working adults to earn associate, bachelor's and master's degrees at an accelerated and flexible pace. To meet growing interest and better serve more area adult students, additional convenient locations are being explored at this time.

Finally, Gwynedd-Mercy College offers an interdisciplinary minor in women's studies, which allows a student to explore women's impact in the world through literature, history, religion, and philosophy. This minor can complement any student's major by providing a broad and thorough perspective on the achievements of women. Beyond these specific programs, Gwynedd-Mercy College is well known in the region for producing some of the area's top teachers and nursing professionals, all fields historically represented by women.

Symantha Hicks, pictured with daughters Laynee (left) and Riley, received scholarships through the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation.

The School of Education has long flourished in a region that desperately needs highly qualified educators with multiple certifications and hands-on experience. Education majors can graduate with a triple certification (early childhood, elementary and special education) equipped with four years of direct classroom experience that begins during their first semester in the program. Gwynedd-Mercy College education graduates go on to teach in districts within the Philadelphia region, and some serve the most impoverished and vulnerable neighborhoods. "I feel that there is a strong sense of support for females at the College, especially in my major of education from both the professors and my peers. Since I also work full-time, I have found that though it is a challenge to manage both work and school, the professors and administrators have been wonderful in helping me to achieve my goals. Everyone who I have encountered while at Gwynedd-Mercy College has inspired me to push myself to do my best and be a strong and successful woman," says Lauren Paul '10, education (triple certification) major.

The Frances M. Maguire School of Nursing at Gwynedd-Mercy College offers ASN, BSN, and MSN degrees and is currently at its enrollment capacity. The School celebrated its 50th anniversary in the fall of 2009, a milestone that was capped off by a $5 million dollar gift from alumna Frances M. Maguire '55 that will be used to endow the nursing program and continue to support nursing students and faculty for generations to come. With more than 7,000 nursing alumni, there is a strong likelihood that any nurse one might encounter in the Philadelphia area is a graduate of Gwynedd-Mercy College.

Besides the academic benefits available to mature women students at Gwynedd-Mercy College, there are a number of initiatives on campus that offer a richer, personal experience for this student population. An event such as the "Fairy Godmother's Prom Dress Drive" each February allows female students to help underprivileged high school girls in the community attend their prom by donating a lightly used formal dress. The "Take Back The Night" event each April allows female students to raise awareness of sexual violence against women by participating in a candlelight vigil procession and by listening to survivors' stories of abuse. The Counseling Center at Gwynedd-Mercy College has also recently initiated support groups for women dealing with difficult issues such as grief or cancer.

Gwynedd-Mercy College students often note a "sense of belonging" when they refer to their time immersed in the campus culture. Perhaps it is the campus' tight knit community, the small student to faculty ratio, the curriculum imbued with Mercy values, the financial support specifically made available to ambitious female students, or perhaps it's the fact that Gwynedd-Mercy College's greatest areas of strength coincide with professional fields most often occupied by women. All of these characteristics have long benefited a dedicated female student population and have likely resulted in high enrollment figures and retention rates. Continuing this atmosphere of belonging among current and prospective female students is an important goal for Gwynedd-Mercy College, encouraging students to pursue their academic dreams at a Mercy institution long committed to nurturing human potential through a values-based education.

For more information about Gwynedd-Mercy College, visit their web site www.gmc.edu.

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