Stevenson University

Posted on May 1, 2016

Supporting Adult Students through Personalized Guidance

Located twelve miles from downtown Baltimore, Stevenson University was funded through the Newcombe Foundation’s Scholarships for Mature Students program beginning in 2015-16. Through this partnership, scholarships for part-time non-traditional students will be available for the first time, expanding Stevenson’s commitment to providing adults with “high-quality, career-relevant degree programs.”

Impressed by the quality and diversity of Stevenson students, the Newcombe Foundation celebrates the achievements of Stevenson’s welcoming and supportive programs for adult students and is pleased to welcome the institution into the family of Newcombe-funded institutions.

Stevenson University, formerly Villa Julie College, has continually evolved to meet the needs of students, gradually expanding both our physical presence and academic offerings. We have grown from a two-year all-women Junior College to the third-largest independent university in the state of Maryland with more than 4,100 students pursuing bachelor’s, master’s, and adult undergraduate degrees on two campuses. Stevenson’s comprehensive university model encompasses seven schools: the Brown School of Business and Leadership, the School of Design, the School of Education, the School of Health Professions (fall 2016), the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, the School of the Sciences, and the School of Graduate and Professional Studies.

Stevenson’s School of Graduate and Professional Studies understands the unique goals of an adult learner: to make an investment; to advance a career; to develop marketable skills; to earn credentials; and to make a better life. And with our strong history of educating women we have a proven track record of delivering high-quality career-relevant degree programs to women aspiring to improve their career prospects. An adult student may face a variety of life challenges that traditional students typically do not encounter. Many adult students who come to Stevenson are juggling their studies along with roles as a single parent, sole income provider, full-time employee, or all of the above.

Recognizing these potential obstacles, SU approaches each prospective student as the unique person she is. From the first interaction, the student receives one-on-one guidance and support from members of the Enrollment Team. After the initial inquiry, a prospective student is assigned an Enrollment Counselor specific to her program of interest.

The Enrollment Counselor guides the prospective student throughout the entire admissions process and ensures she is well-informed and equipped to choose the program that is the best fit for her. The top priority for an Enrollment Counselor is helping a student identify possible hurdles she may face and the resources she can utilize to accomplish her educational goals.

As most adult students are returning to school after a long absence, many require a high-level of support throughout the application and admissions processes. The Counselor is there to provide that guidance while also empowering prospective students to drive the decision-making process. Enrollment Counselor Carolyn Query points out, “We want students to know we are here to support them every step of the way and at the same time we encourage them to be proud of their progress and degree.”

Upon acceptance into Stevenson University and her program of choice, the student is assigned a Student Success Coach. To ensure a smooth transition from prospective student to accepted student, the Enrollment Counselor shares the student’s experiences, possible obstacles, and goals with the Student Success Coach. The Student Success Coach model was introduced last year. Within this framework, the Coach serves as an advisor and a guide for the students. The Coaches work with students to devise a degree plan that is customized to their goals and accommodates their work schedules, financial situations, and familial and personal obligations. Karen Fuchs, Student Success Coach, clarifies, “We help students create a path to graduation and assist them in visualizing their goals and making them into a reality.”

As many of the Coaches were adult students themselves, they understand the need for proactive communication, support, and flexibility due to the hardships and difficulties adults face as they continue their education. Student Success Coach Jess Nangle describes what motivates the Coaches by stating, “We get great fulfillment from helping students navigate through their experience at Stevenson because we understand the joys and struggles of being an adult learner. The students feel that they are not alone and appreciate having someone to guide them.”

To help adult students be ready for an ever-changing workforce, Stevenson University guides students through its unique Career Architecture™ process. Through this model, students develop a personalized strategic plan based upon their motivated strengths, interests, values, personality, and individual goals. The School of Graduate and Professional Studies Industry Specialist in Career Services, Connie Harrington, mentors students in navigating through the steps of the Career Architecture™ process: discovering who they are at their best, developing what they are learning, and applying these concepts in the real world. In clarifying her role, Connie states, “I give adult students feedback that prompts them to become more involved in the career process and eventually request assistance not only with their resume, but with additional career management needs.”

To accommodate the hectic schedules of adult students, Career Services offers in-person, phone, email, or Skype appointments as well as evening and walk-in hours. In addition, there are a multitude of career resources and information within each element of Career ArchitectureTM available on the website. Adult students can independently utilize this portal as a teaching tool in order to prepare for their job search and assess their strengths, interests, and values.

Enrollment Team in Action

The Enrollment Team works hard to foster an environment that provides students with the opportunity to reinvent themselves and pursue their career aspirations.

Stevenson University

Pam Tate, CAEL CEO & President, Phyllis Strader, and Ted Mitchell, Under Secretary, U.S. Department of Education.

Phyllis Strader, a Legal Studies graduate, experienced first-hand the Enrollment Team’s dedication to providing students the opportunity to reinvent themselves and pursue career aspirations. Phyllis notes, “My journey as a student at the School of Graduate and Professional Studies was extremely positive and inspiring.” She explains, “I felt supported in my role as an adult student because the Legal Studies program offered flexibility which allowed me to juggle my full-time job as well as my family responsibilities.” The family obligations Phyllis encountered while earning her degree were the subject of an essay she wrote titled, “Adult Learning Experiences at Stevenson University.”

The essay earned Phyllis the 2015 Learner of the Year Award from the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL). This award is presented annually by CAEL to individuals who have overcome numerous obstacles to successfully continue their education. Phyllis remarks in her essay that she “faced extraordinary challenges and adversities along the way. These challenges consisted of caring for my father and father-in-law who were both on hospice care in my home, caring for my mother-in-law who suffered from various medical issues, raising my two children, working full-time as a Paralegal, and attending classes at Stevenson University.”

Stevenson University’s School of Graduate and Professional Studies looks forward to working with the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation to continue our efforts to support adult students and their educational goals.

For more information about Stevenson’s programs designed for adult students, visit