Mary Baldwin University Starts First Semester with Male Students

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Mary Baldwin University Mary Baldwin University

Mary Baldwin University's first semester with male students living on campus is just getting started.

At the same time, the school in Staunton is already starting to recruit a new class for the fall of 2018 to combat a sharp drop in enrollment. The new recruitment campaign will roll out to more than 100,000 prospective students nationwide this week.

“This year, we move forward … so, this is a new chapter for us,” MBU President Pamela Fox said.

Enrollment has fallen 18 percent.

“We did have some decline in residential enrollment that we anticipated at such a significant turning point,” Fox said.

The decision made last fall to create a new co-ed residential college riled some alumnae. Students petitioned Fox to protect the single-sex college for women.

“We learned a lot from that process. We have a very clear and compelling message, so we are very excited about our plans for moving forward,” Fox said.

The university is adding to its administration, including new Provost Ty Buckman. They're rolling out a new strategy to recruit more students looking for a liberal arts education where they can learn to become leaders.

“When families understand that, when high school students see what that looks like when they come to campus, visit our classes, and meet with our coaches, they can see the difference this kind of education can have for their lives,” Buckman said.

This year's first-year students live under the banner, “Envision Equity,” only seven men are a part of that pioneering class.

“We've had male students sitting next to female students for the better part of a generation, so nothing has changed in that respect in terms of the way we deliver education,” Buckman said.

Fox remains confident the university's enrollment will rebound by the time classes start back next fall.

“Evolution and change can sometimes be difficult, but we are on a very distinctive path and we very much want and need everyone's engagement and support,” Fox said.

The university is launching a new fundraising campaign to help make up for the decline in enrollment. It's already raised $9.3 million.

MBU is also working to build up its athletics programs for men to begin competing in 2019.