L-R: Abigail Sweetman, Marisa Egan & Shelley Donaldson
Marisa Egan (Biology): As a now second-semester senior, I find myself thinking about all of my fond memories on Hawk Hill. Upon reflection, I realize the impact of the academic experiences afforded to me by SJU. To say that these opportunities have merely helped me grow would be a grave understatement. Rather, they have changed my life.
Because of my time as a student researcher, a teaching assistant (TA) and a supplemental instruction (SI) leader, I have redefined my academic and personal goals. Moreover, the students and the professors here are extraordinary, exemplifying an unparalleled commitment to serving the world–with and for others. Their commitment inspired me to make my own mark through a career in research and teaching.
My advice to the incoming McNulty freshmen?
- Fall in love with learning, both inside and outside the classroom!
- Explore your academic interests. Declare a few minors…I have three! As college students, we have the rare opportunity to learn from impassioned, inspiring leaders in their fields.
- Find your purpose and inspire others to find theirs.
Shelley Donaldson (Mathematics): With May just around the corner, I’ve been constantly fielding the question “Are you ready to graduate?” The answer is yes, I am absolutely ready to move into the next chapter in my life, but there are many things I will miss about SJU. I will miss talking about music in the library with the other math majors when we should really be studying. I will miss chatting with the professors who care so deeply about my education and success. I will miss the view of Overbrook Pizza from my apartment window. I will miss this city. But above all else, I’ll miss the culture of service and social justice that permeates the campus.
I began my career at SJU with the Philadelphia Service Immersion Program (PSIP), which is an early move-in program where freshmen learn about Philadelphia through community service. My group learned about food justice while working in a community garden in a part of Philadelphia where affordable, fresh food is not easily accessible. PSIP was the perfect beginning to four years of learning about social justice and solidarity, as well as truly being in community with others.
Inspired by PSIP, I signed up to go on APEX, a spring break service immersion trip in the Appalachian region. Since freshman year, APEX has taken me to West Jefferson, North Carolina; Bluefield, West Virginia; and Clifton Gorge, Virginia. Each APEX trip presented unique lessons, challenges and opportunities for growth, and cannot be summed up into words. I have trouble imagining my time in college without these trips.
APEX gave me the opportunity to meet and connect on a deeper level with fellow students who shared my passion for social justice. I was able to engage in meaningful conversations with members of the communities we were serving–conversations that taught me about the complexity and nuances of our country’s political and economic landscapes. Because I participated in APEX each year, spring break always became an intentional time to reflect, ground myself, be fully attentive and present to those around me, and marvel at our shared humanity. I attribute much of my personal growth in college to these annual trips, and it is my hope that wherever my post-grad life takes me, I’ll be able to find people just as committed to service and social justice as in APEX and the broader SJU community.