University of Mary - Colleges of Distinction - Colleges of Distinction
University of Mary
Founded to prepare leaders in the service of truth, the University of Mary is...

University of Mary

Bismarck, North Dakota

The University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, was founded in 1959 by the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery. The school began as a four-year undergraduate college of education and nursing. Since then, it has expanded to offer 56 undergraduate majors, 14 master’s programs, and 3 doctoral programs. The variety of programs offered gives students a strong liberal arts base for their chosen careers while maintaining a distinctive focus on servant leadership. The University has flourished since its founding and now serves more than 3,000 students in North Dakota, Arizona, Montana, Minnesota, Kansas, Rome, and Peru, along with flexible and convenient online offerings.


Among the outstanding qualities of the University of Mary are its innovation and distinctiveness. The University has launched a myriad of unique initiatives to benefit students. This includes a groundbreaking ‘Year-Round Campus’ option, which provides students 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.


With 17 NCAA Division II Athletics varsity sports, the University of Mary community – students, alumni, faculty, and staff – come together in spirited support of the university teams.


Education at University of Mary challenges students academically and encourages them to develop their full potential as people and as leaders with moral courage who can effect positive change in the world.

Student Profile

Fall 2015 Enrollment
2,049 undergraduate students
83% of undergrad students are full time
36% male — 64% female
50% of students are from out of state

Faculty Profile

2015-2016 Academic Year
231 full-time faculty
23 part-time faculty
13 to 1 student/faculty ratio

Residence Life

The University of Mary currently houses students in 11 residence halls, seven halls for women and four for men. An additional women’s residence hall is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2016. Residence halls include the options of traditional, suite-style, and apartment-style facilities.

School Location

The University of Mary’s main campus is located just south of Bismarck, North Dakota, atop a bluff that oversees stunning panoramic views of the beautiful Missouri River valley, open fields and rolling hills.

Mary offers all the advantages of traditional university life with the attractions of a vibrant and growing urban setting. Students have quick and easy access to the cities of Bismarck and Mandan with the advantages of a wide and expanding array of events and entertainment in one of the fastest growing communities in America. Bismarck is the capital city of North Dakota and is consistently ranked as one of the safest and least stressful communities in the nation.

Peaceful, beautiful, and friendly, Bismarck is alive with activities in all four seasons, with an extensive trail system, parks and golf courses, sports leagues, symphony, community theater, shopping, and more.

Bismarck Municipal Airport is a beautiful facility that offers multiple arrivals and departures each day. Numbers of flights continue to expand, so travel for most out-of-state students is available and convenient.

Retention Fall 2015

75% of students began in Fall 2014 and returned in Fall 2015 (full-time, first-time freshmen)

6-Year Graduation Rate 2015

60% of students graduated in 6 years


Nonresident aliens 1%
Hispanic/Latino 4%
Black or African American 2%
White 83%
American Indian or Alaska Native 2%
Asian 1%
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander 0%
Two or more races 2%
Race and/or ethnicity unknown 5%


The University of Mary is a member of the NCAA Division II, Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and offers 17 varsity sports. Men’s sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, football, soccer, indoor track & field, outdoor track & field, and wrestling. Women’s sports are basketball, cross country, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, indoor track & field, outdoor track & field, and volleyball.

The University of Mary also offers a variety of intramural sports as well as a 24/7 fitness center.

The university’s mascot is the Marauders and its school colors are blue and orange.

Academic Programs

Bachelor’s Degree Programs (Majors/Minors): Accounting, Addiction Counseling, Athletic Training, Biology, Biology Education, Business, Business Administration, Business Communication, Business Education, Catholic Studies, Chemistry, Coaching, Communication Disorders (preparation for graduate program in Speech Pathology), Computer Information Systems, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education, Engineering Science, English, English Education, Environmental Science, Exercise Science, Financial Services and Banking, Government and Political Philosophy, Health Education, Healthcare Administration, History, History Education, Indian Studies, Information Technology Management, Liberal Arts, Liturgy, Marketing, Mass Communications, Mathematics, Mathematics Education, Medical Laboratory Science, Music, Music Education, Music Performance, Music with an Emphasis in Sacred Music, Nursing, Organizational Leadership, Pastoral Ministry, Philosophy, Philosophy-Theology, Physical Education, Political Science, Psychology, Public Policy, Public Relations, Radiologic Technology, Religious Education, Respiratory Therapy, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Social Studies Education, Social Work, Sociology, Spanish, Special Education, Speech, Sport and Leisure Management, Theater, Theological Studies, Theology, Web Design, Wellness.

More Distinctions

  • Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Universities (NCA),

  • Accredited by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

  • In 2013, the job/graduate school placement rate was shown to be 99% (as calculated by the Career and Testing Services department in the Student Success Center)

  • Doctorate in Physical Therapy program ranked 31 of 192 programs in the country in licensure pass rates (96.67% vs. U.S. avg. 88.13%).

  • The Respiratory Therapy Program received the National Excellence in Education Award from the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC), which placed the program in the top 25% of all programs in the United States.

  • Peer-review discipline accreditation by Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, National Council on Social Work Education, Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapist Education, Committee on Accreditation for Athletic Training Education Programs, International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education.

The University’s president, Msgr. James Shea, describes the distinctiveness of Mary:

“What is the purpose of higher education? What is a university for? The domain of a university is universal knowledge. Universal knowledge about how men and women are meant to live as human beings, how they are meant to be contributors to society, contributors to the culture, and our work at the University of Mary is to help our students—whether they are 18 or 42—to be able to see that each of them have that possibility to live fully, to live well, with the insight necessary to be a good mom, to be a good dad, to be great in their workplace in their community. So that they are not just existing, but they are really living. Not just surviving, but they are thriving. And that is a whole different thing. It’s an endeavor, which is very distinct from the endeavor which many colleges, and universities in our day set out to do. We offer an education for the whole of life, and that’s the difference. University of Mary, for Life.”

Additionally, the University is intentionally diverse, both geographically and otherwise, and makes an intentional effort to provide a space for students to resist some of society’s trends. Most prominently, in a divisive culture in which people who disagree with one another can scarcely speak before hurling insults, the University of Mary promotes an environment where students learn to engage in dialogue in the pursuit of truth. Students learn to “disagree without being disagreeable.” A university is intended to be a place for the free exchange of ideas, and so the University of Mary warmly welcome students of many faiths and convictions. At the same time, the University of Mary’s common discourse ever takes place in a spirit of authentic respect for Catholic teaching and practice. All faculty and staff at the University acknowledge the Catholic faith as a path to moral integrity and personal holiness.

Global Studies

At the University of Mary, students are given the unique opportunity to study abroad. Global studies at the University of Mary offers students the chance to study in the “Eternal City” of Rome, Italy, Milan, Italy, Peru, and other faculty-led and service trips. Students can study for a semester, a few weeks out of summer, and participate in services trip over breaks. Global Studies at the University of Mary combines educational programs with life-changing opportunities to experience a different culture, befriend classmates, and put into action the Benedictine values.

Day of Service

In the fall of 2014, students involved with Student Government created a campus and community wide day of Service on October 21. The first year was a success. The second year built upon that success. Over one thousand students and faculty volunteered their time out in the Bismarck-Mandan, ND community serving local and charitable organizations and businesses which helped and touched hundreds of lives, including the students who came to serve.

Resident Scholars

With the intention to bridge the gap between residential life on the campus and the academy, the university is launching a new “resident scholar” program. Professors with terminal degrees in their fields (often the humanities) will live in community with the first-year students. The resident scholars will foster a community of learning outside of the classroom, contributing to a unique experiment in higher education.

Academic Excellence

Known for academic excellence, the University of Mary offers students in North Dakota and around the globe an affordable, private, Catholic university education. Whether one is an undergraduate pursuing their bachelor’s degree, or a graduate student pursuing their master’s or doctorate, Mary offers them values-based, professionally focused academic programs grounded in the liberal arts, servant leadership, and robust experiential learning opportunities.

First-Year Seminar

Among the University’s more unique attributes is the first-year seminar, taught by the University’s president himself. Msgr. James P. Shea. Along with select members of his cabinet, Msgr. Shea’s course attempts to ignite the students’ interest in life’s core questions: “Why am I here? What was I made for? Who am I to love? How can I live well?”

Msgr. Shea, who maintains a close connection with Mary students, often states that young people get college all wrong. Too many young people approach college as “the last gasp of adolescence, when instead a university life is intended to be the first stage of adulthood!”

Msgr’s work with the freshmen is coupled with a fine assembly of faculty in a variety of disciplines. Because the University of Mary is not a research institution, Mary’s faculty are hired and trained to teach. They engage with students in projects outside of class and invest in their success.

The University has been intentional about fostering an environment where faculty and students develop lasting relationships that become lifelong connections. An example of this effort is the foundation of an on campus “pub.” Called Chesterton’s, students (of legal drinking age) and faculty members can often be seen together conversing after a day of classes.

One demonstrative example is the work of Mary professors Marek Dojs (Communications) and Daniel Belinski (Theater), who worked with Mary students to produce a short film that has received praise from film critics. Film festivals are even taking notice!

Activities Outside of the Classroom

Among the more distinctive communities is the Emerging Leaders Academy (ELA). While the University of Mary strives to produce top-notch professionals prepared for the rigors of life and career, students in ELA have a desire to go beyond Mary’s robust internships and experiential learning programs to a personal interaction with leaders in their chosen profession. Offered as an optional community, students in ELA receive personal mentorships by leaders in their chosen profession, developing personal relationships that provide formation and networking. The program is designed for those students who want to make profound impacts through their careers, and thus should learn from someone actively doing so. There are also many student organizations that are tied to students’ academic interests as well as the Student Recreation Program for intramural and fitness activities. Student activities also include those fostering spiritual development.
Among these student organizations include:

  • Students Today Leaders Forever (STFL)
  • Environmental Coalition of Students (ECOS)
  • Music Education (CMENC)
  • PACS (Psychology/Pastoral Ministry, Addiction Counseling, Criminal Justice, Social Work/Social and Behavioral Sciences)
  • PI THETA EPSILON (Beta Pi Chapter) – National Honor Society for Occupational Therapy students
  • Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA)
  • Student Physical Therapy Association, Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE)

The University of Mary offers convocations that vary in topic but include faculty- and student-led lectures and discussion provided for students to gain educational insight. The convocations also host special guest speakers from around the globe.

In addition to all these clubs and activities, a group called Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) sponsors Bible studies at the University of Mary.

Residence Halls

The University of Mary offers both men and women students the opportunity to apply for a faith-based residence life experience. The experiences have residents make a common commitment to pursuing a virtuous life together as a community, all while receiving spiritual direction to discern their vocations.

Guaranteed Success

With over 70 undergraduate programs, 14 master’s degree programs, and 3 doctoral programs, the University of Mary offers a wide range of career opportunities. And with a placement rate of 99%, Mary graduates succeed in obtaining employment or entering graduate school. Mary offers several professional preparation programs, including such fields as business, education, nursing, physical therapy, other health science specializations such as respiratory therapy, and newly-launched specializations in engineering (chemical, civil, electrical, mechanical, and petroleum).


Mary has just launched a groundbreaking “Year-Round Campus” program that allows students the opportunity to complete a bachelor’s degree in 2.6 years and a master’s degree in 4! This program allows students to realize an estimated lifetime financial benefit over $600,000 by graduating with two degrees in just four years.

In competitive health science fields such as nursing and physical therapy, qualifying students can apply for early admission and secure a place in the program. The University of Mary, then, places a strong emphasis on preparing students well for their professional careers while also being fully committed to preparing them to live fully and to live well.


Admissions Fall 2015

900 Total Applicants 
861 Total Admissions 
410 Total Freshman Enrollment

95.67% of applicants admitted

Freshman Profile Fall 2015

  25th Percentile 75th Percentile
SAT Critical Reading 450 600
SAT Math 460 580
SAT Writing 440 575
ACT Composite 20 26
ACT Math 19 26
ACT English 20 26
ACT Writing    


Net Price Calculator


Tuition $15,440
Fees $1,245
Total $16,685
Room and Board (on campus) $6,136
Room Only $2,840
Board Only $3,296
Estimated Total On Campus $22,821


Financial Aid Breakdown 2014-2015

100% of full-time, first-time undergraduates awarded any financial aid
64% of full-time, first-time undergraduates awarded student loan aid

$8,722 Average amount of federal, state, local, or institutional grant aid awarded
$7,470 Average amount of student loan aid awarded to full-time, first-time undergraduates