BISMARCK, N.D. - As hundreds of students prepare for graduation at the University of Mary this weekend, 77 of them are preparing to be done with school after a little more than two and a half years.
The university introduced the year round campus a couple years ago. The idea is to give students a chance to get their undergraduate degree in just over two and a half years by taking classes in the fall, spring and summer. And this weekend, some of those who took the initial plunge into the system are getting their degrees.
Stephen Richardson is preparing for his last two finals before graduation. He's majoring in psychology and came into school knowing exactly what he wanted to do. It's part of the reason he enrolled in the year round campus.
“I was 22 years old when I came here and I wanted to graduate as soon as possible and the idea of getting it done in 2.6 years was really attractive to me,” Richardson said.
Over the last two and a half years he's gotten very involved on campus: playing guitar in the Ablaze group, becoming a residence assistant, and then a residence director and creating a group for the men in North Hall to get them more involved on campus.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity to provide a community builder here in North Hall especially for freshmen men so that they can build bridges with each other and across campus as they either move off campus or move to Boniface Hall next year,” Richardson said.
Richardson says although he's busy with a full time job and 18 credits this semester, the move to enroll in year round campus saved him time and money. But he says it's the friendships he's built, because of some of the small class sizes, that are the best part of the program.
“It's the prime place for you to build community with people you're going to have relationships with the rest of your life,” he said.
Richardson is taking the summer off of classes, but will be back at Mary in the fall to start his Masters in counseling. He's hoping to work with juveniles, to help prevent delinquency before it happens.
Graduation takes place on Saturday.