Throughout history, universities have been both symbolic and practical.
Universities foster values and a spirit of optimism. And the university experience creates the future through innovation and technology while helping people formulate plans of study for their careers and lives. Stevenson’s motto—For Learning. For Living.—embodies these ideals; we have essentially been a case study on effective growth through practical change.
As a sign of this optimism and our commitment to preparing students for their futures as citizens and working professionals, Stevenson celebrated the opening of its new 200,000-square-foot Academic Center at Owings Mills North on Tuesday, Aug. 30. This is a significant milestone in our history, and I thought it would be of interest to Ventures readers to briefly review what has happened since 2000 in terms of achieving Stevenson’s vision and mission.
By 2000, Villa Julie College had grown as much as it could in its small, private college form. Since its 1947 start, the College had made significant contributions through its many graduates. But with limited space and infrastructure on our original campus, it was impossible for the College to grow any further, which impacted our ability to serve students and the community.
Also from its start, Villa Julie focused on serving many firstgeneration college students. This aligned with the mission of our founders, and now neighbors, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. However, the leadership of the College, including the Board of Trustees and the President’s Cabinet, was concerned that if we did not expand the campus and its offerings, the ability to achieve our mission would be severely hampered.
With the Board’s encouragement, we began to formulate plans for a new campus in Owings Mills. After an extensive and thoughtful three-year process, in 2008, the Board of Trustees approved the creation of Stevenson University through both a careful process and a common method of naming a university: after its geographic location. Although we preserved the name of Villa Julie for our Greenspring Campus, the Villa Julie College of Arts and Sciences, we chose the name “Stevenson” to help eliminate potential confusion for those outside Baltimore; the VJC name led many people to think we were still a women’s college.
The new University needed a student housing component that could not be accommodated on the original Greenspring Valley Campus. We were fortunate to be able to elicit the support of Bank of America as our primary lender and worked closely with committed area developer Howard Brown as our primary contractor to develop the initial Owings Mills Campus. Subsequent to the university status change in 2008—including the ultimate creation of seven distinct Schools—Stevenson University has grown dramatically, doubling in student size, faculty, and staff. During that time period, we also have expanded our operations budget from $25 million to $150 million and focused on expanding our online graduate and professional programs.
Returning to the notion of a university connecting the merger of symbolism and practicality, our new Academic Center embodies this approach. This building opportunity was the result of the purchase of the former Shire Pharmaceuticals site that physically connects to our Owings Mills Campus from its athletics fields. Our “smart growth” included relocation of the School of the Sciences to that building, and the recently opened School of Design will expand from its neighboring building to more space in the same Academic Center. The Center will also serve as the home of our new School of Health Professions. Additionally, we will complete a lighted boardwalk that will permit students and visitors to walk easily between the two Owings Mills Campuses.
The Academic Center truly represents the Stevenson experience— our commitment to meet the needs of our students through academic excellence and career preparation. We look forward to a bright and exciting future with this progressive expansion.
Kevin J. Manning, Ph.D.