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Contact Us:

18952 E. Fisher Road
St. Mary's City, MD

47474 Trinity Church Road
St. Mary's City, MD

Dr. Michael Cain
Professor of Political Science
Kent Hall 105
(240) 895-4215

Purpose and Inspiration for Our Work

The Center for the Study of Democracy was founded as a joint initiative of St. Mary's College of Maryland and its partner institution, Historic St. Mary's City, the site of Maryland's first capital. The purpose of the Center is to explore contemporary and historical issues associated with democracy and liberty in national and international contexts. The Center provides a forum for presentations by government officials, journalists, and scholars; publishes scholarly writings on subjects of civil governance; encourages and supports public participation in political processes; and engages undergraduate students in study and research on related subjects.

Founded in 1634, the English colony of Maryland represented the first attempt in English-speaking world to establish effective civil government unencumbered by concerns with the religious beliefs of its citizens. "Liberty of conscience" in religion, representative political practices, freedom of the press, the importance of the rule of law, defense and liberty as well as minority rights are all a part of the history of St. Mary's City as Maryland's first capitol. Although Maryland's experiment in religious toleration did not survive, the Center commemorates that effort by examining the origins and causes of dysfunction in democratic process, religious and otherwise, and celebrating its accomplishments in the quest for just and durable popular government.

Since its founding in 2002, the Center has developed a robust program of political education and civic engagement, providing important opportunities to students, the greater college community and citizens throughout the state of Maryland. Recent activities of the Center include academic lectures and policy conferences, paid and unpaid internships activities for students in government, visiting scholars in history and politics, and public discussions on political issues of wide interest to the Maryland community.

Main Activities and Programs

The Center for the Study of Democracy focuses on different dimensions of liberty and democracy in national and international contexts. The Center regularly investigates and discusses Maryland democratic history and contemporary Maryland politics; international dimensions of democratic development and U.S. engagement in world affairs.

The Center promotes a wide range of student activities that include curricula, coursework, special educational events and community activities. The Center currently provides support for the democracy studies minor at St. Mary's College and funds summer internship offerings in state, federal and local government service. The Center also promotes citizen engagement in the political process by supporting student organizations that advocate for student participation in elections.

The Center provides support to student organizations interested in the many languages of democracy by funding activities of interest to them-whether they are speakers, exhibits, literary or artistic performances. Students are invited to join the discussions we host on campus and to recommend new speakers and dialogues on contemporary problems we face.

The Center is also committed to promoting education and discussion on both policy and political issues of interest to St. Mary's College, Historic St. Mary's City and the wider Maryland community. The Center regularly hosts political discussions with government officials and political candidates, public political debates as well as conferences and forums on important policy issues. The Center frequently underwrites discussions and conferences on the early stirrings of democracy and liberty at St. Mary's City.