The College of Notre Dame of Maryland, founded in 1873 by the School Sisters ofNotre Dame, was the first Catholic women's college in the United States to grant bachelor's degrees and is the only undergraduate women's college in Baltimore. Unlike other local women's colleges that are now coeducational, the administration is dedicated to keeping things as they are. "[Our mission] has always historically been the education of women to transform the world," says Jeanne Ortiz, Dean of Students.
While Notre Dame is a historically Catholic institution, only approximately half of its student population is Catholic. "We have a wide, wide diversity of religious backgrounds," says 1993 alumna Amy Kemp, the Director of Alumnae Relations.
Students in the undergraduate Women's College can earn bachelor'sdegrees in approximately 30 fields, from art to religious studies, as well asinterdisciplinary minors such as women's studies or certificates infields such as communication and new technology. There is also ample opportunity for study abroad through exchange programs with colleges in other countries -- including Japan and Australia -- and an internship program that has sent students to locations as varied as the State House in Annapolis and the .
Other programs available include the Weekend College, where working adults can earn a bachelor'sdegree through weekend courses; Graduate Studies, which offers master's degrees in eight programs and a post-master's certificate in education; the English Language Institute (ELI), which offers noncredit courses for non-English speakers; the Renaissance Institute, which presents a wide variety of informal courses for people 50 and over; and A Child's Place, a nursery school and kindergarten for children ages 3 to 6. With the exception of the Women's College, the above programs are also open to men, and male undergraduate students from other colleges may take courses at Notre Dame through various cooperative programs.
For the 2002-2003 school year, the total student body consisted of approximately 3,200 students with 800 in the Women's College. This allows for small class sizes with individualized attention and enables students to develop their own education plan, usually combined with some type of community service. New students are further empowered at the Honors Convocation during Family and Alumnae weekend each September. During this ceremony, students are formally inducted into the college community and entrusted with its Honor Code. This allows students to take unproctored tests -- a virtually unknown privilege at many institutions.
In addition to academic studies, students can get involved in communityservice through the Departments of Service Initiative and CampusMinistry, or in more than 50 on-campus clubs and organizations. Athletics are a particularly important component of the college, with seven NCAA varsity programs: Volleyball, swimming, basketball, lacrosse, field hockey, tennis and soccer.
Undergraduate students are required to live on campus for a minimum of four semesters unless commuting from their legal residence. They may choose from two residence halls: Doyle Hall, primarily for first- and second-year students, and Meletia Hall, for upperclasswomen.
Aside from the Gator Alley snack bar, there are few places for students to hang out on campus. However, the No. 11 MTA bus line has a stop in front of the campus offering quick access downtown. A free "CollTown" shuttle is also available to take students to all of the college campuses between Goucher College and Johns Hopkins University. "It's the best of both worlds," says Kemp. "You're on this beautiful rural-looking campus and you're really close to downtown."
However, the beauty of the 58-acre campus, located in northwest Baltimore, isn't the school's most outstanding feature. What matters most, according to Kemp, is the "wonderful community. Everyone's very friendly [and there is an abundance of] attention and personal care."