11:15 AM EDT, June 4, 2013
As a recent graduate of St. Mary's College of Maryland, I would like to express my disappointment and vehement disagreement with Anne D. Neal's commentary about the institution ("Campus cautionary tale," May 30).
I feel that it is unfair on many levels to compare St. Mary's with the University of Maryland College Park. Although the tuition may be higher at St. Mary's, the experience at St. Mary's is priceless and unlike anything you'll experience at other state schools.
St. Mary's is, at its heart, a community — a small and diverse community of intellectuals, outcasts, athletes, and artists who interact on a daily basis. You live with, work with, eat with, and take classes with people of a wide variety of disciplines, hobbies and walks of life.
Students at St. Mary's are exposed to a cornucopia of difference, and (for the most part) come out more open-minded, accepting and informed than many other college graduates I have come across. Becoming a collaborative member of a diverse and ever-changing society is a skill that is harder to acquire on the impersonal, crowded, city-like campuses of many schools across the nation.
I have read articles denouncing a liberal arts education as outdated and useless and calling instead for more technical, focused degrees that provide "real world" skills. Some even think students should be exclusively trained in their disciplines, perhaps shortening their time in college.
However, the classes Ms. Neal denounces as "useless" are actually offered for the purpose of integrating common interests with academics, thus sparking creativity, passion and a natural curiosity for learning when a student is just entering the world of higher education.
If I had not signed up for "Fairy Tales and their Cultural Meanings" and "Peoples and Culture of the Senegambia" to fulfill my core curriculum requirements, I probably would have remained a mediocre and uninspired biology major. My initial goal in college was to simply get through it in order to go to medical school, become a doctor and make lots of money in a declining economy.
However, I was drawn to the study of other cultures and how people's varied understandings of the world affect their day-to-day lives. I eventually graduated with a dual degree in anthropology and sociology and am now a full-time graduate student of anthropology with a salaried job and an internship working with public health initiatives that examine the effects of culture on their programs.
I find my chosen career path fulfilling and exciting, and I don't mind spending 50-60 hours per week between work and school and research because of the passion instilled in me at St. Mary's.
Caitlin Cromer, Baltimore
The writer is a member of the St. Mary's College of Maryland Class of 2012.
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