GUEST BLOG: Women’s Colleges Provide Advantageous Learning Environment

The following is a guest post from Dottie L. King, Ph.D., president of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College:

At Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC), we affirm that a women’s college is more than relevant today. In this single-gender environment, the lines are purposefully blurred between college preparation and preparation for life making a women’s college a wise and practical choice.
According to the Women’s College Coalition, graduates of women’s colleges tend to hold higher positions in careers and obtain a larger percentage of advanced degrees than women who attended coeducational schools. Because women’s colleges emphasize individual thought and student leadership, graduates have higher self-esteem, confidence and aspirations that make these outcomes possible.
Opportunities at SMWC for the development of leadership skills in and out of the classroom are limitless, preparing students for the wide range of responsibilities they will undertake long after graduation. Our female students fill all student leadership roles on campus. They lead classroom discussions, student government, laboratory experiments and community-based initiatives. Having consistent access to a wide variety of successful female role models of faculty, administrators and alumnae tends to increase the aspirations and career achievements of female college students. 
Additionally, student participation in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is also a place where SMWC and many other women’s colleges excel.

In 2010, the American Association of University Women issued a report titled “Why So Few?” detailing women’s under representation in the STEM fields.  If girls grow up in an environment that cultivates their success in science and math, they are more likely to develop their skills as well as their confidence and consider a future in a STEM field.

We strongly agree that learning environment influences an individual’s mindset and that is one of the reasons we believe that a women’s college is an intelligent and rational choice for those who seek a supportive growth environment.
The results of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and the Women’s College Coalition indicate students who attend a women’s college are:

  1. enrolled in the traditionally-male disciplines of math, science, and engineering in higher percentages
  2. more likely to experience high levels of academic challenge
  3. promote a multifaceted understanding of diversity
  4. engaged to a higher degree in active and collaborative learning
  5. experiencing frequent and extensive interaction with faculty
  6. participating in activities that integrate their classroom and outside of classroom experiences more than their counterparts at coeducational institutions
  7. reporting greater gains of self-confidence and self-understanding, and
  8. more likely to graduate and more than twice as likely as female graduates of coeducational institutions to earn doctoral degrees. 

In our 171-year tradition of commitment to the education of women in our campus program at SMWC, graduating students must be proficient critical thinkers and effective communicators. We want students to conceptualize, apply concepts, analyze, synthesize and evaluate as the preliminary to reaching to a conclusion or a judgment.
We strive for our students to learn about the integrity of personal power through the friction of intellectual discovery and accomplishment. Our goal also is to inspire our students to examine issues and events from ethical and spiritual perspectives. It is not our role to tell them what to think or what informed opinion to advocate, but it is our responsibility to provide an environment in which they can explore analytical skills from multiple perspectives.
So, yes, we are extremely proud of the role of women’s colleges and SMWC. Specifically, we demonstrate our ability to remain true to our mission while evolving in response to an ever-changing society. For those who seek a progressive learning environment with the maximum potential to fully develop their spiritual, intellectual and leadership abilities, we confidently suggest that a women’s college, such as SMWC, is a vibrant, powerful and providential choice.