campus encounters

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Saint Martin’s University

Saint Martin’s University (visited 6/19/17)

StMU chapel 1This is a very Catholic school with a Benedictine monastery on campus. The school was here before the town, founded when a student canoed up the Hood Canal; he was the only student being educated by the monks for several months. This then served as a boys’ boarding school for many years; the original location of the school is now an organic garden which provides food for a local food bank.

StMU statue 1

The statue at the top of the steps by the main building on campus

Some of the 20 resident monks (ages 27-90, we were told) teach while others have different duties such as tending to the gardens, raising chickens, etc. We ran into one of the monks in the library who was highly personable and happy to talk to a random group of counselors. “I’m in my informal summer garb. I guess I don’t look very monk-like!” he said, wearing short sleeves and a collar. I asked him if he wanted to give us a 30-second spiel about the students, college, or anything else he thought we should know. “The monks here take a vow of stability. This is home; we aren’t going anywhere. The goal is the buried in the cemetery here. This is our house. We tell the students, ‘Welcome to our household for 4 years.’”

StMU dorms

One of the dorms

Fewer than half of the 1324 undergrads self-identify as Catholic, and there are 24 faiths (and students of no faith) represented on campus. Regardless, the school holds tight to the values of Faith, Reason, Service, and Community. There is quite a bit of outreach since access to education is one of the hallmarks: 38% of students are first-gen college-goers, 35% are students of color, and 32% come from outside Washington. There is a 2-year residency requirement and just over ¾ of first-year students live on campus. The newest dorm on campus is all first year students. There are a few triple rooms which are designed as such; “they’re mostly corner rooms. There aren’t forced triples here,” said the tour guide. Juniors and seniors have access to apartment style housing.

StMU quad“It’s a unique atmosphere here,” said the monk we talked to. “It distresses us when they fall through the cracks. It’s rare when that happens.” Average classes have 12-14 students. The largest lecture hall holds 75 students; our tour guide’s classes ranged from 6-30.

They offer a fairly standard selection of majors with a couple exceptions:

  • StMU engo bldg 2

    The Engineering building; the award-winning concrete canoe is displayed under the overhang towards the left

    They have ABET accredited Civil and Mechanical engineering programs with a minor in Electrical and a 4+1 in Engineering Management (they’ll start their grad work in senior year). There’s a new building that’s partly exposed so it’s a learning lab, as well – they can see how it was constructed. The Engineering Innovation lab was donated by Boeing, and the SMU team beat UW in the concrete canoe competition.

  • Nursing is only an RN to BSN program.
  • Environmental Studies is pending approval. They’re hoping that classes will be available in fall of 2017 with the official major in 2018. Parsons Farm Partnership, Sustainability & Stewardship, climate change.
  • Although not a major, they’re designated as an official Peace Corps prep school.
StMU deer

Much of campus is wooded or undeveloped; this isn’t an unusual sight.

Campus is located in Lacey, only 8 minutes from downtown Olympia (the state capitol). They’re centrally located between Seattle (an hour north) and Portland, Oregon (2 hours south). Their ID is their bus pass for public transportation. “Students don’t need a car, but it could help,” said the tour guide. “It’s easy to have fun if you know where to find it.”

StMU 4They offer a range of merit, athletic (they’re a DII school), and other scholarships (including a Campus Visit scholarship of $400). Merit scholarships do not transfer for study abroad. One notable award is the Benedictine Scholarship to award strong students who value service. Finalists are invited to campus for the final round; up to 10 scholarships of $10,000 are awarded per year and are stackable with other merit scholarships. They also have an Honors Floor in the residency hall.

StMU mt rainier

Mount Rainier, when it’s “out,” is visible from the Chapel on campus!

We asked some of the faculty to describe the students here:

  • They put their hearts into whatever they do
  • They’re incredibly caring – about what’s going on in the world and in regards to each other. They’ll rally around others and will help.
  • Competitive: but we’ll help
  • Dynamic
  • Leaders

StMU gardens 3I asked students what their favorite class has been:

  • Complexities: It covered a lot of social justice, being aware of privileges, and how that changes people around us. It’s really poignant with what’s going on. I’m more cognizant of who I am and how I can use my voice and position to help people get where they need to go.
  • Communications/Religion class: This is one of the of gen ed classes. We learned about religions and how they communicate. It’s nothing I’d learned before.
  • History 142 which was linked class with English 102. The professor talked about major social and political issues and perspectives. In English, we’d write about that so we could research the topics. It gave us a way to think critically about different issues.
  • Theater and Buddhism: We meditated, talked about mindfulness, and performed scenes.

© 2017

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