Buffalo Seminary, known as SEM, is an independent day and boarding school for college-bound girls. Founded in 1851 as the Buffalo Female Academy, SEM is located in the historic Elmwood Village neighborhood of Buffalo, New York, and is itself registered on the National Register of Historic Places.
At SEM, girls from diverse backgrounds – united in their ambition for a superb and challenging education – can find a comprehensive program that prepares them well for both college and lifelong endeavors.
The Value of Independent Thinking
Each SEM student is taught to take intellectual risks and to think for herself. Through a rigorous curriculum that emphasizes inquiry, discovery, and critical analysis, she develops skills that will support her success throughout her academic and professional career. SEM provides a solid liberal arts foundation that integrates the latest technology and also recognizes the importance of extracurricular pursuits. Concentrated study in the traditional academic disciplines is complemented by invaluable opportunities in the arts, community service, and sports.
Opportunities for Leadership
Whether in a classroom, on the athletic field, or on stage, each girl can find opportunities to explore and excel at SEM. In all her pursuits, she is encouraged to speak her mind and stand up for her beliefs. Leadership is also developed from practice in organizing a school activity, managing a stage production, creating a yearbook, or captaining a team. Senior year – the culmination of her SEM career – each student is required to give a formal presentation on a topic of her choice to the entire school.
A Strong School Community
The power of a SEM education begins with our close and nurturing school community. SEM teachers, advisors, coaches, and house directors get to know students on a personal basis, seeing each girl as an individual and encouraging her to develop her unique strengths and take healthy risks.
Our Academic and Social Honor Code – requiring respect for intellectual and artistic property, tolerance for diversity of opinions, consideration of others, and honesty in all matters – is the foundation of our open and inclusive community. School spirit traditions, such as the Hornet/Jacket competition dating back to 1916, are community building opportunities that are unique to us. The quest for the annually awarded Spirit Cup requires a school year's worth of unity, dedication and creativity on the part of both students and faculty.
Our academic program prepares every girl not just for the rigors of college, but also for the sheer joy of lifelong intellectual curiosity. SEM’s interdisciplinary curriculum emphasizes academic scholarship, service to the community, leadership skills, physical and emotional well-being, creative expression, and personal integrity. At SEM, our students learn how to approach a difficult academic subject or a new activity with vigor and confidence. They aren’t afraid to take risks or to challenge themselves to excel.
More Opportunities for Academic Excellence
Throughout her years at SEM, each student is expected to develop core competencies in all five of the major disciplines, giving her a solid foundation in the humanities, the sciences, and the arts. She is also encouraged to pursue Honors and Advanced Placement courses in areas of particular strength. Advanced electives during junior and senior year cover a range of topics, and opportunities for independent study can be arranged for self-motivated scholars.
Teachers Who Are As Passionate As They Are Experienced
Our dynamic and knowledgeable faculty will always be the cornerstone of a superior education at SEM. Our small and selective nature ensures the faculty's ability to mentor students and personally commit to a girl’s success. Thanks to experienced teachers who teach by allowing students to learn from each other as much as they learn from them, each SEM student benefits from opportunities to express her own point of view. SEM's Harkness tables and the seminar style discussions they foster ensure every student's voice is expressed and heard.
Technology That Puts Girls in Control
At SEM, technology is a way to maximize interactive learning opportunities in the classroom and beyond. Thanks to our one-to-one tablet computer program, established in 2007, every student has her own laptop computer throughout her four years at SEM. Using constantly updating technology, she learns how to research information, question the validity of sources, analyze data, and create her own content. Fall of 2014 introduced a formal full-year STEAM curriculum for freshmen and library and research class for sophomores. The trimesters of STEAM classes have segments of coding, engineering, and exploring the "Maker Movement" using our 3-D printer.
The library at SEM is both a beautiful physical space and an online resource center. Our librarian maintains SEM’s resources which feature a collection of more than 8,000 books, research databases, periodicals, videotapes, DVDs, and CDs, which all help to meet the diverse curricular and extracurricular needs of our students and faculty. The SEM librarian also teaches sophmores a full-year library and research class.
A Legacy of Success
Whether they graduated five years ago or fifty, our alumnae report that – thanks to the classroom and teacher experiences they had at SEM – they leave high school more well-prepared than other college freshmen. Our graduates tackle the most demanding college and university requirements, pursue a variety of careers, and meet challenges with confidence. SEM girls are armed with confidence and learning that readies them to attend large colleges and universities and to speak and excel in co-ed college classes.
Whether she sees herself as a scholar, an athlete, an artist, an activist – or all of these – every girl at SEM has opportunities to thrive, thanks to a variety of healthy outlets that support her intellectual, physical, emotional, social, and moral development. Our small size gives her the benefit of personal attention and consistent support. Our nonsectarian approach reinforces the value of diversity, encouraging her to explore ideas beyond the traditional boundaries.
A Culture of Freedom, a Code of Honor
SEM students enjoy extraordinary autonomy, while embracing a high level of responsibility. Our Academic and Social Honor Code – at the heart of our open and supportive learning community – fosters trust and respect by preparing girls for the rewards and responsibilities of college and the wider world.
Individual Attention That Ensures Open Communication
Thanks to our intimate size, no student goes unnoticed. Our advisory program also empowers girls by building positive student-teacher relationships while encouraging open communication with families.
Student-Centered Clubs and Activities
Whether it’s through music, art, drama, writing, current events, or sports, girls find an extracurricular outlet at SEM. If a girl sees the need for an entirely new club, she’s encouraged to step up to the challenge of proposing the concept and helping it become a reality.
Giving Back to the Larger Community
Every girl participates in community service in each of her years at SEM. Our goal is to inspire a spirit of personal responsibility and service so that reaching out and giving back can become more than just an extracurricular pursuit – but a way of life.
Beloved Traditions Keep School Spirit Alive
Both serious and fun traditions remain at the core of our school culture. From our daily Morning Meeting in the chapel led by the School Government Association president, where we sing the alma mater to start the day, to the spirited fun of Hornet-Jacket competitions, we maintain a respectful and dynamic school culture for both students and faculty alike.