St. Mary's College of Maryland
• St. Mary's Female Seminary (1840 - 1927)|
• St. Mary's Female Seminary Junior College (1927–1949)
• St. Mary's Seminary Junior College (1949–1968)
|Motto||The St. Mary's Way|
|Type||Public Honors College|
|Endowment||U.S. $32.7 million|
|President||Tuajuanda C. Jordan|
St. Mary's City, Maryland, United States|
|Campus||Rural, waterfront on St. Mary's River, 319 acres (approximately 1.3 km²), Located on site of first Maryland Colony, St. Mary's City, Maryland|
Navy and white|
NCAA Division III – CAC|
ISA – MAISA
|Sports||13 varsity teams|
St. Mary's City Historic District
|Nearest city||St. Mary's City, Maryland|
|NRHP reference #||69000310|
|Added to NRHP||August 4, 1969|
|Designated NHLD||August 4, 1969|
St. Mary's College of Maryland is a public, state-supported honors college which offers an experience similar to that of an elite liberal arts college. With about 1,800 enrolled students, the institution offers bachelor's degrees in 24 disciplines, as well as a master's program and numerous certification programs.
The college is located in St. Mary's City, Maryland and shares much of its campus with Historic St. Mary's City, the site of Maryland's first colony and first capital. It is also the site of the fourth colony in British North America.
St. Mary's City is also considered to be the birthplace of adherents to Catholicism in America seeking to reestablish it as a state religion. This is due to its connection to colonial Maryland being founded as a Catholic colony in opposition to the 1689 Bill of Rights. The British colony of Maryland established Catholicism and Christianity as its state religion.
The Historical Archaeology Field School is jointly operated by St. Mary's College of Maryland and Historic St. Mary's City. The campus and the rest of St. Mary's City combined are considered to be one of the premier archaeological sites in the United States.
- 1 History
- 2 Academics (modern day college)
- 3 Notable former pupils
- 4 Campus
- 5 Accreditation
- 6 Administration
- 7 National rankings
- 8 International programs
- 9 Diversity
- 10 Historical studies
- 11 Institutions
- 11.1 The Center for the Study of Democracy
- 11.2 The James P. Muldoon River Center
- 11.3 The Slackwater Center
- 11.4 Historic St. Mary's City Commission
- 11.5 The Maryland Heritage Project
- 11.6 The Historical Archaeology Field School
- 11.7 St. Mary's College Archives
- 11.8 Baltimore Hall Library
- 11.9 New Leadership for the Chesapeake
- 11.10 Chesapeake Writers' Conference
- 11.11 Rising Tide
- 12 Arts and culture
- 13 Athletic programs
- 14 Student life
- 15 Campus traditions
- 16 Sustainability
- 17 External links
- 18 References
St. Mary's College of Maryland is located on the original site of Maryland's first colony, St. Mary's City, which was also the first capital of Maryland and is considered to be the birthplace of religious freedom in America.
Colonial St. Mary's City was actually only a town and at its peak had between 500 and 600 residents. However, as the colony quickly expanded and settlements spread throughout the Eastern part of what is now Maryland, the town remained the capital and representatives would travel from all over the colony to participate in the Maryland General Assembly, the colony's first legislative body.
The Colony was founded under a mandate by the colonial proprietor, Cecil Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore of England, that the new settlers engage in religious tolerance of each other. The first settlers were both Protestant and Catholic during a time of persecution of Catholics. This mandate was unprecedented at the time, as England had been wracked by religious conflict for centuries.
The following history passed through times of new ideas, times of setbacks, long periods of oppression and times of hope, liberation and renewal; beginning in the 1600s and running through the Civil War period through the 20th Century and up to present days.
The school evolved in response to many milestone events, and in some cases the school contributed to history as well as being influenced by it.
Academics (modern day college)
Public honors college core curriculum
St. Mary's College is a public honors college. It is one of only two such Public Honors Colleges in the United States. As such, it maintains a core honors-level curriculum that all of its students, regardless of major, must complete.
Non-religious and coeducational
The school is non-religious (secular) and has been since it was started in 1840 (The name St. Mary's commemorates Maryland's first colony, "St. Mary's City", which once stood where the college stands now).
The school has been coeducational (both male and female students) since 1949.
The St. Mary's Way
The college community is guided by a set of principles called "The St. Mary's Way". These principles intend to cultivate a supportive, caring environment where a passion for curiosity, knowledge and discovery can flourish. This set of principles also stresses the importance of making a difference in the world, informed by the natural beauty and historic meaning of the St. Mary's City area. The St. Mary's Way also sets a tone for integrity and tolerance of differences in viewpoint, background and experience.
The St. Mary's Way
St. Mary's College of Maryland lies in a setting of natural beauty and historic meaning which enhances our ability to reflect on our lives in an increasingly complex, technological, and interdependent world. As a member of St. Mary's College of Maryland, I accept the St. Mary's Way and agree to join in working with others to develop this College as a community:
- Where people respect the natural environment and the tradition of tolerance which is the heritage of this place
- Where people cultivate a life-long quest for disciplined learning and creativity
- Where people take individual responsibility for their work and actions
- Where people foster relationships based upon mutual respect, honesty, integrity, and trust
- Where people are engaged in an ongoing dialogue that values differences and the unique contributions of others' talents, backgrounds, customs, and world views
- Where people are committed to examining and shaping the functional, ethical values of our changing world
- Where people contribute to a spirit of caring and an ethic of service.
69% of St. Mary's students major or minor in a second academic discipline.
Popular degree programs include biology, economics, English, history, political science, and psychology.
The college also has the possibility for students to develop their own major, a Student Designed Major.
81% overall graduation rate (including longer than four years)
70% four-year graduation rate, highest of any public institution in Maryland and third highest in the United States among public colleges.
(69% of students pursue dual concurrent degrees or dual minors, which may take longer than four years, in some cases).
10% transfer out rate (students who transfer out of St. Mary's to other undergrad schools)
First year retention rate
87% of students enroll for a second year
79% of students are receiving financial aid
66% of students are receiving grants or scholarships.
Institutional honors society membership
According to the Maryland Higher Education Commission, St. Mary's College of Maryland, despite being a public institution, competes mostly with elite private colleges. The commission reported in 2014 that the cost of obtaining a degree at St. Mary's College is $30,000 less when compared to the average costs of the elite private colleges that it competes with.
Notable former pupils
Public charter within the State of Maryland
St. Mary's, although a state-operated institution, is independent of the University System of Maryland; it opted out of the system in 1992. However, in early 2006, St. Mary's joined the University of Maryland Academic Telecommunications System (UMATS), which interconnects the University System of Maryland with several other networks, including the Internet and Internet2 networks.
St. Mary's College's President, Tuajuanda Jordan, was appointed in 2014. She is the former dean of two other colleges and holds a PhD in biochemistry. She is the first black woman to become the president of St. Mary's.
The school has 150 full-time faculty, 14 of whom are current Fulbright scholars (the college faculty has earned 30 Fulbright research awards in the past 20 years).
There is a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio, one of the lowest in the nation.
Cost of school
St. Mary's College of Maryland competes mostly with elite private colleges. The state of Maryland reported this year that St. Mary's College of Maryland costs $30,000 less as compared to the average cost of elite private colleges in obtaining a college degree.
The school provides millions of dollars in financial aid and extensive help to students in securing financial assistance.
In 2017, U.S. News and World Report's annual "Best Colleges and Universities" report ranked St. Mary's College as the 6th best "Public Liberal Arts College" in the country. St. Mary's tied for #99 in the "National Liberal Arts Colleges" category, which includes private schools.
The Institute of International Education has recognized St. Mary's College of Maryland as being 17th in the nation (public and private schools combined) for the percentage of its undergraduate students who study abroad for at least one semester.
Approximately 60% of St. Mary's students study abroad, half of them for a full semester or more.
Student Fulbrights: second in the nation among public colleges
St. Mary's College has had many students and faculty win Fulbright awards. In the 2009-2010 academic year, the college had the second highest number of student Fulbright winners of any public liberal arts college in the nation.
Faculty Fulbrights: third in the nation among public and private colleges
In the 2011-2012 academic year, the college had the 3rd highest number of faculty Fulbright winners in the United States among nation among public and private baccalaureate colleges (undergraduate colleges).
Since 2003, the Fiske Guide to Colleges has ranked St. Mary's College of Maryland as one of the best small universities/colleges in the U.S. for music study. St. Mary's College of Maryland is the only public liberal arts college listed.
Leadership development programs
There are many opportunities for leadership development on campus, including positions as a resident assistant (RA), as an orientation leader (OL), on the school's student Judicial Board, as a Multicultural Academic Peer Program (MAPP) mentor, within the active Student Government Association (SGA), and among the various programs boards.
General student services
- Academic counseling service
- Career counseling service
- Employment search services for students
- Navigator programs, in all departments (guidance, support and advocacy in staying on track academically)
- Emerging Scholars Programs (ESP)s in science, technology, engineering, math and computer science
- Psychological counseling and life counseling (confidential, available through health center)
- Support groups (confidential, sponsored by health center)
- St. Mary's College Office of Financial Aid, assistance in accessing financial assistance for tuition and living expenses
The school also has an office of disability services.
Programs for minority and economically disadvantaged students
- Office of Student Development provides support and advocacy for minority and economically disadvantaged students.
- Multicultural Achievement Peer Program (MAPP) peer support for minority and other multicultural students
- H. Thomas Waring Scholarship Fund
- DeSousa-Brent Scholars Program, for any of the following: economically disadvantaged students, minority students, or first generation-in-family attending college (by generation, not just individuals: siblings may apply)
- Access Student Ambassadors outreach to top minority students in Maryland high schools
- St. Mary's College Office of Financial Aid, assistance in accessing many minority and need-based scholarships and grants
- College Bound Foundation (assists disadvantaged students from the city of Baltimore)
- Many scholarships for minority students, first generation to college students and students with disabilities.
African-American student enrollment
African-American student enrollment at St. Mary's College dropped in recent years. Rising tuition and need for more state funding for first generation to college students has been cited as a key reason. This includes a drop from 14% African American student enrollment in 1992 to just 7% African-American student enrollment in 2013
The school has been working in many areas to improve enrollment and has numerous financial aid programs for minorities, and is reaching out to African-American communities across the state. The schools goal is to greatly increase African-American student enrollment.
In the spring of 2014 a report shows the African-American student population having increased to 8%.
Increase in African-American faculty
At one point in the early 1980s, there were no African-American faculty at the school.
- As of 2010 there were 69 African-American faculty at the school, including 57 full-time and 12 part-time professors and instructors.
2014: New President
The school's new President, Doctor Tuajuanda Jordan, is also a person of African-American heritage.
Effort to increase African-American student enrollment
Research has shown that, due to the relatively recent history of segregation in the United States, available funding for "first generation to college" students affects African-American populations disproportionally—Many news sources mention that adequate funding for first generation college students is actually one of the very biggest issues behind lagging African-American enrollment—elite liberal arts college's which are viewed by the state of Maryland as St. Mary's College's competitors, have been described in the news media as having traditionally had bigger endowments and could offer more scholarships.
In response to this concern, the school has been doing considerable work to increase African-American enrollment at St. Mary's College:
- The school has worked to improve its outreach to minority students throughout the state.
- Numerous financial aid programs are available through the financial aid office regardless of student background as well as information on accessing minority scholarships and grants.
- First generation students of all backgrounds have numerous funding options available through the college. The college also has information on additional sources.
- The school just received a top national ranking for on-campus race and class relations. It has been ranked 12th in the Nation for positive race and class relations on campus. This is based on student reporting that shows their feelings about relationships between student on campus of different races and economic classes (family of origin income).
- News articles report that African-American students on campus have a strong, active and supportive community.
- The school has several programs that can assist minority students seeking support.
- To be generally more competitive, the school secured a lowering of its tuition from the state in 2014.
- Archaeology Field School
- Robotics lab
- St. Mary's College Jazz Ensemble
- Tidewater Music Festival
- Summer Music Camp
- International Education and Study Abroad Program
- Emerging Scholars Program
- Weitzel Research Award
- H. Thomas Waring World Fund (study abroad in Gambia Africa for Master of Teaching students)
- FOM (Foundations of Mathematics) projects
- Writing and Speaking Center
- NAWCAD / AMOTL (Atomic Magneto-Optical Trapping Laboratory) program, partnership with Navy atomic physics laboratory
- Pre-Health Science program (forms personal pre-health science advisory committees for matriculating students)
- SURF (St. Mary's Undergraduate Research Fellowship program)
- Center for the Study of Democracy
- The Gambia PEACE Program
- Teacher Certification Program
- Overseas teaching program (teaching students may spend a semester teaching overseas)
- Pre-Law program
- Student Designed Major Program
- Desousa-Brent Scholars
- Nitze Scholars
- STEM Navigators Further supported by Emerging Scholars Programs (ESP)s in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Science
- CSM/SMCM Computer Science Co-op Program
- Putnam Math Team
- Campus community farm
- DOD (Department of Defense) Systems Acquisition Certification Program
- Project Management Certification Program
- Charlotte Hall Fellows, high school advanced studies program and scholarship for selected exceptional St. Mary's County high school students
- Computer Science Co-operative Education Program (CSCEP)
- ESP-REU program (special six week program for students of math)
- Center for talented youth St. Mary's College of Maryland is a participating institution
- Educational Partnership Agreements with Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division and Naval Surface Warfare Center Explosive Ordinance Disposal Technology Division
However, in addition to this, since 1840, the school has been charged by the state in various capacities in researching, interpreting and memorializing Maryland history at the site of Maryland's first colony and capitol, St. Mary's City, Maryland, which is also where the college is located.
Historical Archaeology Field School
In this capacity St. Mary's College of Maryland, in partnership with Historic St. Mary's City, also runs the Historical Archaeology Field School which is an internationally recognized institution. The field school has worked on over 300 archaeological dig sites in the St. Mary's City area over the last 40 years.
Special areas of archaeological research and historical study
The school has a deep and multilayered relationship to the St. Mary's City area and its historic landscape.
In its special role as a historical and archaeological research institution charged with studying the founding history of Maryland, and charged by the State of Maryland with researching the history of the emergence of democracy in Maryland, St. Mary's College of Maryland studies the following historic events that occurred in the area of St. Mary's City, Maryland and the periods in which they occurred.
This also includes premier museums on and near campus, highlighting archaeology and area history related to all of the above.
School's inspirational historic grounding
This research also includes a special focus and draws inspiration from local milestone historical events related to the struggle for establishment of democracy in Maryland, in many of its aspects, including:
- The early development of representative legislature in Maryland.
- The historic struggle for the establishment of religious freedom in America.
- The historic beginnings of the quest for Women's suffrage in America
- The historic struggle for minority rights in America
- The beginnings of freedom of the press in the Southern colonies
The Center for the Study of Democracy
The Center for the Study of Democracy is an interdisciplinary joint initiative of St. Mary's College of Maryland and Historic St. Mary's City. It explores historical and contemporary issues related to democracy and also provides presentations by government officials and other leaders from both developed and developing countries and notable scholars. The Center also offers a Democracy Studies minor through St. Mary's College of Maryland.
Colonial St. Mary's City, which was on the site where St. Mary's College of Maryland is located today, was a place where struggles over 'Liberty of conscience' in religion, representative political practices, freedom of the press, and minority rights all came to the fore at various times. Utilizing early Maryland as a case study in "emerging democracy," the foundation works to apply the lessons of the region's history to a domestic and international discussion of democracy's role in the modern world. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) We the People initiative awarded the Center a $500,000 challenge grant in September 2004.
Notable advisory board members include:
- Steny Hoyer, U.S. Representative and House Majority Leader, United States Congress
- Benjamin C. Bradlee – vice president at large, The Washington Post
- Thomas Penfield Jackson – presiding judge in the United States v. Microsoft case, former Judge, United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
- Ben Cardin – U.S. Senator from Maryland (2007–present); Former speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, (1979–1986); U.S. House of Representatives 1987–2007
- Michael Steele, Former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland
- Martin E. Sullivan, Director, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery; former director of Historic St. Mary's City
The James P. Muldoon River Center
The James P. Muldoon River Center is a biological research center located along the Saint Mary's River. The center administers the Saint Mary's River Project and the university's geothermal operations.
The Slackwater Center
The Slackwater Center studies the current events, culture and history of St. Mary's County and other rural Chesapeake bay and Southern Maryland communities. Its focus is interdisciplinary and it studies the region from both an historical and contemporary point of view.
The center studies, records and documents as well as interprets and reports on current and historical life in Chesapeake Bay communities. The center also has a public education mission. Students engage in historical research and historical interpretation as well as documenting oral histories of living residents. The center utilizes interdisciplinary collaboration and also fosters public education and debate.
The center's mission statement says: "We aim to offer a closer look at the rich and complicated legacies of the past, at the social and environmental challenges facing the present, and at our collective visions for the future."
Preservational and curatorial roles are also played by the Slackwater Center, primarily through the Slackwater Archives and the Slackwater Southern Maryland Documentation Project.
The mission of the archives includes preserving, transcribing, analyzing and interpreting:
- Southern Maryland Documentation Project (The only work and collection of its kind in the region that includes extensive oral histories of the region, preserving local history and documenting community issues still unfolding as current events in Southern Maryland).
The project includes:
- Oral folk life (folk culture) and oral history interviews of the people of St. Mary's County, Maryland and other Southern Maryland communities. Includes an oral history collection of more than 2,000 folk life and oral life history taped & transcribed interviews, documenting the traditional Chesapeake Bay Tidewater cultures of Southern Maryland.
- Oral histories documenting the transition to modern St. Mary's County. Uses oral histories of key historical witnesses and participants to document St. Mary's County's transition to its modern era.
- The Slackwater Journal. The archive is also a repository for issues of the Slackwater Journal, which has articles and interviews about the history, culture and people of Southern Maryland, past and present.
- St. Mary's College of Maryland oral histories. Documents the growth and history of St. Mary's College of Maryland.
Historic St. Mary's City Commission
Historic St. Mary's City, which sits next to the college, is a State-run archaeological research, historical research, preservation and interpretation center and an indoor and outdoor museum complex. The area managed by the commission also includes a reconstructed colonial town and sailing ship, located on the historic site of Maryland's first colony.
St. Mary's College and Historic St. Mary's City jointly coordinate programs of study in archaeology, history, museum studies, African American studies, political science and theater. This includes both classroom and also hands-on opportunities in archaeological excavations, museums, and historic interpretation work.
The commission and its grounds are considered to be is a major center for colonial archaeological research and historical research in the United States. There have been over 200 archaeological digs in St. Mary's City worked on by the school over the last 30 years.
All St. Mary's Students may also attend St. Mary's City's public access historical sites and all of its museums for free, year round.
The Maryland Heritage Project
The Maryland Heritage Project is also a collaboration between St. Mary's College of Maryland and Historic St. Mary's City. It focuses on the reconstruction of colonial buildings in the Historic St. Mary's City living history area, ongoing development of St. Mary's museum exhibits, and also indoor and outdoor historic interpretation.
This involves ongoing projects in archaeological research (including working on active archaeological excavations), historical research as well as management, preservation and analysis and interpretation of period artifacts and documents. The project also provides hands-on as well as classroom studies in archaeology, anthropology, democracy studies, history, international languages and cultures, and museum studies.
The Historical Archaeology Field School
St. Mary's College of Maryland and Historic St. Mary's Commission also jointly run the Historical Archaeology Field School every summer. It hosts collection-based courses, beginner to advanced level archaeological field training and also summer institutes. The school is attended by students from all over the United States and other countries as well. Many of its graduates now hold prominent positions in the field.
The students not only study, but also work in many of the active archaeological dig sites in St. Mary's City. Providing extensive hands-on experience, the school teaches all aspects of professional archaeological work, including working in real archaeological digs, analyzing and conserving artifacts, as well as cataloging, archiving, and related historical research. The school has been in existence for more than 40 years.
St. Mary's College Archives
- Southern Maryland Collection: The St. Mary's archives maintains the largest photographic print and audiovisual collection on the history and folk life of the Southern Maryland region.
- History of St. Mary's City Collection: It also maintains an extensive collection on the history of St. Mary's City, Maryland, the first colony of Maryland, and the birthplace of religious freedom. Includes materials on St. Mary's City's precolonial (Native American), colonial, antebellum (slavery era), American Civil War and 20th century history.
Baltimore Hall Library
St. Mary's Baltimore Hall Library subscribes to 1,000 periodicals in print and has access to around 20,000 in electronic format. Furthermore, the school participates in the consortium of Maryland public colleges and universities (USMAI), through which library materials from 15 other institutes in the University of Maryland System are accessible.
New Leadership for the Chesapeake
The New Leadership for the Chesapeake program trains student's in environmental leadership and advocacy as it relates to the Chesapeake Bay. In addition to leadership and advocacy training, classes and field work also focus on the biological and resource management issues affecting the Bay. The program leads to a certificate.
Chesapeake Writers' Conference
A summer program that brings together notable authors, writers and educators to foster writers of novels, poetry and other venues. Workshops in writing, classes, lectures, mentoring by notable authors and faculty; creative nonfiction, fiction and poetry are offered.
Journal of educational studies written by student interns and faculty of the Master of Education program at St. Mary's College of Maryland. Named after the adage "A rising tide lifts all boats."
Arts and culture
The Boyden Gallery and Collection
The Boyden Collection is a 2,000 piece art collection on the campus.
The Boyden Gallery sponsors a series of year-round shows and exhibits showcasing student, visiting art and artist, faculty, and also community works featuring a diverse range of themes and media.
Notable works of art
Some notable items in the collection include works of art by: Alexander Calder, Louise Nevelson, William Merritt Chase, Buckminster Fuller, Marc Chagall, Thomas Hart Benton, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, and Ad Reinhardt.
Art shows and exhibitions
The Boyden Gallery rotates between in-house, visiting, and community art shows.
St. Mary's College students receive training and assist in curation, planning and design of gallery exhibitions and special programs. The gallery also hosts all-student shows.
Young at Art program and exhibitions
Starting in 2014 the Boyden Gallery and the St. Mary's College of Maryland Masters in Teaching program entered into a partnership with St. Mary's County schools to foster and display works by promising local students. The program involves St. Mary's College of Maryland faculty and students in working with talented local young artists. The program also sponsors a professionally juried competition and a special yearly exhibitions.
Funds grants for faculty and guest artists during the year, gives annual cash award to students in the arts, furthers outreach on the college campus and within the outstanding community, and works on the development of the college's art collection. The Arts Alliance of St. Mary's College of Maryland is also a sponsor of the summer River Concert Series.
St. Mary's College of Maryland has the highest percentage of student-athletes on Capital Athletic Conference's All-Academic team for 6 years in a row.
St. Mary's mascot is the Seahawk, which is a nickname for the osprey. These birds are native to St. Mary's City and are often seen diving from great heights into St. John's Pond, in order to catch fish. The St. Mary's seahawk mascot is named Solomon.
More than 1,600 students live on campus and in traditional-style residence halls and about 300 students commute.
On campus living includes dorms, suites, apartments, and townhouses. Within the residences there are four living-learning centers on campus: an International Languages & Cultures (ILC) House; a Women In Science House (WISH); a Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSX) House and an Eco-House. Furthermore, there are Substance and Alcohol Free Environment (SAFE) suites and apartments on campus, as well as part of a residence hall. Other students join the IBA.
Student participation in governance
St. Mary's College of Maryland has an active Student Government Association (SGA). The SGA charters clubs, promotes campus events and activities, works closely with the administration to help guide student-related policy, and works to promote student engagement in campus life through representation and programming. Senators, elected by the student body, represent constituents divided by housing (or commuters). The executive board (President, Vice President, Treasurer, etc.) are also elected by the student body.
The Student Trustee, a voting member of the Board of Trustees, and an ex officio member of the SGA, is chosen from among the students to act as a direct link between the Student Body and the Board of Trustees. Aside from the Student Trustee position, students also participate in numerous other committees with faculty and other members of the administration.
As of fall 2013
As of fall 2012 (the following data runs on a different reporting cycle than the data above)--
- 59% of students were female, 41% male.
- 12% of students were from out of state.
- 97% of undergraduate students attended full-time.
- 76% of students were Caucasian, 7% were African-American, 4% were biracial or multiracial, 5% were Hispanic, 2% were Asian, 3% were of undetermined ethnicity, 0% were American Indian or Alaskan Native, and 2% were nonresident international students.
- 19% of students were of minority heritage from any group, not including the percentage of nonresident international students who may also be minorities in the United States.
- Thirty-seven countries are represented among the students.
- The student:faculty ratio was 10 to 1 one of the lowest student faculty ratios for a public college in the United States. It is also among the lowest when compared to private colleges.
St. Mary's College hosts more than 100 student-run, SGA-sponsored clubs.
- Academic clubs – Asian Studies Club, Economics Club, History Club, Math Club, Philosophy Club, Physics Club, Sign Language Club, Sociology/Anthropology Club
- Activity clubs – Academic Team, Billiards Club, Cheerleading Club (aka Hawkettes), Dance Club, Heroscape Club, Take One Improv, Whitewater Club
- Advisory clubs – Pre-Law Advisory Network (PLAN), Student Education Association, St. Mary's Advising Students in Health
- Interest clubs – Anime Club, Camera Club, Community Garden Club, Computer/Linux Club, Fine Arts Club, Gaming Club, Global Justice League, International Club, Magic: The Gathering, Meditation Club, Outdoor Adventure Club, Out of State Club, Parking Club, SafeRide, Student Environmental Action Coalition, St. Mary's American Chemical Society, Tolkien Society, We Love the Co-Op, World of Warcraft, Women in Science House Club, Youth Alliance for the Revival of Needlework
- Musical clubs – Crazy Pianos, Gospel Choir, Interchorus (all-gender a cappella), SMC-men (men's a cappella), The Nightingales - "TNA" (women's a cappella), Sextets (women's a cappella)
- Political clubs – College Democrats, College Republicans
- Publications – Avatar (literary magazine), The Dove (yearbook)
- Religious clubs – Hillel, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Newman Society, Quaker Society
- Service clubs – Circle K, For Goodness Sake, Habitat for Humanity, Relay For Life, Rotaract, Sister to Sister, Global Justice League, Amnesty International club
- Sports clubs – Club Soccer, Crew Club, Cross Country & Track, Dodgeball Club, Equestrian Club, Fencing Club, Longboarding Club, Men's Rugby, Rockclimbing Club, Sailing Club, Softball Club, Water Polo Club, Windsurfing Club, Women's Rugby, Women's St. Mary's Ultimate (Frisbee) Team
- Social Engagement Clubs – Black Student Union (BSU), Feminists United for Sexual Equality (FUSE), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Raices Hispanas, St. Mary's Triangle and Rainbow Society (S.T.A.R.S.)
- Media Board – The HAWK Radio (radio) and The Point News (college newspaper)
- Alpha Kappa Delta (sociology)
- Beta Beta Beta (biology)
- Omicron Delta Epsilon (economics)
- Omicron Delta Kappa
- Phi Alpha Theta (history)
- Phi Beta Kappa (national)
- Pi Sigma Alpha (political science)
- Psi Chi (psychology)
- Sigma Pi Sigma (physics)
- Sigma Tau Delta (English)
The majority of the on-campus student population lives in traditional college dormitories, group suite apartments and townhouses; 85% of students live on campus.
St. Mary's does not have any social sororities or fraternities. Instead, part of its student residences run on a house system. Each house has its own educational theme, so residents may form community around shared interests.
Campus residence houses include:
- International Languages & Cultures (ILC) House
- Women In Science House (WISH)
- Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSX) House
- Furthermore, there are Substance and Alcohol-Free Environment (SAFE) suites and apartments on campus, as well as part of a residence hall.
- Signing of the book: New students attend a convocation ceremony at the State House of 1634 in Historic St. Mary's City. Afterwards students are invited to sign the President's book.
- Hallow-Greens, which takes place on a weekend near Halloween, is an annual all-student costume event.
- Mardi-Greens, occurs the weekend near Mardi Gras, is an annual all-student celebration.
- Nudi-Greens, occurs towards the end of April or early May, is an all-student ABC celebration for Spring.
- The Great Bamboo Boat Race takes place during Homecoming/Parent's Weekend. Teams must make a boat entirely out of materials provided for them (bamboo, sheet plastic, twine, and duct tape) and race it in a small loop on the St. Mary's River by the college boathouse and docks. The bamboo is harvested from the campus bamboo forest, where it is considered an invasive species. There are cash prizes for the winners. This event replaced The Great Cardboard Boat Race (an earlier incarnation using cardboard instead of bamboo) in 2010.
- The Mardi Gras Parade, a senior tradition, where students parade around campus on the night of Mardi Gras to the beat of pots and pans.
- World Carnival Weekend takes place late in the Spring semester. Clubs across campus are invited to participate in this event which celebrates diversity in music, food, and culture.
- The Frisbee Golf Dorchester Open is held in the Spring (held for 37 consecutive years, a big alumni event, current students play as well).
- Midnight breakfast is held during finals week each semester. Admission is free, and many students participate in karaoke during the night.
- Black Student Union Fashion Show: is held yearly.
- River Concert series: During the summer months the college hosts an event attended by thousands of people each year.
- The Dance Club holds a Dance Show once per semester.
- The Christmas in April Auction is an annual fund-raiser in which students, faculty, and staff bid for humorous items such as singing telegrams or cooked dinners from the Admissions staff.
- Polar Bear Splash: an annual effort to raise awareness for Global Warming. More than one hundred students take a swim in the freezing St. Mary's River during this mid-winter event.
- Shoe Tree: For a lot of students, throwing a pair of shoes or flip-flops tied together into the shoe tree marks a memorable "first time" on the college campus—i.e. losing one's virginity.
- Natty Boh Hunt: On Easter, the upperclassmen prepare the Natty Boh Hunt by buying large quantities of National Bohemian and spray painting them and hiding them all around campus for the freshmen to find. An Occasional 40 will be bought and spray painted gold, known as a Golden 40.
- May Day Bicycle Streak: On May 1 (May Day) students streak through campus on bicycles. This represents freedom, especially for seniors. Clothed students stand on the sidelines and "offer support".
- Wednesday night Hide-A-Keg: On balmy Wednesday nights, a keg would be hidden somewhere on campus. First observed in 1988, the hunt would start (for both students and campus security) with a ringing of the bell. This tradition is no longer practiced, as kegs were banned on campus in the interest of student safety.
- Friction Fest: Every April the SMCM Rock Climbing Club sponsors a huge Bouldering (rock climbing) competition called "Friction Fest" which is free and open to both students, staff, faculty, community and the local Navy Base members.
The Seven Wonders are seven notable campus landmarks. New students are inducted into the traditions of SMCM by orientation leaders in a tour of the Seven Wonders during orientation and it is a graduation tradition for the departing class to tour the seven wonders and recount stories the evening before graduation. Thus a student's time at SMCM begins and ends with tours of the Seven Wonders.
The seven "wonders" are:
- The Shoe Tree (see above)
- The Bell Tower
- A clearing on St. John's Pond on the Side of Queen Ann (see above)
- Maryland Freedom of Conscience Statue on Route 5 (a.k.a. The Naked Man)
- Garden of Remembrance Fountain
- 'Hidden' Grave
- Church Point
Goodpaster Hall, an academic building devoted to chemistry, psychology, and educational studies that opened in January 2008, was built to a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating of Silver. It is one of few "green" buildings in the state of Maryland.
By upgrading fixtures, adjusting campus facilities operations and raising the campus community awareness about wasteful energy usage, St. Mary's College is making progress in using energy more efficiently, containing energy expenditures and reducing its impact on the environment.
Green Energy Fund/student energy referendum
St. Mary's College students voted to create a Green Energy Fund by raising student fees $25 per year. The purpose of the Green Energy Fund is to purchase Renewable Energy Credits to offset 100% of the College's electricity use and fund renewable energy projects on campus. St. Mary's College received the 2008 EPA Green Power Leadership Club award for their efforts.
Recycling and composting programs
St. Mary's College is expanding its recycling and composting programs. Student volunteers have been collecting recyclable and compostable material from the residences. Compostable bins will soon be available all across campus. The College is looking into partnering up with local farms to develop a larger scale composting facility that can accommodate the significant quantities of compostable food waste from the cafeteria.
Green cleaning products
St. Mary's College is transitioning to 100% environmentally responsible Green Seal certified cleaning products.
St. Mary's College's groundskeeping crews are at the forefront of environmental stewardship by implementing sustainable practices. Their efforts include protecting the St. Mary's River by developing green buffer areas, creating green spaces and wildlife habitat, using integrated pest management and minimizing the usage of synthetic fertilizers. SMCM has applied to the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program.
The college runs a composting system to handle the majority of its biodegradable waste.
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