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Saint Mary’s President addresses freshmen

Annemarie Loessberg | Friday, September 20, 2013


On Thursday, Saint Mary’s President Carol Ann Mooney addressed the Class of 2017 as a part of the Common Experience component of the Cross Currents Program to help young women understand the meaning and importance of their Saint Mary’s education, said Patricia Fleming, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs.

As a part of Cross Currents Program, the first year students are asking themselves “Why am I here?” and Dr. Mooney can help answer that question, Fleming said.

Mooney arrived at Saint Mary’s College 44 years ago, as a first-year herself, and can remember those early days very vividly and how she was very intimidated, coming from a small town, Fleming said. 

“Basically, I was a country kid, and when I got here, I thought everybody came from Chicago, Cleveland or New Jersey and they were all wiser and sophisticated and I was not.” Mooney said.

Mooney spoke of her first mixer, what could possibly be considered a bit like Domerfest, she said, and had no idea what a mixer was. She was not prepared to meet other people, and did not know how.

“I never had such an experience,” Mooney said. “I knew everybody in my town. If I went to a dance, it was the same old people I had known since kindergarten. There was no mixing.” 

She said she eventually overcame her shyness, but not after crying out on the island, leaving the mixer three minutes after entering. A junior, who lived down the hall, helped her through her fear of meeting new people, she said. Mooney said her peer told her, “If you can talk to me, you can talk to other people.”

She said French was an important part of her education.  She had a strong desire to study abroad in France and attended class five times a week in order to achieve that goal, she said. But after three years of disrupted French in high school, Mooney said she was placed in a class with girls who had taken five or six years of the language. 

“I studied French every single night, for hours, convinced I was going to fail and never go to France,” Mooney said. 

However, she said her hard work paid off and she spent an entire year in France. However, she said that did not mean she saw her experience in a positive light from the beginning.  With tough French classes and a struggle to adapt to life abroad, Mooney said she learned a lesson. She then shared this lesson with the first-year class: Give it a chance.

“Immerse yourself in something.,” Mooney said. “For me it was classwork. I was excited about my classes. I really loved the fact that they challenged me.” Her second piece of advice was a bit simpler: sleep. Mooney said she got all the way through law school without staying up past 11 p.m.

“You cannot feel good about anything if you’re so sleep deprived that you don’t know what’s going on,” she said. 

Mooney continued her speech laying out three important lessons or experiences she hopes students in the class of 2017 will experience over the next four years at the College. 

“I hope you grow in a sense of awe and wonder at the beauty and the complexity of the created world,” Mooney said. 

The second lesson Mooney said she hoped students would learn during their experience at Saint Mary’s was empathy for others.

“I hope you deepen your understand of what it means to be human and really develop your empathy with other human beings,” Mooney said. “That you have a greater capacity to put yourself in the shoes of another and have empathy for her, for her situation.”

Finally, Mooney said she hoped each individual would develop their spiritual life while at College. “Whether you are of a different Christian faith, or you’re Jewish, or Muslim, or Hindu or of no faith tradition at all, I truly believe there will be a hole in your life, a sadness or an emptiness, a hollowness, if we don’t find some sense of purpose that calls you beyond yourself,” Mooney said. 

Mooney said every Belle chose Saint Mary’s for a unique reason and she knows this institution will continue to have something to offer to everyone. 

“I hope part of the ‘why’ is that we offer you things that are not available everywhere,” Mooney said. “I urge you to take advantage of what we have to offer … I urge you to please plunge into the rich life available here.”

Contact Annemarie Loesberg at [email protected]