On Friday, Oct. 19, President Tuajuanda C. Jordan, Ph.D., unveiled the College’s new brand, “The National Public Honors College,” in a formal ceremony attended by members of the Board of Trustees, much of the College Administrative staff and several students.
The celebration began with opening remarks from Carolyn Curry, Vice President for Institutional Advancement. Curry made remarks on the basis for the new brand. “We know that in higher education, the landscape has never been more competitive and cutthroat,” Curry said, citing that colleges and universities have radically changed in recent years, putting out “facts, stories and ads daily” to attract students in the advent of social media. Curry expressed that the new brand answers the questions of “How do we rise above that clutter? How do we attract attention for our successes in a very bold and strong way? Why should prospective students and employers and donors and decision makers care about us and invest in us?”
Curry told the audience that in the past year, the college has paused to form a brand that answers those questions. “We know that great brands begin at home from the inside out. We can never reach our potential as a campus community unless we believe to our core that we have a story worth telling.” Curry said, giving the stage to President Jordan to unveil the college’s new brand.
Jordan opened her segment by continuing to discuss the changing landscape of higher education. “Times have changed. The college’s population continues to shift. The national discourse is different.” Jordan stated, “we must continue to ask the question ‘what does it mean to be educated in the 21st century?’ ‘What does the nation need from an educated and skilled citizenry?’”
Jordan described the College as “experimentalist,” explaining that the College is “not just any other liberal arts college, indeed not, we are a Public Honors College, and fittingly that distinction was born out of our penchant for being education experimentalists.” Jordan challenged the change in the status quo of higher education, arguing that the College was prepared for the change. “We are in a period of great disruption in higher education,” Jordan explained, “We have shown ourselves to be education experimentalists. Disruption is our middle name.”
In 1992, St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) was designated as Maryland’s “Public Honors College” by the Maryland General Assembly. The public honors college title charges SMCM to sustain “the promise of public education affordable to all and thriving on diversity, and high standards of academic excellence.” The College’s statement on the Princeton Review states that as a public honors college, “the school shares the hallmarks of private institutions: an outstanding faculty, talented students, high academic standards, a challenging curriculum, small classes, a sense of community, and a spirit of intellectual inquiry.”
Jordan touched on the benefits of being a public college that operates it’s programming in a similar manner to small, private liberal arts colleges. “A liberal arts education is a resource intensive experience. That means it’s expensive,” Jordan stated. “But the data indicated that our students have the lowest debt among graduates of all Maryland public four year institutions,” citing the College’s use of public and private resources to provide for students. “As our needs change, the state provides the financial backing to construct facilities faster than one would observe at most private institutions.” Jordan also cited the school’s 10:1 student to faculty ratio as an aspect of the College that “distinguishes us from almost every public liberal arts institution in the nation, and it rivals the student to faculty ratio at many of the top private liberal arts colleges.”
The “National” designator, added to the “Public Honors College” title, distinguishes St. Mary’s as a national leader in public liberal arts education. Jordan stated that “year after year, we garner our share of well-deserved national attention, positioning us one step closer to making our vision a reality.” SMCM has been consistently ranked by the US News and World Report as a top public liberal arts institution, and is highly regarded by Fiske’s college guide and Forbes’ 100 Best Value Colleges. Jordan commended the College for it’s impact on the nation, reaching beyond the limits of St. Mary’s County.
“We are not ‘a’ public honors college. We are not ‘one of’ the public honors colleges,” Jordan remarked. “There are only two in the nation, actually in the world. Why? Because it’s a hard thing to be,” Jordan affirmed, explaining that it is challenging to provide a world-class liberal arts education at an affordable price. “St. Mary’s College did it first: and like no other.” The other independent public honors college is the New College of Florida, which severed its ties with the University of South Florida in 2001. Other public honors colleges are located within larger university systems, such as the University of Maryland Honors College, which is a program on the University of Maryland College Park campus.
The “National Public Honors College” distinction was first revealed at the State of the College Address on Sept. 7, 2018. The new brand and story was officially designated at the brand celebration. “We are proud, we are confident, and we are ready to share our message with the world,” announced Jordan, “we are The National Public Honors College.”