Gwynedd Mercy University (visited 7/19/16)
Here’s a fun fact about Gwynedd Mercy: Ian Fleming got the name for his protagonist, a real-life James Bond, who was the son of the owner of the land the university now sits on. James Bond (the real one) published a book on the birds of the West Indies; Fleming, living in Jamaica, saw the name on the cover and thought it sounded perfect.
The Bond family mansion was eventually deeded to the Sisters of Mercy who founded the institution; with that comes the heritage of serving community. First-Year Experience classes require 20 hours of community service. Many students do this anyway, so it becomes part of the culture on campus, including Alternative Spring Breaks. About 38% self-identify as Catholic; another 30% don’t self-identify as any religion. The only religious obligation students must fulfill is 1 religion OR philosophy class.
Several years ago, Gwynedd Mercy created an institutional imperative to increase learning in different ways. One hallmark is their study abroad program since this has been shown to be beneficial for college students as an exploration of cultures, building life experiences, and considering various worldviews. GMU makes sure it’s intentional, getting students to think about the essential questions: Who are we, who are they, and how does it all fit together?
The Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences spoke to us about their program; I can see why students would be excited to take classes with her. She’s been at the school for 20+ years and is passionate about teaching and providing quality experiences for the students. “This place feels like home. It may be cliché, but I think students experience this, and faculty and staff do, too.”
Study trips travel all over for intensive 2-3 week experiences such as History and Culture of New Orleans; Irish History, Lit, and Culture; Business and Lit in Rome; and Healthcare in the Bateyes (Dominican Republic). The Ireland group visits Mercy International. “They’re immersed in Mercy from the day they get here, but it really hits home here.” GMU waives tuition for summer study abroad to encourage students to go on the trips. Students interested in the traditional study abroad (semester or year-long) get connected to nearby Arcadia University for their programs.
Another distinctive program is “E-STEM” funded by an NSF grant. This research project (primarily through the Bio and Math departments) looks at whether they can increase students’ ethical awareness in science. Eligible students (academically talented with financial need) apply by writing an essay about ethical issues, a potential ethical solution, and short- and long-term outcomes. Recipients get either $3,000 or $8000 (most get 8) and become part of a LLC and the Honors College. Monthly activities include co-curricular and social events.
The college is suburban; they have access to the city without being in the middle of it. The Griffin Link Shuttle Service runs Thursday through Sunday; this gets them to Target, restaurants, theaters. They also have bike share and car share, and the train station is 2 minutes away. There are 4 malls within 15 minutes as well as lots of stores, eateries, theaters, etc.
Students are happy with the variety of things to do on campus. The 19 DIII teams draw high numbers of participants and fans. There are also a fair number of clubs including an equestrian team. The late-night lounge is a popular place to hang out. Students like the food, especially seafood night, the fried chicken, and mac-n-cheese. A couple favorite traditions are:
- Finals breakfast at the end of Fall Semester. Professors serve breakfast from 9-12 and prizes are given out.
- Griffin Madness (the Griffin is the mascot), a basketball pep rally. There are student-faculty games, wing eating contests, and more.
Right now, the gender balance is skewed with males making up only 1/3 of the 2000 undergrads, primarily because the Nursing program is well-known, highly regarded, and popular (about 40% of students are in this major). However, they have some other amazing programs:
- They have partnerships with over 200 Health Care organizations, so their Health Sciences are strong, including Medical Lab Science, Radiation Therapy (BS or BHS), Radiologic Tech, and Respiratory Care (AS/BHS).
- A Behavioral and Social Gerontology major.
- Criminal Justice majors can attend the Police Academy (included in tuition!!)
- Accounting majors can choose to complete this with or without a CPA track.
- Students with a 3.0 GPA can apply as juniors for the 4+1 MBA program, starting senior year; they can help pay for it with undergrad scholarship dollars.
- Their Communications department has a full TV studio and news studio.
Our tour guide’s classes have ranged in size from 3-25. His favorite was Civil War History taken over the summer with a professor who did reenactments. They went to Gettysburg, and the guy would point out where “his” regiments were.
GMU’s rolling admissions will provide an answer in about 2 weeks. Most decisions are made in the admissions office, but some programs like nursing require the file to go to committee if a student is borderline. Now with Prior-Prior Year financial aid, they’re bumping up some of their deadlines, so check the website for information as this happens over the coming year.
The small community allows for hand-on, personalized attention. “This is a good place for shy students who want to blossom,” said the tour guide. “That was me. I’m totally different from who I was in high school.” As another example, students who have learning differences are easily accommodated. An admissions rep said, “we’re small and can be flexible. We’ll do anything we can for students to accommodate needs.” The same goes for students with allergies.
Only about 600 students live on campus; there’s been a big push to keep kids on campus on the weekend. Housing is guaranteed but students can move off. Three of the four dorms are interconnected with one centralized entranceway to all 3 buildings. The Health Center and mailboxes are in this building which is really smart! Cable is provided in dorms. The 4th dorm has apartments housing 4 or 5 people per unit. This has kept more of the upperclassmen on campus.