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First Ascent: A Pre-College Summer Program at Mount St. Mary’s University

First Ascent logo

Experience what it’s like to be in college as you challenge yourself academically by exploring the heart of a Catholic liberal arts education. Deepen your spirituality and make new friends who share your love of Christ – all while enjoying the beauty of one of the oldest and most historical Catholic universities in the country.

June 23-28, 2024

Register for First Ascent

Open to high school students entering their sophomore, junior or senior year in Fall 2024. Waiting list available for current high school seniors.

Attendees of First Ascent will receive a renewable $2,000 scholarship to attend the Mount!*

*The award is contingent on residential status and cannot be combined with an athletic scholarship.

For more information about First Ascent at Mount St. Mary's University contact:
Email: firstascent@msmary.edu
Phone: 301-447-5672

Countdown to First Ascent

Days
Hours
Minutes
  • students hiking near msmu campus

    Schedule Overview

    View a day-by-day schedule what you'll encounter at First Ascent, including class, meal and activity times.

    View the Schedule


  • student with book in philosophy class

    Classes and Activities

    Explore five academic areas taught by the Mount’s extraordinary faculty, and participate in hands-on activities designed to ignite your curiosity and deepen your faith.

    Explore Classes and Activities


  • ic chapel toward altar

    Mass Information

    See an overview of Mass, including one celebrated by Archbishop Lori, Holy Hour and Confession.

    Learn About Mass


  • terrace cupola at msmu

    Housing and Meals

    Stay on campus for five nights in a Mount St. Mary’s university residence hall and enjoy delicious meals with friends.

    See Housing and Meals Info


  • peace plaza toward coad science building

    Cost to Attend

    First Ascent is one of the best values you’ll find for a pre-college, Catholic summer program. Secure your seat for only $100, and pay the remaining balance by June 10.

    View Cost Details


  • outdoor class at peace plaza

    Registration

    Register today! Registration closes June 10, 2024.

    Learn About Registration


msmu cupola on top of the terrace

Mount St. Mary's University holds an unparalleled position in American Catholic higher education. It is not only the oldest independent Catholic university in the country, it is also the only one from America's founding generation to remain faithfully committed to Christ and Our Lady.

Jeremy Tate Chief Executive Officer, Classic Learning Test

Schedule Overview

students hiking near msmu campus

Sunday, June 23

  • Check In and Arrival: 3-5 p.m.
  • Dinner: 5-6 p.m.
  • Fun with Recreation and Wellness at the ARCC: 6:15-8:30 p.m.

Monday, June 24

  • Breakfast: 7:30-8:30 a.m.
  • Morning Meet Up: 8:30-9 a.m.
  • Mass (IC Chapel): 9-9:45 a.m.
  • Daily Morning Classes: 9:45 a.m.-noon (Students will be split into groups and attend one class per day, ultimately attending all five courses)
  • Lunch: noon-1 p.m.
  • Field Trip to the National Shrine Grotto
  • and Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine: 1-4 p.m.
  • Break: 4-5 p.m.
  • Dinner: 5-6 p.m.
  • Campus Ministry: God Speaks: 6-7:30 p.m.
  • Movie Night at the Makers House: 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Tuesday, June 25

  • Breakfast: 7:30-8:30 a.m.
  • Morning Meet Up: 8:30-9 a.m.
  • Mass (IC Chapel): 9-9:45 a.m.
  • Daily Morning Classes: 9:45 a.m.-noon
  • Lunch: noon-1 p.m.
  • Afternoon Activities (student choice): 1:30-3:30 p.m.
  • Break: 3:30-5 p.m.
  • Dinner: 5-6 p.m.
  • Campus Ministry: You Are Called: 6-7:30 p.m.
  • Game Night at Purcell Hall: 7:30-9 p.m.

Wednesday, June 26

  • Breakfast: 7:30-8:30 a.m.
  • Daily Morning Classes: 8:30 a.m.-10:45 a.m.
  • Mass at the Grotto: 11-11:45 a.m.
  • Lunch: noon-1 p.m.
  • Afternoon Meet-up: 1-1:30 p.m.
  • Afternoon Activities (student choice): 1:30-3:30 p.m.
  • Break: 3:30-5 p.m.
  • Dinner: 5-6 p.m.
  • Campus Ministry: God Forms You as His Child: 6-7:30 p.m.
  • Game Night at Purcell Hall: 7:30-9 p.m

Thursday, June 27

  • Breakfast: 7:30-8:30 a.m.
  • Daily Morning Classes: 8:30-10:45 a.m.
  • Mass at the Grotto: 11-11:45 a.m.
  • Lunch: noon-1 p.m.
  • Afternoon Meet-up: 1-1:30 p.m.
  • Afternoon Activities (student choice): 1:30-3:30 p.m.
  • Break: 3:30-5 p.m.
  • Dinner: 5-6 p.m.
  • Campus Ministry: Join Yourself in God’s Church: 6-7:30 p.m.
  • Fireside Chat (with Dr. Vera and Coach Phillips) and S’mores & More at the Makers House: 7:30-9 p.m.

Friday, June 28

  • Breakfast: 7:30-8:30 a.m.
  • Morning Meet-up: 8:30-9 a.m.
  • Daily Morning Classes: 9:45 a.m.-noon
  • Lunch: noon-1 p.m.
  • Pack-up: 1-2 p.m.
  • Mass with Archbishop Lori (IC Chapel): 2-3 p.m. Familes are welcome to attend!
  • Departure from Campus: 3 p.m.

Daily Morning Classes - 8:30-10:45 a.m.

student with book in philosophy class Leap into dynamic academic sessions crafted to give you a head start on college excellence. Each morning, you’ll rotate through five academic areas taught by the Mount’s extraordinary faculty who are experts in literature, theology, history, art and philosophy. All First Ascent courses are non-credit bearing.

“God Is a Poet: A Catholic Perspective on Literature” - Sean Lewis, Ph.D.

In this session, Dr. Sean Lewis will consider two apparently very different texts: the Old English poem “The Dream of the Rood” (translated into Modern English) and a lecture given by J.R.R. Tolkien early on in his university career, “On Fairy Stories.” Even though they are separated by about 1,000 years, these two works illuminate a specifically Catholic Christian understanding of literature that comes out of a close reading of Genesis 1 and 2. Both the anonymous medieval poet and the Oxford professor point to a shocking claim: we write poetry because God is also a poet, and God has saved humanity *through poetry*.

“True Humility Is Greatness of Soul” - Luis Vera, Ph.D.

We often think of humility as “thinking less of oneself” or “playing down one’s worth.” But as Dr. Luis Vera will explain, this way of thinking does not actually help us to stop being proud, vain, or arrogant. Nor does it accurately represent the Bible or the best of Christian theology. Drawing on St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Thomas Aquinas, Dr. Vera will explain why the heart of humility is seeing ourselves in the way God sees us. And what God sees in us is far more than what we normally want to see. As a result, real humility does not resist but instead requires greatness of soul, i.e., an aspiration to do great things with one’s life. Humble people allow God’s help and God’s love to be the measure of their aspirations and the generosity with which they pursue them. Come explore with Dr. Vera what follows if we dare to see ourselves in this way!

“Sacred Spaces at the Mount: Finding the Holy (in unexpected places)” - Bryan Zygmont, Ph.D.

In this discussion, art historian Dr. Bryan Zygmont will chronicle the history of Catholic architecture—from its earliest classically inspired roots through the gothic period—and conduct a walking tour of some of the sacred spaces on the Mount St. Mary’s University campus. We will consider the ways in which Christian architecture both built upon earlier architectural precedents and then later created a new visual language in the glory of God. Some of the historical buildings we will examine include the Parthenon (c. 447 BCE), the Pantheon (125 CE), Old St. Peter’s (c. 320 CE), and the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. On the beautiful Mount campus, we will visit the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, Kane Chapel, Mary, Queen of Peace Chapel, and St. Bernard’s Chapel.

"What is Justice? Reading a Socratic Dialogue” - Joshua Hochschild, Ph.D.

What is the connection between ethics and politics? Is law-breaking ever justified? Is there a true standard of justice? Plato’s Crito explores these questions and more, as the character Socrates, condemned to death by the city of Athens, addresses his friend Crito’s disappointment and concern. Explore this text and bring your own questions, to get a taste of how classical philosophy helps us gain insight into politics, the soul, and what it means to live well. Students are expected to read this short dialogue before the discussion.

"Women of the Church" - Angela M. Mucci-Guido, Ph.D., & Barbara Marinak, Ph.D.

What comes to mind when you hear names such as Mother Theresa, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and Mother Mary Lange? Come and explore these and other inspirational women of the church who have fulfilled their vocation in a unique, yet humble manner living out the tenets of Catholic Social Teaching. Discover how the heroic virtues of these women and the tenets of Catholic Social Teaching can be lived out in your own ordinary life.

Afternoon Activities - 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Tuesday, June 25

Poetry and Art: Dante, Giotto, and Atoning for Sin in Trecento Italy

Bryan J. Zygmont, Ph.D.
Dean of the College of Liberal Arts

Dante — author of The Divine Comedy — is rightly considered one of the greatest of poets. Likewise, his near contemporary Giotto is considered the first truly Renaissance artist. In this interdisciplinary session, Zygmont—an art historian by training—will guide students through a single canto of the Inferno and then explore the ways in which art was commissioned to atone for sin during the early years of the Italian renaissance. (Location: Knott Academic Center, Room TBD)

Hike the Mount Trails!

Jay Phillips
Director of Cross Country & Track and Field

Luis Vera, Ph.D.
Department Chair and Associate Professor of Theology

The trails on Mary’s Mountain have been loved and enjoyed by generations of Mountaineers. Here we have found a special place in which to connect with God, nature, those who have come before us, those who walk with us, and ourselves. Come see why with the Chair of Theology, Dr. Luis Vera and Jay Phillips, the Director of Cross Country, Track & Field. (Location: Founder’s Plaza)

Free Paint

Nick Hutchings, M.F.A.
Department Chair and Associate Professor of Art

Emma Edwards
Graduate Student

Come check out the amazing Makers’ House and join us for painting fun! Various painting techniques will be demonstrated. All materials are provided. (Location: Makers’ House)

Wednesday, June 26

Your College Collage

Nick Hutchings, M.F.A.
Department Chair and Associate Professor of Art

Emma Edwards
Graduate Student

Campers come and create a unique collage – a dream board created with paper and recycled materials! Collage techniques will be demonstrated. All materials are provided. (Location: Makers’ House)

Building a Social Deduction Game, Part I

Greg Murry, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of History

In the first of a two-part session, students will be introduced to the mechanics of social deduction games and work together to design and playtest their own original game. Make sure to follow up on Thursday! (Location: Knott Academic Center, Room TBD)

Pages of Revelation

Jessica J. Boyer, Ph.D.
Director of the Phillips Library

Discover the treasurers of the rare book and manuscript collection of the archives and explore what these centuries-old texts can teach us about our Catholic faith today. (Location: Phillips Library)

The Mount: Walking with the Saints

Paige Hochschild, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Theology

Come for a walk at the Grotto and learn about the first American saints, all of whom landed and built up the Church on this mountain—St. Elizabeth Ann Seton; Frs. Simon Bruté and John Dubois, the founders of Mount St. Mary’s. (Location: National Shrine Grotto)

Thursday, June 27

Environmental Art

Nick Hutchings, M.F.A.
Department Chair and Associate Professor of Art

Emma Edwards
Graduate Student

Campers will aesthetically explore the Mount’s beautiful landscape and create unique temporary installations at the Makers House. Techniques will be demonstrated. All materials provided by nature. (Location: Makers’ House)

Deep Freeze!

Christine McCauslin, Ph.D.
Dean of the School of Natural Science and Mathematics

Chill with some Mount science majors, (safely!) play with liquid nitrogen and learn about the chemistry of ice cream. Added bonus, you’ll eat what you make!

Building a Social Deduction Game, Part II

Greg Murry, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of History

In the continuation of Wednesday’s session (which meets both Wednesday and Thursday), students will work together to design and playtest their own original game. (Location: Phillips Library)

Discover the World of Generative AI

David King
Chief Technology Officer

This is an interactive session where students will explore the cutting-edge technology of generative artificial intelligence. Participants will learn about the prudent use of AI generation and witness live demonstrations of AI tools in action. The highlight of the session will be a hands-on workshop where each student will use AI to create and take home their own custom-designed t-shirt. (Location: Knott Academic Center, Room TBD).

Hike the Mount Trails!

Jay Phillips
Director of Cross Country & Track and Field

Luis Vera, Ph.D.
Department Chair and Associate Professor of Theology

The trails on Mary’s Mountain have been loved and enjoyed by generations of Mountaineers. Here we have found a special place in which to connect with God, nature, those who have come before us, those who walk with us, and ourselves. Come see why with the Chair of Theology, Dr. Luis Vera and Jay Phillips, the Director of Cross Country, Track & Field. (Location: Founder’s Plaza)

Mass Information

ic chapel toward altar
archbishop william lori

Archbishop of Baltimore William E. Lori, S’77 will celebrate a special Mass in IC Chapel on Friday, June 28 at 2 p.m.

Throughout the week, you’ll also have the opportunity to participate in Daily Mass and Holy Hour with confession. Services take place in the many chapels and sacred spaces on our historic campus.

Housing and Meals

terrace cupola at msmu
  • Housing Overview - While at First Ascent, you’ll stay in the Terrace Complex near the heart of campus. Once the original university building, the Terrace is now three residence halls in one. Upper-class students typically reside here, along with first-year honor students. The Terrace also includes Kane Chapel, several study lounges, and a workout cardio room.
  • Rooms - Rooms will likely be double occupancy and you will be paired with a roommate on a random basis.
  • Floors - Floors will be separated by males and females and supervision will be provided by trained Resident Assistants (RAs). The RAs are undergraduate student staff members living in the residence halls and supervised by a senior academic administrator.
  • Meals - During your stay, all meals will be provided. You’ll enjoy most of them in Patriot Dining Hall where you’ll find fresh, MTO sandwiches and salads, homestyle meals and comfort foods, pasta favorites, and more.

Cost to Attend

peace plaza toward coad science building

Your registration fee includes the following:

  • A 5-night stay in a Mount St. Mary’s University residence hall
  • Approximately 30 meals, mostly served in Patriot Dining Hall
  • Daily Mass and adoration services in our beautiful, historic chapels
  • Access to college-level courses and professors
  • All program materials and supplies
  • All excursion fees to local events and attractions

Open to high school students entering their sophomore, junior or senior year in Fall 2024. Waiting list available for current high school seniors.

Attendees of First Ascent will receive a renewable $2,000 scholarship to attend the Mount!*

*The award is contingent on residential status and cannot be combined with an athletic scholarship.

Registration

outdoor class at peace plaza

At Mount St. Mary's University, the exclusive First Ascent Summer Program awaits your arrival — a beacon for young scholars and seekers of spiritual growth. Register for First Ascent today!

Register for First Ascent

Important registration information

For more information about First Ascent at Mount St. Mary's University contact:
Email: firstascent@msmary.edu
Phone: 301-447-5672

Request More Information