Program  Information

Michael Taber, Chair
240 895 4900

Penny Shissler, Office Clerk
240 895 2159

Program Highlight

The department offers a major and minor in Philosophy and a major and minor in Religious Studies. As an active and energetic department, we are committed towards an intercultural, international and interdisciplinary understanding of the world. We teach across the traditional fields of philosophy and religious studies, and beyond the cultural divides of East and West. Departmental faculty likes to teach in a variety of venues (Nitze Program; Women, Gender and Sexuality; Environmental Studies; Asian Studies; African and African Diaspora Studies), to take students on study tours (Greece, Germany/Poland, India, Thailand, and, in the future, England and Israel), and to bring questions of global relevance to the campus communities through scheduling events with renowned speakers and activists.

Guidelines for St. Mary's Project in Philosophy or Religious Studies

Previous SMP Projects  |  Constructing a Proposal  |  Declaration of Intent  | Budget Form

Revised August 2012 

Please note: Students who want to complete their St. Mary Projects in Philosophy or Religious Studies must complete the SMP Proseminar (RELG/PHIL 492), and this prerequisite can be waived in only two circumstances (described below). The proseminar counts for 1 credit and meets five or six times during the spring semester preceding the initiation of the St. Mary's Project, The proseminar is designed to aid the student in producing a well-crafted proposal for an SMP that meets the requirements of the College and the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies. The SMP proposals are then circulated to the faculty in the department for the purpose of assigning students to mentors to begin the SMPs. Successful completion of the proseminar is measured by the student developing a SMP proposal acceptable to the departmental faculty. This is a 1-credit prerequisite for registering for PHIL 493 and for RELG 493. Credit/No Credit grading.

Note: Students who expect to be away from SMCM during the spring of their junior year may have the PHIL/RELG 492 requirement waived by either (a) completing the work for the SMP Proseminar in the fall prior to that spring with the assistance of a faculty member in the department, or (b) completing the work for the SMP Proseminar during the spring semester abroad, by remaining in regular contact during the spring with the instructor of PHIL/RELG 492. The second circumstance in which a waiver of PHIL/RELG 492 is possible is for students who plan to begin the SMP in a spring semester, in which case they should take option (a) above.  

I. Goals for a St. Mary’s Project

  • The student initiates, develops, and completes a significant eight-credit project, usually over the course of two semesters.
  • The student reflects critically and thoughtfully on fundamental questions, important thinkers, or particular local, regional, or global issues.
  • The student shows competence in a relevant body of literature and/or research, and shows awareness of the social context to which the project contributes.
  • The student demonstrates methodological and disciplinary proficiency, as defined in consultation with his or her SMP mentor.  
  • The student develops verbal presentation skills and shares their projects publicly twice: in the first semester as a work-in-progress and as a final product during SMP Presentation Day.

II. The Nature of the Project

Projects in philosophy or religious studies typically involve research, critical reflection, and a written articulation of a topic. Students should be able to make arguments, cite relevant literature, and draw appropriate conclusions in their work. In addition to classic research and argumentative writing projects, the department welcomes collaborative, experimental and/or multi-disciplinary projects. Students might, for example, collaboratively write a dialogue, design a performance, or develop materials for use in the classroom or external organizations (i.e. hospice, schools).  Students may also explore interdisciplinary pursuits and engage in dialogue with other disciplines. For example, a philosophy student might philosophically analyze the work of an economist, poet, or sociologist.

III. Suggested Types and Examples of Projects

 The following examples and project types are intended to stimulate ideas but are not meant to be restrictive:

Library research, analysis, and critical evaluation of particular philosophical thinkers or religious systems of thought. (For instance, Martin Buber’s theory of ideal (I-Thou) human relations, Freudian analysis of rituals, Heidegger’s thought on the meaning one’s own death, or ecofeminism).

  • A community service project that draws on research and involves critical analysis and reflection. (For example, teaching a unit on “philosophy for children” or on “non-violent conflict resolution” in the local school system; Serving as a hospice volunteer and reflecting on the nature of death and religious death rituals).
  • Research and reflection on a local issue that has links to religious or philosophical issues--e.g., the history of traditionally Black churches; environmental issues in the Chesapeake Bay Area or St. Mary’s College sexual assault policy.
  • Reflective papers based on surveys and interviews with people about their ethical or religious ideas on drugs, death, the good life, etc., including knowledge of related secondary research.
  • Research and reflection of topics pertaining to international study tours or study abroad experiences --e.g., engaged Buddhism in Thailand, Muslim perspectives on AIDS in the Gambia, coming of age rituals in India.

 IV. Components of all Projects

 All projects should involve:

 Research, including the demonstrating of connections to the academic discipline(s) in which it is credited.  This research may include personal observations and interviews.

  1. Critical reflection, appropriate to the discipline and project chosen.  The student should define his or her point of view and make some effort to justify his or her position.
  2. Written component, the format and scope of which has been agreed upon with the project mentor.  Since the SMP is the equivalent of two upper-division seminars, most projects consisting exclusively of writing should consist of 30-40 pages per semester, in consultation with the mentor. Projects having a non-writing component should consist of proportionately fewer pages, in consultation with the mentor.
  3. Mid-Term Presentation during the penultimate semester, usually in poster format. The poster will communicate the project’s nature, methods, progress to date, and outstanding work.
  4. Final presentation, the nature and venue of which will be agreed upon by the student and his or her mentor. Presentations held during the departmental SMP Presentation Day will be attended by the SMP mentor and two other faculty members, one reader and one non-reader. Reader and non-reader will confer with the mentor about the grade of the final product of the SMP (as distinct from the year-long process grade for carrying out the project).

 V.  Procedures for Undertaking and Completing Projects

             A.  As students take their courses throughout their first years, they should consider topics or thinkers which they find sufficiently interesting to serve as possible topics for an SMP, and they are encouraged to speak with faculty members at an early date about their ideas.

 B.  The most common sequence for work on the SMP is as follows:

  • spring of junior year: take PHIL 492 or RELG 492: SMP Proseminar (0 credits)
  • fall of senior year:  take PHIL 493 or RELG 493, for first 4 credits of SMP
  • spring of senior year:  take PHIL 494 or RELG 494, for final 4 credits of SMP

 It is possible to distribute the registration for the SMP over more than two semesters (2-2-4, starting in the spring or summer of the junior year, for example).  It is also possible to condense all 8 credits of the SMP into one semester, although this is not normally advised. 

 C.  SMP Proseminar

This is a credit/no-credit class for one credit-hour, and successful completion of it entitles the student to register subsequently for PHIL/RELG 493, which is the first portion of the SMP.  Successful completion of the proseminar is measured by the student developing a SMP proposal acceptable to the departmental faculty, which will include the following information:

  • the nature of the project and its methodology
  • a description of why this project would be meaningful to the student
  • what course or co-curricular experiences the student has had which would allow the student to engage in the project
  • the sources to be used to allow the student to execute the project, whether bibliographic sources, interview materials, etc.
  • the planned sequence of credit distribution over semesters (0-8)
  • the planned form of public presentation
  • budget of expenses (if any reimbursement by department is expected)
  • a listing of three departmental faculty members with whom the student would be willing to have as project mentor, and who would be willing to serve as mentor.

 The proposal developed in the proseminar is not merely a proposal for an SMP that the student might do, or can imagine doing—but will do.  The proposal is due to the Proseminar instructor in early April, on a date to be set by the instructors each spring. 

Students who expect to be away from SMCM during the spring of their junior year have two options:  either (i) complete the work for the SMP Proseminar in the fall prior to departure, or (ii) be in regular contact during the spring with the faculty of the department, in order to complete and submit an acceptable SMP proposal by the same due date governing those on campus.

Details about PHIL/RELG 492:
The purpose of the SMP Proseminar is to inform students of the range of possibilities and list of requirements regarding SMPs in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies.   The SMP Proseminar culminates in each student producing their thoughtful SMP proposal, which are then circulated to the faculty in the department for the purpose of assigning students to mentors to begin the SMPs.  This is a one-credit prerequisite for registering for PHIL/RELG 493.

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