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Male minority at SMC excels

Nicole Zook | Thursday, September 1, 2005

Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series exploring the role of men at Saint Mary’s.

At first glance, Saint Mary’s College seems to be home to a wide range of people – women who have different backgrounds, racial heritage, interests and sexual orientation. But in all this seeming diversity, one population seems to be missing: men.

Or are they? If one takes a closer look, one will find a variety of men on the Saint Mary’s campus – professors, administrators, boyfriends and even students – who are all alike in one way.

They are a male minority in the unabashedly female-empowered atmosphere of the Midwest’s top comprehensive college.

“It was a little intimidating at first,” Notre Dame senior Tony Sylvester said. “You walk to campus and you are maybe one of only a handful of guys walking around with a campus full of girls. You get stares, and I’m sure most of the girls are wondering why I’m there.”

Sylvester, a history major at Notre Dame, is also a social studies secondary education student at Saint Mary’s. He decided to enroll in classes at the College when he realized Notre Dame does not have an education certification program which would allow him to become a high school teacher when he graduates.

Sylvester has taken six courses at Saint Mary’s, and said after taking so many he feels more “comfortable” in the all-female campus environment.

“I definitely feel outnumbered, but I wouldn’t say overwhelmed. Most, if not all of the women that I’ve met [at Saint Mary’s] have been easy to talk to and get along with. I probably get stared at a lot walking around campus, but not so much in class,” he said.

Senior Shane Larson, who has taken anatomy and is currently enrolled in a biochemistry course at the College, also said that while men “get used to” the shock of all-women’s classes, being a man in all-female science classes does not usually present any hardship.

“There aren’t any real challenges, except that you will be noticed by all the students and the professor at all times, so you have to prepare yourself and have pride in your work always,” he said.

Larson said he chose to take classes at Saint Mary’s because the College has “a good anatomy program and labs that help teach the material well.” He also said he gets mixed reactions to his taking classes at the school, including misconceptions about the curriculum at Saint Mary’s.

“A lot of people think its funny [that I’m taking classes at Saint Mary’s] and many ND people think that the classes at SMC are much easier than ones offered at Notre Dame,” he said. “I feel that the academics at SMC are the same as that of Notre Dame.”

Larson also said the faculty plays a key role in his classroom experience at Saint Mary’s.

” I like the faculty at SMC, they are very approachable, intelligent people andterrific teachers. They care about you learning,” he said. “Teachers [at Saint Mary’s] want you to retain the material after the class is over a bit more, so they often spend more time on the conceptual aspects of the class.”

Senior elementary education major Eric West – who will be the first male to graduate from the program in the past eight years – said the classes at Saint Mary’s have “a completely different format” than those at Notre Dame.

“There is a lot more group work with projects and presentations, especially with regards to education,” he said.

West said he likes the classroom dynamic at Saint Mary’s, and not just because he is surrounded by women.

“I like the smaller, more personable classes,” he said. “It works well, especially for teaching education classes. The professors really get to know each of the students and get involved not only in classwork, but also their lives during the time in college.”

However, West also said he feels that by not being able to study education in a mixed-gender environment, he may be missing elements of the classrooms he will be teaching in.

“I feel like I miss out on some of the more male aspects of teaching, especially in today’s society where you hear about allegations from students about teacher misconduct,” he said. “I think males in education are held to somewhat of a higher standard. This aspect is missing from a lot of classes – but it can be picked up in field work and by asking questions.”

All three men said they would recommend taking a class at Saint Mary’s.

“[Taking classes at Saint Mary’s is a] great opportunity to grow as an individual and gain confidence. They have a lot of classes that we, at Notre Dame, don’t have or offer,” Larson said. “I have a higher opinion of SMC having taken a class there twice now. I never really saw the campus before and now realize how nice it is.”

West said it was the people at Saint Mary’s that made his experience at the school worth recommending to others.

“I’ve met my 2 best friends at SMC and have had countless experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life, as well as be able to take into the classroom when I become a teacher,” he said.

Sylvester said he believes not just men, but women from Notre Dame should take a class at Saint Mary’s.

“I think the opportunity to go over to SMC is very unique and more people should be informed of the program. I would recommend taking classes over at SMC to anyone, both guys and girls from ND,” he said. “It not only offers an opportunity to maybe broaden your horizons and outlook, but if you are passionate about something like education, or dance, or something else, you can use SMC as a resource.”