Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (visited 6/13/17)
The students who attend SMWC love it here… but it is a self-selecting sort of place. “People who come here pretty much know what they’re in for,” said the tour guide. For the student who is looking for small and Catholic – and possibly an equestrian program – this is the school. Most of campus is pretty with attractive buildings and amazing landscaping (making parts feel very wooded – go figure!); however parts of it raise eyebrows such as the weeds on the tennis courts. “You can tell we don’t have a team,” said the tour guide.
This liberal arts college sits 10 minutes outside of Terra Haute which is very much a college town (Indiana State and Rose-Hulman are both here). “We’re trying hard to keep kids here on the weekends. We have a great student-life staff,” said an admissions rep. There are things to do, but it’s not a bustling campus, and nothing is walkable from campus. “I would rank the craziness factor at about a 3,” said the tour guide. “There’s definitely a social life and I’ve made lots of friends, but events end early. But that means that I can also get my work done. It’s kind of the best of both worlds.” Anyone can have cars and there are currently no shuttles offered to students to help get around town. It’s also a dry campus.
SMWC is growing with the largest incoming class to date entering this fall. This is also their 3rd year of being coed. “In real numbers, that’s about 40 guys out of about 380-400,” said the rep. They’re actively trying to change perceptions about the school (particularly in terms of them accepting men), and they’ve added golf last year with Cross Country and Equestrian (Western Hunt Seat) starting this fall (2017). In 2018, they’ll add soccer. Our tour guide didn’t pick the college because it was all-female, “but I ended up loving it!” However, she thinks that going coed is also a positive change for the school.
They can currently accommodate 400 students in the dorm (there’s only 1), but there are two floors in another building that can be renovated to re-use as dorm rooms as the need arises. About 240 will live on campus this fall. The single dorm building also houses security, the chapel, some departmental offices, mailboxes, and a place for breakfast to be served. Lunch and dinner are across campus in the building attached to the convent. “Meals are good! I’d rank food as about an 8. The community can eat brunch here on the weekends. We get that as part of our meal plan.”
Campus is very clearly Catholic, although mass is never required and the only religious requirement is 1 philosophy or religion class. There are statues (including a walkway with the Stations of the Cross), a large chapel, a small chapel, a churchyard where many of the nuns are buried, a grotto, etc around campus. Campus was founded by the Sisters of Providence from France, and many still live on campus, “but it’s like a retirement home. They don’t teach, but will sometimes come in to do guest lectures on campus,” said the tour guide. This order is very liberal, and they’re often seen protesting the death penalty and other social justice issues. The nuns run an alpaca farm and use the wool in fair-trade goods. Students and community members can take spinning classes.
Classes average 11 students with an option for online classes for undergraduates. Their strongest program might revolve around the extensive equestrian center. They offer Equine Studies, Equine Training and Instruction, and Equine Business Management as majors with Equine Assisted Therapy and Equine Science as minors. Students in the equestrian programs/majors are assigned a horse which they must take care of as part of their grade. The school also gets a number of yearlings that students train as part of a class.
Other notable programs include Music Therapy, Professional Writing, Human Resource Management, 3+1 Leadership Development program (pairing any major with a Masters in LD), Healthcare Administration, and Nursing. Music is coming back; it had been gone for awhile because of budget cuts.
One of the favorite traditions is the Ring Ceremony. Juniors get class rings towards the end of the year during a formal ceremony after a dinner where they’re wearing their caps and gowns. This ring is presented to them by an alum, and they can choose who gives it to them. At this point, they wear it with the letters facing towards themselves. At the end of senior year, they have the Oak Leaf Ceremony where they wear oak leaf crowns (“I’m not sure if this will change now that we’re coed,” said the tour guide) and they turn their rings around to “face the world.”
In addition to regular merit scholarships, they offer a competitive, full-tuition scholarship. Students write essays for the first round; from these, admissions will select students to interview; 4 get the scholarship.