The goal for students as they complete this element of the Core Curriculum is that they bridge the gap between the academy and the world beyond, transcending the theory-praxis divide and giving extra meaning to their academic courses by applying their developing knowledge, skills, and values to life experiences outside the boundaries of the college campus.
Students fulfill the Experiencing the Liberal Arts in the World (ELAW) requirement by enrolling in Core 350 while they are pursuing one of the following activities:
- A study tour, or a study abroad program
- A credit-bearing internship
- A College-designated service or experiential learning class
- A College-approved experience equivalent to a 4-credit course (160 hours); students must petition to have such experiences approved in advance.
Core350 is a zero-credit course that requires students to write a reflective essay about their experience. Students much register for Core 350 and complete the reflective essay in order to fulfill the ELAW requirement.
At the completion of Core 350, students will be able to:
- Analyze the complex contexts that produce their own and others’ attitudes and beliefs;
- Navigate diverse communities of learners, workers, and/or citizens with respect for others and the common good;
- Use their knowledge, skills, and values to put their individual experiences into broader professional, cultural, sociopolitical, and/or global contexts;
- Explain, through critically reflective writing, connections among their individual experiences, community contexts, and academic knowledge.
Registration for Core 350
No matter what experience you are using to satisfy your ELAW requirement, you must simultaneously enroll in Core350 (a zero-credit course). There are seven sections of CORE 350, organized around different ways to satisfy the ELAW requirement:
- Section 01. Independent study or directed research. Petition required.
- Section 02. Credit-bearing internship (minimum 4 credits).
- Section 03. Study abroad program in an SMCM-approved program.
- Section 05. 4-credit study tour.
- Section 07. A service or experiential learning course (see the catalog for approved courses).
- Section 08.A non-credit experience, such as a non-credit bearing internship (experience must occupy at least 160 hours). Petition required.
- Section 09. Other experiences that together total 4 credits (experiences must occupy at least 160 hours). Petition required.
How you register depends on how you are satisfying ELAW. Students who are registering for sections 02 (credit-bearing internship) or 03 (study abroad) will do so when they submit forms required for their experience to the Office of the Registrar. These include the Internship Learning Agreement and the Approval Check Off for Study Abroad.
Students who are registering for section 05 (study tour) or 07 (service or experiential learning course) will inform their instructors that they are taking the class to fulfill ELAW. Instructors will submit this information to the Office of the Registrar by the end of the second week of the semester, or in the case of a summer study tour, after the first on-campus class meeting.
Registration for all other sections of Core 350 requires that the student submit a petition prior to registration (see below).
Students should make sure they are registered for Core 350 by the beginning of the semester in which their experience occurs; they should be registered for the proper section of Core 350 no later than the end of the second week of the semester. Late registrations will be subject to a $25 fee.
Registration for summer ELAW experiences should follow the above procedures. Students should be registered for the appropriate section of Core 350 by the last day of classes of the spring semester.
Petition for Non-standard Experiences
By petition, students may be permitted to use non-standard experiences (e.g., independent studies, directed research, etc.) to satisfy the ELAW requirement. Given its capstone role in the curriculum, St. Mary’s Projects may not be used to satisfy the requirement. Non-standard experiences must occupy at least 160 hours (i.e., the equivalent of a 4-credit course). Students should make arrangements for their non-standard experience prior to submitting their petition.
To petition for a non-standard ELAW experience, please use the form linked below, and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading “ELAW Petition.”
Petitions for non-standard ELAW experiences should be submitted by the end of second week of the semester. For experiences occurring during the summer, petitions should be submitted no later than the last day of classes of the spring semester.
The Reflective Essay
At the completion of the semester in which you undertake your experience, you must submit a reflective essay to the Associate Dean of Curriculum (email@example.com). The ELAW requirement is not satisfied until the reflective essay has been evaluated and the student has received a passing grade for Core 350.
Critical reflection is the process of not merely observing and describing your experiences, but of asking questions, analyzing, and interpreting them. It is academic writing with yourself as the subject.
As such, the reflective essay is more than a summation of your experience or a series of anecdotes. It is an argument that you’ll make to the St. Mary’s community (broadly defined as your professors, your peers, and your parents) about the larger significance of your experience.
The reflective essay should frame this significance in terms of the learning outcomes for Core 350 (see above). With these outcomes in mind, explain to your audience how ELAW transformed, deepened, or challenged something that you’ve learned in the classroom at St. Mary’s. Tell us how the communities you encountered contributed to this transformation. How did you come to understand your own liberal arts experience “in the world” as a result of these encounters? What does this experience tell you about the connections between knowledge and experience? How do the diverse communities in which we learn shape these connections?
Your essay should explore these questions by citing specific details and examples from your ELAW activity. It should explain why this connection between knowledge and experience is important to you, but also to the communities that you will join after you leave St. Mary’s. How has ELAW prepared you to be an active, engaged member of a diverse community?
Reflective essays must be approximately 1600 words in length. Please note that reflective work submitted to the Career Development Center for a credit-bearing internship or written work required for a class you are using to satisfy the ELAW requirement will not automatically fulfill the reflective essay requirement for ELAW. Essays produced for these other audiences may be appropriate for submission as your ELAW reflective piece if they meet the expectations laid out above, but in all cases, you must submit the essay directly to firstname.lastname@example.org for independent evaluation.
Reflective essays are due on the final day of classes in the semester in which you are enrolled in Core350; in the summer term, essays are due on August 15.
If you are studying abroad during fall semester and your term extends past the end of the St. Mary’s semester, your essay will be due on January 1. If you are going on a winter break study tour, your essay will be due on January 15. If you are studying abroad in spring semester and your term extends past the end of the St. Mary’s semester, your essay will be due on June 30th.
Send your essay to email@example.com. Materials turned in to the Career Development Center or to individual professors will not be forwarded to the Associate Dean of Curriculum!
Your essay must be submitted as a Microsoft Word document or as a pdf. Please title it [lastname, firstname] reflection.[extension]. As in, “Smith, Mary reflection.docx.”
Each reflective essay will be assigned a grade of “Pass,” “Pass with Distinction,” or “Fail,” which will be noted on your transcript. Students submitting failing essays will be required to revise their work and resubmit it.
Your degree audit may not show that you’ve completed ELAW, but as long as your transcript reflects an actual grade of P or PD, you have, indeed, satisfied the requirement.
Examples of Distinctive Reflective Essays
CORE350 Reflective Piece Model 1: Steven Rees writing on his summer research with leeches
CORE350 Reflective Piece Model 2: Kristen VanBlargan writing about her time in Japan – Kristen VanBlargan’s Film
CORE 350 Reflective Piece Model 3: Daniel Castle writing about Buddhism and travel
CORE 350 Reflective Piece Model 4: Emily Ma writing about her experiences studying at Sciences Po in Paris
CORE 350 Reflective Piece Model 5: Chelsea McKnight writing about her internship at The Whole Self Center
CORE 350 Reflective Piece Model 7: Kevin Ford writing about his Ed Studies placements at Spring Ridge Middle School