Marc Belanger has been an integral part of the Saint Mary’s College faculty for 28 years. Along with being the chair of the global studies department and teaching multiple political science classes, he has also assisted with the Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSI) program and Model United Nations (MUN). At the end of this academic year, Belanger will enter retirement.
Belanger came to Saint Mary’s looking for ways to broaden its horizons, he said.
“I think my priority from early on has been things related to trying to diversify the curriculum and make this a more welcoming place for students of color,” Belanger noted.
Belanger reflected on the culture of Saint Mary’s and if it was something he wanted his own child to be a part of.
“My son is adopted from Guatemala, and while he would obviously never come to Saint Mary’s, I remember telling people early on if he was a girl, I wasn’t sure if the college would be the most welcoming place,” he said. “The culture has changed for there to be a lot of different ways to be a Saint Mary’s woman.”
However, Belanger said since since starting as faculty in 1995, he believes progress has been made to include students of more races and identities.
“When I first came here, the percentage of underrepresented groups was very low, below five percent,” he said. “It has gone up a great deal over the years and with that, the culture of the college has changed.”
Belanger, along with many other faculty and students, has worked over the years to help Saint Mary’s on its journey to becoming more diverse and inclusive. He has worked with the Student Diversity Board as well as in the global and intercultural studies programs to hear what students wanted to learn.
Some such classes included Latin American Politics and Introduction to Cultural Studies, where students learn about privilege, identity and racism, Belanger explained.
“I taught it to introduce issues that my students had either never really thought about before or, if it was a part of their life, they perhaps didn’t have any concepts, categories, language to talk about it with other kids,” he said.
This past Saturday, a group of students got together to thank him for all he has done and send him toward retirement with Christmas cheer. Organized by sophomore Liliana Lomeli, a small group of SMC students visited Belanger’s house to sing Christmas carols.
Lomeli said she was inspired by Belanger when she first came to Saint Mary’s as an intended global studies major.
“Just taking his classes and seeing his passion not only for Saint Mary’s students but the global community [inspired me],” she explained.
Sophomore Ana Baca also participated in caroling. She said she loved the idea of giving back to Belanger.
“He’s such a great professor. He really cares for students and does so much for the Saint Mary’s community,” she said.
Baca explained that the group sang Christmas carols such as “Deck the Halls,” “Silent Night” and more.
“It was an in the moment thing, we decided on the songs like 30 minutes before we arrived,” she said. “I’m not the best singer, but it was fun.”
Baca said she remembers having Belanger as a professor for the first time.
“He just wants to get to know you. I remember I asked a question, and you could tell he really just cared about his students,” she said.
Mackenzie Bledsoe is a senior political science major who also participated in caroling on Saturday. She was happy to celebrate “one of her favorite advisors” in this way. Bledsoe has taken several classes with Belanger.
“He always encourages us to learn more and travel the world,” he said.
Bledsoe was advised by Belagner as part of Model UN last fall. One of her favorite memories from the trip was him guiding her to the Bean.
“It was my first time in Chicago and I didn’t know where to go. Then he walked me to the Bean, because that’s where I was trying to get, too. I really appreciated that” she explained.
When Belanger leaves at the end of the school year, students said the College will lose a community member who changed many lives.
As Lomeli phrases it, “I’m glad to call him professor, but he has also been a great mentor in my life.”
Belanger said he wishes his students nothing but the best in the future.
“You have no idea how smart you are, how capable you are,” he said. “You are capable of things beyond your imagination.”