Jul 18, 2024  
2023 - 2024 College Catalog 
2023 - 2024 College Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

The LEAD Curriculum

The LEAD (Learning through Experiential and Applied Discovery) Curriculum at St. Mary’s College of Maryland prepares students to lead here on campus and in their personal and professional lives after graduation. LEAD includes a range of curricular and co-curricular opportunities as well as universal experiences required of all students. Required elements of LEAD include Foundational Study and Advanced Study through a major and a capstone experience.

LEAD starts with a required Core Seminar, taken in a student’s first semester at the College.   New students also use their first year to begin their Professional Pathway coursework, and they choose how they will complete their Core Knowledge and Methods requirements (see below). In addition, all new students are strongly encouraged (though not required) to fulfill their Language requirement in their first year, as such courses prepare students to see ideas from different perspectives and to engage with a diversity of cultures and identities in meaningful and respectful ways.

These foundational requirements of LEAD provides students with the fundamental experiences of a liberal arts education by developing skills in the interpretation, expression, and evaluation of information. Through these shared LEAD experiences, students also encounter a breadth of disciplinary content-that is, what we think we know about the world-and a range of methodologies through which such shared understandings are established and debated. Students are asked to consider such debates as they study the relation between cultures and the broader forces that shape identities and inequalities-and when we ask them to make connections between these academic experiences and their career aspirations through courses that intentionally develop their professional literacy.

Learning Outcomes

Through their Foundational Study LEAD requirements, students will:

  • Understand how disciplinary methods shape our knowledge of both the human and the natural world.
  • Use a variety of tools and methods that support critical engagement with material and effective communication of their ideas.
  • Critically analyze the contents and contexts of information and its relevance for a specific purpose.
  • Examine the impact of intersecting cultures and identities.
  • Transfer their communication, critical thinking, and leadership skills to professional settings beyond the classroom. 

 Through their Advanced Study LEAD requirements, students will:

  • Develop a depth of disciplinary knowledge, methods, practices and principles.
  • Synthesize knowledge, methods, practices, and values within, through, or across disciplinary experiences to produce a substantive exploration of a problem, idea, concept, or theory.
  • Explain how knowledge, skills, and ethical values developed through their major coursework are applied within the workplace.

Universal LEAD Requirements

All St. Mary’s College students complete the following as part of their Foundational Study for LEAD*:

Core Seminar:

New students practice skills of inquiry and communication by completing:

  • CORE - 101
  • CORE - 301

Core Knowledge and Methods:

Students extend their breadth of learning and experience the importance of cultural literacy by completing:

  • Language Requirement
  • Core Inquiry or Core Exploration

Professional Pathway:

Students establish connections between academic and career preparation by completing:

  • CORE-P101
  • CORE-P102 AND
  • CORE-P201
  • Transfer students who transfer in 24 or more credits are not required to take COREP classes but can choose to take them.

In addition

All students must complete the following Advanced Study requirements for LEAD:

  • Academic Major
  • Capstone Experience

*Unless specified otherwise, Foundational Study in the LEAD curriculum requires a letter grade with a minimum grade of D to pass; students must, however, maintain a 2.0 overall GPA in order to be in good academic standing. 

Foundational Study

Core Seminars

Core Seminars introduce students to the campus community and the foundations of inquiry and communication in the liberal arts. The Seminars are overseen by the associate dean of curriculum and taught by faculty from every department; each Core Seminar also includes a peer mentor who supports new students’ learning as well as their transition to the College.In these courses, students will:

  • Evaluate textual arguments for their usefulness, cohesiveness, and logic.
  • Identify and access relevant information sources.
  • Use effective oral expression strategies in making a formal presentation.
  • Demonstrate effective written communication with use of revision.
  • Participate responsibly and respectfully in informal group discussions.

To satisfy the Core Seminar requirement, students must take either CORE101 (for first year students) or CORE301 (for transfer students who have earned more than 24 credits, excluding AP and IB credits). All students must earn a grade of C- or higher in order to satisfy the Core Seminar requirement. Core Seminars may not be used to satisfy any other LEAD requirement; nor can a Core Seminar be used to satisfy any requirements within a major or minor. 

Students who are identified as needing additional support making the transition to college-level writing are also required to take ENGL 101 - Introduction to Writing , Introduction to Writing concurrently with a Core Seminar. Student placement into ENGL 101  is determined via a writing sample collected in CORE101 and 301 during the first week of the semester. 

Core Knowledge and Methods

As part of the Foundational Study for LEAD, students complete coursework that develops their cultural literacy and their breadth of learning. They do so by fulfilling their language study requirement, and by completing a four- or five-course Core Inquiry or taking Core Exploration courses in six breadth of learning areas.

Language Study

All St. Mary’s students are strongly encouraged to begin their language study in their first year. Students must complete one 3- or 4-credit college-level language course at the 102/110 level or higher to satisfy this requirement (see “Determining course level” below).The course must have an ILC or LNG designation, such as courses listed in the St. Mary’s College of Maryland course catalog (e.g., ILCC [Chinese], ILCF [French], and ILCS [Spanish]). Courses offered at St. Mary’s College of Maryland that are not listed in the course catalog, but that receive a 3- or 4-credit LNG designation at the 102/110 level or higher on a student’s transcript (e.g., courses in Italian, Latin, Thai, among others), may also satisfy the language requirement. In addition, courses on American Sign Language that develop both proficiency with the language and facilitate cultural explorations of the language tradition fulfill this requirement. Coursework in ASL must similarly be completed at the 102/110 level or higher to satisfy the requirement.

Through coursework that fulfills the Language Study Requirements, students will: Describe aspects of culture in the target language with higher-order intercultural understanding and in conversation with their own worldview.

Determining course level:

Students’ scores on the web-based Foreign Language Proficiency Test, taken prior to course registration, will determine their course placement. Completion of a courses number 102 or above will fulfill the requirement. Students who place into the 101 level, therefore, must complete both 101 and 102. Students may also opt to fulfill the requirement by starting a new language at the 101 level and then completing 102. Students must receive a C- or better in their 101-level class in order to proceed to 102.

For example, a student who places into ILCC/ILCF/ ILCS 101 must take 101 + 102. A student who places into ILCC/ILCF 102 or ILCS 110 must take that course. Students who place into a 200 or 300 level course must take the course into which they are placed or begin study in a new language.

Other ways to meet this requirement:

  1. By providing proof of course work equivalent to a 102 or 110 ILC course at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, in any language at the college level (including languages not currently taught at SMCM); or
  2. By petitioning the chair of the International Languages and Cultures Department for an exemption, such as by demonstrating native or near-native knowledge of a language other than English (including ASL); or
  3. By submitting evidence of a score of a 3, 4, of 5 in an AP foreign language exam or a minimum score of 5 in an IB/HL exam in a foreign language. 

Students who have already satisfied the international languages requirement as detailed above are still strongly encouraged to continue to develop their proficiency through additional college level coursework and are encouraged to take the FLPT to determine level of placement. Foreign language study through the 201 level is a requirement for selection to Phi Beta Kappa., 

Core Inquiry

Organized around a problem, question, or topic, Core Inquiries consist of four to five thematically-linked courses that let students see how different disciplines intersect with the Inquiry topic. As a result, students gain a clearer sense of how complex issues benefit from a multidisciplinary approach, and they develop a greater awareness of their own agency as learners. By completing the requirements for a Core Inquiry, students fulfill their Core Knowledge and Methods requirements, meeting outcomes in Arts, Cultural Literacy, Humanities, Mathematics, Natural Sciences (with lab), and Social and Behavioral Sciences (see “Core Exploration,” below). They also extend their communication and information literacy skills established in their Core Seminar.  Information on current Inquiries and the specific courses they include can be found here [new LEAD Inquiry web page - link]. Inquiries can be configured in the following ways:

  • 4 integrated courses through which students complete their Core Knowledge and Methods requirements.
  • 4 integrated courses plus one additional, stand-alone course through which students complete their Core Knowledge and Methods requirements.
  • 5 integrated courses through which students complete their Core Knowledge and Methods requirements.

In addition, all Core Inquiries culminate in a 1-credit Integrated Learning Portfolio (ILP) completed during the final semester of Inquiry coursework. In their ILPs, students will demonstrate their ability to integrate learning experiences across their Core Inquiry courses by

  • Demonstrating the transfer of knowledge between Inquiry classes.
  • Showing how connections among disciplinary approaches contribute to their understanding of the Inquiry topic.  

ILPs are graded credit/no credit (C/NC).  All Inquiries coursework, including the ILP,  must be completed two semesters prior to a student’s planned graduation. Students earn 17-22 credits through their Core Inquiry.

You can find more information about the inquiries here.

Core Knowledge and Methods - Core Exploration

Students who choose not to complete a Core Inquiry must satisfy their Core Knowledge and Methods requirements by taking Core Exploration courses in six areas:  Arts, Cultural Literacy, Humanities, Mathematics, Natural Sciences (with lab), and Social and Behavioral Sciences. Courses that satisfy each of the areas, including AP/IB equivalencies, are listed below.


The arts include courses whose primary focus is the practice of artistic creation in dance, film, music, literature, theater, and the visual arts. Courses in the arts examine art as a form of expression, with a focus on students making, writing, or performing artistic creations. By studying the arts, students learn to attend carefully to the structure and details of creative works, to understand these works in their social and historical contexts, and to express their creative and critical intentions clearly and effectively. In these courses, students will: Analyze creative, embodied, and immersive processes in order to understand what makes works of art effective and how to produce effective works, performances, or adaptations of art.

Courses That Satisfy This Requirement Include:

Cultural Literacy

Courses or experiences in cultural literacy provide students with the tools to examine the changing nature of social and cultural experiences and the way we shape and are shaped by culture. By developing cultural literacy, students recognize that practices and traditions are fluid and ever-changing, requiring a long-term perspective. Explicit in these courses is the acknowledgment that not all members of a society are the same, and that our experiences are subject to a range of identities. In these courses, students will:

  • Examine the effects of inequality on intersecting identity markers such as race, gender, class, age, religion, sexuality, and ethnicity;
  • The effects of globalization, migration, trade, and other forces on communities; or
  • The changing relationships between communities residing in different social, economic, and physical environments.

Courses That Satisfy This Requirement Include:

In addition to courses designated as satisfying Cultural Literacy, students may fulfill the Cultural Literacy requirement by completing an approved 4-credit, faculty-led study tour or semester-long study abroad program.


Courses in this category take as their primary objects of study material that presents or raises questions about, the human condition.  They engage with art and ideas, histories and philosophy, values and traditions through close analysis and careful attention to text and context, with the goal of better understanding how others have made sense of the human experience.  Courses may consider not just the meaning but the impact of such explanations.  In so doing, they help students to reflect on what it means to be human, and how their own human condition has been shaped by earlier efforts to understand humanity.      In these courses, students will:

  • Use historical, interpretive, or comparative methods to analyze material that engages with ideas, values, traditions, experiences, and histories produced by human societies.
  • Revise written arguments to improve their effectiveness for a given audience or rhetorical situation.

Courses That Satisfy This Requirement Include:


Courses in mathematics introduce students to basic mathematical skills and concepts and to algorithmic or statistical methods in problem solving. Students are expected to learn methods and techniques of problem-solving and to develop facility in the mathematical mode of thinking. In these courses, students will:  Use appropriate techniques or principles in order to solve problems and interpret information from a mathematical perspective.

Natural Sciences (with lab)

Courses in the natural sciences present major scientific concepts and theories, and teach students to apply investigative methodologies to explore scientific questions. Students will learn to write and speak using the languages of these disciplines. In these courses, students will: Use investigative practices to explore scientific principles.

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Courses within the social and behavioral sciences take mental processes and behavior-of the individual, in groups, or in societies-as their object of study. They emphasize the use of both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies to examine human behavior and social systems- and the interplay between the two.  In these courses, students will: Explain how concepts and methods are used to understand human institutions, behaviors, or mental processes.

Professional Pathway

As part of the LEAD requirements for Foundational Study, the Professional Pathway formalizes St. Mary’s commitment to the relevance of a liberal arts education, particularly its ability to graduate students who are prepared to be agents in the world. By offering opportunities to integrate their academic experiences and professional development, Professional Pathway- or “CORE-P”- courses give students the opportunity to prepare for their post-graduation lives with intention. New first-year students take CORE-P101 during their first semester and CORE-P102 in their second semester. Students complete their Professional Pathway,  by taking CORE-P201 during their second year. Together, these courses prepare students to complete the professional literacy experiences required by their majors, which may include CORE-P301. Completion of the Professional Pathway allows students to take advantage of the Honors College Promise, a guaranteed internship, research experience, or culturally-immersive experience such as a study tour or study abroad.

In CORE-P101: Career Networking and Navigation, students will:  

  • Identify potential career paths by reflecting on and analyzing their personal experiences, interests, and skill set.
  • Demonstrate appropriate professional behavior by engaging in various professional settings with community partners.
  • Demonstrate reflective practices on career and major decisions after engaging in professional activities. 

In CORE-P102: Career Networking and Navigation II, students will:

  • Develop a working career plan through reflecting on and analyzing knowledge of career options, personal experiences, interests, and skill set.
  • Create and evaluate responses to behavioral interview questions through engaging in a mock interview program.
  • Demonstrate the ability to craft effective communication based on field-specific knowledge and goals. 

In CORE-P201: The Honors College Externship, students will:

  • Demonstrate personal accountability and effective work habits, e.g., punctuality, working productively with others, and effective time and workload management.
  • Explain the impact of non-verbal communication on others’ perception of competence and productivity.
  • Use industry standards to accomplish professional tasks as applicable in a given work setting.
  • Analyze the impacts of personal and group behavior by engaging in a professional work setting.

Advanced Study

Academic Major

A major field of study-commonly called a “major”-is a grouping of specialized courses that ensures every student develops a depth of expertise in an academic discipline. At St. Mary’s, the major builds on the LEAD Foundational Study requirements, and extends students’ abilities as writers, speakers, and critical thinkers. Majors also provide students with the opportunity to connect their specific academic focus to potential career interests, completing the Professional Pathway begun in their first semester. All students must complete a major to graduate from the College; students may opt to complete more than one major. Students should declare their major no later than the second semester of their sophomore year. Information on requirements and learning outcomes for specific majors can be found on each program’s catalog page.

Capstone Experience

In conjunction with their major, all St. Mary’s College students must complete a capstone experience. Part of the Advanced Study requirements for the LEAD Curriculum, capstone experiences allow students to identify and pursue a project that synthesizes and extends their past learning.Some majors require the capstone experience to be a St. Mary’s Project (SMP); others allow multiple ways to complete the capstone requirement, in addition to the SMP. While capstone requirements may vary from major to major, all capstones are 4-8 credits and culminate in a public presentation. Capstones may be completed either individually or in a small group. Students are only required to complete one capstone experience to graduate from SMCM regardless of the number of majors completed.Features of the SMCM capstone experience (no matter the path) include opportunities to work closely with a faculty member in order to:

Define the parameters and purpose of the project.
Synthesize knowledge gained from coursework, structured co-curricular experiences, and/or individual experience.
Explain the outcome(s) of the project in a well-developed, sustained piece of writing.
Present their work publicly; presentations can take multiple forms (including videos or pre-recorded slideshows, but must include student interaction with the audience regarding the project.
Reflect on their experience in terms of their academic or professional goals.

LEAD Opportunities

The universal experiences required by LEAD prepare students to take advantage of other curricular and co-curricular opportunities at the College. These include the Honors College Promise, which guarantees student access to an internship, research experience, or culturally immersive experience such as a study tour or study abroad. For more information on these and other LEAD Opportunities, see http://www.smcm.edu/academics/lead/.