A study group at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College takes its studies outside at the Barry’s Bay, Ont., school. The school will begin granting degrees in the 2024-25 school year. Photo courtesy Our Lady Seat of Wisdom

Our Lady Seat of Wisdom to grant degrees

  • March 16, 2024

Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College attained a historic and long-sought achievement Feb. 28 when it was authorized to grant a four-year Bachelor of Arts degree by Ontario’s Ministry of Colleges and Universities starting in 2024-25.

Christine Schintgen, the president of the Barry’s Bay, Ont., Catholic liberal arts college founded in 2000, declared that the Seat of Wisdom community is “thrilled to receive this news that represents the fruit of much prayer and a lot of hard work.”

The institution began pursuing this goal during the summer of 2018. Under the leadership of Natasha Duquette, academic vice-president and dean, the Seat of Wisdom team assembled and submitted an application consisting of hundreds of pages and loaded with appendices as part of the organization and program reviews conducted by the Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board (PEQAB). Afterwards, the school had to pass a virtual site visit.

The current third-year students can join the first fourth-year cohort and pursue a four-year B.A. major in Classical and Early Christian Studies, History or Literature beginning this fall. Duquette expects 20 students to engage in fourth-year studies.

Ottawa-Cornwall Archbishop Marcel Damphousse toasted this accomplishment. In a statement he wrote, “building a Catholic academic institution takes time, patience and lots of prayers… May this new stepping stone be a sign of God’s will coming through.”

Third-year student Luke Robinson suggested this evolution at Seat of Wisdom could positively impact Catholic culture nationwide.

“Receiving this four-year degree is a major step forward for the revival of Catholic culture in Canada and its presence in post-secondary education,” said Robinson. 

“This degree will help continue Our Lady Seat of Wisdom’s mission to form the whole person through the liberal arts. It is an honour and a blessing to be a part of its first fourth-year cohort. Many prayers answered.”

Up to now, students would need to transfer to a degree-granting program, carrying their credits with them from Seat of Wisdom, to attain a university degree.

Schintgen agreed with Robinson’s conviction about the power of the Catholic education offered at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom and said the PEQAB team validated the quality of the education offered.

“There is a vitality and earnestness about the students who come here seeking to deepen their faith through the education and the formation that we provide,” said Schintgen. “The fact that this education is being recognized as genuine, legitimate and even outstanding — that was the feedback we received from the PEQAB reviewers — is kind of a seal of approval that seeking sincere formation within a Catholic education is not just tolerated but encouraged.”

Duquette said the 400-level courses offered during the fourth year will empower students to enhance their independent and creative research skills by preparing and presenting in-depth honours thesis projects. Each student will receive guidance from a professor of their choice.  

“I always tell the students that they are like a sailboat, and they point their sails in the direction they want to go,” said Duquette. “When they meet with me as their thesis supervisor, I’m just tacking the sails to ensure they stay on course. They are the ones sailing the sailboat. I know they can do it. It has been great to see them grow in confidence. They were kind of daunted by the idea of an independent honours thesis, but now they want to do it.”

In addition to the first crop of fourth years, another beneficiary group is prospective first-year students who chose not to come to Our Lady Seat of Wisdom solely because it did not offer a four-year undergraduate degree. They will no longer be required to transfer after two or three years.

“I anticipate an increase in enrolment and interest in the programs we now offer,” said Schintgen. “For example, I was in touch with one prospective student who had applied and been accepted but declined her offer because she told me she wanted to go somewhere with a fourth year. We’ve told her, ‘Hey, we have the fourth year now,’ and she is reconsidering reopening her application.”

Duquette said another winner of the announcement is the small town of Barry’s Bay, which has just over 1,000 people.

“This is a gift of God to Barry’s Bay,” said Duquette. “The local people are very excited as they feel like, ‘whoa, we have a four-year degree in our little town.’ ”

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