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Ventures Winter 2018-2019

Ventures Winter 2018-2019

Date: Nov 2018

SU Scholar on a zipline

by Emily Reely ’10

At Stevenson, our Service, Leadership, and Honors Scholars programs give recognition to incoming freshmen who have demonstrated their academic prowess, leadership, and service to the community—and who consistently stand out among their peers.

There are currently more than 230 Scholars students at Stevenson who are making their study dreams a reality. Nearly 200 of them reside on campus, and most first-year Scholars are in a living-learning community where they can thrive alongside their peers.


The Service Scholars Program was the first Scholars program at Stevenson, debuting in fall 2016. The program, which currently has 85 students, including 42 freshmen, seeks to engage civicminded students in service-learning courses as well as hands-on community service opportunities. Students have participated in weekly service hours with a number of local community partners, including the Baltimore Humane Society, Irvine Nature Center, Catch a Lift, Weinburg Village, and many more. Additionally, there are opportunities for students to volunteer nearly every weekend of the school year.

Since early 2018, the program has been actively working to grow the relationship with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur—the founders of Villa Julie College—through a collaborative service project called Live the Good. (See page 3.) This event brings SU students together with the Sisters to learn more about our shared history, values, and similar missions rooted in service.

Stevenson’s Service Scholars Program also gives students the confidence to lend a hand in areas beyond the Greater Baltimore area. Service Scholars travel to areas affected by natural disasters with Mission: I’m Home, learning how to not only rebuild homes but also to advocate for those trying to recover their lives after a disaster. Some students choose to travel internationally and participate in service abroad.

“I have met some of the most fun and energetic people on campus, and I also get to serve people who endure such difficulties,” says junior nursing major Nick Ellis. “My major alongside my Service Scholar work constantly gives me an opportunity to make friends, have fun, and give back to the community.”

Rising junior elementary education major Natalie Marratto spent the Spring 2018 semester studying in South Africa. In addition to taking several classes, she worked with with 5- and 6-year-olds in a local elementary school. Marratto reflected on her semester: “My experience abroad shaped me into a person who thinks beyond my local community and considers how my actions may impact others around the globe.”

“We are looking forward to seeing the myriad ways our students will make positive impacts on communities locally and globally,” says Service Scholar Program Co-Lead Morgan Somerville, Stevenson’s Director of Student Engagement, “especially the ways they impact the world as this program continues to grow.”


The Leadership Scholars Program, which was started in 2017, focuses on “leadership through action, not position,” meaning that someone doesn’t always have to be the person in the front of the room in order to lead their peers.

“Leaders earn respect by following their values; leaders inspire with their passion, enthusiasm, and persistence,” says Director of Student Activities Dan Schwartz, Co-Lead of the Leadership Scholars Program. “And leaders stay leaders when they are accountable to others as well as to themselves.”

While similar programs at other schools focus on traditional leadership roles, Stevenson ensures that its Leadership Scholars develop into effective and ethical leaders who will make positive differences on campus and in the global community.

“In my experience,” Schwartz explains, “the quietest student in the group has the strongest leadership skills. They just need a little encouragement and direction. Our program helps them to realize their full leadership potential, even if they decide to remain a bit of a ‘follower.’ ”

The classes in this program are developed by faculty across campus to focus on leadership theory as well as curricular and co-curricular application of leadership skills. The curriculum begins with a pre-orientation program, which allows students to explore opportunities for leadership through an off-campus experience that builds teamwork and confidence. Additionally, Leadership Scholars plan the annual TEDxStevensonU, a local gathering featuring talks, demonstrations, and performances that are idea-focused and foster learning with a goal of provoking meaningful conversations within the student population.

At this time, the Leadership Scholar program includes 67 students, 37 of whom are freshmen.

“Diversity isn’t just out there, it is right here on our campus,” says Leadership Scholar Isabella Maxey (business communication ’21). “We are currently preparing ourselves to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be for our communities.”


The Honors program had its second cohort of freshman Honors students in fall 2018, bringing the total number of Honors students to 114. A full four-year Honors Program will roll out in fall 2019, and first-year and current Honors students will have the opportunity to join it at the end of their freshman year.

The goal of the Honors Program is to create cross-disciplinary scholars, students who can look beyond the boundaries of their own discipline, use methodologies from other disciplines, and understand each other’s perspectives in order to create, problem solve, and analyze. Honors courses do not necessarily cover more material more quickly but rather delve more deeply into the content.

“My Honors experience has been so positive,” says sophomore student Nasiba Sabirova (legal studies ’21). “I feel like I am always being challenged. I would absolutely recommend incoming freshmen to consider this program if you want to expand your horizons and push your intellectual boundaries.”

In the classroom, Honors students can take courses needed for their major and turn them into an Honors course by adding a cross-disciplinary component to it. These are “Honors contracts.” For example, a student in a history class may “contract” that class by examining the societal/cultural themes during that period of history and explore how those these emerge in literature or music of that same time period. Outside of the classroom, freshman Honors students live in a community with other Honors students, as similarly to the Service and Leadership Scholars, which continues to foster the cross collaboration.

Honors Program Director and Assistant Professor of Biology Rivka Glaser urges faculty to take a roll in the Honors curriculum, stating that faculty and staff are invited to “attend Honors Program-sponsored talks, lectures, or events and to consider becoming a faculty mentor for Honors students who may want to create an Honors contract in a class.”

Positioning Students to Succeed

All three of the Scholars programs are compatible with all majors. Successful participation in these programs gives highly qualified students the ability to become skilled in their specific disciplines. They also gain the personal satisfaction of having met and accomplished the most innovative and challenging programs available at Stevenson.

Says Somerville of the programs, “Overall, our Scholars students truly have an exceptional college experience.”

Students in the new reading room

During the past year, Stevenson has been creating new “spaces” across campus to enhance student life. These spaces include the new Owings Mills Quad as well as the Garrison Student Activities Commons. This fall, two additional spaces were unveiled: the new 5,000-square-foot Reading Room in Garrison Hall South and the Fitness Studio in Wooded Way. The Reading Room offers comfortable furnishings for quiet study as well as group study rooms, wireless printing, and a fireplace. The Fitness Studio hosts Zumba, pilates, yoga, and other group fitness classes for students. What’s coming next? Look for information about a new campus Coffee House next spring.

Students at the new Stevenson Fitness Studio

Villa Julie College students at a fashion show in the 1960s

For more than 70 years, both Villa Julie College and Stevenson University have been champions of education, first as a two-year medical transcription training program and now as an institution where students earn their bachelor’s and master’s degrees as a key step in pursuing their career dreams.

Spanning the gap between the university’s founding to its modern-day incarnation are traditions that run through the decades. Ventures spoke with University Archivist Glenn T. Johnston to count down the top five traditions that still exist, in some form or another and connect our present with our past.

5: Founders Day

The first students at Villa Julie College began their studies on Oct. 1, 1947, a day that has been recognized ever since as Founders Day—or so it would seem. Rather, according to Johnston, this tradition “sank into obscurity in the ‘80s.” So what happened?

“When President Kevin Manning came to Villa Julie, he brought Founders Day back,” says Johnston, “in part it was to re-cement ties between the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and the college.” In 2007, Villa Julie marked its 60th anniversary with the first Founder's Day Celebration on Oct. 1. Today, Founders Day festivities give a distinct nod to the past through a Mass at the convent followed by an elegant tea with the Sisters, tours of the University Archives, the Stevenson’s Got Talent show, and a picnic lunch for members of the university community.

Saint Julie Billiart, founder of the Notre Dame de Namur order and namesake of Villa Julie College, was reported to have said, “Be like a sunflower, which follows all the movements of the sun and ever turns toward it.” As a nod to this reminder to maintain a positive focus and approach to life and work, the university breathed new life into this quote on Founders Day 2018 by encouraging faculty and staff to display their own sunflowers in recognition of St. Julie—a new tradition that hopefully will flourish throughout the coming years.

4: VJC/Stevenson Pin Award

The top honor at Commencement throughout the years has been the awarding of the VJC/Stevenson Pin Award to those who demonstrated excellence as students. According to the official description, “This award is the most comprehensive honor the university confers on a graduating student whose total personal performance is meritorious. This includes academic achievement, independence and integrity of thought and action, reliability, respect for others, and involvement in university or community affairs.”

“As I was interviewing alumni of VJC, it became clear to me that their belief that the highest award that could be given at any Commencement was the VJC Pin,” Johnston says. “We had several of alumni donate their pins to the university because it was such a cherished honor that they wanted to share it with others.” However, as with Founders Day, this tradition, too, was absent for a time in the ’70s and ’80s, but was later revived and is still awarded today to recognize student excellence.

3: Building a Board

The goal of creating a Board of Trustees with prominent members of the community committed to improving the college and its financial resources was first discussed in 1967- 68. At that time, the mission of the institution changed from that of a religious order to one fitting an independent college.

“Sister Mary Stephen, who was president at the time, felt that she and Sister Helen Lawrence, wanted to create a board to represent our newly independent institution,” explains Johnston. “They immediately began to focus on bringing members to the board that would have influence in the region as well as make connections with prominent state leaders.” Later, in the early ‘80s, they left the order and became known as Carolyn Manuszak and Rose Dawson.

One such board member was Henry Knott Jr., a successful Baltimore developer who was heavily involved in private philanthropy. Another was well-known Congressional Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, supporter for whom the Port of Baltimore was named because of her staunch advocacy of the city’s maritime industry. “We always had a good selection of friends to the institution, whether on the board or in government. They did well for us,” Johnston says. Friends in government were helpful in obtaining funds for Villa Julie’s expansion and helped build out the Greenspring campus. People such as U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Rep. Helen Delich Bentley were instrumental in getting earmarks in the federal budget for Stevenson initiatives to expand its computer base as well as its computer training capabilities.

“The work of Carolyn and Rose in getting powerful members of the community who could do good things for the institution paved the way for our success,” Johnston notes.

2: Annual Fashion Show

Even the university’s Annual Fashion Show is rooted in VJC tradition, according to Johnston. “I came across photos of students in 1960s in beautiful gowns on a walkway in front of a barn, and I found the juxtaposition of the two interesting and wanted to learn more,” he says. “I found that the barn became the office portion of what is now the Cuvilly Exchange—and on a warm day, in that part of the building, you can still smell the hay and manure.”

Johnston hypothesizes that the show was originally likely associated with class in sewing. Today, Stevenson is proud to host two fashion shows each spring, one of which is produced by Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising students and the other by member of the Black Student Union.

1: A Commitment to Students

Fittingly, the ultimate tradition comes back to one person. “The entire order of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur was based on teachings of St. Julie Billiart,” Johnston says. “That was her commitment: not to education alone but to the needs of students.”

Johnston has interviewed several alumni from the early days of the college, and one of his favorite questions is what they did to get in trouble at Villa Julie. He cites answers ranging from smoking cigarettes, searching for bumps in road to make cars go airborne, and playing bridge when they shouldn’t have. “They all said that Rose Dawson, Dean of Students, never disciplined you. Instead, she educated you, talking about how your actions made you seem a much smaller person than you were, bringing dishonor on your family name, and changing your reputation amongst people who thought highly of you. For all of them, the repercussions of what they did wrong was far more effective than actual discipline.”

Dawson pulled inspiration from another quote of Saint Julie’s that has lasting impact. Paraphrased by Johnston: “We don’t have time to discipline children, we only have time to educate them. The best way is through a loving approach to growth as opposed to a negative approach through discipline.”

That remains a philosophy for the institution, which reminds all faculty, staff, and other members of the community that the students are the reason that we are here today. Through traditions that embody the values of a Stevenson education, the university fulfills the implicit promise made on Oct. 1, 1947: Pro Discendo, Pro Vivendo. For Learning, For Living.

President Elliot Hirshman

As the year winds down, it is a great time to reflect on the many things we have accomplished in the past year. At Stevenson, we have created a new Quad at Owings Mills and are now opening a Reading Room for quiet study. Our photo spread gives you taste of this new facility in Garrison Hall.

This is also a time of year when we enjoy sharing a variety of traditions with family and friends. That includes celebrating the traditions and values we share as the Stevenson University community.

In this issue of Ventures, you will read about traditions at Stevenson that are as old as our founding as Villa Julie College in 1947. In one of our feature articles, Stevenson History Chair and Archivist Glenn Johnston provides a “look back” to our past to reveal some of these traditions still found here, albeit in new forms and expressions.

Close-knit community and focusing on the individual success of every student are two more traditions that our founders espoused and you will still find at Stevenson. These are expressed today, in part, by our Service, Leadership, and Honors Scholars programs. The three programs are designed to create a community where students can flourish by sharing similar experiences and interests with other highly motivated peers. Together, the students are given extraordinary opportunities to discover and develop their potential in community service, in leadership activities, or through scholarly research. You will learn more about these growing programs in our feature article.

Lastly, as diverse as our holiday traditions are, they often express a common theme of gratitude for the gifts and opportunities that we have been given. I cannot say enough about the generosity of our alumni, parents, friends, faculty, staff, foundations, and corporations who have made supporting Stevenson’s students a priority. You will have the opportunity in this issue to learn more about some of these individuals and what motivates them to give of their time and resources to make a difference in the lives of our students.

Best wishes for a happy and prosperous new year!

Service Scholars students at Second Chance

On Oct. 17, Service Scholars joined with the Sisters of Notre de Namur for a Live the Good service project. In the morning, students helped out at Second Chance, a nonprofit that deconstructs buildings and homes and salvages usable materials that they then make available to the public through its 200,000 square feet of retail space. Afterward, the students went to the Sisters' convent, which neighbors the Greenspring campus, for lunch and reflection on the meaning and value of serving the community. Afterward, Service Scholar Lauren Novsak (business communication '19) said, "I enjoyed learning more about the history of the values of Villa Julie and Stevenson and their connection to Sister Julie. Through the reflection with the Sisters, we were able to understand our common interests in serving the community."

For more about the Service Scholars, see the feature article "Challenging Students to Go Further."

  Nov 2018  


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Ventures is published two times each year by Stevenson University for its students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends, and benefactors. No part of this publication may be reproduced in print or digital form without prior permission from the publisher.

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