The Southern Maryland Higher Education Center (SMHEC) came about in response to an organized community lobbying effort. Prior to 1995 there was no opportunity for obtaining a master’s degree or completing a bachelor’s degree in a professional field in the Region without traveling at least 60 miles to the nearest university campus.
Southern Maryland had a unique situation. With 17,000 researchers and scientists conducting testing, evaluation, research and development at the Patuxent River Naval Base and the Base’s activity representing 50 percent of the three-county Region’s economy, there was a critical need specifically for graduate engineering and technology programs to provide professional development opportunities for personnel transferring to the Naval Base, and to keep the Base’s programs in the Region during a period of national base realignments.
With the community’s economic vitality at stake, local business and technology company leaders successfully lobbied the State’s Governor, which led to a $3 million grant dedicated to the construction and equipping of a 14 classroom higher education building on a new 25 acre campus deeded for the purpose by a local professional technology park, and also led to the passage of State legislation creating the Center as an independent State higher education institution and also creating an independent Board of Governors appointed by the State’s Governor. A second building with an additional 21 classrooms was subsequently constructed by the state and opened in 2003.
TODAY, 11 universities offer 83 academic programs at SMHEC, including 45 master’s degrees, three doctorates, 16 B.S. completion programs and 19 graduate certificates and education certification programs. Some 30 graduate and B.S. completion engineering and technology programs (including two doctorates) are offered by Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland College Park, George Washington University, Old Dominion University, the University of Maryland University College, and Capitol College.
An addition 20 graduate education programs (including a doctorate) are offered to service the continuing education needs of the region’s 5,000 teachers and school administrators, by Johns Hopkins University, Catholic University, the College of Notre Dame, Towson University, and Gratz College. Degree programs in management, social work, nursing, criminal justice and counseling are also offered at the Center. During the 2005-2006 school year, 242 seminars were held at the Center, with 2,762 class enrollments.
The Center’s two classroom buildings also include five meeting rooms that are utilized for daytime training and conference programs, holding 50 to 500 participants. Over 350 training, conference, and special event programs were held at the Center in FY 2006. An additional 178 public programs were held by local government agencies and non profit organizations. The two buildings also include student lounge areas and offices for university coordinators for participating universities.
Classes for the Center’s academic programs are offered during evening hours and on weekends on the Center’s campus, with the exception of several engineering classes offered over two-way compressed video from the University of Maryland and Old Dominion University. Faculty for classes at the Center are taught by fulltime and adjunct faculty from university partners.
August 28, 2006