Friday, April 17, 2009

The Woods

Graduation is just a couple of weeks away now and I'm thinking about the road I've traveled to get here. Many have asked about my external degree program, so if you're interested, read on.

I first starting hearing about online learning around 2003, and the idea of not having to physically attend college appealed to me. I've always wanted to complete my Bachelor's degree, and due to three prior attempts to do so I had accumulated about 1-1/2 years of old credits towards the 4 year degree -- all from attending traditional college classes. (I was first a college freshman in 1982 when I attended San Francisco State University with a declared major of Journalism...so long ago...)

I was discouraged to find that there were very few online programs in any of the liberal arts, and particularly in the field of writing. I found a few MFA programs, but no undergraduate ones, until I stumbled upon the Woods External Degree program (WED) of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College near Terre Haute, Indiana. They offered two writing degrees: Professional Writing/Journalism and Professional Writing/Creative Writing. Eureka!

SMWC is a historic old college for women that was founded by nuns - the Sisters of Providence. An alumni once told me that in the early part of the last century, it was where wealthy from the east coast sent their daughters, while their sons attended nearby Notre Dame. I applied to SMWC and was ecstatic when they not only accepted me but also my 20+ year old credits -- all but a few! The requirements of the program were that I enroll in a minimum of one class each semester and visit the campus each time for what they call a "return." During the returns I would take care of business in person and meet with each of my professors.

I loved traveling back for my returns. The campus is gorgeous, and incredibly peaceful. Each time I visited, it felt like a new beginning. Eventually, since I was among a small group of students that traveled from out of state, the college graciously allowed me to "return" once each year instead of once each semester. As I neared completion of the program they required it even less than that, in recognition of rising travel costs as gas prices soared. The WED staff were flexible and helpful, every step of the way.

Here's some trivia for you: in 1999 Mary Engelbreit received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from SMWC and was the commencement speaker. I have tried for the last couple of weeks to get more information or even a photo of this for you, with no success. It was probably around that time that she created this painting for SMWC; I bought a print when recently on campus:

At the bottom on the ribbon it says, "Taking the Lead for Women, the Woods, and the World." Don't you love the little girls in their skirts with their little bare toes?

SMWC has been doing distance education for 35 years now, first to serve the needs of rural residents who weren't able to be in residence on campus, and then taking advantage of the Internet to reach others. They've recently received some great recognition for their efforts, including Princeton Review's Best in the Midwest award and US News and World Report's Best Baccaluareate Colleges - Midwest award.

I would recommend SMWC's WED program for anyone pursuing any field or degree they offer. They are now even accepting men into their WED program -- a notable change for a 169 year old women's college!

3 comments :

barb cabot said...

This is a wonderful history of the path leading to your graduation. I'm am so very happy for you. This is something to be so proud of. Congratulations on completing such a wonderful goal! Please post photos of graduation.

TRES BELLE said...

Laurie,

This is vrey interesting to me as I live in Evansville, Indiana which is about 2 hours south of Terre Haute. I have been through the city of Terre Haute many times and have even been to the campus of St. Mary's of the Woods. It has a beautiful and scenic campus. What a small world.

Congratulations to you!!

Kris

Lydia said...

Thanks for sharing the nice info:)