The St. Mary’s College of Maryland physics program is highlighted as a role model in the report, “Phys21: Preparing Physics Students for 21st Century Careers.” The report, published by the Joint Task Force on Undergraduate Physics Programs (J-TUPP) and convened by the American Physical Society (APS) and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), selected the College as one of five case studies of successful, innovative physics programs.
Josh Grossman, associate professor of physics and chair of the department for the public honors college, said those involved with the report put out a call for best practices and “just how many we do caught their eye.”
St. Mary’s College is cited eight times, highlighting examples of the department’s best practices, including its use of assessments to truly measure innovations; keeping its finger on the pulse of the department; getting students involved in the career center early; keeping in touch with alumni; embedding career exploration into the introductory course sequence; giving administration values for the money spent and giving exit surveys to students majoring or minoring in physics.
To see the College highlighted several times in one report, Grossman said, shows how much the department has evolved since 2000.
Grossman said the goal was to get students to come to St. Mary’s for the physics program. “I think we’re starting to succeed with that,” he said.
St. Mary’s College averages 11 or 12 graduates per year from the physics department putting it in the top 10 percent among schools with undergraduate-only programs.
“The physics department is preparing me for a 21st century job for many reasons,” said junior Brigid Morris. … “Professors make sure we not only understand the material we learn in class, but also that we understand how to apply that knowledge in the lab setting. … [Professors make] sure we can ‘write and explain’ physics as opposed to just being able to plug numbers into an equation not really knowing why. … Lastly, we do a lot of group work in the classroom as well as in the lab, which teaches us how to work in a team … which is an important part of any job,” Morris said.
Grossman credits all of the faculty and staff in the department for its success especially former chair of the department Chuck Adler, who has been instrumental in building up faculty and best practices over the years.
St. Mary’s College of Maryland, designated the Maryland state honors college in 1992, is ranked one of the best public liberal arts schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Approximately 1,700 students attend the college, nestled on the St. Mary’s River in Southern Maryland.