Saint Mary’s students react to new president’s election
Marirose Osborne | Friday, February 14, 2020
The Saint Mary’s community was introduced to President-elect Dr. Katie Conboy on Wednesday. Students were invited to the Spes Unica Atrium for the announcement of Conboy’s new position. After a speech to the community, Conboy held a meet-and-greet for students at the Cushwa-Leighton Library.
Student reaction to the new president was positive across all grade levels.
“I’m not sure if I’ve been here long enough to notice a difference with a new president, but I’m still excited to see what she will do,” first year student Grace Anspach said.
Junior Jackie Rojas is one of the students who met Conboy in the library following her speech.
“We were in line to try and shake hands with her,” Rojas said. “At first I shook hands with her and introduced myself. I really wanted to give her a hug because I love hugs, but I wasn’t brave enough to ask her. Then the second time she came around, I asked if I could give her a hug and she said yes.”
Students are particularly happy about Conboy’s background with women’s colleges.
“She seems absolutely fantastic. I think what I like most is that she comes from an all women’s college, so she already has that background” senior Sarah Hautzinger said.
Both Conboy’s Holy Cross background and her time as a student at Notre Dame serve as an important consideration for students as well.
“I think it’s special that she comes from an all women’s college and has a background in Holy Cross education” junior Giavanna Paradiso said.
Paradiso is on the Presidential Transition Committee and is a part of a group of students who interviewed the final candidates.
“My first impression of her is just that she is going to get things done,” she said. “She wants as much information as she can, and then she’s going to absorb that and then do what she thinks is the best plan for the College.”
Other students were equally impressed with Conboy at their first meeting with her.
“Going into it, I was kind of skeptical, especially because of what happened with [former College President] Jan Cervelli,” senior Elisabeth Barrett said. “I was a freshman when she started her first year, so I was kind of under the assumption I’d have four years with her. Then she left so abruptly.”
Though Barrett has some concerns about meeting a new president, she said she was particularly impressed by Conboy’s speech.
“After the speech she gave introducing herself to everyone, I can see how so far it seems like she’s a really great fit for Saint Mary’s,” Barrett said. “She seems very focused on unity which I think the school needs, especially after the Jan Cervelli debacle.”
Rojas also referenced Cervelli’s resignation as an initial cause of nerves.
“When I first heard about Jan stepping down, I was devastated because I love her so much, and I felt like I had a connection with her. It just really saddened me that that was happening,” Rojas said. “And then Nancy came around, and I got close to her.”
Though Rojas had such close connections to previous College leaders, she said she is looking forward to what Conboy will achieve during her time at Saint Mary’s. Other students expressed optimism that Conboy would reinvigorate the Saint Mary’s community.
“I think that’s what excites me about her the most — her new ideas” Paradiso said. “She’s just full of ideas.”
Rojas particularly enjoyed Conboy’s emphasis on unity in her intial remarks.
“I just really love the indications she gave of the direction that she wants to take the College,” Rojas said. “Making sure we are all able to live together under one roof even though we are so very different but keeping that identity alive and together.”
Some students, however, are concerned Conboy would not stay at Saint Mary’s for the long-haul.
“I’m optimistic that she will bring a sense of consistency to this position that we haven’t had since I’ve been a student here,” sophomore Grace Dennis said. “I’m hopeful she will work with the students to ensure a great sense of community at Saint Mary’s. My only current concern is that she doesn’t keep any consistency, and we are back to square one in a presidential search again shortly.”
Sophomore Campbell Washer agrees with that sentiment.
“I think she’s nice and will be helpful, but as far as anything else, I’m not sure. I hope she likes it here and fits in, but I’m just a little wary,” she said.
However, Paradiso is confident Conboy will be around for a long time.
“It is kind of cool that she got her PhD from Notre Dame. She’s got family here, she’s got roots and she has longevity here” she said.
Rojas said she feels that she has already connected with Conboy.
“It was just so wonderful to be able to look into her eyes and shake her hand and have that personal connection,” she said. “My hope is that she’ll continue to have that connection with all of us and guide us forward.”