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Valedictorian Makenzie Duncan reflects on time at Saint Mary’s

| Tuesday, April 24, 2018

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

Saint Mary’s class of 2018 has made history as the first to have five students graduating with the honor of valedictorian. Among these five students is senior integrative biology major Makenzie Duncan.

Duncan was always interested in the kind of education a school like Saint Mary’s could offer.

“I always wanted to go to a small school, preferably Catholic,” Duncan said.

Duncan said when she visited Saint Mary’s, she got the feeling that it was just the right school for her.

“It wasn’t this huge moment where I realized I wanted to go to Saint Mary’s,” she said. “I liked it way more here [than other schools]”

During her time at Saint Mary’s, Duncan said she has served as an ally with the Belles Against Violence Office and is currently the secretary for Biology Club, where she sends weekly updates called “Mondays with Mak.” Additionally, she has played for the Belles softball team all four of her years at the College. Duncan said she has particularly enjoyed her work in the biology department.

“Being a part of the biology department has been really special for me,” Duncan said. “I got to do research with Dr. [Laura] Kloepper, who is our bat biologist.”

Duncan said her research on bat guano allowed her to travel to Auburn University one summer.

In a blog post she wrote about the experience, Duncan said, “It was a life changing week-and-a-half filled with the typical and atypical ups and downs of research.”

For Duncan, conducting this research is one of her favorite memories because it was something she didn’t think would be possible during her undergraduate career.

Nevertheless, Duncan said many of her fond memories of Saint Mary’s have been small moments, Duncan said, such as running into friends in the dining hall.

“It’s nice that I can have those small memories,” she said. “I don’t have big memories that make me say ‘This is my favorite part of Saint Mary’s.’ It’s the everyday things that are special to me.”

Her appreciation for the everyday experiences extends to her favorite place on campus, which Duncan said is the third floor of the library.

“I always go by the windows,” she said. “I like looking out at the Science Hall.”

In pursuing a successful college career, Duncan encouraged students not to be too hard on themselves and to strike a balance in their lives.

“Give yourself credit,” Duncan said “I think rewarding yourself is really important, making sure that you have a balance between your academic life and your personal life, so that one is not overpowering the other because both are important.”

At Commencement on May 19, Duncan and the other four valedictorians will each speak on one of the College’s core values. Duncan will discuss learning.

“I chose to do the learning core value, so I will be speaking about the different aspects of learning that I have experienced at Saint Mary’s,” Duncan said.

Following graduation, Duncan said she will begin pursuing her Master’s degree at Midwestern University in order to become a physician’s assistant.

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