Saint Mary’s names Outstanding Senior
Martha Reilly | Friday, May 13, 2016
Graduates of the College will receive their diplomas Saturday, but this year’s Outstanding Senior Eleanor Jones said she has already earned the most valuable gift possible — a Saint Mary’s education.
Jones, a global studies major, said she was surprised to learn that her leadership, service and academic achievement qualified her for this award.
“It was really unexpected just because I know how many people in our class are so passionate about what they do,” she said. “We’ve got a great student body with a lot of people who do different activities across the board, so honestly I wasn’t expecting it because we have so many incredible people. Knowing that makes it an even bigger honor.”
Jones said her involvement with the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership enhanced her college experience by encouraging her to appreciate other lifestyles while recognizing a common humanity.
“There are universal issues that we can all revolve around,” Jones said. “You get to realize more of your similarities and your differences and how you can celebrate them.”
Jones said she spent two summers at Saint Mary’s working for the Study of the United States Institute (SUSI), where women from North Africa and the Middle East develop action plans they want to implement in their home countries. Through her work with SUSI, as well as her year-long study abroad experience in South Africa, Jones said she learned the importance of intercultural leadership and sensitivity. In 2014, the Jordanian team proposed a company called SheCab, in which all passengers and drivers are female.
“I got to go to Jordan to give them moral support, and we went to the embassy with them when they presented their business plan,” Jones said. “We decided we wanted to start a fundraiser on campus to show that Saint Mary’s still supported them even though they weren’t here anymore.”
Marc Belanger, Global Studies professor, said in an email Jones’s desire to understand and improve the world around her is evident in her superior work.
“As a student, [Jones] has first rate writing and analytic skills comparable to other outstanding students, but what makes her different is that [Jones] really cares about the human dimension of the issues we are discussing and asks questions that always push the discussion to a deeper level than it might normally go,” Belanger said. “While her GPA shows that she gets A’s most of the time, it is this level of what I would call ethical seriousness that makes her so interesting to work with.”
According to Belanger, Jones’s desire to respond to global challenges makes her deserving of the Outstanding Senior Award.
“I don’t think I have ever had a student any more determined to figure out the best way for her to make a difference in the world or more willing to question her own motives and goals with more honesty,” Belanger said. “I think she can do that because she never forgets that it’s not about theories or ideologies, but about human beings.”
Jones said the support of Belanger, along with other faculty and staff, enables her to be her best self.
“Most of the things I’ve done are because a professor has tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘Hey, I think this would be a good idea,’” she said. “Saint Mary’s has kept pushing me to get outside my comfort zone. I feel like I’m always presented with different opportunities, and it’s been hard for me to say no.”
Jones said one of her most meaningful accomplishments is helping to pioneer the Food Recovery Program, which donates leftovers from the dining hall to the Center for the Homeless.
“We’ve saved about 5,100 pounds since last year,” Jones said. “You can see the initial impact of everything that you’ve done.”
Though Jones has contributed to the community, she said her classmates’ success is most impressive to her.
“I think that we have a lot of students who found what they are passionate about and have started applying it,” Jones said. “We’ve got a well-rounded student body.”
Jones will return to South Africa for a year of service at a children’s home. She said students should view every challenge as a path to success and make the most of their college years.
Jones said Saint Mary’s shapes its students into goal-oriented, compassionate leaders capable of changing the world.
“In a world where women are often times pitted against each other, here we’ve got this community of people constantly trying to support each other,” Jones said. “It has taught me to be strong and confident in what I say, and I think that’s pretty special.”