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The Provost Behind Altierus Career Colleges' Academic and Classroom Transformation

August 24, 2018

By Mai P. Tran, ECMC Foundation


It’s that recruiter again, thought Dr. Mary Ostrye. Since this was their third attempt to reach her she decided to pick up the phone, but she was ready to turn down the persistent caller.

Dr. Ostrye, then the provost and senior vice president at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, IN, believed she would never leave her second home of more than 20 years; a place where she had achieved many milestones and created lasting friendships.

But just several minutes into the call, these plans quickly changed. The recruiter was reaching out on behalf of Zenith Education Group (Zenith), an affiliate of ECMC Group, looking to build a small team of executives to lead the chain of career colleges that the group had recently acquired.

The recruiter explained that the system was undergoing a significant transformation and they were looking for someone to help solidify Zenith’s academic and operating framework, enhance the teaching and learning experience and add new programs in fields with in-demand jobs. Admitting that she’s always looking for a challenge, Dr. Ostrye jumped at the opportunity to take on the role of senior vice president and provost.

The Challenge Seeker

Dr. Mary Ostyre as a dental hygienist, teaching children proper dental care methods.

Pursuing the road less traveled is part of Dr. Ostrye’s DNA. While attending a career discovery workshop in the eighth grade she was presented with two career choices that were considered appropriate for women at the time: nursing or teaching. I’m not doing either of those two, thought the self-described renegade.

The first generation college graduate reveals she might have inherited some of her zeal for challenges from her father, an Italian-American entrepreneur who had a knack for “turning broken things around.” He bought “restaurants that had a lot of baggage and were difficult to manage and worked on fixing them,” says Dr. Ostrye. “It inspired me to overcome the odds.”

After high school Dr. Ostrye left her home in Pennsylvania, enrolled in West Virginia University and became a dental hygienist upon graduation. Just one year into her practice she ran across an ad for a dental hygiene instructor and that’s where her academic career began.

In her role as an educator Dr. Ostrye realized that she enjoyed helping her students identify career pathways that would lead to fulfilling and financially secure futures. She quickly moved into leadership roles, taking her out of the classroom and giving her the opportunity to lead impressive initiatives like the development and implementation of Indiana’s first-ever transfer degree.

Dr. Osytre managed to balance the demands of her work and studies when she returned to Marshall University for her Master’s in Vocational-Technical Education and later to Indiana State University for her PhD in Higher Education Administration.

Academic Transformation under Dr. Ostrye’s Leadership
Now just three years into her tenure at Zenith, Dr. Ostrye has accomplished a great deal. In her role, she provides the vision and strategic leadership for academic affairs and assures academic quality, integrity and compliance with all accrediting agencies. She and her team also work closely with ECMC Foundation to identify innovative ways to help students succeed.

One such effort involves the conversion of traditional classroom instruction to blended learning, which combines both classroom and online instruction. Blended learning has been shown to improve engagement and learning outcomes for students, while providing a more flexible instruction schedule that allows them to juggle responsibilities outside of the classroom.

In addition to blended learning, she has led efforts to bring cutting-edge technology and equipment to the classroom, redesign curricula based on market-demand, and institute a student success coaching/advising model, among other initiatives.

Dr. Ostrye says she’s seen a lot of excitement at the campuses and she believes the changes have increased engagement and raised morale among faculty, staff and students.

Staying true to her appetite for a challenge, the academic visionary says the work is long from over. “We have a ways to go. There is so much more work to be done – for the schools and most importantly for the students who come through our doors.” With her proven track record of transforming academic curriculums for more than 30 years, there’s nothing this determined provost can’t do.

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