What is an SMP?
The St. Mary’s Project is a year-long, 8-credit, independently designed and executed course of study intended as a capstone experience for a student’s time at St. Mary’s. Working in close conjunction with one or more professors, in or outside of the English department, you have the opportunity to explore, in depth, a question or idea that entrances and intrigues you. Many—although by no means all—SMPs are interdisciplinary, bringing together threads from earlier classes taken across the curriculum. Many are highly personal, involving creative or innovative work that ties together four years of study in a meaningful way. SMPs can, in their final form, take the shape of research papers, collections of essays, anthologies of poetry, films, web sites, suites of paintings, graphic novels, operas—all these, and more, have been done in years past.
The College has established certain guidelines for the SMP:
- It must be student-initiated
- It must demonstrate methodological competence (by identifying an area to be explored and proposing a method of inquiry appropriate for the topic)
- It must draw on and extend knowledge, skills of analysis, and creative achievement developed through previous academic work. It must include a reflection on the social context, the body of literature, or the conceptual framework to which the project is a contribution
- It must be shared with the larger community through some form of public presentation.
First year students and sophomores:
- Consider your interests and keep track of favorite and interesting topics
- Don’t be too specific, keep it broad
- Talk to friends and seniors doing projects.
- Attend SMPs and look over the archives
First semester of junior year:
- Consider whether you want to collaborate with others. Note that collaborating with students will not necessarily make your work load easier
- Think about whether you want to do the project in two 4-credit blocks or employ some other sequence
Second semester of junior year:
- Narrow your choice to one or two topics
- Discuss and develop your topic ideas with faculty members who might be good mentors.
- Talk to the St. Mary’s Career Center if you want to include an off-campus component to your project.
- Decide if you will be collaborating with a fellow student.
- Have a good idea of what you want to do by advising day.
- Select a faculty mentor in the spring semester.
- Submit a formal proposal
- Work closely with your faculty mentor.
- Submit the budget request form by late October (option to resubmit in March).
- Complete research, hands-on experience, written essay, or poster.
- Present in the Spring semester
How to Choose a Topic
- What areas of English interest you?
- What are your career interests?
- Do you want a project to include specific experiences such as doing an off-campus internship or conducting on-site research?
- What was your favorite class and why?
- Would a topic from a class be something you would like to pursue further?
Alternative Capstone Experience
English majors are not required to complete an SMP; instead, they may elect to take an additional 8 hours of upper-division English coursework. Taking two 300- or 400-level English courses is an alternative to an SMP.
Highlighted SMP Projects
English Department SMP Guidelines
The department chair will send out e-mail notifications in the spring announcing both the due date for the prospectus and the date of departmental advising meetings.
Students planning to begin an SMP in the spring should contact the chair for information on how to do so.
At the beginning of each semester of your project, turn in an add/drop form to the registrar
Double Majors & Interdisciplinary Coursework
SMPs in another department may also count for your English SMP. Talk to the Department Chairs in both departments before registering.
Depending on how much your project ends up straddling disciplines, you may be required to take four, or even eight, additional English credits to complete your major.
If, as your interdisciplinary project develops over the course of the year, it becomes more centrally “English,” you may ask your mentor to petition the English department to grant you more credit towards your major.
All such requests must be made prior to the commencement of your final semester at SMC, so that you can begin the term registered for the coursework you will need to have in order to graduate.
What to consider when finding a mentor:
- If you don’t select a mentor, the department will assign you one
- Talk to several professors about the project affect your project
- Your SMP mentor is not the same thing as your advisor
- Your SMP mentor does not have to be a professor in your department. Check with the English Department Chair
For the first term of your SMP, register for Engl 493.
For the second semester, register for Engl 494.
If you’re going to be abroad for the first semester, you may register for both 493 and 494 in the second semester. You can also register for 2 credits in one semester, and 6 in another.
Check with your advisor for more information.
For primarily critical projects:
- 1-2 page, single-spaced, project description.
- A basic description of the scope of the project, including questions, issues, or the general area of study that the you wish to address
- An initial list or summary of primary and secondary texts that the you want to use
- The student’s initial plan for research
- An overview of the kinds of arguments that the you expect to make
- A detailed explanation of the work that has prepared the you to undertake the project
- Your mentor’s name
For primarily creative projects:
- All of the above plus the thematic and stylistic questions that will inform the your creative work
You should include a writing sample with your prospectus. Department faculty will review and make suggestions.
- 5 – 10, pages
- Writing samples for critical projects should be taken from an analytical essays
- Writing samples for creative projects should include a sample of your work in the genre of your SMP.
- Writing sample should be taken from a course at St. Mary’s.
Formatting and Submitting your SMP
Submit your finished project to:
- Your mentor
- The Registrar (on CD/DVD)
- The Department (via the building office in MH 45) (on CD/DVD)
Your SMP will be sent to Special Collections in the library; you are required to specify the level of access permitted to it by filling out an SMP Release Form.
- Images are acceptable on the title page, as well as throughout the document.
- Number your pages.
- If your project contains distinct chapters, essays, stories, etc., include a Table of Contents
- Imagine your project printed out, doubled-sided. Begin each chapter or story on a new page (by inserting a hard page break), and consider inserting blank pages throughout the document to have new chapters begin on an odd-numbered (forward-facing) page. If you’re unsure what this means, look at a printed book.
- No matter what decisions you make about individual chapters, the Table of Contents, the body of your project, and your bibliography should all begin on odd-numbered pages.
- Your entire project must be submitted as one document file, in Microsoft Word or as a pdf.
SMP Structure (suggested)
- Title Page, which must include:
- Your Name
- Project Title
- Year of Completion
- Mentor’s Name(s)
- Project Abstract (approximately 250 words)
- Dedication (if any)
- Table of Contents
- Table of Illustrations (if any)
- Acknowledgements (if any)
- Body of Project
- Appendices (if any)