A St. Mary's College education prepares the whole student for life

June 03, 2013

Anne D. Neal's recent commentary deriding St. Mary's College of Maryland unfairly paints the school with the same broad brush her organization has used to criticize colleges nationwide ("Cautionary campus tale," May 30).

Ms. Neal's group, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, states on its website that "American higher education has generally abandoned its obligation to prepare graduates who have the knowledge and understanding to take up meaningful roles in our free society."

I disagree, especially in regard to St. Mary's College. As an English major there who graduated in 2005, I studied calculus and biology to fulfill core curriculum requirements. I also took intensive literature and Spanish language courses, studied abroad to expand my horizons and explored other relevant topics such as political science, history, anthropology and women's studies. I also completed the school's Paul H. Nitze Scholars program for leadership and community service, which required an in-depth senior thesis, as do many majors at St. Mary's.

All of these courses strengthened my ability to think critically, write clearly, understand the world better and ask questions. My education prepared me to work as an editor, writer and media relations specialist.

Liberal arts colleges exist not only to teach career-oriented "practical" classes such as math, science or composition, but also to cultivate students' curiosity, intellectual rigor and compassion through a wide variety of courses.

In 2011, Ms. Neal wrote that the goal should be "to graduate students who have a rich and rigorous education that prepares them to think critically." On this point, I wholeheartedly agree. While it is valid to examine which core classes colleges require, this alone is an overly narrow way to judge the value of an education.

The value of a college education is what each student makes of it, and at St. Mary's I benefited from talented professors who encouraged critical thinking, from courses embracing traditional and modern topics, and from students eager to contribute to lively discussions and academic work.

Liz Bergstrom, Frederick

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