Academic restructuring under new strategic vision ensures Bellarmine is positioned to meet the region’s workforce needs

March 22, 2023

Bellarmine University today announced changes to strengthen and redefine the university in support of a new strategic vision—Bellarmine Forward—that will position Bellarmine as the region’s premier institution for well-rounded, career-ready graduates. 
Bellarmine Forward is a bold plan centered on opportunity and success, both for students and for Metro Louisville. It capitalizes on career outcomes that are among the best in higher education, with 98% of Bellarmine graduates landing a job or continuing their education within six months of graduating. What’s more, 74% of Bellarmine graduates choose to stay in Louisville and 95% are working in their field of interest. 
The new strategic vision describes a Bellarmine education according to five distinctive characteristics:
  • Career-ready graduates – Bellarmine is nationally recognized for providing talented leaders across high-demand fields—including healthcare, business and education—through innovative employer partnerships and a track record of helping students find rewarding careers after graduation.
  • Preparing students for life – Guided by its Catholic traditions, Bellarmine nurtures an interfaith community where a liberal arts foundation and hands-on experiences, guided by individualized attention in and out of the classroom, build critical thinking, self-agency, collaboration and character.
  • Community engagement – Bellarmine is deeply connected to its city and the region through distinctive community engagement, professional partnerships and athletics programs.
  • Equitable and inclusive – Bellarmine is a student-centered community committed to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in a welcoming learning environment grounded in social justice.
  • Best return on investment in the region – Bellarmine offers an affordable and transformational experience for students through small class sizes, robust student support and a breadth of ways to learn and engage.
For students, Bellarmine will strengthen academic programs in high-demand career fields and add flexibility for an enriching, multidisciplinary liberal arts experience. The university will also explore additional opportunities to make a Bellarmine education more affordable and accessible, building on recent initiatives such as one that ensures students won’t pay more to attend Bellarmine than they would to attend their state’s flagship public university. 
For Metro Louisville, Bellarmine will expand meaningful workforce development and community engagement partnerships that benefit both students and the community and increase the workforce to propel key industries in the region.  
Bellarmine’s president, Dr. Susan M. Donovan, said the changes are a proactive, forward-looking response to challenges facing not only Bellarmine, but institutions of higher education across the nation—challenges exacerbated by the pandemic.
“Even before the pandemic, U.S. confidence in the value of education had been declining. Nationally, enrollment in universities has dropped, with an especially significant shift over the past two years,” Donovan said. “But at the same time, we are facing an incredible opportunity to shape Bellarmine into an even stronger postsecondary leader as we emerge from the pandemic.”
“We are taking advantage of this unique moment in time to undergo a strategic reset that will build on our distinctive strengths and offerings to forge a sustainable path forward that ensures a strong and vibrant future for the university,” said Russell F. Cox, president and CEO of Norton Healthcare and chair of Bellarmine’s Board of Trustees. “I am fully confident in what we can do and what we will become.”
Bellarmine’s new strategic vision includes these key initiatives: 
Academic restructuring
In keeping with Bellarmine’s role as a leader in academic innovation, the university has reviewed its academic structure and majors through an ongoing process with faculty members and major regional employers. Bellarmine's curriculum will maintain a strong foundation in the liberal arts as it produces well-rounded, critical thinkers who stand out across employment sectors. 
While no disciplines will be eliminated from the core curriculum that all Bellarmine students experience, select majors will be phased out over the next few years: undergraduate degrees in Aging Studies, Foreign Languages and International Studies, Philosophy, Physics, Radiation Therapy, Senior Living Leadership, Spanish, and Theatre; a graduate degree in Athletic Training, and Medical Laboratory Science at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. These majors have produced few graduates in recent years, and the savings from these programs—combined with savings already achieved through administrative streamlining—will ensure the university can invest in new, high-demand programs.
Students enrolled in affected majors will be offered a clear and individualized path to complete their program of study.
New academic programs
The university will continue to invest in high-demand majors, building on the recent successes of new degrees in marketing, neuroscience, public health, biomedical science, nurse anesthesia and health professions education, as well as a degree-completion program for returning students with prior college credit. 
These new initiatives could include new graduate programs in fields such as accounting, hospitality, counseling and education. Exact determinations on future offerings will be made through market analysis. 
Fundraising initiatives
In April, Bellarmine will launch the first phase of an ambitious fundraising initiative to support Bellarmine Forward, focused on the personal attention paid to each student to ensure their access to higher education, along with their success in the classroom and in their career field.
This effort will exist alongside the university’s commitment to raise private funds to support Bellarmine’s move to NCAA Division I, which has so far generated nearly $8.9 million. 
Community partnerships
Bellarmine will continue to expand its focus on building mutually advantageous community partnerships with employers such as Norton Healthcare and educational institutions such as Jefferson County Public Schools and Louisville Catholic Schools. These partnerships help to build enrollment pipelines; to establish internships, experiential learning and career placement for students; and to develop new academic programs that provide talented graduates to fill community workforce needs.
Maximizing access and affordability
Nationally, the cost of a college education remains a concern for students and families. Bellarmine continues to make affordability a top priority. The university will increase its attention to tuition pricing and financial aid strategies to ensure a Bellarmine education is as affordable and accessible as possible, regardless of a student’s financial circumstances.  
"As students and families explore their college options, it is sometimes not clear to them that the exact cost of attending Bellarmine is more affordable than they might think,” said Donovan. “While this issue is not unique to Bellarmine, we are committed to ensuring that diverse and mission-centric students are never discouraged from applying to attend Bellarmine.”
To underscore that commitment, Bellarmine will continue with its practice of offering 100% of admitted traditional first-year and transfer students a merit scholarship. Additionally, Bellarmine has recently launched several initiatives to address real and perceived affordability and access barriers, including the Public Price Promise, the Hope Kentucky Scholars Program, Louisville Century Scholars, and partnerships with the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, including Jefferson Community and Technical College, Ivy Tech Community College System of Indiana and Chattanooga State Community College. The university is tracking the effectiveness of these financial aid efforts and making adjustments as needed.
Regional and national visibility
The university will also continue to leverage its increased Division I visibility to grow into new regional markets with a higher percentage of college-age students through new regional recruitment strategies.
As an independent, private liberal arts institution, Bellarmine University is well-positioned to build upon its strengths and navigate the new higher education landscape. Bellarmine will continue to provide a well-rounded educational experience that is unmatched in this market. Because of the university’s emphasis on the liberal arts, Bellarmine graduates stand out in the marketplace—whether they are business leaders, nurses, physical therapists, teachers or biologists. 

All News Stories