Sister Paula Marie Buley, president. Photo by Christine Carignan.
During its 88-year history, Rivier University has grown from a single building to more than 40 on 68 acres. Its students now number 2,300, and the Nashua university has 23,000 alumni and a $41 million endowment.
The school was founded by the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary in 1933 during the Depression to educate daughters of Nashua’s French-Canadian mill workers.
“I believe organizations have DNA,” says Sister Paula Marie Buley, Rivier’s president, who says Rivier’s DNA comes from helping women out of poverty through education. So, a pandemic was not going to interfere with the major projects planned for 2020.
“We wanted to take this moment to make sure we didn’t put on the brakes,” says Buley. “We were committed to providing our students with momentum.”
In the middle of creating an on-campus COVID testing center, which administered more than 6,000 tests, Rivier opened a 36,000-square-foot Science and Innovation Center last fall, to expand biology, biotech, nursing and public health programs.
It also launched a new degree program in Health Science and an online Master of Science in Computer Information Systems.
And the school made sure its focus was not insular. Rivier donated masks and PPE to St. Joseph Hospital among others, and its nursing and public health faculty supported Nashua’s public health efforts. “We were committed to looking beyond ourselves,” Buley says. Rivier, which offers programs from the associate to doctoral level, strives to help students get maximum value out of their education. The university provides financial assistance to 100% of undergraduates, of which 30% are first-generation college students.
Through its unique Employment Promise Program, if students are unemployed nine months after graduation, Rivier will either make their monthly federal subsidized student loan payments for up to a year or enroll graduates in six graduate courses tuition free. “That program is so important,” Buley says. “It says we believe in you and we are a partner in your success, even after you graduate.”
Through millions in federal grants, Rivier has invested in programs to encourage students to enter critical fields. Their Attract, Retain and Graduate Young LifE Scientists (ARGYLES) program provides biology majors from lower-income families with four-year scholarships. A $2.04 million federal nursing education grant established Project REEP—Registered Nurse Enhanced Education for Primary Care. And Project Advance provided $900,000 in the past 18 months to expand opportunities for nursing students with full scholarships available to LPNs to earn their associate degrees in nursing and RN credentials.
It is little wonder the university has won so many accolades, including being ranked as a top 100 school among 3,000 nursing schools and ranked the top private nursing school in NH. In add-ition, the online MBA in Healthcare Administration is ranked in the top five of all programs nationwide by EduMed.