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 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.
Alternative Capstone Experience
History majors are not required to complete an SMP; instead, they may elect to take an additional 8 hours of upper-division history coursework. Taking two 400-level history courses is an alternative to an SMP.
The following is a typical process for those who choose to register for SMP sections in the fall and spring of the senior year. The actual process would vary if you elect to register in alternative semesters.
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 SMP presentations and look over the archives
First semester of junior year:
- Think about whether you want to do the project in a Fall-Spring sequence, or use another one. Sometimes faculty will be on sabbatical, so it is important to consult with them in order to make these decisions.
- Make use of HIST 395 to engage in historiographical inquiry into potential topics
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.
- Have a good idea of what you want to do by advising day.
- Select a faculty mentor in the spring semester.
Summer between junior and senior years:
- Begin a working bibliography of secondary and primary sources.
- Do as much secondary reading on your topic as you reasonably can.
First Semester of senior year:
- Submit a formal proposal by week 2
- Topic Presentation early in first semester of SMP work
- Work closely with your faculty mentor
- Participate in departmental SMP support seminars with your peers
- Submit the budget request form by late October (option to resubmit in March).
- Submit Progress Report at the end of first semester of SMP work
Second Semester of senior year:
- Continue to work closely with your faculty mentor.
- Continue working with your peers in the SMP support seminar.
- Complete research early in the semester
- Write chapters and revise
- Turn in completed draft on announced due date
- Submit final project to mentor and registrar’s office on last day of classes
- Final Presentation at the end of the Spring semester
How to Choose a Topic
- What areas of History 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?
Highlighted SMP Projects
John Dushel, “‘Ruled by the Tail:’ Mr. and Mrs. Jack Tar from Late Colonial to Early Republican America,” 2016. Mentor: Christine Adams.
Ben Goldsmith, “Trying Times: The Maryland Constitutional Debates from 1861-1867,” 2016. Mentor: Chuck Holden.
Isabella Lee, “Peeking over the Red Picket Fence: Imagined Chinese, Korean, and Russian Communists in the Cold War,” 2016. Mentor: Tom Barrett.
J.R. Rhine, “Out of Step: Straight Edge and Hardcore Punk Rock as Rebellion against Malaise and the Middle Class in 1980s Washington DC,” 2016. Mentor: Chuck Holden.
Ben Haman, “Mabel Walker Willebrandt: A Modern Moderate in the 1920s,” 2015. Mentor: Chuck Holden.
Caroline Szendey, “Painful Practices: the Role of Beauty in Chinese Footbinding and Plastic Surgery, 2015. Mentor: Charles Musgrove.
Matt Anthony, “Pickin’ Up the Pieces: Country-Rock and the End of the Sixties,” 2014. Mentor: Chuck Holden.
Taylor Schaefer, “Landscapes of a Living Monument: A History of the Seven Wonders of St. Mary’s,” 2014. Winner of the Marlay Award for SMPs in the Humanities. Mentor: Ken Cohen.
Monica Louzon, “Many Shapes, One Creed: Jesuit Church Architecture in Colonial Argentina and Early Federal Maryland,” 2012. Mentor: Ken Cohen.
Megan O’Hern, “The Devil Didn’t Make You Do It: The Puritan Clerical Discourse on Satan in Seventeenth-Century New England,” 2012. Winner of the Phi Alpha Theta Regional Conference Award for best paper. Mentor: Ken Cohen.
History Department SMP Guidelines
General Requirements and Outcomes
An SMP for the History Department typically consists of an extended research paper that is produced from analyzing primary sources. The final paper should be approximately 50 to 60 double-spaced pages (with a minimum of 35 pages for a passing grade). Citations and bibliography should follow current Chicago style.
Students may propose alternative formats (e.g., developing a particular teaching curriculum), subject to the approval of the mentor and department chair.
Throughout the SMP year, students will meet as a group with a member of the faculty to present findings in an informal setting, and to discuss the overall SMP process.
In producing a successful SMP students will analyze secondary and primary sources in order to address controversies and gaps in already existing scholarship. They will demonstrate knowledge of historical context and processes of change over time. Students will also critically evaluate evidence in order to develop arguments in support of convincing and significant conclusions. They will also produce a short oral presentation that clearly articulates the findings and evidence to an audience of peers.
Formal Proposal Guidelines:
Turn in a formal proposal for your project to your mentor and the department chair by the end of the second week of your first semester of SMP work (usually fall of senior year).
For primarily critical projects:
- 2 page, single-spaced, project description.
- A basic description of the scope of the project, including questions and issues, that the you wish to address
- An initial list or summary of primary and secondary texts that 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 you to undertake the project
- Your mentor’s name
- Attached bibliography should be formatted in current Chicago style
For primarily creative projects:
- All of the above plus the thematic and stylistic questions that will inform your creative work
Early in the first semester of your SMP work, you will present your proposal to faculty and your peers. In approximately 5 to 10 minutes, you’ll provide an oral overview of your formal SMP proposal and offer a brief update on the preparatory work you have already done and the next steps in your research process.
Progress Report Guidelines
At the end of the first semester of SMP work, you will submit a formal progress report to the mentor and the department chair:
- 10 pages, double-spaced
- Summarize your work to date
- Identify controversies and gaps in the existing literature on your topic
- Indicate pertinent theoretical and comparative issues that you have identified
- Reflect on patterns suggested by the primary sources you have analyzed so far
- Citations and bibliography should follow current Chicago style
SMP Final Paper Guidelines
- The final paper should be approximately 50 to 60 double-spaced pages (with a minimum of 35 pages for a passing grade). Citations and bibliography should follow current Chicago style. In addition:Images are acceptable on the title page and in the body of the text when appropriate
- Number your pages.
- If your project contains distinct chapters, essays, stories, etc., include a Table of Contents
- Your entire project must be submitted in one document in Microsoft Word or pdf.
SMP Paper Structure (suggested)
- Title Page (Minimum Information)
- Project Title
- Mentor’s Name(s)
- Year of Completion
- Abstract (approximately 250 words)
- Dedication (if any)
- Blank Page
- Table of Contents
- Table of Illustrations (if any)
- Acknowledgements (if any)
- Body of Project
- Appendices (if any)
SMP Submission Information
On the last day of classes, submit your finished project to:
- Your mentor and department chair
- The Registrar (on CD/DVD or flashdrive)
When you turn in your SMP to the registrar you will also need to include a release form signed by you and your mentor. Your paper will be sent to Special Collections in the library; unless you request that your project remain private.
At the end of the semester you will present your findings to faculty, peers, and the larger community in an oral presentation. We’ll conduct the presentations in conference style. Papers will be grouped into panels according to themes; and each project will be assigned a discussant, who is a student currently enrolled in HIST 395. Each individual presentation will last 30 minutes: with 15 minutes for your own presentation followed by feedback from the discussant and questions from the audience. Also keep in mind:
- You will need to provide a copy of the final project to your discussant in advance.
- The faculty organizer will also request in advance a copy of any Powerpoint or other visual material you intend to use.
- Arrive 10 – 15 minutes before your panel begins and stay for the entire panel.
- Clearly present your main argument/thesis in the introduction of your presentation.
- Offer a brief overview of how your work fits into the existing scholarship on the subject.
- Offer specific, interesting evidence in support of your main conclusions.
- Make sure to practice your presentation in advance to ensure that you can adhere to the 15-minute limit and to improve your poise in delivery.