Curriculum Overview

As a public college of the liberal arts, St. Mary’s College of Maryland aims to educate its students to lead productive and satisfying lives as citizens. To accomplish this goal, the program of study is designed to provide a first-rate general education, to promote competence in at least one academic field, and to help each student develop skills of analysis and expression necessary for a life of value.

All students complete general college requirements, including two programs of study: Core Curriculum, and a major. The Core Curriculum program offers the student a broad understanding of several fields of knowledge. The major provides the opportunity to pursue one field in depth.


The Core Curriculum at St. Mary’s College of Maryland represents a commitment to providing students with a broad grounding in the liberal arts. The curriculum was designed to stimulate a spirit of inquiry about a range of intellectual issues and develop students’ ability to think creatively and critically, with reason and imagination. Because students must develop the intellectual and ethical resources to flourish in our complex world, the Core Curriculum engages students in different modes of knowledge and learning. Through the Core Curriculum, our students develop the abilities to speak and write with clarity and precision; construct sound arguments; apply theoretical concepts and integrate knowledge; and use information and technology resources effectively and ethically. Students develop these abilities across all disciplines, in activities ranging from creative production in the fine arts to the use of scientific methods in the sciences. Our vision of learning at St. Mary’s College includes, welcomes, and depends upon many voices and viewpoints. The Core Curriculum begins the process through which faculty and students participate in ongoing conversations about value, meaning, understanding, and action. A student’s intellectual growth will therefore entail a deepening moral awareness. The Core Curriculum lays the foundation that will enable St. Mary’s College students to develop a sense of social and civic responsibility and be prepared to participate ethically and intelligently as informed citizens of the communities in which they work and live.

The Core Curriculum will provide opportunities for students to:

The fundamental liberal arts skills (critical thinking, information literacy, written expression, and oral expression) are the cornerstones of a traditional liberal arts education and are essential to an integrative curriculum. All students in all majors employ them throughout their academic careers. Making sure that all students achieve proficiency in these four skills will lead to the excellence in education that our mission statement calls for. A liberal arts education is a comprehensive education designed to cultivate autonomous and well-rounded members of the world community by developing the fundamental skills enabling the full exercise and expression of one’s person. As such, these fundamental skills do not mark mere technique, but represent some of the core capacities shaping human intelligence.

Critical thinking describes the capacity to recognize and appreciate the context of a line of thought (for example, a rhetorical argument, a mathematical proof, or a musical composition); the capacity to evaluate its consistency, coherence, importance, and originality; and the capacity to create an independent line of thought. Information literacy describes the capacity to identify the need for information and to locate, analyze, evaluate, and effectively use all forms of information (for example, written, oral, visual, or quantitative. Written expression and oral expression describe the capacities to clearly articulate a coherent, creative, and compelling line of thought in writing and speech, with attention to the power of both language and images.

Although each skill maintains its identity as the definitions above signify, these skills inextricably inform one another. These skills will be introduced and practiced in the Core Curriculum, but as students matriculate beyond the Core Curriculum the outcomes for these skills will expand, multiply, and diverge. In other words, the idea of “all four skills in all four years” will form an integral part of the academic culture at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Students will begin to understand this culture before they arrive on campus, become immersed in it during their time on campus, and further develop these skills after they leave the campus. Assessment of these skills will take place in a variety of ways in the Core, in the majors, and in the senior capstone experiences.


In compliance with St. Mary’s College’s position as Maryland’s public honors college, the St. Mary’s Project (SMP) is the capstone of study at the College. The project is an eight-credit, independent, sustained endeavor of research or creative expression that is supervised by a faculty mentor and presented in a public forum. Each project realizes several of the following goals of this honors college:

  1. The maintenance of high academic standards
  2. The creation of a sense of intellectual community in which the academic disciplines are appreciated as both unique and interrelated
  3. The development of each student’s ability to think critically and creatively in order to foster curiosity and promote inquiry
  4. The encouragement of each student’s ability to identify personal educational goals and to select the courses that will help to realize these goals
  5. An emphasis on learning not only in the classroom, but between faculty and students and between students and their peers
  6. Sponsorship of a project of quality as the culmination and means of assessing the whole of a student’s education
  7. High standards of intellectual and creative endeavor and a sense of responsibility and personal integrity that lead to meaningful performance in a world that is increasingly complex and interdependent

As Maryland’s public honors college, St. Mary’s is committed to the ideal of providing an excellent and challenging education to a diverse population. As an honors college, St. Mary’s seeks talented students who are serious about their education. As a public college, St. Mary’s recruits a student body that is diverse socio-economically, ethnically, and by age. The two characteristics of academic strength and social diversity define the mission of this college, and the St. Mary’s Project offers students and faculty the means to fulfill the College’s unique educational opportunities.


At St. Mary’s College, depth of knowledge is gained through intensive study in a major field. By assuming a major, the student goes beyond the introductory level in a chosen field, develops a coherent view of the subject, and attains competence in the use of skills appropriate to the discipline. This aspect of the curriculum allows students to experience the challenge and pleasure of pursuing a subject in depth. It also helps them refine their abilities of acquiring, analyzing, and synthesizing information, abilities needed to respond to the increasing complexity of the modern world.

See a complete listing of the majors offered by the College


By the end of the sophomore year, each student must declare a major by using the SMCM web Portal. In most cases there is no need for a student to designate a major until the end of the second year. However, if a student anticipates majoring in biology, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, natural science, or music, or plans to pursue the MAT, a faculty adviser in the field should be consulted early in the first year, preferably before the student enrolls in the first semester.


Except in the case of student-designed majors, students wishing to change their major must do so by the end of the schedule adjustment period of their last semester at the College prior to graduation. While there is no absolute deadline for declaring a second major, students who attempt to do so past the schedule adjustment period may not have the major recorded on their diploma, due to the administrative requirements of certification.


Recognizing that many students may want to take a concentration of courses under a specific discipline but not with the intention of majoring in the subject matter, St. Mary’s College allows students to pursue approved minors. Minors require students to take 18-24 credit-hours in prescribed course work.

See a complete listing of the minors offered by the College


Cross-disciplinary studies can increase intellectual community across disciplines, encourage cohesion in the choice of electives, and promote combinations of methods and materials that challenge the boundaries of knowledge. They involve at least three academic disciplines and require 18 to 24 credit-hours, at least eight (8) of which must be at the upper-division level. Cross-disciplinary studies include an integrative component such as a common course or requirement. At the discretion of the specific cross-disciplinary studies committee, students may complete the St. Mary's Project in the study area, provided they secure the approval of the department in which they are majoring. Completion of the course work in a cross-disciplinary study area is noted as a specific minor on a student's transcript. Currently, the College offers the following cross-disciplinary minors: African and African Diaspora Studies, Asian Studies, Democracy Studies, Environmental Studies, Museum Studies, Neurosciences, and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.


Although students may drop a minor at any time, students wishing to add a minor must do so by the end of the schedule adjustment period of their last semester at the College prior to graduation.  Students who attempt to add a minor past the schedule adjustment period may not be able to graduate with the minor due to the administrative requirements of certification.


The College awards the bachelor of arts degree upon successful completion of all requirements, including the Core Curriculum program and one or more of the designated majors. Students who complete the requirements for more than one major, as determined by the appropriate academic departments, will have that fact recorded on their permanent records.

A liberal arts education equips the student for employment in a wide variety of spheres. For example, many St. Mary’s graduates enjoy successful careers in business and government as well as the arts, education, and the sciences. Many students plan for graduate study in academic fields, or for training in such professions as law and medicine.


The Second Bachelor’s Degree Program is intended to fulfill the needs of college and university graduates who wish to achieve competency in a field of academic study different from the one in which they attained their first degree. Students seeking entrance into the program must have previously received a baccalaureate degree from St. Mary’s or from another accredited institution. To be considered for the program, there must be no extensive duplication among the major field requirements for the two degrees. Prospective students apply to the Office of Admissions for entrance into the program. The Office of the Registrar will assess the transferability of credits earned elsewhere.

Students pursuing a second bachelor’s degree are subject to all academic policies that normally pertain to St. Mary’s degree-seeking students. To earn a second bachelor’s degree, a student must complete a) requirements “1” and “4” of the general College requirements and b) a minimum of 32 credit-hours at St. Mary’s beyond those earned for the first degree.

Interested students are urged to make a pre-application appointment with the Office of Admissions to receive advice regarding admissions procedures and transfer credit policies.


Occasionally, a department may offer a course that is not listed in the catalog. Designated as experimental, such courses may be offered twice before being formally approved and incorporated into the curriculum or dropped from the College’s offerings. Such courses carry credit on the same basis as courses listed in the catalog.