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Behind the List with Bryon Grigsby of Moravian CollegeChallenging students to reach their highest potential

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The Greater Lehigh Valley is blessed with many colleges and universities that help students prepare for careers across all industries.

From arts to health care to management and beyond, the options for earning a valuable education seemingly are endless.

Here to answer this week's “Behind the List” questions is Bryon Grigsby, president of Moravian College in Bethlehem.

Lehigh Valley Business: How long has Moravian College been operating in the region and what are its primary services?

Grigsby: Moravian College has been in Bethlehem since 1742. It started as the first residential school for girls in America and added a school for boys a few months later. These two schools existed separately until 1954.

Our primary service and mission has been one of providing lifelong learning to the community, and our history demonstrates that as the Lehigh Valley and surrounding areas evolved and required new forms of learning. Moravian College has been a strategic partner in meeting those needs.

LVB: What have been some of the biggest challenges and opportunities that Moravian College has encountered throughout its history?

Grigsby: I think one of the biggest challenges for the school was how to serve through WWI [World War I] and WWII. The Moravians are one of the early peace churches, and even one of our campus buildings dates back to the Revolutionary War where the Moravians chose to create a hospital rather than fight in the war.

Nevertheless, Moravian College chose to create the Student Army Training Corps for WWI and in WWII, and the Navy V5 Program trained naval cadets.

Yet, the biggest challenge to the institutions came after WWII, when in 1954, the women's college was going to close for financial reasons and the only option they saw to pay their debts was to sell off the historic south campus for commercial development.

The president of the men's college was informed of this and arranged to meet with the bishop of Central Moravian Church and the president of the women's college. That meeting created the first coeducational college in the Lehigh Valley, thus saving our much-beloved south campus from demolition and ushering us into the world of coeducation.

One must remember that, even in 1954, Lehigh, Lafayette and Muhlenberg were all men's colleges and Cedar Crest was a women's college.

LVB: Moravian College has some great graduate programs. How does the college work with the business community of the Greater Lehigh Valley to prepare its students to enter the workforce after graduation?

Grigsby: We listen and we create. Whether it is in conversations with Rick Anderson at St. Luke's or Joe Roy at the Bethlehem School District or with Caroll Neubauer at B. Braun, we listen to what they say their pain points are in hiring qualified individuals and then we create a program that can meet that need.

We have done this with our rehabilitation sciences program and the new Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center, our outstanding education program and our programs in informatics and predictive analytics. Moravian has always been the college that serves the local needs of this community — from its founding through the years of Bethlehem Steel to the current day.

LVB: Has Moravian seen an increase in students entering its graduate programs? What are some of the benefits of enrolling in its programs?

Grigsby: We have seen a significant increase in our graduate programs because our graduates obtain successful jobs in worthwhile industries. Our graduate programs focus on high demand areas: health care, business and technology.

Our Rehabilitation Sciences Department offers one of only nine programs in the country that teaches with an integrated educational approach. Furthermore, of those nine, we are the only one connected to a university health care system through our partnership with St. Luke's University Health Network.

Our graduate programs in business offer the latest in administration, sales and predictive analytics, all of which are in high demand in the workplace. Finally, our new health sciences building, opening in August, will house three programs in very high demand: nursing, public health and informatics.

While everyone knows about the need for trained nurses, many may be surprised to learn that public health is the fourth most in-demand program in health care. Informatics is a computer science program that prepares people to produce and analyze big data for health care, education and business fields.

LVB: What are some of Moravian's greatest success stories?

Grigsby: Our greatest success stories center around our people. Our faculty and staff know how to challenge students so that the student can reach his or her highest potential.

Our alumni have changed the world. They are entrepreneurs, Fulbright scholars, MacArthur genius award winners, judges and politicians. They are also your local teachers, nurses, business and civic leaders. These are our greatest successes; the graduates that surround you each and every day.

LVB: How does Moravian College directly stimulate the local economy?

Grigsby: The Association of Independent Colleges & Universities of Pennsylvania will tell you that our economic impact is around $81 million annually. We provide over $1 million in state and federal wage taxes, and we have spent more than $11 million annually in capital projects over the last five years. This year we have doubled that to $22 million with the addition of our new health sciences building.

However, I think our impact goes beyond those numbers … 60 percent of our alumni live in the local area.

We provide the largest population of nurses and teachers for Lehigh Valley hospitals and schools. And we are committed to giving back to our community through our Heritage Day, where all our students volunteer in local nonprofits for a day, through our community schools program with William Penn Elementary and the United Way, and through our two annual four-year scholarships for Liberty High School and Freedom High School graduates.

Moravians founded Bethlehem, and Moravian College makes sure we will remain dedicated to the success of our community and the people who live here.

LVB: What does the future look like for Moravian College?

Grigsby: The future is very bright because Moravian College will continue to do what it has done for the last 275 years. It will continue to listen to the community and prepare the next generation with the tools they need to live successful lives and secure worthwhile careers.

We will continue to refine our world-class liberal arts undergraduate education so that it best meets societal needs. We will also build new programs, on the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels, that our community needs.

Our goal is to provide all Moravian graduates with the next educational preparation they may need, in whatever delivery model (face-to-face, hybrid or online) that suits their lifestyle needs.

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Christopher Holland

Christopher Holland

Christopher Holland is a researcher for Lehigh Valley Business and blogs on arts and entertainment in the region.

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