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SMC earns top-10 ranking

| Friday, September 12, 2014

This week, the New York Times ranked Saint Mary’s College as one of the top-10 most economically diverse colleges in the nation. The criteria for the ranking came from combined data on enrollment and tuition costs, which, according to the Times article, ultimately measured “how hard each college is trying to attract and graduate poor and middle-class students.”

Yet this ranking came as no surprise to the Belle community, who see it as the embodiment of the College’s mission.

According to the rankings, the education gap between students who graduate college versus those who do not is causing larger earning discrepancies than ever before, and it is negatively affecting the American economy. These negative consequences include the low likelihood that talented, low-income children will attend a top college. Upward mobility, it seems, is out of reach for such students.

Still, some institutions of higher education, like Saint Mary’s, have made the conscious effort to meet their students’ financial needs, regardless of background. And when such an effort is effective, the positive impact on the community is unparalleled. We can all learn something from  the Belles’ diverse student body, and what it means to the College’s identity.

For one, the College’s mission seeks to offer the same quality of education to all qualified students, despite their respective socioeconomic backgrounds. At Saint Mary’s, students are encouraged to ask, “Who is not at the table?” Belles understand the importance of representation, whether that be at a socioeconomic, racial or ethnic level.

Filled with a wide range of students from diverse backgrounds, the classroom environment fosters a dynamic that inspires discussion and varying perspectives.

Furthermore, the faculty and staff of the College have all participated in “diversity workshops,” where professors learn to raise awareness of social issues in their classrooms, leading to fruitful conversations about such matters. So while the students come together to learn, the faculty also knows how best to handle a diversified environment.

If you ask a Belle, the campus is overflowing with evidence of the Times ranking in all areas of student life — including in student involvement groups and campus outreach programs.

To name a few, the College Academy of Tutoring (CAT) Program ventures to Title I-area schools to mold young students into involved learners; all nursing majors participate in one half-semester of community health, visiting impoverished facilities in South Bend and getting to know the aggregate population within society; and the international buddy system pairs up well-acclimated students with incoming foreign students so both can foster a deeper appreciation for the multifaceted Saint Mary’s identity.

It’s about more than just building up the Belles’ community on campus. The mission also is to give back. A Saint Mary’s student cannot go a week, perhaps not even a day, without engaging with people of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. This is something imperative to students developing into leaders who will be on the path to change the world, one small community at a time.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from this national ranking is how it has underscored the core Catholic mission of Saint Mary’s: to reach out to those in need, as Jesus did and wishes for all of us to do. As shown by the Belles community, a little kindness, service and gratitude goes a long way — all the way to No. 9 on an exceptionally inspirational Times ranking.

The synergy of the community is something that must start at the core, regardless of race, ethnicity or financial status, and the success of the Saint Mary’s mission is proof that a diverse community is something a college should aspire to have.







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