BISMARCK, ND — Innovative learning opportunities at the University of Mary grew in 2014–2015, earning the school national recognition as a College of Distinction.

Colleges-of-Distinction-Orange_FBUniversity of Mary students earned college credit and valuable life experience while participating in study abroad programs in several countries, including campuses in Rome and Peru; service learning opportunities in Guatemala and Peru; faculty-led trips to Medjugorje, Israel, China, France and Poland; and a partnership with Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, Italy for business students. Also, one of the most noted new educational paradigms for students at the University of Mary is the groundbreaking Year-Round Campus. This paradigm shift in education gives undergraduate students the option of a full and vibrant campus experience over the summer, allowing them to complete a bachelor’s degree in 2.6 years and a master’s in 4. This option is an innovative solution to the rising costs, extended completion times, and skyrocketing debt loads currently challenging students seeking higher education.

“Colleges of Distinction is delighted to honor University of Mary for its success in expanding programming by developing competencies relevant to graduates’ lives,” said Tyson Schritter, executive editor for Colleges of Distinction. “Active engagement is well recognized as a key to ensuring that undergraduates get the most out of their education, and it has proven correlation with on-time graduation as well. Students increasingly demand access to hands-on learning, and Colleges of Distinction congratulates University of Mary for leading the way in the development of new methodologies that prepare students for the future.”

Monsignor James Shea

Monsignor James Shea, President of the University of Mary

“Not only are we extremely honored by this recognition, but also very proud to be the only College of Distinction in North Dakota and one of only a few awarded universities in the region,” said University of Mary President Monsignor James Shea. “We have launched some of the most innovative learning initiatives across the U.S. — from our Rome campus to Year-Round Campus — students come to Mary from around the world experiencing a dynamic and comprehensive learning environment at one of the nation’s most affordable universities.”

Schools must demonstrate results across the Four Distinctions—Engaged Students, Great Teaching, Vibrant Community, and Successful Outcomes. High school counselors and educators make nominations and each school is evaluated on key indicators including student engagement, student empowerment, and curricular innovation. Colleges that have distinguished themselves in each of the Four Distinctions and that have demonstrated dedication to enriching student outcomes through innovative learning opportunities are then invited to join Colleges of Distinction.

The annual process to select the nation’s Colleges of Distinction also includes a review of each institution’s freshman experience, as well as its general education program, strategic plan, and alumni success and satisfaction measures.

“Colleges of Distinction provides more than just a ranking or a tally of test scores. We identify colleges that offer every student an educationally rewarding experience,” said Schritter. “The Colleges of Distinction have earned solid reputations for nurturing and serving their students across every measure. Like University of Mary, our member schools provide the affirming undergraduate experience every student deserves.”

To view University of Mary’s profile or to find more information about the innovative learning experiences it offers, visit

About Colleges of Distinction

Since 1999, the Colleges of Distinction website and e-guidebook have recognized and honored schools throughout the U.S. for excellence in undergraduate-focused higher education. The member schools in the Colleges of Distinction consortium distinguish themselves through their focus on the undergraduate experience. provides dynamic college profiles, customized tools, and more for students, parents, and high school counselors. For more information, visit