General Academic Policies

Academic Year

The Academic year is divided into two semesters of 15 weeks. The fall semester usually begins the last week of August and ends in mid-December. The spring semester begins mid-January and ends in mid-May.

A 14-week summer term, primarily independent study, is offered to Doctor of Ministry and Master of Arts Students. An occasional elective course may be taught during this time to meet student needs.

Course Credit

Course hours of credit are based on the number of 50-minute class periods, or their equivalent. One credit is granted for approximately 14 class periods and one class period for examination and assessment. The specific hours of credit for each course are given with its description.


Those in service to the diocesan parishes may take courses either to attain basic theological education or as continuing education or personal enrichment. These students do not receive a letter grade for the class and their Saint Mary Seminary transcript indicates audit status. Continuing Education students who audit a class are expected to attend all class sessions, prepare assigned readings, and participate in class discussions. Ordinarily students who audit a class do not submit research papers or take a final exam.

Students pursuing the Lay Ecclesial Ministry certification, however, even if they audit a class, are expected to meet all course requirements, including papers and exam. Instructors are asked to assign “the grade the student would have received” for Pastoral Ministry Office records.

Class Attendance

Class Attendance is expected at every meeting of the course(s) for which students are registered unless they are granted the privilege of optional class attendance. Normally, illness or other sufficiently serious circumstances are the only legitimate reasons for missing class.

In case of absence, the student is responsible for class work, assignments, and/or examinations.

Withdrawal and Credit/Audit Change

To withdraw from a course or to change registration from credit to audit (or the reverse) without penalty, a student must obtain the official form from the Academic Dean to present to the Registrar. Failure to attend class or merely giving notice to the instructor will not be regarded as official notice of withdrawal and students will lose any deposits and receive a grade of “F” for the course. The last day to withdraw is indicated on the yearly academic calendar. Students who withdraw from a class after this date are responsible for the entire amount of the semester’s tuition. (See the Finance section for policies regarding tuition reimbursement in cases of Withdrawal.)

Academic Evaluation

Students usually undergo evaluation in all subjects at the end of each term. These evaluations may take the form of oral or written examinations, performance presentations, and research/reflection papers. At times a mid-term assessment may be given or a mid-term project may be required at the discretion of the professor.

The Master of Divinity Portfolio Capstone Presentation is scheduled around the third week of November. Generally, the last four weeks at the end of each semester are designated for the Doctor of Ministry Colloquia and Master of Arts Symposia. These serve as summative and integrative evaluations for candidates enrolled in these programs.

Academic Honesty

The goals and purpose of Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology and its special relationship to the training of ecclesial leaders demands that students exhibit personal integrity and high ethical standards. Academic honesty is expected of every student involved in the seminary’s academic program.  Therefore, unless other sources are appropriately indicated, all material which a student offers for a course must represent only his or her own work.  Claiming the work of others as one’s own or falsifying materials (e.g., term papers, exams, or reports) can result in failure for the specific assignment or the entire course, as well as suspension or expulsion from the seminary or degree program.

Grading System

Grade reports are given to the students at the end of each term. Term grades are based on oral and written class work and examinations. The grade received is an evaluation of actual performance and the degree of mastery the student has manifested to the instructor.

The following grading system is employed:

Grade  Quality Points

A         4.00     100-96%

A-        3.667   95-93%

B+       3.333   92-91%

B          3.00    90-87%

B-        2.667   86-84%

C+       2.333   83-81%

C          2.00    80-77%

C          1.667   76-71%

D         1.00     70-65%

F          Failure  Below 65%

I           Incomplete

NR       Grade not reported

P          Pass

AUD    Auditor

W        Withdrew with permission

An incomplete (I) is given only for serious reasons, such as absence from a final examination because of illness, and course work must be made up within a designated time, usually one month, but no restriction is placed on the grade a student may receive.

Course work not completed during the extended time given for an Incomplete (I) results in a grade of “F”.

Should a student fail a required course, he/she must repeat the course. Any failing grade is computed in the cumulative grade average.

The following descriptions serve as an evaluative measure of the professor’s assessment of student work. The use of pluses and minuses in the grading scale allows for an accurate evaluation of the student’s performance within the range of each letter grade.

[A, A-] Degrees of Outstanding achievement: exceptional aptitude, interest and performance.
The student has demonstrated a number of the following characteristics: an exceptionally good grasp of the course material; evidence of self-initiated reading; cooperation in course activities; manifestation of exceptional capability and originality; a command of appropriate vocabulary and superior ability to integrate and make associations with other
material studied.

[B+, B, B-] Good achievement: a significantly higher grasp of the course material, which goes beyond the required basic elements. The student has demonstrated a number of the following characteristics: a significantly more effective command of the material than is generally required; demonstrated ability to perceive applications of principles and relate them to other material; work distinctly above the average; investment in extra-curricular work on his own on course material; a personal grasp of principles so they can be discussed with ease.

[C+, C, C-] Satisfactory achievement: a grasp of the basic content, which enables the instructor to certify the required mastery of the material of the course. The following characteristics are usually present: a command of the basic course content and demonstrated ability to make generally correct applications of principles; demonstrated ability to express knowledge intelligibly; the standard performance expected.

[D] Poor achievement: a minimal grasp of course content and limited ability to apply principles learned. The following may further characterize this level: sub-standard achievement as related to graduation; the instructor believes the student would not profit materially by repeating the course; the student may advance to course or courses to which the given course is a prerequisite but with dubious prospects
of success.

[F] Failure: inability or failure to meet minimal requirements as specified by the instructor. The student will need to repeat the course if he/she is enrolled in a degree program.

Honor Students

Students in the second, third, fourth and fifth year of theology whose cumulative grade point averages are 3.5 or above are classified as “honor students.”

They may be granted, at the discretion of an individual professor, the privilege of optional class attendance so they may acquire a more thorough knowledge of a subject through independent study under scholarly direction.

When professors judge that an honor student would gain more by class attendance, they may require attendance for a particular lecture or exercise or the entire course. The student must be present for all announced tests and is held responsible for all class materials and major assignments.

Independent Study

A full-time, degree-seeking student may participate in an independent study under the supervision of a faculty member with the approval of the Academic Dean. The student must first receive permission from the Academic Dean to approach a faculty member for an independent study. No student is permitted to take an independent study in a given area in a semester where an elective course in that area is offered, unless he/she has taken that elective course. Required registration and documentation of the independent study must be filed with the Registrar.  The independent study must be completed within the designated academic semester and the grade submitted to the Registrar on the date determined unless circumstances require other arrangements for completion.

Inclusive Language

Gospel values and contemporary social consciousness urge us to recognize and change those attitudes and practices that are unjust. Christian tradition holds that all people are created in the image of God and that attitudes against anyone because of sex, age, race, or handicap diminish us all. Therefore, it is the policy of Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology to foster the use of inclusive language in academic endeavors and to work to eliminate attitudes and customs that stereotype and unfairly separate persons one from another.

Professional Appearance and Attire

Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology prepares men and women for formal ministry in the Church.  Therefore personal appearance and attire should reflect ministry standards.  Commuter students are expected to dress modestly and respectfully and be well groomed for class and while on campus. Seminarians follow the house dress code and guidelines in the Handbook. The administration and faculty reserve the right to determine whether a student’s appearance is acceptable.


Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology adheres to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (Buckley Amendment). This act states that the written consent of the past or present student must be obtained before allowing transcripts to be released to any person or body, and such permission is granted only for the reasons specified in the written consent.

Students who wish transcripts of records to transfer to other schools or for other purposes should submit a signed request to the Registrar’s Office at least two weeks in advance of need. Transcript request forms are available under the Registrar menu in the top navigation. To protect students and alumni, no telephone requests for transcripts will be honored. Transcripts are issued only at the request of the student, and official transcripts are sent directly to the college or university to which transfer is desired. A fee of $2 is required for each transcript requested.

Official transcripts are sent directly to institutions or agencies. Transcripts sent or given to students are marked “unofficial,” are unsigned, and do not bear the Seminary seal. Transcripts are released only when all outstanding financial balances have been paid.

Transfer of Credit and Advanced Standing from Other Schools

St. Mary Seminary has the right to determine if it will accept graduate credits for work completed in other accredited schools. Not more than two-thirds of the credits previously earned can be accepted into our degree programs.

If advanced standing is granted on the basis of appropriate evaluation, not more than one-fourth of the total credits required for an ATS-approved degree may be granted for the D.Min., M.Div., or M.A. degrees. Advanced standing may be granted (1) without credit by exempting a student from some courses but not reducing the total number of academic credits required for the degree, or (2) with credit by reducing the number of credits required for the degree because appropriate assessment indicates the student’s knowledge, competence, or skills that would normally be provided by specific courses have been demonstrated.

Full-time Status

Full-time status in the Master of Divinity program is defined to be a course load of not less than 14 hours per semester.

Full-time status in the Master of Arts Degree program is defined to be a course load of three (3) courses (not less than 6 credit hours) per semester.

Full-time status in the Doctor of Ministry program is defined to be 4 credit hours per semester in addition to attendance at the Project Forum.

Academic Probation

The Seminary reserves the right to refuse to admit or readmit any student at any time should it be deemed required in the interest of the student or the Seminary to do so, and to require the withdrawal of any student at any time who fails to give satisfactory evidence of academic ability, earnestness of purpose or active cooperation in all the requirements for acceptable scholarship.

A degree-seeking student who falls below the minimum G.P.A. is placed on academic probation for the following semester. Students who remain on academic probation for three consecutive semesters will be dismissed from the program. Students who fail to show sufficient progress during academic probation are also subject to dismissal.

The following rules govern a Master of Divinity student on academic probation:

At the close of each semester, a student is placed on academic probation if the cumulative grade point average falls below 2.00. The student is removed from probation at the close of the semester in which the grade average rises to or above 2.00. Placement on, retention, or removal from probation is noted on the semester grade report and on the permanent record.

A student who remains on probation for three consecutive semesters will be required to withdraw for unsatisfactory academic performance.

A student who remains on probation for two consecutive semesters may choose:

  • To continue the regular class-hour load and attempt to remove the probation the third semester, or
  • To reduce the class-hour load and lengthen the time of the course of studies.

A student on probation:

  • May be required to submit a progress report to the Academic Dean
  • May have extra-curricular activities curtailed in the case of candidates for the priesthood
  • May not be admitted to candidacy or receive ministries/orders during that semester
  • May be asked to postpone the internship year to enroll in another semester of coursework to remove the probation
  • Will not be permitted to hold school offices
  • May be required to lengthen the time of course studies

The following rules govern Master of Arts students on academic probation:

At the close of each semester, a student is placed on academic probation if the cumulative grade point average is less than 3.00. The student is removed from probation that semester in which the grade average rises to or above 3.00. Placement on, retention on, or removal from probation is noted on the term grade report and the permanent record.

No credit is given for a course in which a student earns an “F”. A student must retake a failed required course the next time it is offered. If the failure is in an elective course, the student must take an equivalent elective in the same department. Exceptions to these policies (e.g., an independent study in a subsequent semester to make up a required course) are at the discretion of the Academic Dean.

An M.A. student who remains on probation after the completion of 15 semester hours will be required to withdraw for unsatisfactory academic performance.

The following rules govern Doctor of Ministry students on academic probation:

At the close of each semester, a Doctor of Ministry student is placed on academic probation if the cumulative grade point average is less than 3.00. The student is removed from probation that semester in which the grade average rises to or above 3.00. Placement on, retention on, or removal from probation is noted on the term grade report and the permanent record.

A D.Min. student who is on academic probation for two semesters or who  earns a grade of “F” in any course is subject to dismissal from the program.

Academic Appeals

Saint Mary Seminary reserves the right to discipline or dismiss a student who fails to meet the seminary’s or degree program’s academic standards. Any student who objects to an academic decision can appeal that action by submitting a formal letter of appeal to the Academic Dean within ten days of the receipt of the evaluation or grade report.  The letter should present the facts surrounding the student’s complaint and include any pertinent documentation. If the appeal concerns a grade or academic decision, the Academic Dean will arrange a meeting with the student and the professor at a mutually agreed upon time.  Depending on the nature of the complaint, such as dismissal from an academic program, the Academic Dean may select members from the seminary community to serve on an Appeals Board. In requesting an appeal, the student agrees to be bound by the decision of the Appeals Board.  The decision of the Appeals Board is final and not subject to further appeal. The decision and rationale are communicated in writing to the persons involved and are kept on file in the Academic Dean’s office.


In non-academic matters, a student presents a formal letter to the Vice Pesident/Vice Rector outlining the grievance. The Vice President/Vice Rector will determine the process for review and resolution and will maintain a file of all pertinent documentation of formal grievances.

Leave of Absence

A student enrolled in a degree program may request a leave of absence from the program for one year. The student needs to speak with the Academic Dean to obtain permission. The student must put the request in writing so that it can be placed in their academic file. During the leave the student is considered enrolled in the program but will not be charged tuition or fees. Library privileges are not revoked and communication is encouraged with the program director, mentor and colleagues. After the one-year leave, the student must register in the proximate semester or may be asked to withdraw from the program. Any outstanding fees or tuition payments will need to be paid in full.

Educational Technology

Access to the Seminary Internet system and other forms of educational technology is made available to students and faculty to enhance the educational experience and to improve their ability to communicate with others.  The appropriate use of educational technology in class is both permitted and encouraged.

All classrooms are equipped for use of technology and Internet access. While in class students are expected to limit their use of personal technology to the course work at hand.  Faculty may limit a student’s use of personal technology if it is deemed to be a distraction or inappropriate, or is detrimental to the learning environment.

The usual expectation of ethical behavior extends to the use the Internet and educational technology.  While users are encouraged to conduct legitimate research on the system, any use of technology that panders to immoral behavior or attitudes is prohibited.  Obviously civil and criminal laws must be obeyed.  Users are reminded that they are responsible for observing the U.S. Copyright laws (United States Code, Title 17); obeying all licensing restrictions in connection with software that is downloaded or used in connection with the system, and respecting the privacy of others.

Winter Weather Policy

St. Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology normally does not cancel classes since seminarians are resident students. In the case of severe weather, non-resident students are encouraged to contact their professors and let them know they will not be able to attend class. The professor will not penalize the student. However, the student will be responsible to obtain class notes and complete assigned readings. If a non-resident professor has cancelled class, students will receive an e-mail, text, or call from the instructor or Registrar.