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Valedictorian Kristie LeBeau reflects on her time at Saint Mary’s

| Thursday, April 26, 2018

Editor’s note: This is the fourth of a five-part series profiling the valedictorians of Saint Mary’s class of 2018.

For the first time in Saint Mary’s history, the College will be bestowing the honor of valedictorian onto five graduating seniors, including sociology major Kristie LeBeau, who will be pursuing her PhD in developmental sociology, studying rural schools and education at Cornell University after graduation.

LeBeau said her discovery of the news was “a super weird accident,” finding out after emailing senior academic advisor Tracy White a question about her education, schooling and society minor at Notre Dame.

“She replied and said, ‘I want to talk to you about the valedictorian speech,’” LeBeau said. “And I emailed back saying, ‘Does this mean I am a valedictorian?’ And she said, ‘Yeah you are.’”

LeBeau was aware of the possibility that she would become a valedictorian, she said.

“I’d always hoped that that would be the case, just because I knew where I was at academically,” she said. “I thought it was a definite possibility, but I didn’t really believe it until I received the email from Tracy White.”

Even her decision to attend Saint Mary’s was coincidental, LeBeau said.

“The original reason I came to Saint Mary’s was crazy how it happened,” she said. “One night I was trying to decide between colleges and I was crying to mom, confused about where I should I go, telling her I just wanted to make a difference in the world. And the next day we got a letter in the mail from Saint Mary’s addressed to my parents saying, ‘Help your daughter make a difference in this world.’ I visited Saint Mary’s and definitely felt like this was an empowering place for women that I could make the difference that I wanted to [make].”

This initial indication of empowerment at the College has proven true, LeBeau said.

“I really believe Saint Mary’s empowered me to accomplish everything that I want to and follow my dreams and empowered me as a women, really,” she said.

Allowing for there to be five valedictorians — all of whom will share the valedictory address — also represents the diversity of Saint Mary’s, LeBeau said.

“I really love that all of us represent a very diverse background of majors, too,” she said. “I know that some universities, larger colleges, they make people compete based on speeches in terms of who’s going to be valedictorian or who’s going to give the speech, but I think it’s really great that Saint Mary’s doesn’t make us compete and allows all of us to share that title.”

LeBeau’s portion of the speech will be the introduction and conclusion, making her “the first thing that you’ll see and the last thing that you’ll see,” she said.

Rather than feeling nervous, LeBeau said she is “excited about” speaking at commencement.

“I’ve given speeches in front of large audiences before, and you get that adrenaline rush,” she said.

LeBeau’s time at Saint Mary’s, she said, is marked by a multitude of small memories.

“My favorite memories are the memories that don’t even stand out in my head,” she said. “The memories of hanging out with my friends in the dorms until who knows what time at night or little things that happened in classes that made me feel great or empowered or when I learned something new.”

LeBeau said she would advise Saint Mary’s women to take the skills learned at the College and use them for good upon graduating.

“When Saint Mary’s challenges us to think about things in different ways and look at new perspectives that really make us challenge dominant world views, I think that Saint Mary’s women can’t be afraid to apply that out in [the] real world outside of Saint Mary’s,” she said. “ … We can use all the different ways Saint Mary’s has empowered us and showed us how to challenge norms so that we can use that to full benefit after Saint Mary’s.”

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