For the men of Marymount University, being trailblazers in coeducation hasn't always been easy.

"At first I got a couple of raised eyebrows when I said I was going to a formerly all-girl school," said John Bloom, an accounting major in his third year at Marymount.

"When I got here, I thought of transferring," Bloom said. "I felt that everyone was staring at you for being male. It was a little like being in a fishbowl."

"We were like an anomaly here at first," agreed Joe Ward, a communications major who is a senior.

Despite the strain, the students said being enrolled at the school has some advantages.

"Actually, you have a lot of opportunities as one of the first male students. You are noticed more; you are more apt to stand out," Ward said. "And you're less likely to be alone on the weekend."

Founded in 1950 as a two-year women's college by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, a Roman Catholic order dedicated to education, Marymount quickly gained a reputation as a finishing school for the future wives of the Washington area's future power brokers.

The college, which became Marymount University in 1986, admitted its first undergraduate class of 50 men in 1987. Male students now make up 20 percent of the school's 2,000 undergraduates.

"I've been vice president of my class all four years I've been here," Ward said. "If there were a whole school of guys, that probably wouldn't have been the case."

The decision by the Catholic school to admit men prompted none of the debate that accompanied a similar move by Mills College in Oakland last spring. That campus was rocked with protests by students and alumni opposing coeducation, who said that men would dominate classroom discussions and would change the character of the school.

At Marymount, by contrast, only one student is reported to have left when the school announced it would become coeducational.

"We had not established a long historical tradition as a single-sex college as did Mills College, which makes a stronger statement of its single-sex status than we ever did," said Linda McMahon, vice president for student services.

Administrators at Marymount say that coeducation there was a gradual process: Male graduate students, most of whom commuted to the Arlington campus after work, were admitted to the school in 1978.

"Five years later we woke up to find we had nearly 500 male students on campus, a much larger number than we had anticipated," McMahon said.

"After that, it seemed contradictory to call ourselves a single-sex institution when there were so many men around," she said.

Coeducation at the university has meant broadening course offerings "to include things that boys would like," said Sister Majella Berg, the university president. Along with courses in such areas as education, interior design and nursing, the school now also offers business and computer courses.

"They have actually gone out of their way to accommodate the men on campus," said Bloom, who said he is particularly appreciative of the increased offerings in Marymount's athletic department, which now boasts tennis, soccer and an NCAA basketball team.

Although men and women share a campus, they don't always share a classroom. More often than not, men at Marymount enter traditionally male-dominated courses.

According to school officials, 61 percent of the students majoring in finance are male, as are 41 percent of the students majoring in economics and 48 percent of those studying computer science.

Meanwhile, there are few men in majors traditionally perceived as female-dominated -- 9 percent of the nursing majors, 8 percent of fashion design majors and none of the paralegal majors are male.

University officials say that coeducation has meant that they are able to recruit more and better students, women as well as men.

"A lot of women simply would never consider attending an all women's college," Berg said.

"Before we went coed, our advisers said that when they went to college fairs, a lot of women would just walk by. The things that used to be appealing about women's colleges are not appealing anymore," she said.

That sentiment is shared by many of the women who have come to the university in the last few years.

"It's just nice to have the guys around," said Michelle Spata, a senior at Marymount. "They make it a more fun place to be."

Many men say their single biggest contribution to the school has been in improving the social climate.

"Now that the guys are here, fewer girls are going into Georgetown on the weekends to try to find them," Bloom said, citing social mixers and pizza-eating contests as examples.

Even for the administration, coeducation has brought some pleasant surprises.

"The boys add a dimension which is quite positive to the campus," Berg said. "We were actually afraid that they would destroy the dormitories, which they sometimes do at some schools.

"But I have heard some people say that the boys' dorm is much neater than the girls'."