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The value of an MVNU degree

Go more than an hour away from campus, and chances are, most people have never heard of Mount Vernon Nazarene University. So what does that mean for MVNU students, especially for seniors as they leave our small campus and compete for jobs against graduates of well-known state and private schools like OSU, Kent, Cincinnati, Miami (Ohio), Xavier and dozens more? University leaders, almuni and current students insist that the MVNU degree is at least equal —and often superior — to a degree from any other institution.

Grads fare well in the ‘real world’

As commencement approaches, graduates will soon find out whether their time at MVNU will really help them compete in the workplace.

While MVNU is a relatively young university and our name does not have the clout of Ivy League institutions like Princeton or Harvard, MVNU President Dr. Henry Spaulding and other faculty on campus say that

MVNU offers its graduates a lot of tools to take with them into their fields.

MVNU research shows that the University graduates people who compete well in the marketplace, Spaulding said, especially in the fields of Business, Education, Ministry, Social Work and Nursing.

In fact, “one gets a superior education at a small private college,” particularly in undergraduate work, Spaulding said.

A small university like MVNU also stands out because it offers one-on-one relationships with faculty and advisers.

U.S. News and World Report lists MVNU’s student-to-faculty ratio as 13-to-1, impressive compared to OSU’s 19-to-1 and Bowling Green’s 18-to-1. However, some larger private universities have similar or better ratios, like Ashland University’s 11-to-1 and Northwestern’s impressive 7-to-1.

Statistics aren’t everything, though. All across campus, professors and administrators are happy to talk about the practical and philosophical methods that make MVNU stand out.

For example, Education Department Dean Dr. Damon Osborne said his department has a conceptual program focused on creating compassionate, committed, competent teachers. This is done first through caring faculty who “hand craft teachers one at a time” by working on individual areas of strength and limitations.

The education department also offers diverse and challenging experiences through student teaching in Columbus, Belize, San Diego, China, Chicago and Costa Rica.

This translates well into the workplace. Osborne says most graduates are either teaching or in graduate school within two years of graduation, and employers and student teaching hosts come back to him saying MVNU’s candidates are “far better prepared” than competitors.

MVNU’s nursing program also is well-known. Senior nursing student Jessica Nixon says MVNU has a solid reputation in the field, particularly in facilities where students have been placed for clinical training. Nixon is one of several senior nursing students who already have received job offers.

MVNU’s nursing program provides a wide variety of clinical, overseas and conference opportunities, Nixon said. Another unique tool MVNU offers is the emphasis on spiritual care as part of the department’s holistic care training.

“This is something that other schools are often timid about, but we are taught to talk about a patient’s spiritual needs” whether inside or outside of Christian spirituality, Nixon said.

Chemistry and Physical Science Department Chair and MVNU pre-medical committee chair Dr. Joseph Lechner says that one of the top questions people ask him is about the acceptance rate of MVNU students to medical school. He says this question cannot be accurately answered, simply because the committee does not always know who applied to medical school or whether they were accepted.

Lechner has worked with hundreds of students who have gone on to careers in teaching, research and the health professions. According to his records, 113 MVNU graduates have been accepted to medical school. An additional 66 students have been accepted to dental, optometry, podiatry, chiropractic, veterinary, or pharmacy schools. At least 14 alumni have been accepted to Ph.D. programs in chemistry-related fields, and at least 15 have taught chemistry or physics at the high school or college level. Still others are doing biomedical research or are working in chemistry-related industries.

These numbers are conservative, as they only represent the graduates who have reported back to MVNU where they are in their careers. Some alumni communicate very little with their alma mater during the four busy years of medical school, or the three to five years of residency that follow, or in the early years of establishing their practice.

Dr. Lechner sees the four years a student spends at MVNU as long-term preparation for a variety of possible careers. He collects written homework from his students every class day because his students are “in training for something.”

“Going through a pre-medical program is like training for the Olympics,” he says. “Do athletes cram the night before the Olympics? I don’t think so.”

Regardless of the quality of a college’s programs, the responsibility for success in college and beyond falls very much on an individual’s shoulders.

“You can attend Harvard for four years and sit there and learn nothing,” Lechner said. Dr. Spaulding agreed, saying a Harvard Ph.D. once told him “a lot of dopes graduate from Harvard.”

But, Spaulding added, “a lot of good people also graduate from Harvard, and a lot of good people graduate from here.”

Spaulding said success in the job market “has to do with our own individual drive” and networking capabilities.

“Connections can be a big help,” Nixon agreed.

But ultimately, the responsibility falls 100 percent on the individual’s shoulders. “The school can only carry you so far,” she said.

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