'Moment in the spotlight' for first Master's degree graduates

The hooding ceremony was very surreal for me,” says Anna Behning, a graduate of the first-ever Master of Business Administration (MBA) program cohort. May 2010 marked the first time in its history that Mount Mercy conferred graduate degrees upon students, including Behning and 31 of her classmates in the MBA and the Master of Arts in Education programs. Mount Mercy first began envisioning its graduate programs with the arrival of President Christopher Blake in 2006, and the concept was formalized in the institution’s strategic “Plan for Mount Mercy University 2008–2012,” which called for a concerted focus and renewal to Mount Mercy’s vibrant teaching and learning environment, including the establishment of graduate programs.

At the first-ever hooding ceremony — a rite of passage for graduate students — MBA Program Director Deb Oliver, Ph.D. and Education Program Director Dawn Behan, Ph.D. ceremoniously placed the hood on those students who had met the criteria for graduation. Behning and many of her classmates reacted emotionally to the ceremony, recalling the sacrifices they made to return to school while working and raising families. “I got very teary eyed thinking about all the sacrifices that I had made within the past two years to get to that point and also how incredibly loving and supportive he [my husband] and my family members were,” says Behning.

Fellow graduate Travis Kalous echoed Behning’s sentiments. “While graduation day was exciting, I felt the hooding ceremony was much more personal and highlighted each graduate’s accomplishments,” he says. “Although I was the one taking the classes and doing the work, my family was essentially ’going to school’ as well. Unlike graduation day, which is shared with all students, the hooding ceremony is a time to reflect on the culmination of the hard work and sacrifice each student went through. It is also a time to share the accomplishment with our family and the Mount Mercy faculty. I would consider it our moment in the spotlight.”

A core component of any University education is the offering of diverse academic programs for learners of all ages. During the 2009–10 academic year, Mount Mercy said good luck to its first graduates in  the Business and Education graduate programs, but also prepared to broaden its graduate program offerings in advance of University designation to include nursing and marriage and family therapy.

“I think it was fitting that the same year in which Mount Mercy College granted its first graduate degrees, the institution was also planning its evolution as a University,” says Dean of Graduate Studies Melody Graham, Ph.D. “We know that in order to  perfect ourselves, we must be open to change. Our graduate students have made tremendous sacrifices to earn their advanced degree; similarly, Mount Mercy has signaled that it, too, is open to change as we prepare to launch new graduate programs at the same time we were continuing our journey to Mount Mercy University.”

Mount Mercy’s third graduate program, marriage and family therapy, began in Fall 2010, with a full cohort of students. The graduate program is led by Associate Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy Randall Lyle, Ph.D. There has already been overwhelming demand for the new program. “I think the popularity of the marriage and family therapy program can be attributed to adult students who are seeking a change in their work life, want to find a place to continue their education locally and who view this program as an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives,” says Graham.

Marriage and family therapy student Christian Cuva Rodriguez agrees. “I looked all over the nation for a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy,” she says. “One day last spring, I saw a flyer for the Mount Mercy program. I could not have been more thrilled. Having a University of the caliber of Mount Mercy in my own backyard allows me the continued flexibility I need to pursue my passion while staying true to other passions in my life.”

The University will launch a Master of Science in Nursing program in January 2011, building on the already strong reputation of Mount Mercy’s undergraduate nursing program.