College guide’s unique methodology continues to promote engagement over prestige.

St. Mary’s University has been recognized for its commitment to engaged, hands-on education by Colleges of Distinction, a one-of-a-kind guide for college-bound students. As an institution whose primary goals are based on student success and satisfaction, St. Mary’s claims its honor as one of the renowned Colleges of Distinction.

Colleges of Distinction’s longstanding support for student-centered schools highlight those that traditional rankings often overlook. Founder Wes Creel created Colleges of Distinction to draw more attention to schools like St. Mary’s whose student-centered education prevails in applying theory to practice while fostering a dynamic learning community. Among its honors and rankings, St. Mary’s has been a College of Distinction since 2017.

Colleges of Distinction’s selection process comprises a sequence of in-depth research and detailed interviews with the schools about each institution’s first-year experience and retention efforts alongside its general education programs, career development, strategic plan, student satisfaction and more — and accepting only those that adhere to the Four Distinctions: Engaged Students, Great Teaching, Vibrant Community and Successful Outcomes. These principles are all informed by high-impact practices to prioritize the ways institutions enable students to have a fulfilling, individualized college experience.

Every student has their own unique set of abilities, goals and ideal settings in which they would thrive, Creel said. “That’s why we don’t rank our schools. It’s about finding the best opportunities for each individual’s needs and desires.” St. Mary’s inclusion is informed by the unique ways it commits to achieving success.

Creel and his colleagues found that the most popular college rankings systems rely on metrics like peer reputation, size of endowment and alumni salaries. They knew instead that the effective strategies for student satisfaction and outcomes were the kinds of engaging experiences found at St. Mary’s University: a revamped curriculum with its continual focus on academic excellence, service events like Continuing the Heritage and 40 Days of Service, Marianist Heritage Week celebrating the founder of the Society of Mary, Homecoming Oyster Bake (“Baby Bake) to connect students and alumni over spring festivities, the StMU 5K for the Neighborhood and more.

Creel continued, “It’s inspiring to see St. Mary’s University commit to the learning styles and community involvement that will best allow their students to succeed in and beyond their college years.”

St. Mary’s was also recognized as a Catholic College of Distinction, a College of Distinction for Career Development, as well as for its Business, Education and Engineering programs.

About Colleges of Distinction

Since 2000, Colleges of Distinction has been committed to honoring schools throughout the U.S. for true excellence in higher education. The member schools within the Colleges of Distinction consortium distinguish themselves through their dedicated focus on the undergraduate experience. Its website provides dynamic college profiles, customized tools and resources for students, parents and high school counselors. For more information, visit

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