Southern Maryland Higher Education Center

44219 Airport Road, California, Maryland 20619

(301) 737-2500 (Main) * (301) 737-2542 (Facsimile)

Copyright © Southern Maryland Higher Education Center. All rights reserved.

Five-Year Mission Statement

(Approved by the SMHEC Board of Governors on September 23, 2010)

Summary Mission Statement:  The Southern Maryland Higher Education Center focuses on providing highly developed and comprehensive academic and professional development educational opportunities at the graduate and upper undergraduate level to a workforce of knowledge workers engaged in technology, teaching, management, health and other professional services. The academic programs and other professional development opportunities offered by distinguished universities recruited by the Center for presentation provide an opportunity for citizens in the region to achieve their potential in their chosen professional fields and to advance the economic and social development of the region.  The Center also facilitates the advancement and growth of the Naval Air Base at Patuxent River through partnerships with nationally ranked universities providing high technology and management academic programs facilitating the creation of a new national high technology center of excellence in multiple naval aviation specializations.

Summary of Identity and Purpose:  The Southern Maryland Higher Education Center (SMHEC) was established by State legislation in 1994 in response to the expanded role of Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River (NAVAIR Patuxent River) to provide on-site and complete access to quality graduate education degree programs in a Region historically under-served by higher education institutions; and to support the economic development of the Southern Maryland Region with academic programs that provide professional development opportunities for the workforce of the Region.


SMHEC presents upper division baccalaureate and graduate degree programs in their entirety at its 24-acre campus facility in California, Maryland. Working with the leadership of the Region’s Military Bases, public school administrators, economic development agencies, and the technology and defense support community, SMHEC selects and recruits academic programs and universities that meet the professional development needs of the workforce in the Tri-County Region.  The Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) approves all degree programs for presentation at SMHEC. 


Under the guidance of a Board of Governors appointed by the Governor of Maryland, SMHEC provides the Region’s citizens with unprecedented higher education opportunities.  Included in SMHEC’s academic programs are doctorates, master’s degrees, bachelor’s  degree completions, graduate certificates, and graduate education certifications programs in the fields of engineering, management, business, education, social services, nursing, counseling, and information technology.  


The role and mission of SMHEC has required continuing expansion in response to the advancement of the Tri-County Region as a high-technology area, the continued growth of the technology workforce in the Region, expansion of missions at the Military Bases and related defense activities, growth in degree program offerings and class enrollments, and the need for improving the skills of teachers in the three Southern Maryland county public school systems. 


The economic and social environment of Southern Maryland creates specific and unique constituencies served by SMHEC. These include NAVAIR at the Patuxent River Naval air Station, and their personnel and dependents; the three county governments; area offices of the State of Maryland; expanding area businesses and industry; Southern Maryland residents earning degrees for professional development; community college students completing bachelor’s degrees in preparation for careers; and teachers and administrators seeking additional skills, credentials and certifications.


SMHEC graduate and undergraduate degree programs meet the continuing education requirements of existing and new employees in the technology fields supporting the Military Base at Patuxent River.  Employment in the Base’s testing and evaluation, and research and development enterprises includes some 22,000 individuals working on the Base, and an additional 10,400 technology professionals employed by 221 defense contractor firms supporting the mission of the Base.  The availability of some 35 academic degree and graduate certificate engineering technology programs offered by quality academic institutions at SMHEC has permitted the continuing expansion of missions and employment in the Region, and the continued expansion of the number of defense firms locating in the region and taking advantage of the availability of a talented and educated workforce.  


Historically, the Region has been under-served by higher education institutions.  This reality is reflected in the realization that only 25.9 percent of the Region’s population over 25 years of age has a bachelor’s or higher degree, compared with 35.2 percent for the entire State of Maryland.  The availability at SMHEC of 12 bachelor completion programs will be influential in raising the percentage of bachelor’s degree holders in the Region.  


Academic programs recruited for presentation at SMHEC respond to workforce needs of organizations in the Region, and accordingly are focused on specific professional fields.  All academic programs at SMHEC are presented in their entirety at the SMHEC site, including class presentations, admissions, counseling and additional requirements of specific programs. 


The following universities and colleges are currently SMHEC’s academic 

  • Bowie State University
  • Capital College
  • Catholic University of America
  • George Washington University
  • Gratz College
  • Harrisburg University of Science & Technology
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Notre Dame of Maryland University
  • Salisbury University
  • Stevenson University
  • Towson University
  • University of Maryland College Park
  • University of Maryland University College
  • Washington Adventist University
  • Webster University

Among the major distinguishing features of SMHEC are its high-tech facility and its accessible campus location, making state-of-the art graduate level learning conveniently available to a professional workforce distanced from the major university centers in the State and the Washington-Baltimore Region. 


SMHEC recognizes that the technology demands of the current and future job markets dictate that instructors and students alike integrate technology into the higher education experience. Accordingly, technology is an integral component of the spectrum of graduate degrees presented at SMHEC. 


SMHEC is located on its own 24-acre campus within the Wildewood Professional and Technology Park in California, St. Mary’s County, and Maryland.  The site is six miles north of NAVAIR Patuxent River, and even closer to the 221 technology oriented defense contractor organizations located in California and nearby Lexington Park,  Prince Frederick, the county seat and urban center of Calvert County is about 20 miles away, and Waldorf, the business center of Charles County, is about 35 miles away. The Indian Head Naval Base is about 40 miles away. 


SMHEC’s Classroom Building I, with 12 classrooms and two multi-purpose rooms, opened in 1995. Building I also houses a new Engineering Laboratory and a Simulator Laboratory for students enrolled in a new Mechanical Engineering B.S. Degree offered by the University of Maryland College Park.  Classroom Building II, with 21 classrooms and two multipurpose rooms, opened in 2003. A Third Classroom Building and Conference Center is in its planning phase and is expected to open in 2014. 


Each SMHEC campus building has its own unique features, designed to offer the highest quality, technologically sophisticated, student service-focused graduate learning and professional training available in Southern Maryland.  Ongoing campus expansion is in response to the growing and urgent need for suitable space to meet the high-level academic program requirements and special access conference and meeting needs of the high-tech economy in Southern Maryland.


 SMHEC provides a full spectrum of facilities and services to support these programs, including classrooms, computer laboratories, instructional equipment, administrative service, and offices for university coordinator presence onsite to assure optimum student services. 


Performance Goals and Expected Outcomes:  SMHEC currently hosts the presentation of over 90 academic programs, including 45 master’s degree programs, five doctorates, 12 bachelor’s degree programs, additional graduate certificates and graduate education  certification programs. Growth in the number of academic programs is a continuum, with program expansion responding to new and evolving needs identified by employers in the Region.  By example, during FY 2010, the fiscal year preceding the preparation of this Mission Statement, SMHEC recruited 11 new academic programs. Programs were successfully recruited at every level of academic performance, including a doctorate, five master’s degrees, one graduate certificate, and three bachelor completion degree programs.  


Following is a listing of academic programs recruited during FY 2010:

  • B.A. in Early Childhood Education, Washington Adventist University
  • B.A. in Child Care, Washington Adventist University
  • B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, University of Maryland College Park
  • B.S in Nursing, Stevenson University
  • M.S. in Nursing, Bowie State University*
  • M.S. in Teaching of Mathematics Education (Middle School Track), Towson University
  • M.S. in Acquisitions and Procurement, Webster University*
  • Graduate Certificate in Government Contracting*
  • M.S. in Learning Technologies, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology
  • M.S. in Systems Information Engineering and Management
  • D.Sc. in Information Assurance, Capitol College* 

 *Pending approval by the Maryland Higher Education Commission


The unique strength of SMHEC has been its ability to affirmatively reach out to employers in the Region, to determine their needs for an educated professional workforce, and to successfully recruit the most distinguished programs from top-ranked universities to respond to identified workforce needs for presentation at SMHEC. 


SMHEC also works collaboratively with the major employers and employment sectors in the Region, including the technical and management leadership of NAVAIR Patuxent River, support associations for government and industry such as the Patuxent Partnership composed of industry and government leaders; the Southern Maryland Naval Alliance composed of chief executive officers of leading defense contractors, the offices of the superintendents of schools for the three county-wide school districts in the Region, with the boards of county commissioners of the three counties in the Region, with the chambers of commerce for the three counties in the Region, with the economic development departments of the three counties in the Region, and with the Workforce Infrastructure Board that serves the Region.


SMHEC’s academic programs are viewed by governmental and industry leaders in the Region as essential to the continued economic development of the Region. They view a well educated workforce as the principal catalyst for successful continued economic and social growth of the Region.


SMHEC’s unique capability of identifying workforce needs and recruiting academic programs to satisfy the professional development needs of employers and employees is illustrated in SMHEC’s success in recruiting over 90 academic programs in critical fields important to the economic development of the region and the state.  Among the academic programs recruited for presentation at SMHEC are 35 engineering and technology academic programs at the bachelor completion level, the master’s level and the doctoral level with 508 class enrollments recorded in FY 2010.   


Further, SMHEC has recruited over 40 education programs at the master’s and doctoral levels, and at the bachelor completion level, providing educational advancement opportunities to the 7,000 teachers and administrators in the three counties in the region, with 1,468 class enrollments in 87 seminars in FY 2010.  Additional programs in business, management and acquisitions provide services to the region’s business community.  Also, social welfare and counseling programs enrich and service the region’s citizens with vital mental and economic assistance.  And recently recruited nursing programs will assist in advancing the state of health care in the region.  


In addition to the presentation of academic programs, SMHEC also utilizes its facilities to host a broad range of training and professional development programs, conferences, luncheons, banquets, and special events.  In FY 2010, 350 programs were conducted at SMHEC, benefiting 16,351 individuals for 23,882 person-days of training activity. The majority of training conducted at the Center is for military and civilian personnel stationed at the Naval Air Base at Patuxent River which is engaged in high technology testing, evaluation, research and development of current and future naval aviation airframe and related systems, and the current procurement and acquisition for all of the U.S. Navy’s air weapons systems.  Defense Department personnel from U.S. Naval air facilities throughout the Nation participate in many of the conferences held at SMHEC by NAVAIR Patuxent River.  


In addition to the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, other business, public education and non-profit organizations utilize SMHEC’s facilities for training programs and meetings, including defense related technology companies conducting training, and non-profit organizations conducting annual meetings, retreats and showcases.  A number of organizations conduct annual conferences at SMHEC, such as the St. Mary’s Chamber of Commerce and the Southern Maryland Realtor's Association, and regional annual conferences by economic development departments for the three counties in the region.


Additional utilization of the Center is demonstrated with the attendance of government, school systems and non-profit organizations conducting training, retreats, luncheons and other activities, conducted on a non-rental fee basis.  In FY 2010, 372 programs were held by non-profits and governmental organizations, with 10,423 individuals in attendance. 


The achievement of excellence for SMHEC’s academic programs is a primary goal of SMHEC. 


Specific Short-and Long Range Goals and Measureable Outcomes:  SMHEC’s program goals and priorities emphasize cost-effective and efficient delivery of quality graduate and upper-level undergraduate programs for the workforce of the Southern Maryland Region. The actions undertaken to meet these goals and priorities focus on providing specific education programs that meet the identified workforce development needs of the Region, with particular emphasis on technology (information technology, applied sciences and engineering) and the preparation and ongoing professional development of public school teachers and administrators.  The  recruitment and selection by SMHEC of specific universities and the partnership agreements established between these select universities and the Center guarantee that the highest quality academic programs and unprecedented higher education opportunities are made available to citizens of the Southern Maryland Region.   


These goals and priorities also provide an accessible campus, flexible class schedules to accommodate working professional students, and a learning and teaching environment that fully utilizes technology. Achieving these goals assures that SMHEC will continue to provide Southern Maryland residents convenient and affordable access to quality graduate education by university and college partners widely recognized as preeminent higher education institutions. 


The financial goals stated below will guide SMHEC in its efforts to expand adequately to keep pace with the education and professional development needs of the Region and its many and diverse constituencies. Campus expansion will lead to providing suitable, high-tech facilities for the teaching, learning and training demanded in job markets of today and in the future.


 Long-Range Goals:

  • Fully utilize the Center’s facilities for the delivery of the highest quality graduate and upper division academic programs by distinctive and nationally recognized universities and colleges. 
  • Build, equip and maintain Center classroom buildings for the creation and maintenance of an educational campus environment with an academic standard of excellence viewed regionally, statewide and nationally as a premier campus for quality graduate education and professional development opportunities. 
  • Deliver graduate and upper division academic programs providing accessibility to quality higher education for the citizens and professional workforce of Southern Maryland, a region that has historically been underserved by universities and colleges offering graduate and upper division education, and accordingly provide affordable and equitable access to graduate and upper division education for every qualified citizen of Southern Maryland.
  • Expand the professional workforce in Southern Maryland through the presentation of high quality higher education degree programs in fields of study that address the current and future work demands of the Region’s employers, that contribute to the continued development and expansion of the Region’s economy, that identify and engage opportunities to stimulate the growth of the State’s economy, that promote entrepreneurial activity in the region, and that provide both professional development opportunities for students employed in professions and also for students transitioning from liberal arts academic programs to professional career development academic programs leading to careers and economic sustainability.
  • Assure that appropriate academic programs are presented to meet the professional development needs of an increasingly diverse citizen population, and through a comprehensive array of teacher education programs, increase the effectiveness of the Region’s teaching workforce and teaching institutions impacting on the professional development of a future workforce reflecting the racial, ethnic and gender population of the Region.
  • Assure that the development of human capital is at the very center of the Region’s economic development activities.
  • Assure that education at all levels is the most critical and important social and political issue in Southern Maryland.
  • Utilize the Center’s current available daytime training spaces to provide to organizations and corporations a high-technology venue for the training and development of their professional personnel.
  • Assure that educational programs selected for recruitment and presentation at SMHEC are of the highest quality.
  • Ensure that university partners make all necessary efforts to recruit, retain, and accommodate in SMHEC based educational programs a diverse student population with many needs and interests, like the diverse population of the region.
  • Ensure that university partners make the same effort to accommodate minorities and women in SMHEC based educational programs as they are required to make for on-campus programs.
  • Assure that a comprehensive diversity of academic disciplines is provided to the workforce of the Region.
  • Increase State funding for operations adequate for the effective operation of SMHEC.
  • Assure the presentation of academic programs that stimulate student intellectual exploration and academic and applied research.
  • Assure that each citizen in the Region has the opportunity to learn about and benefit from the professional development opportunities available at SMHEC.
  • Assure that SMHEC’s university partners maintain a high level of academic performance by faculty and students in academic programs and classes offered at SMHEC. 


Short Range Goals:

  • Assure that SMHEC’s analysis and research activities effectively assess the higher education needs of the region’s workforce.
  • Work with individuals in leadership positions at the Naval Air Base at Patuxent River, at public schools in the Region, at economic development agencies and at the technology and defense support community to identify and select quality academic programs and universities that meet the economic development needs of Southern Maryland.
  • Assure that information about educational opportunities at SMHEC reaches every social and economic level of the Region’s population.
  •  Strengthen existing university partnerships and establish partnerships with new universities to continue to deliver distinctive graduate degree programs that meet the professional workforce development needs of Southern Maryland.
  • Increase SMHEC’s public relations efforts to distribute pertinent university information about SMHEC based degree programs, class schedules, and links to university websites.
  • Assure that services offered by university partners are comparable to services available on the university partner’s campus. 
  • Support technology workforce development that is required to achieve the testing and evaluation, research and development, and acquisitions missions of the naval Air Base at Patuxent River.
  • Provide technology-based conference and meeting space for business and industry; state, county and local government entities; and not-for profit organizations.
  • Assure continued State approval of SMHEC’s Capital Investment Program for the funding of architectural and engineering work and the contraction and equipping of a special access meeting center in the proposed Third Classroom Building.
  • Expand graduate teacher education and certification programs offered at SMHEC and provide support to the Region’s school systems to the end of improving the quality of instruction in the classroom, the capabilities of pupils in schools in the Region, and the opportunities for meaningful careers of high school graduates in the Region.
  • Improve information technology and on-line resources to SMHEC academic programs that will help to prepare the Region’s workforce for the dynamic technology employment environment.
  • Provide adequate funding and staff to support SMHEC’s facilities and its services to its university partners, to the citizens and professional workforce of the Region attending academic programs in the Center, and to the economic development goals of the Region.
  • Secure adequate State funding to equip, maintain and continually upgrade computer software and hardware and other  technology equipment necessary for SMHEC’s academic programs.


The above listing of long and short range goals respond to the goals for post-secondary education outlined in the 2009 Maryland State Plan for Post-secondary Education.  As stated earlier, the creation of SMHEC and its opening in 1995 was in response to the State’s recognition that there was a lack of access by the citizens of Southern Maryland to quality upper division and graduate education  opportunities, in concert with the expansion of the work force at The Naval Air Base at Patuxent River.  


The model selected for SMHEC was a comprehensive array of university partners presenting programs of excellence in a wide range of professional fields, with specific needs for graduate programs in the following areas: 

  • Science and engineering in response to the continuing testing, evaluation, research, and development mission of the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River;
  • Graduate management education in response to NAVAIR moving its Command Headquarters and Program Offices to the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River;
  • Graduate studies to meet the continuing education needs of teachers in the Region’s school systems;
  • Access to quality higher education opportunities facilitating professional development and advancement for a diverse population.
  • Access to professional development of a future workforce reflecting the racial, ethnic and gender population of the Region.


 SMHEC serves as an alternative approach to the delivery of higher education, providing accessibility to a population that had been  denied accessible higher education prior to the creation of the Center.  Tuition and other costs for academic programs offered at SMHEC are the same as for on-campus programs, and several State Universities offer degree programs and courses at SMHEC that provide relatively affordable higher education opportunities.  All students enrolled in SMHEC are engaged in professional fields and most are able to have their full tuition costs reimbursed by their employers.  


University and college programs at SMHEC are urged to ensure equal access to their academic programs.  To this end, SMHEC  sponsors open houses for the three academic sessions, advertises the open houses in the six regional newspapers in full-page and legal size ads, in radio announcements on all stations serving the region, on television news programs, and distributes Schedules of Classes for all three academic semesters to over 15,000 addresses.  In addition, SMHEC hosts information sessions that are widely advertised, and mails out announcements for new academic programs to all public and social institutions and organizations, private sector organizations, and to the press and other media.  


Presentations about the academic programs and opportunities for career advancement at SMHEC are made on a continuing basis, at meetings of new teaching faculty for the three local school systems and at service and professional society meetings.  Information sessions are organized for presentation at locations at the Naval Air station at Patuxent River in cooperation with the Base’s Career Development Office.  


Over 40 graduate education academic programs have been recruited and are offered at SMHEC.  Programs include a doctorate in education; master’s degrees in reading, special education, school counseling, clinical and community counseling, instruction, leadership in teaching, technology, instructional technology, human resources development; a post-master’s certification in administration and supervision; baccalaureate degrees in child care and in early childhood education, a post-master’s certificate of advanced study in education, a graduate certificate in the teaching of children with autism and other pervasive disorders; and graduate certification programs in special education, TESOL, administration and supervision, reading library media, and accelerated certification for teachers.  In addition, SMHEC hosts two master’s of arts in teaching programs designed specifically to prepare individuals for careers as teachers.


A principle objective of SMHEC is the contribution its academic programs are making to the continuing development of the economy of Southern Maryland through the continuing development of the Region’s workforce.  In its 15 years of service over 29,000 class  enrollments have occurred, with over 24,000 individuals engaged in career advancement and the accumulation of new knowledge and skills for the new knowledge economy.  With an expanding knowledge based workforce, new employers are attracted to the Region, further expanding the economic development, and social development, of the Region.


SMHEC has actively participated in the enhancement of the Region’s technological capabilities through the process of technology incubation as the recipient of a State grant to conduct a feasibility study to determine the level of interest and capabilities currently available in the region for the further development of a technology business incubator.  SMHEC continues to support the expansion of new technology business activity in the Region. 


The achievement and maintenance of a comprehensive array of quality graduate and upper level bachelor programs offered by a diversity of higher education institutions has been a continuous and preeminent priority of SMHEC.  The process of academic program selection and recruitment has been a continuing one, demonstrating the interest of the community’s economy engines for continuing education in professional fields of study.  Each institution partnering with SMHEC is a preeminent institution of higher education.  Many of the academic programs offered at SMHEC are nationally ranked academic programs.