Lourdes transitions from college to universityWritten by Zach Davis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Lourdes College will transition to Lourdes University on Aug. 19, three days prior to the beginning of the 2011 academic year. The change is part of a seven-year plan that began in 2008 to improve the Lourdes experience.
“With graduate programs and athletics, when you think of a university you expect to see those things,” Lourdes President Robert Helmer said Aug. 17. “Since Lourdes has those I think it’s important that our name reflects accurately who we are. University is the right name for us.”
Among the additions Lourdes has developed to more precisely fit its university designation are graduate programs, athletics and residence halls.
Lourdes University will offer eight graduate programs including business, liberal arts and nurse anesthesia. The school has 300 students enrolled in 2011 to get master’s degrees and received seven federal grants totaling $2 million this summer for its nursing program.
In athletics, Lourdes added men’s basketball along with women’s volleyball and golf last year. They brought in baseball, men’s volleyball and women’s basketball this year and are planning to add softball in 2012.
“We have brought in intercollegiate athletics to campus,” Helmer said. “Athletics just bring spirit and pride that is hard to replicate elsewhere.”
Lourdes is also planning a new athletic facility which will break ground at some point in 2012. It will house the school’s basketball and volleyball teams and include a workout and training facility and athletic offices.
The first two residence halls appeared last year for students of Lourdes and more are following. The school now has five buildings housing about 200 residents from around the U.S., including Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida and Puerto Rico.
Growth at Lourdes has led to record enrollment for the past seven years, which has helped plans to expand more quickly. In fact, the residence halls were originally scheduled to be built in 2012 but the process began last year with the school being “1-2 years ahead of schedule.”
Despite now being labeled as a university, Lourdes still differs greatly from its neighboring institutions in Toledo and Bowling Green.
“I think we compete very well,” Helmer said. “We each have a niche to play. A student who is going to thrive at UT might not do so well at Lourdes and a student who thrives at Lourdes might feel lost at UT.”
Among the differences is the student population where Lourdes has installed a self-imposed cap of 3,000 students enrolled at the university. There are no classrooms with occupancies greater than 40 on campus and lecture halls are nonexistent. This creates a more personal environment for students to learn.
“The student that is going to do really well at Lourdes University is the student that wants to belong to a caring community,” Helmer said. “If you want to be anonymous and be able to skip class and have your professor not notice then we are probably not the place for you. Here, the faculty member will notice and might call you at home and say ‘Is everything okay?’ That’s the niche we play.”
As for the self-imposed cap of 3,000 students, Helmer said that there are no plans to expand it “in the forseeable future.”
“As we have grown and become more comprehensive the one thing I have always heard from faculty and staff is that we can’t grow so big that we lose the personal touch,” Helmer said. “The niche that Lourdes has is that we are an incredibly caring environment where a student’s particular needs are met. We have said 3,000 is a good size and that’s our number.”
Helmer also prides Lourdes on its tuition, claiming the school’s average of around $16,000 a year is among “the bottom few in the state of Ohio.”
“That’s far below the state average,” Helmer said. “We have done our part to be affordable and I think that shows in the number of students that we are recruiting and attracting.”
Another recent addition at Lourdes is a new dining hall which features a ‘Grab and Go’ station as well as a dining room with a station for sandwiches, a salad bar, traditional American food, ethnic cuisine, a wood-burning pizza oven and ice cream.
With the recent announcement by the Sylvania Schools Athletic Foundation that they are planning on raising $6.5 million for new athletic facilities, Lourdes is open to a future partnership that would provide the university with a home for its athletics. Helmer said both sides have a meeting in the coming weeks to discuss the possibility.
“We are good neighbors with Sylvania Schools,” Helmer said. “We both have a commitment that if there are any opportunities we will partner. We are open to it as we both continue to grow.”
Among the sports Lourdes would have interest in playing at Sylvania’s facilities would include new sports soccer and possibly even football.
“If we were ever going to have football then Northview could use the stadium on Fridays and we could use the stadium on Saturdays,” Helmer said. “It would make sense.”