25 Years Ago Today, I Was Graduated from College. Here’s What I Learned

My alma mater is Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia (1988-1992.) I studied Political Science with a minor in Philosophy/Religion. Marymount is a very small Catholic affiliated private university. I went there because it wasn’t in Pittsburgh and they offered me a full academic scholarship. That’s about all of the thought I put into it while in high school.

Turned out to be a pretty good decision.

In no particular order.

  1. Homesickness is hard. My Dad took all my calls, but told me over and over that I couldn’t come home until semester break. That was probably hard on him, but it was necessary.
  2. I picked my major on a whim (political science) and it turned out to be a valuable education NOW for my blogging/activist career. I paid closer attention that I thought.
  3. Maybe I am a writer. For Econ 101 (microeconomics), I turned in an exam in essay format complete with intro and summary statements. My instructor told me I should spend more time in the English Department.
  4. Economics is hard. Really hard. I hit my road block with Advanced Macroeconomics.
  5. Sandals and socks are a great combination. I learned that in the cafeteria from the jocks. And it is quite true to this very day.
  6. Going to college at a very small private setting right outside of DC was a perfect fit for me. I had a chance to grow up, but lots of safety nets.
  7. My education was tilted to the moderate-conservative side, but prepared me well to become a feminist and intersectional thinker.
  8. Discovering the cafeteria cereal dispensers is pretty much the greatest moment of your young adult life.
  9. Our campus had four dorms; I lived in three of them while a student and the fourth one summer while working on campus.
  10. I worked anywhere from 2-4 jobs while in school – several retail gigs, student desk monitor, Resident Assistant, tutoring, babysitting, typing papers for other students, etc – to cover my other expenses. Senior year, I got up at 5:30 three days a week to babysit for a family and get the kids off to school, then went to my own class.
  11. Freshman year, the following women lived on my dorm floor. I am not making this up: Susie, Susan, Suzanne, Suzonna, Su, and me. We mostly shared a hall telephone which created lots of confusion. I had a five-minute conversation with Susan’s father about his impending trip to campus before either of us realized the mistake.
  12. One of my classmates was the goddaughter of Antonin Scalia so he came to speak at the campus. I can’t remember her name. I remember he was impressive, but struck me as *really* Catholic in a not good way.
  13. First Lady Barbara Bush came to campus for an event in the cafeteria (which was ugly so no idea why) forcing all of the resident students to eat picnic style on the lacrosse/soccer field. I don’t think there was a rain plan.
  14. The nuns lived amongst us. Our school was founded and managed by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary (RSHM) and quite few lived on the campus in a building adjacent to one of the women’s dormitory.  The President of our school, Sister Majella, lived in an apartment IN THE DORM. I lived adjacent to her one year. She was the only person with a designated parking spot in that dorm.
  15. I met the world. Coming from sheltered little suburb West Mifflin to a campus with students from all over the world was mind-blowing, but wonderful. I think there were about 70 different countries that my fellow students called home. It was amazing.
  16. I was (am) terrible at confrontations. One thing I hated about being an RA was having to confront rule breakers and deal with them. I was a good back-up person if my co-RA on duty took the lead. I could glower. But I was pretty wishy washy otherwise.
  17. I went from disgruntled Catholic to super ardent to charismatic attendee and eventually found a happy medium. Like you do in college.
  18. Freshman year, I planned to transfer out to be closer to home. My academic advisor, Dr. Charles Smith, heard me out and challenged me to take his International Relations class in the Spring semester before I made a final decision. He reminded me of that on Commencement Day.
  19. I spent one summer tutoring nursing math. I never took the class, but they needed a tutor and I basically learned everything one day ahead of them. It was mostly applied math and I enjoyed the challenge. And the opportunity to see if I could do it.
  20. Rick Santorum internship June – December 1991. You’ve heard that story, I’m sure.
  21. Junior year, a horrible bout of flu swept through the dorms during finals. The infirmary was packed. It seemed we dragged students across campus every day to get them to the nurse. I remember finding a student from the fifth floor almost unconscious in the elevator. I ended up sick myself and woke up in infirmary unsure how I got there only to find the campus minister standing over me. That was jolting but he was just there to let me know that I could take my finals at my own pace.  Still, waking up with a priest staring at you never good. LOL
  22. A dog showed up at the dorm one day. The girls took him in which was not cool. One of the students insisted that the dog would be better off running loose in Arlington (!!!) than being turned into Animal Control. I never forgot that level of stupid.
  23. Domino’s Pizza. That’s what we ate.
  24. I used to get a lunch from the school cafeteria and take the Metro into DC on the weekends. Just me. I would visit the museums or galleries and then sit on the Mall reading a book. Those were exquisite DC moments.
  25. I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up. I opted for grad school because I thought I was a scholar (I was wrong), but Marymount wasn’t big on career counseling so beyond knowing that I did not want to return to Capital Hill for a career, I had no idea.

I’m still in touch with some of my college friends, but as you can imagine – leftie lesbian spouting on about all of the things is not really a Marymount alumni newsletter cover girl. I think it might be more of my being liberal Democrat than a lesbian, but you never know. Still, I cherish those experiences and those people. I got a great education and incredible opportunities just based on blind dumb luck of meeting a recruiter.

I certainly never thought I would use my political science background so very much as a blogger (a what?) back then. That education has been central to whatever success I’ve achieved here on this little blog. So kudos to Marymount University.

And thank you.


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