CRST International Graduate Center

While the addition of master’s degree programs was important to Mount Mercy’s university designation in 2010, the opening of the CRST International Graduate Center has become instrumental to the programs’ remarkable success.

Mount Mercy’s nearly 50-year history of serving working adults in the Greater Cedar Rapids area formalized in 1997 as an innovative partnership with Kirkwood Community College. Accelerated, fast-paced bachelor’s degree programs served the needs of many seeking to obtain this increasingly necessary credential while juggling careers and families.

Launching graduate programs in academic areas of recognized expertise was a natural progression for Mount Mercy. However, the popularity of its initial offerings quickly led to increased enrollment and the need for more space.

Nestled in an established, quiet, residential neighborhood less than two miles from the main campus, Mount Mercy’s CRST International Graduate Center (formerly a U.S. Army/Naval Reserve training center) was made possible thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and a $2.1 million gift from Dyan and John Smith on behalf of CRST International.

Dyan and John Smith have a long history of supporting Mount Mercy and the community—both financially and with their time and talents. John, chairman of the board at CRST, previously served on the Mount Mercy Board of Trustees, and Dyan, a current trustee, has served since 1995. The Smiths’ generous donation in support of the University’s graduate center effort marked one of the largest gifts in Mount Mercy’s 89-year history.

Debuting in 2013, the renovated 34,500-square-foot CRST International Graduate Center is now home to six graduate programs—business, education, nursing, criminal justice, strategic leadership, and marriage and family therapy—all with in-demand areas of emphasis.

A combined annual enrollment of nearly 400 students enjoy state-of-the-art resources and amenities, including 14 classrooms, several common areas and study spaces, a computer lab, the Francis J. Pruss Conference Center, the Graduate Grounds coffee shop made possible by the Chris & Suzy DeWolf Family, and the Olson Marriage & Family Therapy Clinic.

With a significant financial gift from Gerald and Audrey (’76) Olson, Mount Mercy’s marriage and family therapy (MFT) program gained a valuable asset in the Gerald and Audrey Olson Marriage & Family Therapy Clinic. This transformational clinic offers high-quality, low-cost counseling services to the public while providing hands-on, supervised training for the program’s students. Mount Mercy offers the only program in Iowa that trains entry-level MFT practitioners from a systems perspective—fully staffed by student therapists under the supervision of licensed MFT therapists. While these services help set the Mount Mercy MFT program apart, they also fill a critical void in the mental health care system of the Cedar Rapids population.

Catering to working professionals seeking to advance their education goes beyond having unique, high-tech facilities and scheduling convenient class times. It includes creating a curriculum grounded in real-world applications, enlisting faculty who are talented and well-credentialed, and fostering a classroom environment where students build community—sharing their experiences and learning from each other.

The addition of the CRST International Graduate Center is a significant milestone in Mount Mercy’s commitment to lifelong learning—serving the professional leadership needs of its growing community by preparing the next generation of entrepreneurs, teachers, nurses, educators, and therapists.

With this incredible resource, Mount Mercy is in the perfect position to launch additional advanced degree programs that better the community and its people.