Episode 4: Characteristics of a Marianist University


Carrie: All right. Welcome, lit-nerds, back to a new semester here. We are your mod-cast crew.

My name is Carrie Villarreal, and one of the reasons that I chose to come to a Marianist university was because this is the very first time that I applied to a program where the program director actually reached out to me and asked me in for a conversation. And they were willing to work with me through some particular situations that could have prevented me from pursuing a graduate degree, but they helped me overcome those, and so that’s why I chose it. 

And with me today is the lovely…

Leigh Ann: Leigh Ann Cowan, and I am in the English Literature and Languages program here with Carrie and everyone else in the room–there’s four of us by the way, just to give you a heads up–and I decided to come to a university because when I was looking to apply to grad schools, I knew that Catholic organizations tend to have the best programs, even if they are more expensive, but that’s kind of why they’re more expensive. 

But another big reason: I was looking specifically for disability programs and the accessibility  programs they have in place. I found that St. Mary’s actually had one of the best accessibility programs for deaf people that I’ve even encountered in all of my searches, and I’ve been looking across the United States for different schools. So, and it’s just a big community of support and accessibility, and that’s why I decided to come here. 

Carrie: Awesome. And also with us is the indomitable…

Forest: Forest LeBaron. Hello. I chose St. Mary’s because I was kind of dragged by my arms and my legs by Dr. Hill because she showed me that even though I was unnerved about coming to a

graduate program, but a graduate program much less a Catholic University, that it was going to be something that was gonna show me community support and just kind of a friendship that I’ve never really had in a university before. So that’s kind of why I chose to come here. Also, because I’m a grad student now so, that’s important yeah. 

Carrie: Yay! And joining us tonight we also have the lovely…

Lane: Lane Riggs. Hi, everyone. I chose St. Mary’s because when I went to my undergrad I was really far away from home. And even though there was a good sense of community there, I just felt pretty isolated from my family, so I wanted to come back home. This is only an hour away. I commute every day but I just love it here. I grew up Catholic so it’s really nice to be at a university that really focuses on that religion and what it’s all about. 

Carrie: Yeah, absolutely. And so if you couldn’t tell from my intros one of the things we do want to talk about tonight is the Characteristics of a Marianist University, and in fact that’s kind of

the text that we are working with right now. It’s kind of these mission statements, and these beliefs, and this vision that not only Marianist universities like St. Mary’s has, but the Chaminade University of Honolulu and the University of Dayton. 

And I think you could kind of tell from our little stories here is that there is something unique and special and different about coming to a Marianist University, whether or not you are a Catholic like Lane, who was that way and then who maybe came to that faith through the RCIA process; or maybe you’re not Catholic, or you’re in another denomination, or you’re non-denominational; or maybe you haven’t quite espoused to a faith or whatever. But there is a place for everybody at a Marianist University, and one of those is because Marianist Universities are really great about community support, diversity, and acceptance. 

And so I kind of want to just talk about your experiences here with that because I know Leigh Ann and Forest, you’re in your last semesters, and I’m in like–I’ve still got, like, a year and a half left, and Lane is in the same position. So, tell us about, like, how you have seen that, like, grow over your time here. 

Leigh Ann: As far as support and community goes, I’ve never really run into anybody who’s been up front in my face about my deafness, at my undergrad there were people, like–they were children, apparently, taking my hearing aids out of my ear, stuff like that. I’ve never had that here, thank goodness. When I first came here, they had a live captioning system in place, a provider who would come on campus or would remotely caption my classes for me, but it wasn’t that great of a system. 

What they did is–I would keep–I would bring up the problem to them, and they would work to solve it immediately. They would collaborate with each other across campus, and they would come to the classroom and do some checks for me. Just really on top of it. And that was something I really appreciated. So they really do value diversity and they want to make sure you can stay in the program and keep up with your peers and graduate. So. 

Forest: Yeah, I kind of encountered the same thing, though I’m–I don’t have, necessarily, a visible or an invisible disability. It was more along the lines of support when I kind of felt like I

wasn’t gonna be able to finish. Not necessarily because of the program itself, but because of outside factors. Dr. Hill and my peers around me kind of just supported me and made sure that I knew that I wasn’t alone in what I was doing. 

So, it was just that kind of support that I had never really had at a bigger university, or you know, like a smaller community college for my summer courses. They just kind of gathered around me and kind of like forced me to do everything, which was great at the end of the day, but, you know, during that you don’t really think it’s great. But it is very fantastic to have

that support and the community that surrounds you. 

Leigh Ann: They lift you up whether you want it or not. 


Carrie: You’re gonna get wings, you don’t have a choice.

Yeah. And, like, for me, I was terrified. So, this is actually my second graduate degree that I’m pursuing. My first is in education, and it was a hybrid, which was–I did most of it online, but I would occasionally go in in person. 

And I was terrified coming into a graduate program focused on English Lit and Language because it’s my love. Because I didn’t think I was gonna be smart enough to make it through. And so this idea of, like, acceptance–Dr. Hill again–I mean she’s just phenomenal. When she called me in to talk to me she’s like, you can do it, and then I got into the first class with modernism and post-modernism. And I heard everybody talk and I’m like, there’s no way I belong here. 

But I felt really accepted throughout the whole process by all my peers. So, and I think that goes onto this idea of using education to shape the future. I think that that is something that I know Dr. Hill has said before, and as a teacher myself, it has really, like, resonated with me. 

We read this poem by Gloria Anzaldúa in the modernism/ post-modernism class, “To Delia,

Who Failed on Principles.” And it was this whole idea of Gloria Anzaldúa, was like, you know, I think the first time I had the student she was so kind and she was a really great hard worker, but she didn’t have the skill to pass and so she failed. But then the second time around, she’s, like, now I just pass everybody on principle. And I love that.

I love that vision here at this Marianist University about the idea that we want you to learn the skill and the content to be able to do it, and that the grades don’t matter so much as being able to

take that education and use it to critically think about the future, and use that to form your character, perform ethically in your communities, and things like that. 

Forest: Yeah, I think it’s really important that they kind of–it’s not necessarily based on the grade so much as what you can conceptualize throughout the semester and what you use with that conceptualization. Just kind of taking all the ideas all the way around and changing not only your viewpoint, but how you see other things that surround you, whether it’s the literature or kind of

the things that are going on around you, you know, socially, and, you know, in your own kind of personal private sphere. And that’s really important, I think, in building your character, is just kind of taking that and going a step further. 

So it’s not only in school, it’s in your life, so you can transfer it into other people’s lives that surround you. 

Carrie: Yeah, absolutely.

And I think that goes along with one of the tenets that are characteristics, that Marianist universities really try to explore in their coursework, is this idea of exploring what it means to be human. And I think that that gets…

So, I come–my undergrad is from a really big university, and so is my first graduate degree and you kind of just get lost in those huge stadium classes in those schools. And to be perfectly honest, like, if I had known then what I know now, I would have chosen a different path for

my undergrad because I really struggled. I really really struggled my first year, and in fact I got–this is going to be TMI right here but–I got severe depression, and I actually left school, and I didn’t think I was going to ever go back. In fact, I was going to go into the military. And that worked out really well because here I am sitting before you. 

But I was really lost and part of it was because I felt invisible, and I felt like while I was learning lots of great stuff, I really wasn’t being asked to do anything with it. And I think that that is something, that here at a Marianist University they challenged us to not only form our character but really to explore what it means to be human. 

Leigh Ann: Part of that goes back again to valuing us and making connections with us. 

Lane: I know when I was looking at coming to St. Mary’s, kind of like what Carrie said, it was just a really nerve-wracking ordeal. I kept thinking, oh God, all these people are going to be so much smarter than me. And when I first met Dr. Hill, I mean, immediately she made me feel comfortable. She was asking me what my worries were, and she has just worked with me throughout my first semester, and now this new semester. And she’ll just occasionally send out an email saying, hey, I thought you might be interested in this, or what about this, and it’s just really nice, like Carrie said, to be seen and valued. 

Forest: Mmm. You know. It’s one of those hard things when you come from a big university because it’s the same thing for me. I was, you know, a very big brand-name university in Texas, and I ended up having really terrible depression and anxiety, and dropped out for a year, and then went back, but transferred to another name brand university that was in my same home state, and so, you know. My ultimate goal was to just graduate, graduate, graduate, graduate. And I took a year off after I graduated because, you know, and I was done, that was it. 

And then I realized how much I missed being at school, even though I didn’t realize it. And so when I came to St. Mary’s, I realized what I was missing was the support, and then the people that were in the same mind state as myself. And I realized that in those bigger name-brand places that I wasn’t necessarily getting that, and so when I came here, I realized exactly what I was missing. So. 

Carrie: Absolutely. And I think that that, like, really made me think of one of those characteristics of the Marianist University, is this idea that while other post-secondary institutions are focused on this idea of job-oriented majors, you know, really like graduate,

graduate, graduate, enter the workforce, you know, air-quote American dream…That, you know, a Marianist University really focuses on liberal arts. And, like we talked about, building character and exploring what it means to be human, like.

So, in the education world we talked about educating the whole child, so that’s not just helping them learn the content, but also helping them grow socially, emotionally, and I think that that is what I get here that I haven’t gotten anywhere else. 

Forest: Yeah, you can’t acceptably go into a job without being a whole person because if you’re not a whole person, not saying that you’re not gonna succeed, but you’re not gonna succeed happily. 

And that’s the most important thing, is being able to succeed in the workforce happily in your

character and what you’re doing. And I think that’s very important, and that’s kind of just what drives the Marianist community here. 

Carrie: Yeah. And going along with that idea of helping grow the whole person, um, is that something that I’ve always–at least in my experience here–is that the professors and even my classmates and the university itself operates on just structures and fair practices. 

So, especially with grading, like, I’ve never, like, handed in something and been like, this is the final, right? So, like, especially in an English Lit and Language major, or even in any liberal art where, like, I don’t–I don’t know what–like, you know, hard sciences are like, but I know like in the writing process because I’m an English teacher, when you write something it’s never done. 

Right, the revision and editing process is ongoing, and things like that. And so, and–I’m not even sure if, like, this is like to the T of, like, what that particular tenet is talking about in the characteristics, but this idea of–you have an opportunity to redo, you have an opportunity to grow, you have an opportunity to learn. And I think that’s a really fair practice. 

Forest: There’s–yeah.

There’s never been a time when it’s been like you’re failing, that’s it, no more, bye.

Which I’ve experienced before at other institutions, right, and so here it’s really just kind of like, I’m gonna give you another opportunity and you have this chance, please use it. And then you use it! ‘Cause–

Carrie: Yeah!

Forest: Because then you don’t have another chance like that

Carrie: Yeah, and it really–it really says something when, like, you are worried about a class, you’re worried about a professor, and you’re asking all the people you know who has taken this professor and they’re like, they always say they’re really hard but they’re really fair. You have to be willing to, you know, ask questions and do the work, but they are also willing to go along with you and meet you halfway. 

So, I think that that says a lot about the professors here at St. Mary’s that I haven’t always experienced at other schools. 

Leigh Ann: Like a culture of empathy. 

Carrie: Yes, that’s a really great one, I really like–I’m going to have to remember that. 

That, and then something else: one of the main characteristics that’s really nice about the Marianist University is this idea of cross-cultural immersion. So, not only like within the school

itself, but in the community at large. Because I’m–I haven’t been able to go on any of these, but I know that there are departments and groups that do travel the world. They go to different places, to study different things, or to give back in some capacity. 

Forest: Lots of opportunities to kind of go out into our own community, which is on the west side of San Antonio, which not a lot of people get to go to and see. And it’s–it’s one of those things where we’re just kind of this really big Catholic Marianist institution in a low-income community, so you look at the school, and then right across the street you see these houses that are not necessarily the same kind of, you know, architecture as our school. 

And so it’s this very big kind of divide, but realistically, there is no divide because we’re all connected in our community and the school. And so there’s no point in time where we look at the other side and we’re like no. 

We’re all in it together, and so we all go into the community, and we’re always there to support one another, no matter what that kind of distinction is between people or community or, you know, age, or race, or gender, class. There’s no distinction there. We’re all together. 

Carrie: Right. So, instead of being part of separate communities, we’re part of the human community, right, which I think again goes back to those characteristics we enjoy so much about

being at a Marianist University, and specifically here at St. Mary’s in San Antonio. 

So, yeah. So that’s why we’re here, and that’s why we think other people should come, too, because you would really enjoy it. Um, this is a soft sell, by the way.


Um, but yes. Thank you for joining us tonight as we talked about Marianist characteristics and really why we are in school and why we choose to come back to school at St. Mary’s. 

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