A gem in 'the valley' Villa Julie: At age 50, popular Greenspring college excels at cutting-edge career training.

November 21, 1997

IT'S NOT SURPRISING that Villa Julie College's stated modus operandi sounds more like an aggressive corporate strategic plan than a contemplative academic approach: "Get there first. Do it best. Make it count in people's lives." The school in the Greenspring Valley has made a solid reputation for itself by tying its curriculum closely to corporate work-force needs in the Baltimore region.

Fifty years after its founding by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur as a tiny, one-year school for medical secretaries, Villa Julie (named for the founder of the order, Saint Julie Billiart) is bustling with 1,500 students and $31 million worth of new buildings. Its employment record is the envy of other colleges even as Villa Julie clings firmly to its liberal arts tradition.

This unique blend of career training and academics is paying off. The college's computer accounting graduates are passing the CPA exam at a rate twice the national average; a stunning 94 percent of this year's graduating class was employed by May -- even before graduation.

Villa Julie prides itself in keeping abreast of work-force training needs. The school's board is stacked with corporate leaders. Curricula are tailored to position students not just for jobs but careers. Villa Julie leads the region in advanced information systems, video technologies and graphics. It invests heavily in computer and high-tech instructional equipment.

President Carolyn Manuszak has guided this transformation. A former nun, she took the school's motto ("for learning, for living") and married liberal arts with marketable technology. Not only have employers reacted favorably, so have high-school graduates: over a third of Villa Julie's full-time freshmen were National Honor Society members. Most students work to help pay the $9,240 tuition -- half what most other private colleges in the region charge.

It hasn't always been easy. Neighbors of the school, which is barely visible from winding Greenspring Valley Road in Stevenson, vigorously fought expansion plans in such a bucolic setting. Creating respect for a former secretarial school has taken time, too.

But the second 50 years looks bright for Villa Julie. No longer is it the little school in "the valley." It is now Maryland's fourth-largest private college with a growing list of admirers in both the corporate and academic worlds.

Pub Date: 11/21/97

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