What is an SMP?
The St. Mary’s Project is a year-long, 8-credit, independently designed and executed course of study intended as a capstone experience for a student’s time at St. Mary’s. Working in close conjunction with one or more professors, in or outside of the department, you have the opportunity to explore, in depth, a question or idea that entrances and intrigues you. Many—although by no means all—SMPs are interdisciplinary, bringing together threads from earlier classes taken across the curriculum. Many are highly personal, involving creative or innovative work that ties together four years of study in a meaningful way. SMPs can, in their final form, take the shape of research papers, collections of essays, anthologies of poetry, films, web sites, suites of paintings, graphic novels, operas—all these, and more, have been done in years past.
The College has established certain guidelines for the SMP:
- It must be student-initiated
- It must demonstrate methodological competence (by identifying an area to be explored and proposing a method of inquiry appropriate for the topic)
- It must draw on and extend knowledge, skills of analysis, and creative achievement developed through previous academic work. It must include a reflection on the social context, the body of literature, or the conceptual framework to which the project is a contribution
- It must be shared with the larger community through some form of public presentation.
First year students and sophomores:
- Consider your interests and keep track of favorite and interesting topics
- Don’t be too specific, keep it broad
- Talk to friends and seniors doing projects.
- Attend SMPs and look over the archives
First semester of junior year:
- Consider whether you want to collaborate with others. Note that collaborating with students will not necessarily make your work load easier
- Think about whether you want to do the project in two 4-credit blocks or employ some other sequence
Second semester of junior year:
- Narrow your choice to one or two topics
- Discuss and develop your topic ideas with faculty members who might be good mentors.
- Talk to the St. Mary’s Career Center if you want to include an off-campus component to your project.
- Decide if you will be collaborating with a fellow student.
- Have a good idea of what you want to do by advising day.
- Select a faculty mentor in the spring semester.
- Submit a formal proposal
How to choose a topic
- What areas of political science interest you?
- What are your career interests?
- Do you want a project to include specific experiences such as doing an off-campus internship or conducting on-site research?
- What was your favorite class and why?
- Would a topic from a class be something you would like to pursue further?
Alternative Capstone Experience
If the student elects to use a senior-level paper written in a senior seminar to fulfill the Senior Experience requirement for Political Science Majors:
The senior-level paper must be one in which the student demonstrates competence in political science by:
- Identifying and engaging with the concepts, problems, or controversies in the subfield of the seminar
- Making a contribution to those issues.
The senior-level paper must be an individual effort; no co-authored papers may be used to satisfy this Senior Experience requirement.
The senior-level paper shall consist of at least 20 pages, exclusive of title page, table of contents, and lists of figures and references.
The senior-level paper must be written in a course taught by a faculty member who is regularly on campus.
In addition to whatever required format the course instructor calls for, the student must submit an electronic copy (Word or pdf) of the final senior-level paper to the course instructor via email no later than the final day of examinations scheduled for the semester in which the seminar is completed. If the paper is acceptable as an SLP, the course instructor will send it via email to the department chair, indicating in the email that the paper fulfills the criteria given above. Please name the file LASTNAME SLP.
Students using the senior-level paper to fulfill the Senior Experience requirement of the major are eligible for the Political Science Department Award for achievement and excellence in the discipline, although they are not eligible for the Davey Award.