Updated: July 7


As of July 1, 2020, Messiah College has officially transitioned to Messiah University. If you are anything like me, you are not sure why this carries any significance for us as students. Prior to writing this, I did not even know what the difference between the two was.


In Pennsylvania, the qualifications for university status used to be a lot more stringent than what they currently are. Because of this, President Kim Phipps and the Board of Trustees wanted to meet the previous, more rigorous guidelines.


The most important thing you need to know to differentiate a university from a college is that a university offers graduate programs, whereas colleges typically do not. This is one of the biggest reasons that Messiah’s Board of Trustees and President’s cabinet decided to move ahead with the transition.


“Messiah College becoming Messiah University is an important and natural next step in the growth and maturation of our institution,” Phipps said. “In many ways, university status is a much more accurate reflection of how Messiah has functioned for several years now.”


This is because Messiah has offered several graduate programs beginning in 2009. The school also just began offering five-year master’s degrees for both athletic training and occupational therapy, with more programs in the works.


Despite the change in name, the university is continuing its same educational mission: a promise of academic excellence, a dedication to outstanding teaching and student learning and fostering a strong and supportive campus community. 


“But even in the midst of change and progress, our commitment to institutional mission, academic quality, Christian faith formation and the promotion of the common good remains steadfast,” Phipps said. 


For Messiah, the benefit to this transition is possibly limitless. University status is more widely understood and respected worldwide, so this could pave the way for more international students, more and better internships and more international partnerships.


“The status of university will allow us to refresh and create visibility for the Messiah brand,” Carla Gross, the executive director for marketing and communications at Messiah University, said, “in a way that gives renewed exposure and new opportunities to share Messiah’s story with key stakeholders.”


University status will not only benefit the school in the international market, but students and alumni from abroad as well. 


“The word college in many international contexts means high school, not university,” Phipps said. “For some students going back to their home country with a degree and a diploma that said ‘college’ on it was actually a barrier for getting employment because when someone was just reading a resume, it would be limiting.”


The university status given to Messiah positions it as the top-tier institution of scholarship, research and engagement that it is. Because of these factors, Gross believes that the entire Messiah community will greatly benefit.


“Together, these aspects raise the overall recognition and understanding of the value of a Messiah University education in the minds of employers, graduate schools, and other key individuals and organizations with whom Messiah students and alumni seek to interact,” Gross said. 


Phipps is looking at the transition as a way to show its alumni and students that the college is continuously improving.


“I think that sense of forward momentum is helpful for both students and alumni,” she said, “to say that an institution continues to transform itself just like we want to transform students’ lives.”


As a member of the first graduating class of Messiah University, I think that this change can be a positive for all parties involved, even though it may take some getting used to. Ultimately, it is a great move and a great opportunity for the school to put its name out there and get recognized not only nationally, but internationally as well.