Graduation crowd

Great Grads 2023: First graduates from new Degree Completion Program receive their diplomas

When Bellarmine celebrates its 70th annual commencement festivities on May 13, the first graduates from the Degree Completion Program will cross the stage.
“This time last year, I was taking a class for my professional license and was starting to contemplate whether I should go back to college,” said Mandy Kennedy. “My daughter, who is my youngest child, was about to graduate high school and I was going to be an empty nester. In addition, I had climbed up the ladder about as far as I could with an associate degree.”
Mandy-Kennedy-Degree-Completers-SQFast-forward 12 months, and Mandy is finishing her bachelor’s degree, completing the requirements she needs for her Certified General (commercial) real estate appraiser license. The result has reinforced Mandy’s feelings about her program choice. “Deciding to enroll in Bellarmine’s Degree Completion Program was a no-brainer.”
For adult students with some prior college credit looking for a convenient and affordable path to finishing their bachelor’s degree, Bellarmine’s Degree Completion Program offers online classes in 7-week blocks, allowing students to learn at their own pace. 
“Our goal is to make all students feel like they’re part of the Bellarmine community,” said Dr. Laura Hartford, associate dean of Bellarmine’s College of Arts and Sciences and head of the Degree Completion Program. “Tuition is heavily discounted, and classes are offered in an online, asynchronous, accelerated format. Degree completers can also take advantage of all of the resources and support provided to our traditional Knights.” 
“I’m excited when a student who started college is able to overcome barriers and receive their degree.” - Dr. Laura Hartford

Students in the program can choose between two paths to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Studies to advance their careers:

The Organizational Leadership track offers training in communication, management and understanding of human behavior. This degree prepares students for careers as effective and ethical leaders to help organizations succeed.
The Information Technology track gives students the practical skills they need to understand and manage today's computer-based information systems. This track includes courses in computer science, data management and business administration, with a core grounded in the humanities and social sciences. 
Craig-Smith-Degree-Completer-SQFor Craig Smith, completing his bachelor's degree through the program has already helped him earn a promotion at his current employer.
“Bellarmine University and the Degree Completion Program have been a breath of fresh air as I ramp up my old academic skills from two decades earlier,” he said. His experience  inspired him to take his education even further, pursuing an Executive Master of Business Administration in Bellarmine’s Rubel School of Business.
“With the hands-on approach I received at Bellarmine, the faculty, staff and administration are some of your most prominent supporters.” 
Each new student works one-on-one with dedicated advisors to develop a personalized academic plan, taking into account prior credit and goals after graduation. Academic credit can also be granted for prior learning outside the classroom through professional, military, volunteer, training and other life experiences. 
“My experience has been really wonderful,” said Jessi Jones, who began her college career at Bellarmine but hadn’t been on campus for more than a decade. “As I was just about two traditional semesters shy of graduating, most of my courses have been degree-specific. The professors have been conscious of student needs regarding time management and outside commitments” like work and family.
Jessi-Jones-Degree-Completers-SQJessi’s awareness of Bellarmine goes back to her seventh-grade English teacher, who was a Bellarmine alum and always spoke of the university with pride. 
“As the years passed, things have changed…but Bellarmine's distinction has remained,” she said. “Bellarmine feels like a school that actually cares about the people who attend their classes and it's just an added bonus that they have a great academic reputation.” 
Paul Hyden and Justin Odle will also be receiving their degrees through the Degree Completion Program.
“I’m excited when a student who started college is able to overcome barriers and receive their degree,” Hartford said. “At Bellarmine, we work very hard to be accessible and supportive. Some students in the program are able to fly through and don’t need much assistance from me at all, but I enjoy learning about students’ individual goals, and I value being in a position to help if and when it is needed.”
Congratulations to the first graduates of our Degree Completion Program. We are excited to see where your degree will take you.  


Located in the historic Highlands neighborhood of Louisville, Kentucky, Bellarmine University is a vibrant community of educational excellence and ethical awareness that consistently ranks among the nation’s best colleges and universities. Our students pursue an education based in the liberal arts – and in the distinguished, inclusive Catholic tradition of educational excellence, the oldest and most rewarding in the western world. It is a lifelong education, worthy of the university’s namesake, Saint Robert Bellarmine, and of his invitation to each of us to learn and live In Veritatis Amore – in the love of all that is beautiful, true and good in life.