SMWC celebrates 40 years of distance education with yearlong celebrations in 2013
November 9th, 2012 | SMWC
The year was 1973 – the Vietnam War was still going on, the Watergate hearings began, and a small women’s college in the Midwest challenged the traditional path of higher education. Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC), the second college in the nation to offer a distance bachelor’s program, will honor this 40-year milestone with special events, publications and celebrations all throughout 2013.
As the economic and social liberty of women grew in the 60s and 70s, leaders at SMWC saw a need permeating throughout society. Women were putting in solid hours at work, while also raising children and caring for their families. They needed and wanted a higher education, but many just couldn’t find the time. This changing society gave birth to a revolutionary idea in college education – SMWC’s Women’s External Degree program (WED).
“We knew there had to be a way to educate women out there who can’t go to college in a traditional way,” said Jeanne Knoerle, SP, ’49, former president of SMWC and founder of the distance program. “I think we opened the door to a college degree for women who thought they could never have one.”
Maintaining its signature forward momentum, WED became the Woods External Degree program, when it admitted its first male student in 2005. The campus program, however, continued its commitment to women. Then, in 2011, WED merged with the College’s accelerated online program to form Woods Online, solidifying SMWC’s tradition of innovation.
“We continue to look for new and creative ways to deliver our programs at a distance,” SMWC President Dottie L. King, Ph.D., said. “With 40 years of experience on the table, other colleges and universities look to us as a model in distance education.”
The College’s success in online education comes from having a brick and mortar institution to add credibility to the distance program. The same professors who teach in the campus program also teach the distance courses. “We place a large emphasis on mirroring what we do on campus in our distance program,” King said. “Our success comes from a blend of cutting-edge technology and meaningful faculty interaction. We’re high tech and high touch.”
With thousands of graduates from Woods Online, this personal connection is even more remarkable. In August 2012, the Indianapolis Business Journal recognized SMWC as having one of the largest online degree program in the state. More than 800 students are currently enrolled in the program from 33 states and all across the globe, including England, Greece, Hong Kong and Jamaica.
The College has always conducted profound program evaluations, ensuring the distance program remains relevant. Throughout the past 40 years SMWC has maintained its position as a leader in distance education by:
- Providing online peer tutoring to distance students.
- Encouraging personal contact with professors and advisors.
- Converting life experiences into college credit.
- Advising and placing distance students in internships.
- Offering 8-week and 16-week formats.
- Creating flexible, student-centered courses.
- Offering scholarships and programs specially designed for military members and their families.
- Including online students in significant College traditions, such as Ring Day.
- Teaching more than 25 majors and 15 minors.
“Our approach to distance education is truly one-of-kind,” King said. “We aren’t a degree mill; we support our distance students academically, emotionally and mentally. We’re pioneers in distance education and we are determined to stay on the front end.”
Stay tuned for more information about SMWC’s 40 Years of Distance Education celebrations. To learn more about opportunities available through Woods Online visit the Woods Online website.