Arizona students now have a Catholic university option beginning this fall as Arizona State University and University of Mary, Bismarck, N.D., partner to offer a major and minor in theological studies or Catholic studies.
“ASU, as a model for a New American University, is dedicated to the inclusion of all,” said ASU President Michael Crow. Since he arrived at ASU in 2002 he has expressed that all faith-based groups are welcome “to plant their flags deep at the university.”
The collaboration will allow ASU students to easily blend their traditional classes at ASU with U-Mary classes. It will have the same start and stop class times, as well as the same semester schedule.
“We’re happy to be in Arizona — finally,” said Father James Patrick Shea, president of U-Mary. “With about 250 Catholic universities (and colleges) in the country, none have found a home here.”
The partnership comes on the heels of a January announcement that the city of Mesa is in talks to bring a campus of Illinois-based Benedictine University to its downtown.
With five Catholic high schools in the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix and as many as 22,000 Catholic students currently attending any of the four campuses at ASU, this program will mean that students can further their religious instruction and stay in Arizona for college, said Father Rob Clements, director at the Newman Center.
Tuition will be paid separately and directly to each institution, but for those who receive federal financial aid, ASU will generate the financial aid consortium agreement, said Maria Hesse, ASU vice provost for academic affairs.
Classes will be held in the Newman Center, located next to the Tempe campus on University Drive.
Talks of the partnership between the two schools began years ago, but things really got off the ground last November, spearheaded by MaryBeth Mueller, the Phoenix diocese schools superintendant, Shea said.
“A hundred years ago, the founders of the state of Arizona believed in the complimentary relationship between the Church and the state,” said Bishop Thomas Olmsted. “Secular pursuits and religious pursuits need not be at odds with one another. They are intended by God to be complimentary.
God enriches every part of our life, not only what we do at church, synagogue or mosque, but also what we do in the classroom, on the playing field, at home and in the public square.”
The University of Mary is a private university, established in 1959, offering an assortment of bachelor, master and doctorate degrees. It has campuses elsewhere in North Dakota, Montana, Kansas and Missouri, as well as Rome, Italy. A master of education program has been previously established in Phoenix, located at St. Mary’s High School.
While ASU has often held an image as a party school, that doesn’t bother Shea, who said he doesn’t know much about the party scene.
“Well, our students, about once a week, have popcorn with the sisters at the monastery,” Shea said with a grin.
Instead, he believes that they hope to contribute something positive to the current culture, rather than try to change it or fit into it.
“Well, everybody,” Shea concluded with a smile, “I can’t wait for this press conference to end so I can go to the bookstore and buy a bunch of clothes with the devil all over it.”
New and continuing ASU students are eligible for this program for the Fall 2012 semester. Interested students and parents may contact David Fleischacker at (701) 355-8174.
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