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Villa Maria, the small Catholic commuter college located on the Cheektowaga-Buffalo border, has big plans for its future, including adding intercollegiate sports and potentially building dormitories on campus.
The college's board of trustees Wednesday approved a new strategic plan that aims to make the institution "the premier student-centered college in Western New York."
Adding sports like soccer and basketball is part of the plan, as is refining the college's new honors program, enhancing music ensembles on campus through "talent scholarships," developing more internship opportunities for students and exploring the possibility of converting existing space on campus into student housing.
College administrators want to grow enrollment from nearly 500 students to 600 students in the near future. Ultimately, over the long term, the college on Pine Ridge Road aims to be an institution of 1,000 to 1,200 students.
Traditionally known as a two-year college, Villa Maria first began offering bachelor's degrees in 2005 and has carved a niche for itself in programs such as animation; fashion design and merchandising; music; and interior design.
The college was founded in 1961 by the Felician Sisters. Sister Marcella Marie Garus, a Felician, serves as its president.
Colleges and universities, under increasing pressure to stay affordable, face stiff competition for students as the pool of graduating high school seniors shrinks.
Villa Maria's plan was developed over the past year as a way to confront some of those challenges and to try to stand out in a sea of small private colleges in Western New York.
The plan includes a revamp of the curriculum and a likely movement into new programs such as business and health sciences.
The college's effort to add athletics will start with club sports, as early as this upcoming academic year. Eventually the college will join the ranks of Division III programs.