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Though steeped in tradition, Marian Court College flourishes in contemporary times and nourishes eager young minds. 

The start of the new school year signifies fresh beginnings, but for Marian Court College, it’s also a celebration of 50 years as an institution of higher learning, complete with a new president and recognition as a four-year college. Located at the end of a winding driveway in a picturesque neighborhood in Swampscott, Marian Court sits on a historic six-acre oceanfront property with breathtaking views. The main building, a majestic mansion built in 1890, was once the summer home of President Calvin Coolidge. Over the years, it has evolved from a private residence to a secretarial school for women to what it is today, a Catholic college founded by the Sisters of Mercy.

Just this year, Dr. Denise A. Hammon was appointed as the college’s fourth president. With 25 years experience in higher education, Dr. Hammon has also earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard University, as well as a doctoral degree in Law and Policy from Northeastern University. She has served as Marian Court’s Dean of Academic Affairs and Student Services since August 2010 and is passionate about the future of the college. Dr. Hammon tells us what we can look forward to this school year and beyond:

What surprises most people when you tell them about Marian Court? Our size and ability to offer a terrific education. By higher education standards, we are a small college. However, as a small college, we have a big and important mission. We offer all the services and resources of larger liberal arts institutions, with the exceptions of varsity athletics and residential life. Through careful planning, and with a focus on making all experiences intentional, Marian Court College provides a quality education at an affordable cost to a deserving college population. Our retention and graduation rates are exemplary. Adhering to our application standards, students come to Marian Court prepared to learn at the college level. All course offerings are 3- or 4-credit courses (there are no remedial courses), enabling students to stay on track and graduate on time through careful faculty advising and academic counseling. This is one of our hallmarks.

What are your goals as president? As a Catholic institution, we are guided by the Sisters of Mercy [and their] values of compassion, justice, integrity, and service to others. In collaboration with the faculty and administration, I use these values to shape all that we do at Marian Court College, inside and outside of the classroom. As a result, the college provides a solid foundation for future success, whether it is to pursue further degrees or to obtain a professional position.

The first major goal of my presidency was [to oversee] the college’s transition to a four-year institution, with the addition of bachelor’s degree programs in Business Administration and Criminal Justice. These programs will prepare our students for professional careers and to contribute to the North Shore communities in which they live. The next bachelor’s degree to be offered will be a B.A. in Humanities.

I would like to see all Marian Court students have at least one internship experience. Those students who have interned in the court system or in a business have ended up with job offers upon graduation. It is a win-win for the local economy and our students.

A third goal is to create external advisory groups, which are important in keeping the curriculum current and our students employable. I encourage North Shore employers to call me if they would like to be on an advisory group; I can offer them a great seaside view and a most rewarding experience.

Marion Court College, Swampscott
The mansion’s rooms retain many of its elaborate features from the early 20th century.

Why were the new B.S. programs added and how will they affect the current degree programs offered? Employers are looking for new hires to have, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree. It was only natural for Marian Court College to take this next step and offer B.S. degrees in Criminal Justice and Business Administration. What is unique about our programs is the close alignment of the programs with the Mercy core values. Additionally, in both B.S. programs, there is a strong foundation in the liberal arts curriculum; students are taught to study and analyze through history and philosophy.

In the Criminal Justice program, students develop a deep understanding of the theory of restorative justice and its importance to society. They develop critical thinking skills to determine when it is appropriate to use restorative justice over the punitive system. At most colleges, only a few weeks are spent on this important aspect of the criminal justice system whereas at Marian Court, the approach of restorative justice is woven throughout the four-year curriculum.

For our Business Administration students, an emphasis is placed on ethical leadership. Understanding it is important for a business to be profitable; our students learn that profitability can be accomplished through sound management principles and organizational practices that treat people with dignity. Through case study analyses and internships, Marian Court students develop a deep understanding of leadership ethics. Our business program goes beyond students learning to control, predict, verify, guarantee, and test data. They also learn to ask “what if” questions of unknown futures.

What makes Marian Court different from other colleges in the area? Several attributes make a Marian Court College education unique, but first and foremost, it is our brand. We have one of the most diverse student bodies (66 percent minority) of all private colleges in Massachusetts, and one of the highest retention (81 percent) and graduation rates (76 percent). This is attributable to the outstanding dedication and support of the Marian Court College faculty and staff. We offer academic services and resources that enable students to be successful. Being small has its advantages; our faculty-to-student ratio is 15:1. We do not have large lecture halls where students can hide from view, literally and figuratively. We know when a student has not purchased his or her books or has missed a class, and we follow up.

Secondly, we are the only four-year, private, non-residential college on the North Shore, which allows us to offer an extremely affordable education. Marian Court College understands how overwhelming and confusing the financial aid process can be for students, which is why we speak with every student who is applying for financial aid and take the time to explain the process. This line of communication remains open from the moment their enrollment begins until it ends. The Marian Court College financial aid office feels strongly that students should not be taking on more debt than is absolutely necessary. For this reason, we provide students one-on-one financial counseling. More than 90 percent of Marian Court College students receive some type of financial aid, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans. The average student at Marian Court College receives approximately $8,000 in grant aid per academic year. The average student loan debt is approximately $5,500 per academic year, and may be lower depending on the student’s financial need.

What steps are you taking to raise awareness of the college among Swampscott and other North Shore residents? Marian Court College is part of the Swampscott community. Throughout the year, we provide intellectual and cultural opportunities for the town and the surrounding communities, and we serve as a beautiful location for weddings and special functions.

For nearly 50 years, North Shore employers have been hiring Marian Court College graduates. Our students are sought after for their professional competencies in criminal justice and business administration and for their grounding in the Mercy values. As a liberal arts institution, we stress the importance of writing and oral presentation. This educational preparation, when coupled with a strong work ethic, makes for a well-rounded and loyal employee.

Calvin Coolidge's former summer home, Marion Court College, Swampscott
Calvin Coolidge’s former summer home

What are some initiatives for the 2013-2014 academic year? In gratitude for the service veterans and their families give to our nation, Marian Court is honored to participate in the Yellow Ribbon program, which is a provision of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008. Yellow Ribbon is a scholarship designed to help veterans supplement their Post 9/11 GI Bill tuition benefits. Because our tuition is less than $20,000 per year, a veteran, through the Yellow Ribbon program, can attend Marian Court College at no cost. Having come of age during the Vietnam era and as the daughter of a U.S. Army veteran, I am especially pleased and proud that Marian Court College is helping veterans with their education.

As we enter our 50th year as an institution of higher education, we will be marking the occasion with celebrations and a speaker series on a range of topics. As a college, it is part of our mission to provide an environment that offers an opportunity for the exchange of ideas and intellectual enrichment of the community. These forums will be open to the North Shore community.

What is your favorite part about coming to work each day? It is all about the students. Every day, I see intellectual and spiritual growth in our students. They continually motivate me to be creative and responsive to their needs as they bring new ideas to the curriculum and student life. As an example, the annual Thanksgiving Flag Football game, complete with a recruiting draft, was a new experience for me. They let me do the coin toss!

Marian Court hosts weddings and other special events on the property. How does that work? The mansion, the grounds, and the seaside view evoke enthusiasm from our visitors. Our location provides elegance and simplicity. Our guests love the proximity to the coastline and how this mansion is nestled among the craggy rocks of the North Shore. [They] appreciate the interior of the mansion for its beautiful and timeless decor from a bygone era. It is a spectacular location for holding an event.

The events hosted at Marian Court College vary in size from family and social events including weddings, graduation and birthday parties, bar and bat mitzvahs, retirement parties, business meetings and retreats, and picnics. We host smaller dinner parties, we have space for lectures, and we host corporate classes.

Depending on the client requests, we have several caterers, vendors, and suppliers who help set the tone and assist in coordinating the logistics for events. As with our curriculum, we give attention to the smallest details to make the event memorable and successful.

If you were talking to a prospective student, how would you sum up the Marian Court experience? Marian Court is all about quality. The faculty is composed of educators who have advanced degrees and a passion for teaching. Likewise, the administration of Marian Court College comprises experienced professionals offering the services and resources that enable our students to be successful inside and outside of the classroom. I am extremely fortunate to be working with such dedicated colleagues and to be serving such an appreciative student body. Our students are amazing. They are always seeking knowledge and serving others. ?n