An Elegant Affair
October 18, 2012
Marymount's 2012 President's Circle Dinner, held last week at the Arlington Westin Gateway Hotel, took the Common Ground theme to a whole new level of elegance. The dinner, attended by 130 of Marymount's most generous supporters, provided an opportunity for President Shank to talk about his vision for the University's future.
The vision statement - created after a yearlong process that involved input from all members of the MU community - provides the foundation and impetus for the Common Ground campaign:
Marymount University will be known as a comprehensive Catholic university and the institution of choice for students, faculty, and staff. Marymount will distinguish itself through a culture of engagement that fosters intellectual curiosity, service to others, and a global perspective.
At the dinner, President Shank introduced three students who exemplify the values of intellectual curiosity, service to others, and global perspective. They are Cyndi Trang, Marissa McGrath, and Luis Fernandez.
An Honors Program student, Cyndi is a senior majoring in Biology. She serves as president of MU's Science Club and has made it one of the most active organizations on campus. Under her leadership, the club's members have visited the National Air and Space Museum to hear a talk by a leading theoretical astrophysicist; enjoyed a private tour of the National Museum of Natural History; viewed open-heart surgery at Inova Fairfax Hospital; and visited National Geographic's headquarters to hear a talk on Blue Holes and Dark Energy.
Last summer, with funding from a Marymount DISCOVER research grant, Cyndi worked on modeling toxoplasmosis epidemiology using computational mathematics. She is now exploring conferences where she can present her research results. Cyndi is also in the process of applying to medical schools for next year. She is interested in nephrology and lupus research. In line with that aspiration, she is doing her Honors Thesis on a cell adhesion molecule in lupus mice models. Clearly, Cyndi Trang exemplifies Marymount's commitment to intellectual inquiry!
A senior majoring in Fashion Merchandising, Marissa is a recipient of Marymount's Spirit of Service Scholarship. She has served as the head coordinator for both of MU's major annual on-campus service events - HalloweenFest for disadvantaged children, and the Special Olympics Regional Basketball Tournament. A member of Marymount's Campus Ministry Student Leadership team, Marissa is also active with the University's Grate Patrol - a program through which students provide food boxes and hot coffee to homeless people in DC. In addition, she has participated in Marymount's Alternative Spring Break program, traveling to Lima, Peru, in her sophomore year and to Banica, Dominican Republic, as a junior. In both places, she and her MU colleagues worked with children and helped with needed construction and repair projects.
Last summer, Marissa volunteered with Missionaries of the Poor in Jamaica, where she had the opportunity to work with abandoned people of all ages. Now, as she prepares to graduate, Marissa is researching job prospects. She has identified several companies that designate a portion of their profits for charity, and says that she would like to work for a place like that. Marissa also intends to continue volunteering with the Missionaries of the Poor, as well as doing service work in her own community. Her life is a true reflection of the Marymount spirit of service.
Luis is a senior Communications major, with a minor in Social Entrepreneurship. Last summer, he traveled to Belize with students from several MU courses - in biology, sociology, and video production - to take part in a collaborative project focused on the endangered Hawksbill sea turtle. Luis was hesitant to sign up when he first heard about the program, but now says, "It was a once-in-a-lifetime, eye-opening experience." The beautiful land, the poverty prevalent in the village where the students were based, and the positive outlook of the people there really touched Luis's heart. He says, "It put everything in perspective. We take so much for granted in the United States, then you go to a very different place and see how the people live a simple life and love what they do. Remembering that keeps you humble and also passionate about your work and your life."
Now, Luis is looking into returning to Belize as an intern next summer, after he graduates. He wants to help the Hawksbill Hope Foundation, established by Marymount Professor of Biology Dr. Todd Rimkus, develop its public relations and social media efforts. After that, Luis will turn his attention to the job market; he plans to work as a social media coordinator or PR manager. Eventually, Luis hopes to start his own business. Both American and international students went on the Belize trip, and everyone involved benefited from being immersed in a new culture and working together to address issues that have an impact on the environment and people's lives. As a member of that team, Luis fully experienced Marymount's commitment to a global perspective.
President Shank concluded his remarks at the dinner by noting that "Cyndi, Marissa, and Luis are representative of the students we serve at Marymount. They make the most of the opportunities we provide and seek out additional ways to advance their learning, their dedication to service, and their understanding of our complex, interconnected world." And he told the benefactors present, "Your generous support helps to make their education possible."
What a great celebration of the Marymount University spirit! Intellectual inquiry, commitment to service, a global perspective: This is Marymount, and this is our Common Ground.