Tucked into the serene forest of the Blue Ridge Mountains sits Montreat College. Just east of Asheville, the picturesque campus is a crossroads of ancient faith and modern innovation.
“We’ve recast ourselves as a faith-based institution and a liberal arts institution,” said Dr. Paul Maurer, president of Montreat. “We’re pivoting our future around STEM-related majors, encompassing science, technology, engineering, and math.”
In recent years, the institution (founded in 1916) decided to move ahead with its shift in academics. And though the Christ-centered school of higher learning was changing with the times, it never once compromised its longstanding heritage of faith.
“There are a lot of people who want a value-based education and also a liberal arts education. We’re providing what is relevant to today’s culture and marketplace,” Maurer said. “We also have a lot of non-Christian students on campus. They have come here because we offer teaching on character and ethics, which is something really lacking in most higher educational institutions.”
With record enrollment each year (over 900 students), the 132-acre property aims to retain a balance between the one-on-one faculty attention found in a small school and being able to offer amenities/programs found at larger institutions.
“We’re not just unique to Western North Carolina, we’re unique to the state of North Carolina in the combination we’re providing,” Maurer said.
Born and raised in the Midwest, Maurer bounced around the United States within the higher education realm for most of his career, taking academic and administrative positions at colleges and universities from coast to coast. In 2014, he accepted the job as president of Montreat.
“This is a very special school in a very special part of the country,” Maurer said. “I really came here out of a sense of this being the right thing to do.”
Alongside a slew of popular majors and minors that one would expect at a faith-based liberal arts school, Montreat has also found itself at the forefront of one rapidly rising program: cyber security.
“Montreat is taking a leadership role on a national level with cyber security,” Maurer said. “Just this year, we’ve turned the degree from a minor to a major. And we’ve added a completely rebuilt MBA with a cyber management concentration.”
The cyber security program came about when Montreat was approached by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security. The government entities were interested in opening up another branch of the cyber security degree at the school, this time at an institution with a professional curriculum that is ethics-based.
“We’re still in the leading edge of schools nationwide that have this program, and we decided to swing for the fences,” Maurer said.
Now some five years into his position as president, Maurer truly believes in the century-old merits and future successes of Montreat College.
“As a student, it’s really hard to fall through the cracks at Montreat. The faculty knows your name, the staff knows your name. You are a real person here, and you are cared for by the campus community,” Maurer said. “What goes through my mind every day is how surreal it is that I get to live and work here. It’s an absolute privilege to be in this role.”
This post is adapted from our annual Welcome to Western North Carolina magazine. Click here to read more online, or click here to request your free copy.