News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 30, 2012

Horsin’ around

St. Mary-of-the-Woods College celebrates homecoming

Brian Boyce
The Tribune-Star

West Terre Haute — A family of sisters spent the weekend reuniting amid woods west of the Wabash River.

St. Mary-of-the-Woods College celebrated homecoming with events beginning Friday afternoon and lasting through Saturday evening. Founded in 1840, the nation’s oldest Catholic liberal arts college for women brought hundreds of alumnae back for cookouts and bonfires, in addition to a softball game with Lincoln Trail College and a soccer match with Lindenwood University.

But Saturday afternoon, hundreds were just horsing around the corral and stalls of the college’s equine studies program, where students showcased their work.

Sara Schulz, assistant professor of equine studies and a coach for the equestrian team, said the 25-year-old program has long been a mainstay on campus. More than 90 of the school’s 300 students participate, making it one of the largest programs on campus.

“We’re the only school with a four-year degree in Indiana,” she said.

Schulz earned her undergraduate degree from St. Mary-of-the-Woods in 1998, followed with a graduate degree in 2009. She’s been teaching there 16 years, she said.

“It’s a very unusual place. A very peaceful place,” she said of the campus, describing the sense of community enjoyed by students who clean out stables and groom the horses daily.

Jennifer Wilson, a 2006 graduate, said she was happy to come back and see the equine program still going strong. In addition to the program’s sponsoring a competitive, intercollegiate sport, students can major in equine studies, focusing on areas such as business or training.

Wilson graduated with a degree in equine business and administration while serving as a team captain and athlete. Four years ago, an accident shattered her leg when a horse fell on her, but she still enjoys the sport. Now an attorney in Indianapolis, she said the homecoming visit was rewarding.

“It looks good,” she said of the program. “I was pleased to see the quality of the horses and the girls.”

Katy Portwood, a 2004 graduate, brought her family back for the visit. Now a veterinarian in Danville, Ind., she double-majored in equine studies and the pre-veterinarian program while competing.

“This school is awesome. I wouldn’t do anything to replace the experience,” she said, describing the campus as a family.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or brian.boyce@tribstar.com.