Essential Pittsburgh
6:37 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

Going Co-Ed: Seton Hill's Past Plays a Role in Chatham University's Future

Buhl Hall Science Complex is just one of the buildings on Chatham University's campus that will have an increase of male students in its halls in the upcoming years.
Buhl Hall Science Complex is just one of the buildings on Chatham University's campus that will have an increase of male students in its halls in the upcoming years.
Credit Daderot / Wikipedia

    

In the United States, single-sex colleges and universities have seen a steady decline in enrollment over the past few decades.

With fewer students, these institutions are struggling to finance their schools and many have had to change the makeup of the student population.

Going Coed, Seton Hill Shares Their Story

Due to enrollment difficulties, Seton Hill University officially became co-educational in 2002, opening all academic programs to male students.

Mary Ann Gawelek, Provost and Dean of the Faculty at Seton Hill described the process of becoming co-ed and their takeaways from the experience.

“Probably the most challenging question is: How do you create a learning environment that is fit for the world that the students are going to go into? And these female students are going into industry, and business, and the sciences, and the arts in a world that is much more used to seeing women enter and taking leadership roles. And so the dynamic of living in a co-educational learning experience may better prepare them to do that in their work experience."

Transitioning to Coed at Chatham's College for Women

On May 1st the Chatham University Board of Trustees approved a three-part resolution which would include the admission of men to the undergraduate community in the Fall of 2015.

This change will make Chatham completely co-educational for the first time in nearly 145 years. The controversial decision comes as a result of a steady decline in the university’s enrollment and subsequent financial woes.

Bill Campbell, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Chatham University, discussed feedback on the resolution from the students and alumni.

“Like other schools that have done this, former women's colleges, you know, there are students and alumni who get a great experience, a great educational experience. They feel very passionate about that and rightfully so. And so you do hear from a large number who truly believe in single sex education and the benefits that gives them and we did hear from that. We also heard from a large number of alumnae who may have been opposed to it in the 90's, who are for it now. The important thing to remember about Chatham is that we have over 11,000 alumni. Of which 6,000 are from the women's college. The rest being graduate and online programs. So we're not just a women's college anymore, we're a University with a very different makeup as a whole."

According to Campbell, Chatham took student and alumni concerns seriously before the decision was made.

"It's not an easy decision and there's not necessarily a 100% right way to go about it, at the end of the day," said Campbell.

Chatham University will begin admitting undergraduate men in the Fall of 2015.