Mary Baldwin to become university in 2016

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce
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Photo courtesy Mary Baldwin College

There is nothing simple about changing an organization’s name, especially when it has been in business since 1842. Just ask the administrators at Mary Baldwin College. On Aug. 31, 2016, the institution will become Mary Baldwin University. “It reflects who we are today,” says Crista Cabe, the school’s vice president for communication, marketing and public affairs. 

Mary Baldwin is working on a plan that will include updating highway and campus signage, establishing a new URL along with website and email addresses, amending key documents, creating a new logo, updating its official seal and developing branded merchandise. “There is an awful lot to do,” Cabe says.

The school has changed its name before at several points of its evolution. Founded as Augusta Female Seminary in 1842, it became Mary Baldwin Seminary in 1895 and then Mary Baldwin College in 1923 when baccalaureate degrees were first granted.

Now, Mary Baldwin has two campuses (in Staunton and Fishersville) and 12 other regional locations throughout Virginia. Its five programmatic components include a residential women’s college, the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences and master’s and doctoral degree programs. “This isn’t just a discreet liberal arts college. It’s a complex institution,” Cabe says. “In many people’s minds, colleges and universities are the same.”

But there are differences. Colleges typically offer only four-year bachelor’s degrees. Universities generally also offer a variety of graduate degrees and include more than one major academic unit. 

Mary Baldwin falls into the small university category, offering several niche programs in addition to a traditional residential college, Cabe says. “There are a host of institutions such as Mary Baldwin and Washington & Lee that fall in between a small college and big university.”

Before deciding to change the name, the school surveyed segments of the Mary Baldwin community, including students, faculty, staff and alumni. Seventy percent of the faculty and staff and 68 percent of current students were in favor of the name change. “Most of the students I have spoken with are very excited about it,” Cabe says.

Students graduating after the vote to change the name but before it is legally adopted (those graduating in 2015 and 2016) will be offered the opportunity to order replacement diplomas bearing the name “Mary Baldwin University” free of charge.

The school’s four-year, undergraduate residential col­­l­­­­­­ege for women will be called Mary Baldwin College for Women. The name pays tribute to an early graduate who later led the institution through the Civil War. “Mary Baldwin as a person, leader and historical figure means a great deal to our community,” Cabe says. “We thought it was important to keep the historic name.”

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