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Four Years at the Mount

Junior year

Things are different at the Mount

Shea Rowell
Class of 2019

(9/2017) A few years ago, during my last year of high school, a single question was at the forefront of my mind. How could it not be, as every one of my friends, teachers, and family members would ask me the same question: where are you going to college? My answer was invariably some form of the ever-reassuring phrase, "I donít know." I had no clue where I would end up, or where I wanted to be. I was undecided as to what I would study, and completely lost in the sea of possible career choices. Many of my classmates were able to answer the question in startling detail, as if they had their whole lives planned. Theyíd be attending Shenandoah for nursing, JMU for accounting, Virginia Tech for engineering, or some specific combination of a dream school and career. I was not quite so certain. I knew that I enjoyed music, and that I loved to read and write. I wanted to incorporate both into my college studies. I wanted to continue my education in French, and even take a few classes in subjects I had never taken before. All I really knew was that I wanted to learn, and improve myself in as many ways as I could. To my dismay, none of my College Board research provided a school with a major in "Everything." Most schools I visited championed the career-oriented, fast-track programs that I dreaded, but one school was different. A liberal arts school, where every student was required to take classes in multiple disciplines. A school where faith was incorporated into the academic program, and where undecided students like myself would have the freedom to explore.

Before long, I found myself enrolled at Mount St. Maryís University, studying Music, English, and French. I fell in love with my major studies, and even those classes outside of my major like Mathematics, Philosophy, Theology, and Sociology. I was fascinated by the depth of knowledge my professors had achieved, and how they were able to challenge their students to think in new ways and expand their horizons. I found myself in awe of the people who I met there. Students standing in front of carefully-decorated poster boards, advertising Pan-Africa Club, Amnesty International, and Ballroom Dance Club communicated their enthusiasm for new members. The campus chaplain captured attention with his joyous demeanor, and friendly chatter with students. Campus calendars were filled with sports games, service trips, dances, and concerts. Even though I knew it would be impossible, I wanted to attend every event, join at least ten clubs, and take 22 credit hours of classes. The Mount had more opportunities to grow and explore than I had hoped for. I knew I had chosen the right school.

Every semester, every week, and every class I would spend at the Mount after that would affirm my choice. I would soon learn that the Mount is a place where everyone is given the opportunity to be an individual. Each person has an opportunity to grow and learn, to discover his or her passions, and to explore faith. Each is known by name by his or her professors, coaches, and instructors. At the Mount, a student is more than a number, a potential evaluation, or a blank stare in a lecture hall. Each student is a person with unique skills, passions, and backgrounds. This, for the Mount, makes all the difference.

The Mount is unique because of the people who live and work within her. Itís the professor whose door is always open for assistance during office hours. Itís the music instructor who poses welcome challenges to his students, and guides them as they rise to it. Itís the basketball players who salute their fans after a tough game out of state, and the coach who reflects upon their season with grateful tears. Itís the resident assistants who work long hours to ensure the safety of their peers, and the students who spend late library nights with a large coffee and a paper to finish before morning. Itís the dining staff who always greet you with a smile and familiar chatterósometimes a hug if youíre lucky. Each of these people contributes to the wider entity that is the university. Each of them leaves their mark on the school, and makes the Mount a place where everyone is given the encouragement not only to succeed, but to flourish. Sometimes, it seems that the Mount is a person herself. One with her own desires, motives, personality, and voice. She, influenced by her students, faculty, and staff, advocates for kindness, and values integrity over worldly success. She is welcoming, as many come to her seeking a home. She integrates scholarship with faith, and provides a place where students can come to live, learn, and grow.

And so I have. My two years at the Mount have passed faster than I knew time could move. But within them, I have learned about history and philosophy, theology, and sociology. I have travelled to Birmingham to explore Civil Rights history, and Gettysburg to explore the pizza (and the battlefields too). Washington DC to learn about the Holocaust and to experience a professional Shakespeare production. I have made music with local groups who have taught me to be courageous enough to play loudly and confidently (but also, to play the right notes), and not-so-local groups who have taught me to survive rehearsals conducted in Russian or Chinese. Iíve cried through my first bite of spicy Pakistani food, and attended a morning prayer service at Frederickís local mosque with my roommate to pray as Muslims do. Iíve been challenged to tutor my peers in mathematics, and to climb a little higher at Cunningham Falls. I have escaped daily routines through Campus Ministry retreats, and have spent more time in prayer and study of my faith than I ever thought I would. In many unexpected ways, the Mount and the people Iíve met there have given me the gifts of growth and exploration, study and faith. While in many ways I am still the same frightened young person whose future is uncertain, I couldnít be more enthusiastic to spend my present at Mount St. Maryís.

Read other articles by Shea Rowell