Catholic Distance University renamed Catholic International University, plans expansion

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Catholic Distance University, which offers fully online theology degrees, is changing its name in January to Catholic International University as it plans to offer more degree options and expand further into Latin America and Italy.

The name change is meant “to adjust to the new technologies and the reality of our university that is going international,” Maria Sophia Aguirre, the president of the university, told CNA.

Aguirre said the university already has some international students but that it will begin to offer more programs in Spanish and its first program in Italian in its efforts to grow in both Latin America and Italy. It will also expand its degree options to offer degrees related to artificial intelligence, education, and economics over the next five years.

Catholic Distance University is fully accredited by the Association of Theological Schools and the Higher Learning Commission. The university is based in Charles Town, West Virginia, and was initially established by the Diocese of Arlington in 1983 when the state was included in its jurisdiction. It began offering degrees online in 2000. It has fewer than 1,000 students.

The university currently offers two master’s degrees in English: an M.A. in theology and an M.A. in theology and educational ministry. It also offers a theology bachelor’s degree in English, an associate’s degree in liberal arts in English, and an associate’s degree in theology in Spanish.

In its first expansion beginning next year, the university will offer a new degree that focuses on artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and big data design and a new master’s program in Catholic liberal arts education. In the first year, this will only be offered in English, but by the following year, the university plans to offer both programs in Spanish as well.

Aguirre spoke about the university’s entrance into tech-related degrees at its 2023 gala.

“These cutting-edge technical areas might strike you as a strange fit for CDU, but they are actually wonderful opportunities,” Aguirre said. “There is a great need to prepare people capable of engaging in new technologies while being firmly rooted in a sound Christian anthropology and a solid intellectual and spiritual formation. Scientists who are working in these fields clearly see the need for a university such as ours to fill this void, and they are excited about collaborating with us as CDU strives to meet this need.”

The university will also add a new master’s in ecclesial administration and management, which Aguirre said is thanks to a “generous investor.” This will be offered in multiple languages.

“The new degrees will help our students widen their impact by preparing them to take leadership roles in fields that are in great need of recuperating the meaning of the human person, of social life, and of culture,” Aguirre said.

In addition to the new programs, the university is planning to create a new center for research dissemination.

“We will seek to reach a wider audience, thematically and geographically, with our unique online model,” Aguirre said. “We will expand so as to meet a demand in high-growing markets that thirst for what CDU has to offer. If we don’t seize the moment now, it will be gone.”

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