Divine Mercy University, a Catholic college offering post-graduate degrees in counseling and psychology, will be expanding into its first independent campus on five acres along Old Ox Road near Pacific Boulevard, at the intersection of Underwood Lane.
Currently the university leases space in Crystal City, but university President Rev. Charles Sikorsky said it has outgrown that venue.
“We’ve had significant growth over the last four years for two main reasons,” Sikorsky said, citing accreditation from the American Psychological Association, and “tremendous growth in the number of applications.”
Sikorsky said the new space, a three-story building that formerly housed a technology company, marks the first time the university has owned its own campus, and will house classroom space, study areas, and the university’s training clinic.
“We’re kind of crammed where we are, so that’ll be a wonderful opportunity for us,” Sikorsky said. He said since 2014, the school has grown from around 75 students to around 280, both on-site and in the university’s two online programs. Those online students will also complete residency at the university’s clinic. Sikorsky pointed out the site is convenient to Dulles Airport and not far from a future Metro stop.
“We also saw there’s a great need for mental health services in Loudoun County,” he said. “Given the county’s growth it’s a challenge to keep up with a lot of different needs. For us, that’s an opportunity to help serve and partner with the local community, which provides training opportunities and later on hopefully employment opportunities for our graduates.”
The university also operates a Center for Trauma and Resiliency Studies, sponsoring training seminars for mental health professionals and social services agencies in the area.
“It’s another thing that will really have an opportunity to grow and to expand out in Loudoun,” Sikorsky said. “We’re hoping we’re able to help work with some of the first responders out there.”
Senior Director of Communications Jessie Tappel said the new campus will triple university’s space, starting in fall 2019.
Divine Mercy has its roots in the Institute for the Psychological Sciences, which was founded in 1997 to study the relationship between psychology and its philosophical foundations. It grew into The Institute for Faith and Psychological Sciences in the Commonwealth of Virginia, which sponsored workshops for licensed mental health professionals, and first offered a degree, a Master of Science in Clinical Psychology, in 1999.
In 2000, the state granted provisional approval to the school to confer master and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology, and in 2005, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges granted the same. That also marked the year the university awarded its first doctoral degree.
Since then, the school continued to grow, along with IPS Press, which it created “to publish approaches to psychological sciences that are integrated with a Catholic view of the human person and the moral life,” according to the university’s website. In 2015, the school changed its name to Divine Mercy University. It offers master’s degrees in counseling and psychology and a doctorate in clinical psychology.
Sikorsky said the university’s Catholic faith helps teach students that every human has “an intrinsic dignity to them that we need to always respect.”
“It really helps them have a compassionate servant’s heart, to really want to serve people in their deepest level, and seeing the dignity in every human person is something that we emphasize,” Sikorsky said.