Q. The Woods is non-profit. How important is that to your mission?
A. SMWC is non-profit , a distinction that is very integral to our mission and our connection to the Sisters of Providence. The legacy of the Sisters of Providence and our foundress, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, is one of educating women for the future. Knowing that we do not report back to shareholders for profits means we can focus on academic integrity. However, we still have to balance our budget so business concerns are not eliminated.
Yours is an all female campus. What do you see are the advantages and/or disadvantages of this?
There is still a lot of relevance to being a women’s college. Studies show that women who attend them have higher satisfaction rates and persist farther in their careers especially in science, math and business. Also, those same women answered that they felt more equipped to change careers and more confident in their abilities. At SMWC, we are educating women to be leaders.
While we are women only on campus, our distance programs (undergraduate and graduate) have both men and women. General Studies courses are virtually the same for campus and our undergraduate programs and many of them focus on women and women’s issues. An example, is our Interdisciplinary course,” Women, Values and Leadership”. Men in the courses probably learn to look at “things” from a different perspective which allows them to have a diversified lens to consider the world. We believe our courses and curriculum empower women and help them find their voice. I believe the men in our distance program benefit from their introduction to some of the topics.
Tell us about the majors offered.
We have more majors than most distance programs – almost 25 with several in business and education. Other majors include humanities, mathematics, paralegal studies, psychology, and a newly revised journalism/media studies major.

Q. You have some unusual offerings, such as equine studies. Are there many colleges offering majors such as this?
A. We tend to have more majors than many distance programs.

  • We have equine studies on campus but not as a distance offering. There are only about 20 equine programs in the U.S. so it is unusual for a small liberal arts college. We have to limit the number of students who can be accepted into our program. The stables are right on our campus so it is easy for students to “bring their horse to college,” and we have a very competitive equestrian team.
  • A large proportion of our distance students are enrolled in education majors. Education majors do have to come to our campus occasionally for a day and they must live within 200 miles of our campus. Our program meets NCATE accreditation guidelines and we take pride in preparing students for the real-life classroom experience. A favorite course for many education students is our urban education experience: students visit a number of inner city schools known for innovation. Students learn that there is more than one model of education and more than one way to meet academic standards for excellence. Our newly modified journalism/digital media studies major is grounded in our history as the first women’s college to offer journalism. Today’s major meets the current professional skills needed for writing and digital production; it is unusual as a distance option.

Q. You put emphasis on science and math. Historically, women in the U.S. have lagged behind in these areas. Do you see that trend improving? If not, what would you like to see changed in the education system to improve these statistics?
A. We do have a strong science and math program at the Woods. We are the only, or one of a very few, distance programs for a B.S. in mathematics. Our campus science programs prepare women for graduate or professional schools such as Vet school or Med school, or to go right into a career. It is true that women still lag behind, but we are doing our part. In the last 5 years, around 90% our graduates were working in their scientific field or in a graduate / professional school in their field.
The Woods offers many distant learning majors? What are the advantages of this? Do you find that these avenues are successful for women?
From the beginning of our distance program in the 1970s, we recognized that women didn’t all want to study the same topics and that they wanted professional preparation in many different areas. Many of our majors, like theology, humanities, and mathematics, were designed because women wanted them. Since they weren’t offered many other places in a distance format, we saw these offerings as a way to meet our mission as a Catholic, liberal arts college. Other majors, like business and education, addressed needs of the market place that were within our capabilities as a college to provide for students. We believe that having a variety of offerings benefits students and the College as a whole because it allows us to have a greater depth of faculty than we could have had for delivery to only campus or distance students.
When students can study in a format that meets their needs, they are more successful. Our newest distance program Woods Online has 8 week sessions within the semester and is accelerated and cohort based. These courses give students more structure and interaction with other students. Our WED Program allows more flexibility in assignment deadlines (within some structured timeframes) and has more majors available to students.
Q. How important is it to integrate the distant learning community with the campus community?

A. We feel that it is very important to integrate the distance learning community with the campus community and intentionally look for ways to make this happen. These connection points are beneficial to all of our students. For instance, our distance students:

  • are invited to campus for community dinners when they live close by the campus.
  • join campus students in a ceremony to receive the College Ring in their junior year and join all graduates at Commencement.
  • receive announcements when our sports teams are headed for collegiate final tournaments and then are notified of the outcome (for instance when the cross-country team won the Championship in 2010).
  • may be in classes together with campus students (weekday and/or weekend courses)
  • recently worked with campus students in an internship course convened on campus and over the internet.

Q. Tell us about your international program?
A. We do have international students who come to campus and live for a semester or year. They enroll in courses that are in areas of their interest and live on campus while they are here. Our distance program also has several students from other countries, but they often are U.S. citizens who are living abroad. Because students don’t have to come to campus, we have also been able to help military families have access to a variety of majors.
Q. The Woods has been listed as one of the best colleges on both Princeton Review and U.S. News and World Report. You must be proud of this accomplishment?
A. While the rankings affirm our educational reputation, it is only one tool that should be used when evaluating Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. The solid liberal arts tradition, the quality of our students, the effectiveness of our faculty and staff, and the success of our alumnae/i provides a clear insight of how Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College impacts individual lives and affects positive social change.
Q. Anything else you would like to add that I have not covered?
A. With the competition for jobs and salaries, it is critical that SMWC students present themselves as strongly as possible. Our career center can assist students with job application materials, including resumes, cover letters, etc. Staff also provide assistance with mock interviews, salary research and negotiation skills.

To learn more about Saint Mary of the Woods College, visit them online at www.smwc.edu

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