Apr 13, 2024  
2022 - 2023 Catalog 
2022 - 2023 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

General Information


The University of Mary, the only Catholic university in North Dakota, was founded in 1955 as the two-year Mary College by the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery. It became a four-year, degree-granting institution in 1959 and achieved university status in 1986. The University of Mary has been accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools since 1969.

Since its beginning, the University of Mary has sought to respond to the needs of people in the region. Its short history is one of rapid expansion. Student enrollment rose from 69 in 1959, the year of its incorporation, to record levels today.

Five buildings of the campus were designed by renowned architect Marcel Breuer (1902-1981). The Sisters of Annunciation engaged him to build their monastery and a girls’ high school, a complex completed in 1959. Today, that facility serves the University as the Benedictine Center for Servant Leadership. The first four buildings of the long-anticipated campus were also designed by Breuer, a project completed in 1968. The opening of the Butler Center for Lifelong Learning in Bismarck added a much-needed site for classes and service to the local area. With the 1996 launching of the Centers for Accelerated and Distance Education, in 1997 the University opened a center in Fargo, North Dakota, offering undergraduate and graduate programs for the adult learner. Responding to the need for services, the university has multiple off-campus sites and has expanded its delivery of educational services to include online learning.

The university continues to strive for quality in its curricular offerings and student support services. Leadership experiences and a competence-based curriculum combine liberal arts with professional preparation based on the foundational values of character development, ethical decision-making, and service experiences in which curricular and co-curricular learning come together. The change from college to university status in 1986 brought the implementation of master’s degree programs in nursing, management and education. Growing from those initial programs, master’s degrees are now offered in a wide range of areas and the university offers four doctorate degrees.

Today, the University of Mary remains committed to continuing the mission of its Benedictine founders and sponsors and to serving the people of the region and beyond in a spirit that fosters servant leadership. The University of Mary launched a groundbreaking campaign for growth called Vision 2030, an exciting expansion in both facilities and programs to meet the needs of new generations of students.

Mission and Identity

Founded to prepare leaders in the service of truth, the University of Mary is distinctive in our education and formation of servant leaders with moral courage, global understanding, and commitment to the common good. We are deeply devoted to our mission: The University of Mary exists to serve the religious, academic and cultural needs of the people in this region and beyond. It takes its tone from the commitment of the Sisters of Annunciation Monastery. These Sisters founded the university in 1959 and continue to sponsor it today. It is Christian, it is Catholic, and it is Benedictine.

We cherish our Christian, Catholic, Benedictine identity; we welcome and serve persons of all faiths.

We are faithfully Christian.

As a Christian university, we strive to accomplish our mission in faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We regard each human person as created in the image and likeness of God, gifted with life and dignity. We seek to be agents of cultural renewal in our time and place, courageous advocates for justice and peace. Our Christian commitment is born from and sustained by the encounter of the Risen Lord, who came not to be served but to serve. As He humbly washed the feet of His disciples on the night before He died, so we seek to serve one another. We are faithfully Christian.

We are joyfully Catholic.

As a Catholic university, we joyfully draw our life from the heart of the Church, identifying with the ancient tradition that gave rise to the first universities in medieval Europe. This Catholic intellectual tradition proposes an integrated spiritual and philosophical approach to the most enduring questions of human life. Thus we seek to advance the vital dialogue between faith and reason, while acknowledging the proper autonomy of the arts, sciences, and professions. A university is a place for the free exchange of ideas, and so we warmly welcome students and faculty of many faiths and convictions. At the same time, our common discourse ever takes place in a spirit of authentic respect for Catholic teaching and practice. We acknowledge the Catholic faith as a path to moral integrity and personal holiness. We are joyfully Catholic.

We are gratefully Benedictine.

As a Benedictine university, we remember with gratitude the Benedictine Sisters who came to Dakota Territory in 1878, bringing ministries of teaching and healing. This community of Sisters would become our founders and sponsors and, through them, we share in the 1,500-year-old heritage of the Benedictines. Inspired by lives of prayer, community, and service, Saint Benedict and his spiritual followers through the ages have been a stable source of tremendous good in the world: renewing the Church, preserving learning, cultivating wisdom, modeling humane virtues of balance and generosity. The life of our Sisters shapes our life. We are gratefully Benedictine.

Benedictine Values

Although communal life inspired by the Rule of St. Benedict (RB) stores a vast treasury of Benedictine values, six of these are of particular importance for our life at the University of Mary:

  • Community: Striving together for the common good and growing in relationship with God, one another, and self; Let all things be common to all (RB 33).
  • Hospitality: Receiving others as Christ with warmth and attentiveness; Let all be received as Christ (RB 53).
  • Moderation: Honoring all of God’s creation and living simply with balance and gratitude; Regard all things as sacred and do everything with moderation (RB 31).
  • Prayer: Attending to the mystery and sacredness of life, abiding in the divine presence, listening and responding to God; Listen intently to holy readings. Give yourself frequently to prayer (RB 4).
  • Respect for Persons: Recognizing the image of God in each person and honoring each one in their giftedness and limitations; Honor everyone and never do to another what you do not want done to yourself (RB 4).
  • Service: Meeting the needs of others in the example of Jesus the servant leader; The members should serve one another (RB 35).

The University of Mary: for Life

The University of Mary provides an environment in which each student participates in those experiences essential to becoming a leader. The development of essential leadership qualities in each student empowers that person to work courageously and effectively for the common good. Our chosen model of leadership is servant leadership: Servant Leadership at the University of Mary is a pattern of living marked by competence in one’s chosen profession, courage in making ethical decisions based on Benedictine values, and compassion in serving the needs of others. In a context of relationship to God, to one another, and to self, we believe that leadership is making a difference for good. Rooted in the Gospel and in the founding vision of the Benedictine Sisters to serve the spiritual, intellectual, and cultural needs of others, the model for servant leadership is Jesus Himself. At the University of Mary students grow into leadership through service. “Learners become leaders in the service of truth.” - Sister Thomas Welder, university president, 1978-2009.

Aware of its close historical ties with the people of our region, the University of Mary seeks to enhance the quality of life in the Bismarck- Mandan community and in all the communities we serve. The university also encourages each person to participate in the leadership of his or her religious, social, educational, and political communities. Furthermore, it promotes a setting of freedom and initiative in which each person may develop those characteristics critical to leadership formation and the search for truth and happiness.

That same communal focus makes the University of Mary open to change. Through its continued search for innovative and experiential approaches to learning, the university seeks personalized and relevant education for all students, including those with special needs, whether these be economic, social, cultural, racial, religious, or personal.

All students are encouraged to seek the truth, to see themselves as whole and unique individuals responsible to God, and to become leaders in the service of truth.

University of Mary Online

Online/Evening Programs

The university is committed to serving the learning needs of adults. Undergraduate and graduate programs are offered utilizing alternative delivery modes including concentrated evening classes completed in 5-10 weeks, summer options, weekend courses, and distance education. The university also offers credit through prior learning, as detailed below. Selected undergraduate programs are offered online or in the evenings for working adults. For those who have already completed many requirements for their degree, it is possible to graduate in as little as 15-18 months. Graduate programs are also offered in accelerated and in onsite and online formats. For more information, contact the University of Mary Online offices at enroll@umary.edu.

Distance Sites

University of Mary is committed to serving the needs of students in the Bismarck area and beyond by offering courses in a variety of locations and online. The Information at a Glance  page provides information on all of UMary’s current locations. 

The Prior Learning Portfolio Program

In 1978, as a member of the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), the university designed a program that awards academic credit for learning that took place outside a formal college setting. Students may apply this credit toward an academic degree from the University of Mary. The university awards undergraduate and masters-level graduate credit after an assessment of a prior learning portfolio developed by each applicant to the program. Credit for prior learning is not granted based solely on experience. Students must demonstrate proficiency in the outcomes resulting from the experience and such outcomes must align with those associated with specific University of Mary courses.  Prior learning detailed in the portfolio is evaluated by university faculty from the relevant academic field to ensure that course outcomes have been met.

This program is primarily designed for students who have an extended record of employment, specialized certificates or certifications, military experience, and/or other forms of qualifying service such as civic activities or volunteer experience in which the student acquired skills applicable to his/her degree. Information on eligibility and criteria for this program is available in the Academic Life: General Policies  section of the catalog.

Year-Round Campus

The University of Mary’s Year-Round Campus option offers students the same course load as traditional full-time degree programs. Instead of taking summers off, students have the option to continue studies for eight consecutive semesters. Students receive the same education and formation, but in much less time.

Another advantage of Year-Round Campus is our career-oriented Work Campus, where students can earn spending money, help pay for student loans, and jump-start a career.

Additional information is available online and through the Admissions Department.

Harold Schafer Emerging Leaders Academy

Undergraduate Programs/Academic Policies


To identify and develop servant leaders of moral courage.


The Emerging Leaders Academy will recruit and retain high performing candidates and the graduates of these programs will be highly sought after by employers because of their exemplary writing, speaking, critical thinking, and professional skills.

Program Description

The Emerging Leaders Academy (ELA) is a leadership development program that is designed for highly-motivated, capable students who are interested in becoming future professional leaders. As members, students will develop higher level leadership skills through hands-on projects and experiences that network them with the region’s top leaders. Mentorships and internships enhance students’ professional development and open the door to future employment or graduate school recommendation. Each year, students who prove their passion and motivation for leadership will be selected to move forward in the program. Only a very select few students will enter the unique, individualized senior capstone experience where they will design a leadership experience that meets their individual professional and leadership needs.

Admission to the Emerging Leaders Academy

Prospective students qualify for an abbreviated program application process if they have a 3.25 cumulative high school grade point average or a 21 ACT composite score and successfully complete all application requirements. Typically, students apply to the program before or during their freshmen year. Accepted freshmen students will enroll in the introductory Emerging Leaders Academy class (ELA 120 ) during Spring semester. Transfer students may also enter the Emerging Leaders Academy upon enrollment at the University of Mary.

Summer Sessions

Summer sessions provide educational opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students through workshops, internships, independent study, and regular classes.

Graduate Programs

Graduate courses are offered each semester and during summer sessions. Students interested in pursuing a graduate degree should contact Graduate Admissions.

Dual Credit Program

Capable high school juniors and seniors may enroll for university courses offered at partner high schools. Credits earned through this program are approved by the University of Mary and, as such, appear on an official transcript and may transfer to other institutions of higher education.

Programs for Elders

If class limits and budget allow, persons 65 years of age or older may attend classes at the University of Mary tuition-free, up to a maximum of 3 credits per semester. They may take courses for academic credit or on an audit basis. Individuals receiving this benefit will receive a 1098T which reflects the benefit received. In accord with IRS regulations, this benefit may have tax consequences. Eligible students are responsible for any applicable fees associated with their enrollment.

Life-Long Learning and Continuing Education

The University of Mary approves courses for academic credit offered by outside agencies. These courses are in disciplines in which the university offers a major area of study.

Short courses and workshops are offered periodically for continuing education units (C.E.U.) and workshop credits (G.W.C.) as defined by The Council on Continuing Education.

Arrangements can be made for students to receive credit and/or continuing education units for workshops, seminars, etc., which are conducted in the community or on campus. To do so, the requestor must submit a request for approval for continuing education units from the Life Long Learning Office. The request for credit must include a description of the workshop or seminar, the dates of the workshop, workshop presenters, content and contact hours, and if applicable, additional requirements to be met.

Upon receipt and review of the request, the director of Life Long Learning will forward the request for approval to the dean of the school overseeing the program. Upon approval, the requestor will be notified in writing of approval of the specific course for a specific number of credits, credit requirements, tuition costs, and the name of the person to be contacted for registration.

University Core Competencies

The University of Mary has four undergraduate and four graduate core competencies. Undergraduate competencies are intended to form students in the university’s mission and core values and help them hone the qualities of a person educated in the liberal arts. Graduate competencies are designed to help students grow as scholars and deepen their skills and knowledge in a specialized field while further refining their moral and professional value systems. The competencies were identified by a team of faculty and administrators. University of Mary requires threading of the applicable competencies through every program’s learning objectives. 

Undergraduate Student Competencies

The University of Mary challenges students to develop and appreciate distinctly different ways of thinking about nature, culture, and society. Liberal learning engaged in collectively calls forth and develops essential qualities of the mind - creative, analytical, imaginative and intellectual - and at the University of Mary is not restricted to traditional liberal arts core courses; rather, liberal learning is integrated throughout disciplinary and professional fields. The ultimate purpose of a liberal education is to develop in individuals a leadership ethic of social obligation and service that benefits the pluralistic world community.

When students graduate, they are competent in four areas essential for them to function in careers and lead meaningful lives.

Spirituality and Ethics

Undergraduates use the Classical Philosophical Tradition, Catholic Theological, and Benedictine Wisdom Traditions to inform thought and action. Students demonstrate their proficiency in this core competency by: 1). Applying the Classical Philosophical Tradition to ordinary human or professional life; 2). Applying the Catholic Theological Tradition, both internally as Christian Spirituality/Friendship with God and externally as conformity with Catholic Social Teaching, to daily or professional life; and 3). Demonstrating appreciation of the Benedictine values as understood by the Benedictine Wisdom Tradition and applying these values in this tradition to life.


Undergraduates effectively construct and deliver messages. When communicating, students construct information and/or ideas in a manner that maximizes meaning and enhances the credibility of the message. They adapt the delivery of a message to effectively convey information and/or ideas clearly through audience and context synthesis and reciprocity in the appropriate medium.

Critical Thinking

Undergraduates are careful, curious, goal-oriented thinkers. They observe, inquire, conceptualize, and evaluate to uncover assumptions/claims, and make arguments/draw conclusions using valid and reliable supporting evidence. They engage in metacognition and retrieve prior knowledge to help navigate and refine their thinking and respond to new information.  

Global Stewardship

Undergraduates respectfully analyze and evaluate the differences and commonalities between local and global natural, cultural, spiritual, and social systems/environments. Students adept in global stewardship are culturally proficient. A culturally proficient student demonstrates the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to interact equitably and effectively locally and globally. Students proficient in this competency also demonstrate responsible civil engagement. 


The university requires that students complete between 52-60 semester credits in liberal arts courses to help develop the four competence areas: Spirituality and Ethics, Communication, Critical Thinking, and Global Stewardship. Faculty advisors assist students in choosing courses and identifying learning opportunities that will help them meet this requirement.

Graduate Student Competencies

Graduate programs at University of Mary are intellectual communities and learning environments built on the learners’ life experiences and baccalaureate education that offer leadership experiences, challenging the adult learner to perform at an advanced level of excellence through focused study and reflective self-assessment. The University of Mary defines leadership as competence in one’s chosen profession, courage in making ethical decisions based on Benedictine values, and compassion in serving the needs of others.  

Through UMary’s graduate educational experience, each adult learner generates new knowledge through completion of an integrative, scholarly project. Opportunities to engage in scholarly activity include pursuit of learning and experiencing through discovery, through integration of knowledge and research, through application of professional expertise and service, and through reflective teaching and learning.  


Graduates demonstrate excellence in communication. Students are engaging and effective communicators demonstrated by employing collaborative dialogue and adapting language to resonate with multiple audiences and/or cultures. Their communication reflects a strong command of their field(s) due to the accurate application of disciplinary standards and infusion of disciplinary frameworks and evidence into oral and written works.


Graduates conduct research or evidence-based practice to develop degree-appropriate knowledge of scholarship. Students display the skills and dispositions essential to effectively conduct evidence-based practice or research and produce scholarship. They develop a professional philosophy grounded in scholarship.

Professional Distinction

Graduates are servant leaders committed to excellence in their professions and communities. Students integrate knowledge and skills in the applicable discipline for professional service and/or contributions to society. They integrate applicable ethical principles and synthesize supporting reasons/evidence for decision-making. Students pursue the common good by prioritizing the needs of, and cultivating the growth of, others above their own circumstances and aspirations.

Moral Courage

Graduates clarify, support, or defend what is right and true, whether reached by faith or reason, when confronted by opposing actions or viewpoints in order to serve an understanding of the truth and to promote a culture of human dignity, justice, and virtue. Students, motivated by serving truth, evaluate and respond to actions or viewpoints opposed to what is right or true.  Based on faith or reason, they clarify, support, or defend truth and a culture of human dignity, justice, and virtue.