Mary Baldwin University: A Brief History

A small, entrepreneurial university, Mary Baldwin builds on its 175-year history of enriching lives through the transformational power of personalized education rooted in the liberal arts and sciences. Mary Baldwin has both the courage to innovate as the world changes and the wisdom to stay true to its historic mission.

Founded in 1842 by Rufus W. Bailey as Augusta Female Seminary (AFS), in 1895 the school became Mary Baldwin Seminary in honor of the woman who entered AFS at the age of 12 and went on to serve more than 30 years as its principal. Mary Julia Baldwin led the school through repeated challenges, including the Civil War, launched new courses of study, and became known as the “best businessman in Staunton.” When baccalaureate degrees were first granted in 1923, the name was changed to Mary Baldwin College (MBC).

In 1977, the first students enrolled in the Adult Degree Program — the first program of its kind in Virginia and now called Baldwin Online and Adult Programs — which provides students with career-focused programs of study and flexible course options. This programmatic expansion continued in 1985 with the establishment of the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted (PEG) for teenage girls who skip all or part of high school and enroll in college early. In 1995, Mary Baldwin created the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership, a premier leadership program for young women interested in military or civilian careers. Founded in partnership with the American Shakespeare Center in 2001, Shakespeare and Performance is a graduate program that combines scholarship and stagecraft. Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences — opened in 2014 — offers the first doctoral degrees in the institution’s history and focuses on the interprofessional preparation of health care professionals.

Today Mary Baldwin University retains its residential four-year college for women within the coeducational university. It offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, as well as certificates, licensures, and endorsements in a range of fields.  Educational programs are delivered on the two campuses in Staunton and Fishersville, through regional centers located throughout Virginia, and online. In May 2015, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to change the name of the institution to Mary Baldwin University to reflect its growing range of programs and opportunities. The transition took effect on Charter Day, August 31, 2016, which also began a year-long celebration of Mary Baldwin’s 175th anniversary.

During its quartoseptcentennial year, the university re-affirms its commitment to academically rigorous teaching and learning that fosters leadership development and empowers students to exceed expectations. With innovative programs and a strong sense of community, Mary Baldwin emboldens its students to create their way forward into a rewarding career and meaningful life.


Mary Baldwin empowers leaders to pursue lives of purpose in a changing world.

As a distinctive small university committed to its rich heritage as an inclusive, women-centered liberal arts college, Mary Baldwin fulfills its mission by providing undergraduate, graduate, and professional education to a diverse population of women and men. It emphasizes high ethical standards and the development of critical, creative, and reflective reasoning as the foundation for fulfilling, engaged, and meaningful lives.

Honor and Distinctions

Mary Baldwin University holds membership in the following national honorary societies: Alpha Kappa Delta (sociology), Alpha Lambda Delta (freshmen), Alpha Phi Sigma (criminal justice), Alpha Sigma Lambda (adult students), Beta Beta Beta (biology), Iota Sigma Pi (chemistry), Kappa Delta Pi (education), Lambda Pi Eta (communication), Omicron Delta Epsilon (economics), Omicron Delta Kappa (leadership), Phi Alpha (social work), Phi Alpha Theta (history), Phi Beta Kappa (the nation’s oldest and most respected society honoring the liberal arts; membership is held through the Lambda of Virginia Chapter), Pi Sigma Alpha (political science), Psi Chi (psychology), Sigma Beta Delta (business, management, and administration), Sigma Pi Sigma (physics), and Sigma Tau Delta (English).

Mary Baldwin University: The Four Colleges

MBU’s academic structure comprises four colleges through which curriculum (both undergraduate and graduate) is developed and taught: College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business and Professional Studies, College of Education, and the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences.

Major (M)
Minor (m)
All majors (M) offer a bachelor of arts (BA)
* Bachelor of science (BS) also offered
** Bachelor of social work (BSW)

College of Arts and Sciences  

Rooted in the liberal arts tradition, while also providing a clear pathway from college to career, the College of Arts and Sciences offers the degrees of bachelor of arts and/or bachelor of science in a wide variety of majors and minors. A foundation of rigorous academics enables arts and sciences students to harness intellectual curiosity, critically analyze evidence and think through conclusions, and clearly communicate their thoughts. The breadth (experiencing a wide range of knowledge, ideas, and traditions) and depth (gaining expertise in a single field through a major or minor) of a liberal arts education primes students to navigate and thrive in a world in which knowledge and professions change rapidly.

Undergraduate Studies

African-American Studies (m)
American Studies (M, m)
Anthropology/Sociology (M)
Art History (m)
Art — Studio (M, m)
Art Education (m)
* Biology (M, m)
* Biochemistry (M)
Chemistry (M, m)
Clinical Laboratory Science (M)
Creative Writing (m)
Economics (M, m)
English (M, m)
Exercise Leadership (m)
Film (m)
Francophone Studies (m)
Global Poverty and Development (m)
Historic Preservation (m)
History (M, m)
History — Public (m)
International Affairs (M)
Latin American Literatures and Cultures (m)
Leadership Studies (m)
* Mathematics (M, m)
* Mathematics-Applied (M)
Music (m)
Music Education (m)
Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution (m)
Performing Arts (M)
Philosophy (m)
* Physics (M, m)
Political Science (M, m)
* Psychology (M, m)
Religious Leadership and Ministry (m)
Religious Studies (m)
Sexuality and Gender Studies (m)
Special Education (m)
Sociology (M, m)
Theatre (m)
U.S. Poverty Analysis (m)
Women’s Studies (m)

Graduate Studies

BA/MS in Applied Mathematics (with the University of Virginia)
BA/MS in Engineering (with the University of Virginia)
BA/MLitt in Shakespeare and Performance
Master of Letters in Shakespeare and Performance
Master of Fine Arts in Shakespeare and Performance

College of Business and Professional Studies

The College of Business and Professional Studies comprises the business, social work, and health care administration programs leading to bachelor of arts and bachelor of social work degrees. Offering students a solid knowledge-base in the theory of their chosen field, the college stresses applying that intellectual foundation to address society’s needs and problems. About one-quarter of all MBU undergraduates earn their degrees in these majors.

The business program approaches business strategy and business education with a curricular emphasis on sustainability and the “triple bottom line” (harnessing benefits that are economic, social, and environmental). The Susan Warfield Caples Social Work Program encourages students to solve social problems and become an advocate for vulnerable, disenfranchised, and marginalized populations. Criminal Justice provides students with thorough knowledge and strong applied components as well as internships in which they will work with crime agencies and police departments. The Carpenter Health Care Administration program — the only endowed undergraduate program of its kind in the United States — is led by experienced faculty and offers solid networking opportunities to jump start students’ careers in the rapidly evolving, in-demand field of health care.

Undergraduate Studies

Arts Management (M)
* Business (M, m)
* Business Economics (M)
Communication (m)
Criminal Justice (M, m)
Health Care Administration (M, m)
Human Resource Management (m)
Management (m)
Marketing (m)
Marketing and Communication (M)
Public Health (m)
** Social Work (M)

Graduate Studies

Master of Business Administration in development

College of Education

The College of Education offers professional programs designed to prepare students to enter a wide variety of educational careers, including teaching, higher education administration, advanced behavior analysis and Autism Spectrum Disorders, and other non-teaching professions. Undergraduate students interested in teaching at the middle or secondary level major in the area in which they intend to teach and minor in education, while the Liberal Arts and Educational Studies major leads to licensure for elementary education. With a focus on developing confident leadership skills, the college creates a collaborative environment of inquiry and innovation, while helping individuals find personal pathways to achieve their goals. The College of Education offers a variety of programs of study: paths to Virginia teacher licensure as well as non-licensure and/or non-degree opportunities for professional development.

Undergraduate Studies

Education (m)
Liberal Arts and Educational Studies (M)

Graduate Studies

BA/MAT in Teaching
BA/MEd in Education
Master of Arts in Teaching
Master of Education

Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences

Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences is setting the standard nationally for superior interprofessional preparation of health care professionals. Its innovative programs have a state-of-the-art home on the Mary Baldwin University branch campus in Fishersville that provides sophisticated technological aids to learning that complement faculty expertise and keep students up to date in an ever-evolving field. The college’s location in a regional health corridor provides students many opportunities for clinical/educational practicums and research. The college of health sciences offers doctoral programs in physical therapy and occupational therapy, a master of science in physician assistant, an online RN-to-BSN program, and an undergraduate major in health science.


*Health Science (M)
Nursing (M), RN-to-BSN completion only

Graduate Studies

DPT in Physical Therapy
OTD in Occupational Therapy
MSPA in Physician’s Assistant Studies

*For the most current accreditation information concerning Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences, reference

Mary Baldwin University: Points of Entry for Students

Students enter Mary Baldwin University through one of five entities: Baldwin Online and Adult Programs (formerly known as the Adult Degree Program), the College of Education, Mary Baldwin College for Women, Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences, or Shakespeare and Performance. This structure allows the university to support the educational needs and styles of a wide variety of students in different programs, giving them academic and administrative assistance as they earn their degrees, and career guidance for what comes after graduation. From the time a student first decides to come to Mary Baldwin, faculty and staff work to create an environment centered upon community and collaboration that will foster both academic and life-long success.

Baldwin Online and Adult Programs

The co-educational Baldwin Online and Adult Programs offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees and certificates in top programs that lead to rewarding careers. With online, on-site, and hybrid options, the program is designed to be flexible and affordable, streamlining the path to degree or certificate completion, and it holds physical classes on the main campus in Staunton as well as through regional centers across the state.

Mary Baldwin College for Women

Mary Baldwin College for Women (MBCW) centers upon engaged learning that puts ideas into action, offering the proven advantages of a women’s college with the programmatic opportunities of a co-educational small university. MBCW serves students on the college’s beautiful historic campus in downtown Staunton, Virginia. At the heart of the student experience are outstanding academics including student-led research, leadership development, learning through community engagement, and developing a clear pathway from college to career. MBCW includes two unique programs: the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted, for very young women of exceptional ability, and the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership, the nation’s only all-female corps of cadets.

College of Education

The College of Education (COE) offers co-educational undergraduate and graduate programs in education and education-related fields, teacher licensure, and professional development and certificate programs. Headquartered on the main campus in Staunton, COE extends its reach through MBU’s regional centers and offers many classes online. All COE offerings develop leadership skills, encourage inquiry and reflection, integrate theory and practice, and provide opportunities for exploration and innovation.

Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences

Recognizing that quality health care is best achieved when practitioners work collaboratively across disciplines, Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences (MDCHS) is interprofessional by design, both through its pioneering curriculum and award-winning health sciences campus in Fishersville. This commitment to collaboration ensures that MDCHS graduates will be ready to serve patients well in a changing health care environment. Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences offers doctoral programs in physical therapy (DPT) and occupational therapy (OTD), a master’s degree in physician assistant (MSPA), as well as an online RN-to-BSN program. MDCHS is committed to fostering the education of future health care professionals who are knowledgeable, competent, compassionate, and ethical, with a strong commitment to human service.

*For the most current accreditation information concerning Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences, reference

Shakespeare and Performance

An internationally recognized graduate program, Shakespeare and Performance (S&), offered in partnership with the American Shakespeare Center, offers a Renaissance approach to scholarship and performance. S&P offers an initial graduate degree, the master of letters (MLitt), and students may then choose to pursue the master of fine arts (MFA), whose one-of-a-kind company model prepares graduates for a wide range of roles in theatre and education.