Laurel healing institute receives university accreditation

Maryland will soon be home to a new university — one in which students can train in acupuncture, Chinese herbs and other forms of integrative medicine.

The Tai Sophia Institute, a Howard County holistic health training center, has received state accreditation and will be renamed the Maryland University of Integrative Health, school officials announced Monday.

The school plans to nearly triple its student body, begin granting doctorates in acupuncture and other healing techniques, and bolster its reputation nationally and internationally, said its provost, Judith Broida.

The 40-year-old school has seen a surge of students in recent years as integrative medicine, which combines Eastern and Western philosophy, has grown in popularity, Broida said.

Tai Sophia — the name is taken from the Chinese word for "great" and the Greek word for "wisdom" — teaches students to help clients "heal from the core," Broida said.

"We believe the body is wise," she said. "The body can't talk, but it gives you signals — high blood pressure, arthritis — to let you know it's off-balance."

The school is "bursting at the seams" as enrollment has shot up from 400 students three years ago to 730 today, said Broida. School officials hope to boost enrollment to as many as 2,000 traditional students in the coming years, with more taking courses online.

The university, which currently offers advanced degrees and certifications in 18 subjects, including Oriental medicine, animal acupuncture, and health and wellness coaching, will be one of two in the country to hold a regional certification, school officials said.

Administrators hope to offer professional doctorates in acupuncture, Oriental medicine, nutrition and wellness philosophy and policy in the next few years, Broida said. They also hope to eventually grant bachelor's degrees to students who have completed their general education requirements elsewhere.

After years of preparation, school officials applied to the Maryland Higher Education Council in December to receive university status, which requires that an institution offer undergraduate and graduate degrees, routinely assess courses and faculty, and comply with standards of academic freedom.

Tai Sophia's president and CEO, Frank Vitale, said the new designation will also help the school streamline fundraising efforts. Topping the list of capital goals is building a kitchen on the 12-acre wooded campus to teach holistic cooking.

The campus includes an herbal dispensary and a clinic where patients can receive acupuncture, herbal medicine consultations and nutrition counseling.

Baltimore Sun reporter Andrea K. Walker contributed to this article.

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

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