Voices of Trinity: May 2021 Graduates Share Their Stories!

May 11, 2021

You did it!!!  You triumphed over the pandemic, over the insurrection, over the political messes and economic hardships and very tough assignments from professors who have your best interests always at the top of their concerns.  Congratulations to the great Blue Class of 2021!  You have earned your Trinity degrees through a great deal of hard work, intellectual rigor and true inspiration.  You now move on into the next phase of your lives as Trinity alumnae and alumni, ready to tackle some of the world’s great problems even as you solve some of the simpler needs in your places of work and at home.  We are proud of you!  These are your stories…

Lesly (Sam) Murillo, CAS, BA, Health Services

I immigrated to the United States when I was seven years old. Little did I know that the experience that would lie ahead would pave the way towards an up-and-downhill journey in navigating this country and its legislation as an undocumented immigrant. Growing up, my family and I faced many adversities and overcame multiple barriers throughout the years. I would say that the greatest challenge I faced was finding a college that would open its doors for me and allow me to continue my education.

I am a DACA recipient from a small town in Indiana called Jeffersonville, while I love my hometown it was evident to me that the love was not reciprocated. As a DACA recipient, the opportunities for me to further my education were inequitable to those that my peers were presented with. I applied to every school in Indiana and they all denied me in-state tuition because of my DACA status. I was left at a crossroads with a great disadvantage and I remember asking myself what I had done wrong. I was an honor roll student, graduated with a 4.5 GPA, was in school clubs and sports. I did everything that was required and was still being denied an opportunity which was all I ever asked for.

That is of course until I came upon thedream.us scholarship and that is how Trinity found me. I say that Trinity found me because I was on the verge of giving up, and right when I needed it Trinity opened its doors for me and took me in. It is still unbelievable to me that four years have gone by. I have built beautiful relationships here both personal and professional. I have become a better person, a better friend, a better student, it may be a cheesy slogan but Trinity is the place where you will discover your strength. I will forever cherish my time at Trinity and I hope that everyone takes the opportunity to grow and learn from this wonderful institution.

Courtney D. Cook, BGS, M.A. Strategic Communication and Public Relations

As a developing professional in communications and public affairs, I greatly appreciate the opportunity to pursue and complete a master’s degree in Strategic Communication and Public Relations at Trinity Washington University. My graduate school experience has been phenomenal. My journey at Trinity began in August of 2018, and now—three years later—I feel fortunate to successfully complete the program. At just the right time, after working several years to gain professional experience, I then decided to pursue the Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Public Relations to gain more knowledge and expertise in the communications industry. Now, as a Communications Specialist, I look forward to effectively applying the information while in my current role in the federal government. The master’s degree in Strategic Communications and Public Relations perfectly aligns with my skills, education, and experience. It also serves as a practical complement to my Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from the University of Maryland, College Park and professional certificate in digital marketing from Georgetown University.

Trinity’s motto, “Discover Your Strength,” characterizes my growth over the past three years in the graduate program. Throughout the years, I discovered my own strengths and resilience—which increased my faith to maximize my full potential. Completing the Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Public Relations at Trinity Washington University was a valuable experience—I appreciate earning this credential as I continue to apply the knowledge as a practitioner in the field of communications and public affairs.

Ikea Hicks, CAS, BA in Business Administration, Minor in International Affairs

Coming up, I never thought of going to college because it was not something that was introduced to me. It was never talked about in my home, my community, or amongst my circle of peers. It was my senior year of high school when my teacher who had taken a liking to me asked me if I was going to college. I could not answer her because college and its benefits were not something that I was familiar with.  I always knew that I loved fashion and beauty. Within these fields I wanted to establish financial stability as well as generational wealth for my kids and their children to come. I also knew that I wanted to be my own boss and travel the world. Right after this eye-opening conversation with my teacher I applied for the Art Institute of Arlington Virginia and got accepted. Something led me to Trinity and now I am the first of my generation to graduate from college in my family. I have a major in business administration and a minor in international affairs. I appreciate my experience at Trinity and the inspiring women around me that guided and allowed me to introduce something new to my family that we all can be proud of, which is academic achievement. With my education, encounters, and experience from college I will be a multi-business owner in the fashion, modeling, and beauty industries. While at Trinity I have went for my goals and walked in DCFashion Week, I was published in PUMP Magazine, and I was on WUSA9 news for fashion. One day you’ll see my name or face on a billboard. With the help of Trinity, I have become the best version of myself. Of course, throughout high school and college life as well as a selective few tried to discourage me, but I quickly learned that I am in control of my success and I can make anything happen. I claim everything that I want out of life and manifest it. I learn from my losses and come back even harder. These are skills that my experiences at Trinity have instilled in my way of thinking and I am forever grateful. I am extremely proud of my Trinity sisters as well as myself for rising to the occasion so gracefully and successfully.

Anthony Barbiero, NHP, Master’s in Public Health

My name is Anthony Barberio, graduating with a Masters of Public Health Degree from the school of Nursing and Health Professions. Before coming to Trinity, I took a gap year after I got my undergraduate degree from Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where I was a mediocre student. I was in Houston, Texas working as an Americorps member where I helped with the relief effort for Hurricane Harvey. I was applying to schools all over the country throughout that year to see if I could continue my education but it was rejection letter after rejection letter. Until one day just after my term with the Americorps had ended, I was just laying on my couch/bed in my studio apartment in Houston when I got a text from my father who called the admissions office at Trinity before they sent out the official acceptance emails, telling me that I had been accepted. In that moment, a switch flipped in my mind, and I told myself I would not let myself ruin this opportunity. Since coming to Trinity I had gotten all A’s and only received one B in my last semester. I have gained great relationships with my professors and fellow classmates. The environment at Trinity is filled with support from everywhere, enrollment services, faculty, and staff. Dean McGuire was even kind enough to do an interview with me for my class with Dr. Watson. My time here at Trinity will never be forgotten and I will always view it as a monumental point in my life and in my career path. I am currently enrolled to be in Catholic University’s accelerated Masters of Science in Business program in the fall to make myself more marketable, and I would not have been selected for that program, had it not been for the help Trinity gave me upon my arrival. Thank you so much to everybody at Trinity!

Shawron D. Leslie, SPS, BS in Accounting

My name is Shawron Leslie and I am a 51-year-old Trinity graduate to be. This journey at Trinity began for me when I made the decision to return to college after 23 years in 2015. Previously I had attended Norfolk State and Howard University for Architecture between 1989 to 1992 but due to being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called sarcoidosis which attacked my lungs and eyesight even at one point causing me to become temporarily blind, I had to take a health break from school. After over a year of oral and topical steroid treatment for my lungs and eyes, the disease went into remission and still is today. I still have scarring in my lungs and eyes. After getting back healthy, I decided not to go back to school but to get two jobs to pay back student loans which took me 9 years to payoff. I had my son in 2000 and he became my reason and focus. My profession at the time my son arrived was music related, but in 2003 I made a career move from music to corporate American with Freddie Mac where I have been for 18 years now. I decided to go back to school in 2015 because I had always been the type that was taught to not start anything and not complete it. Having tuition reimbursement at my job also helped with the decision to go back. I also wanted to be a motivation and a role model for my son to attend college one day because he had just started high school at the time. I am now graduating after 6 years nonstop at Trinity with a 3.6+ gpa. My son is now attending college in Santa Barbara. Trinity will always hold a special place in my heart because not only did I finish what I started but I found my fiancée who also attends Trinity as a Psychology Major. I guess Life really does start after 50 (LOL).

Yoseline Rodriguez, CAS, BA in Health Services, Minors in Political Science and Business

My name is Yoseline Rodriguez, I am a Sr. Ann Kendrick Scholar coming from Apopka Florida. I am the 2021 Blue Class President and I am planning to graduate this May with a major in Health Services and a double minor in political science and business.

When I graduate, I plan to go back to Florida. I was offered a job opportunity at the Hope Community Center where I was a Cunneen fellow last summer. I will be their service-learning director in their college immersion program.

At the beginning of the Covid pandemic last year, I, unfortunately, had a close family member pass away after being in contact with Covid. My professors at Trinity were able to help me accommodate my studies during such a hard time. I was also doing my fellowship with Sister Ann Howard (Director of Campus Ministry) at the time and she allowed me to talk about my situation and helped me spiritually and mentally.

I was also able to get financial aid on behalf of my school during the pandemic. Since my family is undocumented, we did not qualify for any financial help including stimulus checks, so trying to pay bills was hard during the pandemic. My parents are front-line workers at a packaging company in Florida so the financial help I received from Trinity helped me help my family make some ends meet. If I went to another school, I would not think that I would be comfortable talking about my situation.

Coming from the South, I was not used to a space that allowed me to share my story of being an undocumented Latinx woman. Trinity has provided a space that allowed me to grow in all aspects of my life. All staff and professors are committed to genuinely helping students, which I know future students will appreciate.

Marquita Foster, SPS, BS, Business Administration

I began my journey at Trinity fifteen years ago in the spring of 2006. I transferred from Prince Georges Community College to attend Trinity at the THEARC which was perfect because it was near my home. Location and flexibility were important for me as student, and a single mother raising three children. I needed to be close to home, and in environment that offered more flexibility. During, my tenure at Trinity l endured some hardships which caused me to take several breaks, but I never gave up. In, 2008 my dad passed suddenly, and I took a break for 2 years to regroup. I juggled raising three children with no help or support, worked fulltime, and attended class in the evenings or weekends. Although, I experienced hardships and took breaks while attending Trinity my goal was to obtain my bachelor’s degree no matter what or how long it took. I never placed a time limit on myself, and I just pressed forward. Spring, 2016 I graduated from Trinity THEARC with my Associates of Arts Degree/ General Studies, and moved on to main campus in Fall, 2016. Throughout, my journey at Trinity I have met some amazing friends and associates. The faculty and staff members are outstanding and have helped make my educational journey one that will last a lifetime. I am grateful to Trinity Washington University for establishing THEARC to give residents east of the river a more equitable, and much needed opportunity to further our education. I will be the first in my immediate family to receive a degree in higher education, and so excited to be graduating May 2021 with my degree in Business Administration. This year I launched a business titled” The Write Move Consulting Group”.  I’m excited to say that I was accepted into Trinity’s MBA program for Fall, 2021. Thank you, Trinity, for all that you’ve done for me. I am forever grateful.

Gizelle Taylor-Daniels, SPS, BA in Health Services and LaDonya McClure, SPS, BA in Health Services

Hello!! My name is Gizelle Taylor-Daniels. My senior year experience as a student has been a melancholy feeling. The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered our mindset in all aspects of life. From socially distanced public outings to virtual work experiences, many people are confused about what to do next. College students have taken on virtual learning in a mission to further their knowledge and positioned themselves for future opportunities. However, it is possible that these opportunities that we are working so hard for may dwindle while virtual learning leaves a questionable imprint on higher education.

At the beginning of this school year, I was as excited as anyone else to be a college senior. The idea of two more semesters of hard work, overnight study sessions, and career planning seemed great, considering in May I would be set for that next step in life. I have heard so many of my classmates express how frustrated and devastated they were that they were not having the college experience they always imagined. Unfortunately, we are all grieving the loss of our pre-COVID realities, and the “new normal” has been anything but normal. My old assumptions no longer fit my current circumstances and accepting this was no small task.

Trinity Washington University Faculty and Staff worked very hard and diligently. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust higher education into uncharted waters and with challenges impacting all facets. While all employees have had to adjust how they live and work, faculty members have experienced significant disruption. Faculty members were forced to fundamentally reevaluate the way they would deliver value to every student while ensuring that faculty and staff have the resources and support, they needed to perform their jobs safely and effectively. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for the commitment and dedication through the pandemic.

Trinity Washington University, has had no shortage of amazing professors who shared their knowledge and passion with their students, ultimately inspiring each of us through the challenging storms. Trinity’s professors have such a profound influence through inspiring lectures, professional advice, or through their sense humor. The professors were all compassionate and emphatic to our emotions, and struggles, the pandemic had taken loved ones, jobs, and our sense of security. That very compassion and empathy has allowed me and every other student to be resilient through the pandemic. Academic continuity was ensured to every student during the pandemic, while keeping the community as safe as possible.

I would like to thank my partner in success LaDonya McClure for seeing what I could not see in myself at the time. LaDonya and I came as a package, and we are graduating as a package. Our goal was to attend college together, take the same classes together, and complete the program within 4 years together. Together we will graduate on Friday May 21, 2021!!! Despite the pandemic LaDonya and I enjoyed the Health Services Program. The professors were all awesome, class lectures, group projects, and of course the many papers were great experiences. Having a support system is golden, LaDonya and I held each other accountable. It was imperative that we accomplished A’s and B’s we are the examples for our family and more importantly our grandchildren. We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to every professor that we have encountered during our journey at Trinity Washington University. May God continue to BLESS you all for your gifting, wisdom, knowledge and understanding.

Lashon Clark, CAS, BA Sociology

As I reflect on my last four years at Trinity, I am stunned by my success and the support provided by the faculty. My road to college was an unconventional one,  but through the grace of god, ambition, work ethic, mentors, and others, I succeeded. I am proud of myself!

 

David A. Rowe, SPS, BA, Human Relations

I am 59-year-old African American male. I served four plus years in the US Army. Currently, I am a 2021 class graduate of Trinity University.  I was using drugs for 20 years and one day. I realized that something needed to change. I made a decision to leave Newark, NJ in 2001, but on the final night of being in the city of Newark, NJ, I was assaulted, robbed, and ended up in the city hospital with a fractured jaw. I needed to have my jaw wired. From the information given to me by the police, they found me lying on a sidewalk unconscious. The police found an ex-girlfriend’s information in my wallet and contacted her. Being the loving person that she is, she showed up at the hospital to support me.  Once I was released, she took me to her house.  This event only confirmed my decision to relocate to the State of Maryland to be with family, who had moved there in the mid-80’s.  That was exactly what I did.

The next morning, she called my brother in Maryland.  She took me to the train station where I took an Amtrak heading out of town for good.  To this very day, I do not remember, who it was, or how many it was that attacked me.  After being in several treatment facilities and becoming homeless in New Jersey, I knew this was not how my parents raised me and if they saw the state, I was in, it would break their hearts.

Upon moving to Maryland, with nothing but the clothes on my back and a broken spirit, I had a plan of what I wanted to do to re-invent myself and change my life. When I arrived at my brother’s house, I felt relieved from the lifestyle of using drugs. I was so burnt out, I slept on my brother’s couch, in his living room, for seven consecutive days. The only time I awakened from my sleep was when his wife made sure I had food to eat. Truth be told, those 7 days were a detox.

On the 8th day, I asked my brother to take me to the Veteran’s Medical Center and I signed into the SARP outpatient program, (Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program) and I started serving God. From there I was educated on drug addiction, how to remain abstinent and become the person God created me to be. I started attending a 12-step program and was attending meetings daily.  I allowed others in the recovery process to show me how to live without drugs, and it was the best decision I have ever made up for my life.

From there, I worked at the hospital through Compensation Work Therapy. I started building up days of sobriety, meeting true friends, and reconnecting with family. I established a bank account and started providing for myself and living like a normal person. I had people in my life who were truly my friends, and I could now say I was living.  My family was proud of me, I became a father for the first time in my life to a beautiful daughter. I was a good dad, and everything was going well.  After multiple years of sobriety, I relapsed and I immediately went back to SARP, told my counselor what happened, and started relapse aftercare for six weeks.

By this time, my daughter was just a year old. I told one of my sisters about my relapse and I remember the conversation we had on April 27, 2004.  She said, “David, you cannot be selfish anymore, you have someone who is depending on you.”  This resonated in my soul, and I started crying. I made the commitment going forward, that I cannot revert to using drugs again, and I have not.

I remember my counselor in the SARP program having me write down my goals, and I do not remember all of them.  I remember the last of my goals, and they were, to get my real estate license and get a college degree.  I now, work as a Federal Government employee, a Medical Support Assistant, at the very same hospital I received substance abuse treatment. I have a Certification as Peer Specialist, I have my real estate license, and I am a graduate of Trinity University’s Class of 2021.  I have 17 years of sobriety!

 

Wandimu Dalkero, SPS, BA Health Services

“Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Amen!” Psalm 150: 1 &2

First of all, I would like to extend a deep gratitude for your generous support I received from my great school-Trinity Washington University all through my school years. My sincere thanks to all Trinity professors who are the reason for this event. Also, I am writing today to thank Christ House’s inpatient care unite staff, especially, Mary Jordan-clinical director of the center for all the support that they have extended to me during my time as a student at Trinity Washington University.  Thank You!

My name is Wondimu S. Dalkero, I was born and raised in Ethiopia. I was brought up by a family who had a strong belief in education. Unfortunately, my parents were not able to read and write single words in English. As a society, we did not have much opportunity to get a good education.  However, education has been an important part of my life. My connection with health care services was based on my experience with Mother Theresa’s sisters. They are a religious community of the Roman Catholic Church. They are my role model in health care services, In my diocese, they have a mission to serve the poor especially in the Health Care sector. I had an internship opportunity in one of the service centers where Mother Theresa’s sisters run. They inspired and formed my life to live for others. I  have learned unconditional love and care for the poorest of the poor. After I finish my internship, I decided to go to medical school, and when I finish come back to the mission and serve the poor. Unfortunately, my dream never happened, because, I left my country for South Africa as a refugee. In Nov 2010, I arrived in the U.S, and in 2018 I became an American Citizen. In America, we got so many opportunities and that opportunity gave me the chance to go back to school and to finish the unfinished business of the past dream- which was serving as a health care professional among the underprivileged community.

In 2012, I was been admitted to Trinity Washington University as SPS for the pre-nursing program. I put all my energy into my education. Even if various forms of challenges stand in my way, but I never gave up. I made a change on my major which was BSN and now BA in Health & Wellness Life was not smooth here because of so many ups down moments in my life. As an immigrant, I have experienced so many challenges. Challenges related to immigration status, family issues, homelessness, and unemployment, but all these never stop me from achieving my dream. I have a lot on the plate. My graduation will be the beginning of the bigger dream in my life.

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History = HERstory = OURstory

April 29, 2021

(screenshot from NBC News)

“Madam Speaker. Madam Vice President… No president has ever said those words from this podium; no president has ever said those words. And it’s about time.”

The President of the United States got it exactly right.  It’s about time!  When President Joe Biden began his address to the joint session of Congress last night by recognizing the historic significance of the two women sharing the dais with him, he acknowledged another important step on the slow but inevitable path forward in our national struggle for gender and racial equality.  Vice President Kamala Harris is the first woman, first person of African American and Asian identity to be the vice president of the United States.  Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is the first and still only woman to be elected Speaker of the House (and elected four times at that!).  Vice President Harris and Speaker Pelosi are now first and second in the line of presidential succession, something we hope is never necessary but an important fact nonetheless.

We have never before seen two women of power sitting behind the president during a joint session of Congress.  For almost all of U.S. history — except for the prior years when Speaker Pelosi also sat there — the faces behind the president were always white men.  We saw history before our very eyes last night, and could truly say with a great deal of satisfaction that history is also HERstory — and OUR story, too!  The fact that Speaker Pelosi is a Trinity alumna, Class of 1962, is a well known fact that gives us immense pride in the way she reflects our long institutional commitment to advancing women in leadership and public service.  Vice President Harris is a graduate of Howard University, our neighbors in D.C., and, like Trinity, a special mission institution.  Howard as the nation’s leading HBCU, and Trinity as a women’s college, share the commitment to advancing education and leadership for persons who have been historically marginalized in the hallways and podiums of power.

A comment on Twitter noted that the two most powerful women in the country graduated from great universities in a city that continues to be treated like a colony — so true!  The District of Columbia universities have educated these and other outstanding leaders for our nation, and yet, our city continues to be denied the most fundamental rights to representation in Congress and full self-determination of our own local laws and policies  The presence of Howard and Trinity alumnae on the dais last night must also reinforce the urgent demand for statehood for the District of Columbia!

Trinity students were very excited to see our Trinity sister Speaker Pelosi on the dais.  Mercy Ogutu and Michelle Vasquez both spoke of their respect for the Speaker and Vice President:

Michele Vasquez:  “As a first-generation college student, I am thrilled by the opportunity to see two great women leaders representing our country. I am inspired by their courage and ability to persist despite the circumstances that we may face. They are only a reminder of how much women’s leadership is needed!”

Mercy Ogutu:  “I am inspired by both Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris’ effort to work hard towards inclusion for minorities and women’s rights. Learning about their progression of work, has demonstrated their effort to make sure all people know that there is a seat at the table. I believe leadership is a choice, not a position. Both Speaker Pelosi and Vice President Harris, continue to work and create inclusive change for community development, inspiring young leaders to be the change today and tomorrow.”

Some comments on Twitter and elsewhere last night suggested that the presence of Speaker Pelosi and Vice President Harris behind President Biden was really no big deal, that it was still a man giving the big speech and women appearing in subordinate roles.  Well, yes, that is one interpretation, and we certainly agree that the presence of the two women in positions of power does not mean we have arrived at our final destination.  But social change is hard, it takes a very long time, and it’s never quite done.

OUR story will not be finished in our lifetimes, and perhaps never.  We celebrate the successes along the way, and we need to recognize the moments of achievement as incentive to keep pressing onward.  Even when the glorious day comes when a woman is standing at the lectern giving the big speech, we will not be done.  True gender, racial and social equality for all persons is a continuous challenge, a process across generations that must keep lifting people in places we have yet to touch.  We women who have made it to positions of influence, authority power must never forget the millions of women who still suffer discrimination, poverty, violence and marginalization, unable to realize their full potential because of ingrained prejudices and both official and unofficial policies that repress and discourage opportunities.  That’s why we persist at Trinity as a university still devoted to advancing women’s education and leadership.  And from that original mission we have come to a deep understanding and commitment to racial equity and justice as well, because the conditions that limit and oppress women are even more egregious and harmful for persons of different races and ethnicities

We congratulate our sisters on the dais for making progress!  We look forward to writing the next chapters in OUR story!

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Accountability and Justice

April 21, 2021

(photo credit)

Today, a Minnesota jury convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of all three counts of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.  But Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison called this verdict precisely: “I would not call today’s verdict justice, however, because justice implies true restoration. But it is accountability, which is the first step toward justice.”

Even as cheers, tears, high fives and hugs burst forth in expressions of relief and satisfaction around the country, the bitter reality of the Chauvin case is that George Floyd remains deceased, his family bereft of his presence so unjustly.  In the same way, the litany of the dead and their bereaved families is long and anguishing: the most recent victims of police violence  Adam Toledo, Daunte Wright, joining the seemingly endless list of names that includes Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, Botham Jean, Tamir Rice, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner and dozens of others Black men and women killed by police in circumstances that should never have required deadly force.

Today’s verdict should never have been necessary, because George Floyd should still be alive.  While there is certainly some degree of satisfaction in the realization that Derek Chauvin will receive appropriate and just retribution for his terrible crime, in fact, Attorney General Ellison is correct in saying that this verdict is not “justice” in the best sense of the word.  Accountability in one case, yes, but not justice in the sense of restoring a truly moral balance in the power that police wield with their charge to keep the peace and protect the people.  No single verdict can restore justice for the Black and Brown communities so devastated by official violence and real oppression.

If not justice, then what?  Ellison again is correct in saying that today’s verdict is a “first step” toward justice.  But true justice will not come unless and until this nation makes a genuine and sustained commitment to eradicating racial hatred, to achieving moral balance in law enforcement culture and tactics, to repudiating once and for all the corrupt and corrosive politics of nativism and white supremacy and ethnic discrimination and racial hatred that the recently departed presidential administration practiced with wanton enthusiasm heedless of the wreckage they left behind.  True justice will not come unless and until we are willing to accept the true meaning of the phrase “Black Lives Matter” not as a political slogan but as a moral commitment to work for racial justice and social equity for all people.

Where do we begin?  The fact that this nation survived a violent insurrection and attempt to overthrow the government on January 6 is a step in the right direction — that incident is not unrelated to the violence of Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck.  The former administration gave aid and comfort to a violent view of race and power, encouraging police and military with authoritarian rhetoric that encouraged so many macho displays of violence against people of color and those who would be their allies in this struggle.

It’s no secret that the mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6 included numerous persons with military and police training who found inspiration in the former president’s nativist rhetoric.  The former president first tried to stay in power with rhetoric that hinted at a fantastic hellscape of racial violence (his repeated appeals to “suburban housewives,” his insinuations of the collapse of civilization if “low income people” moved into certain neighborhoods) if Joe Biden won the election.  Then, when Biden actually won, the former president reverted to the ultimate lie, claiming that the election was a fraud, calling for the mob to go to the Capitol to “take back our country” as if all of the 80 million people who voted for Biden were not part of the country, including millions of Black voters who made the critical difference in Georgia and other states where the margins were razor thin.

The threat of official violence did not end with President Biden’s inauguration on January 20 any more than today’s Chauvin verdict restores racial justice against our disgraceful national history of police brutality.  Around this nation we are witnessing egregious efforts among states to enact new voting restrictions that would constrain the voting rights of persons of color most particularly, thus setting up the real specter of a national return to the nightmare of 2016-2020 in future elections.  The clear racial motivations behind the voter suppression movement cannot be overstated.

At the same time as parts of the political universe continue to engage in despicable racial manipulations, the United States continues in the grip of an epidemic more treacherous than coronavirus — the epidemic of gun violence that haunts and traumatizes communities and families across all social strata.  Citizen-on-citizen gun violence runs parallel to the epidemic of police violence — law enforcement officers are part of the communities, grow up in the families often plagued by violence, and develop their dispositions toward other people long before they join the long blue line.  In too many places, America is, sadly, a violent nation that also harbors deep racial animosities; no one should be surprised that police personnel sometimes reflect the characteristics of their communities.

How do we achieve true justice?  Some people call for a solution with the phrase “Defund the Police,” but this seems socially naive and impractical.  Instead, I believe we need a whole new method for selecting and training police, combined with entirely new ideas about how they can protect and serve their communities without resorting to exactly the kind of violence from which they should be protecting the citizens they serve.  We need police who are deeply steeped in the practices and purposes of anti-racism, who know how to defuse tense situations with non-violent tactics, who do not respond to provocation by reaching for their guns (or confusing their guns and tasers when under pressure) or using their knees to restrain suspects with neck-holds.

It’s not up to the police to do this kind of reform — at least not by themselves.  We need the political willpower to elect public leaders — mayors, councilmembers, governors, members of Congress, presidents — who can manage the police effectively, who make clear their expectations for policing that is honest, just, nonviolent and anti-racist to its core.  We need to call out those politicians who use inflammatory rhetoric too often in praise of bad acts by law enforcement as somehow necessary while failing to condemn those acts as abuses of power.

We need to restore the real definition of “justice” — not “an eye for an eye” but rather, a form of living and decision-making that puts the needs and rights of others first, that works in service to human life and dignity regardless of a person’s color, ethnicity, economic condition or status in the community.  Our secular religion, which is respect for our Democracy, is rooted in the belief that every person has “unalienable” rights that the state must protect, and the first word in the famous phrase from the Declaration of Independence is “life” — “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

We must do more to confront and root out the racial injustices that pervade so much of American life.  Here at Trinity, we are proud to be a Predominantly Black/Hispanic Serving Institution, and we have launched an initiative known as Trinity DARE: Driving Actions for Racial Equity.  We believe that the most effective way to create social change is to make sure that our Black and Latina graduates have opportunities to become leaders in a wide range of professions, forging pathways in places where persons of color have been excluded or under-represented for far too long.   Yes, this kind of initiative may seem like a long way from that Minnesota street where George Floyd lost his life, or the street in Ferguson or the apartment in Louisville or a park in Cleveland.  But we believe strongly that the kind of social change that will achieve true justice must come in the transformation of many places through widening pipelines for participation and leadership.

America has been working on this idea about justice for more than 230 years — and we still don’t get it right, but that’s not a reason to abandon the effort, but instead, to raise up our efforts with ever more determination to break through the barriers to get closer to success.

Let’s remember these words of Amanda Gorman in her beautiful January 20 Inauguration Poem “The Hill We Climb”

Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken,
but simply unfinished.

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true,
that even as we grieved, we grew,
that even as we hurt, we hoped,
that even as we tired, we tried,
that we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat,
but because we will never again sow division.

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April 2021 Community Survey Results

April 12, 2021

We took a survey of the Trinity campus community in early April 2021.  These are the results of the survey:

Q2: Is the Spring 2021 semester the same, better or worse than you expected?

The results are in the graphic at the top of this blog.  Some of the representative comments:

STUDENT COMMENTS:

This semester I have honestly felt like I’m dragging myself to get to the finish line. Theres time that i have felt overwhelmed with so many assignments to do. I also miss being on campus and interacting with other people.

While there are some communication issues sometimes trying to find office hours with some professors, I think having classes online as a commuter student has been really helpful because I’ve been able to organize myself better and have a better sleep schedule in order to focus on my classes and assignments.

Last semester was very stressful and I thought that it was because I was getting closer to the end of my program so I thought it was going to be the same this semester but the professors have done a great job on breaking the assignments up where it doesn’t overwhelm their students.

I have been working nonstop this entire semester with no break. This easter “break” that was only Thursday and Friday, weekends don’t count, did nothing. Professors have lost understanding. The world might be returning back to “normal” but things are not normal and they should not be. The virus is still out there and the effects are still the same if not more. Please adjust the calendar for spring 2022 to include more breaks

Professors are giving a lot of work..

Professor is flexible and class is engaging.

FACULTY COMMENTS:

Students are engaged with me and their classmates. I used the chat box, break out rooms, and “reactions” more effectively this semester.

With the experience of last spring, then summer and fall, I was able to re-organize my classes in a way that both the students and i could cover the course objectives, without overdoing the workload. I had an advantage in that almost all of my classes were already 8-week hybrid classes, so it was just a matter of carefully defining what clearly needed to be discussed in a group setting. The administrative functions were easier to transfer to remote work once we mastered Zoom and were able to connect with our office computers.

Spring is always a more challenging semester. And students are definitely burned out. Having a bit less fun in class than usual, and very much feeling the lack of spring break!

Things are going very well. My students are doing great. I have a higher percentage of students attending weekly live zoom sessions and doing well in my classes.

Students have slowly but surely come to accept the ZOOM environment as an acutal learning environment and not only a “stop-gap” medium.

I teach two in-person classes which are going exceptionally well. Those unable to come to campus dropped out early in the semester, so the students who continue with the course are extremely motivated, conscientious and hardworking. Attendance and achievement are excellent. For my two fully virtual classes, engagement is sometimes a challenge. Students prefer to keep their cameras off, and some are reluctant to share. Many of the students have reported feeling extremely stressed, anxious, and/or overwhelmed.

The students seem to be having a more difficult time this semester, particularly first year students.

The semester has been as I expected but I am ready to get back on campus to be able to really engage with students.

STAFF COMMENTS:

I am getting more organized with working from home and work and I love the hybrid. I am much less stressed with the hybrid model for working from home and at the office I really do not like having to wear masks and would like to wait til we don’t need them before having to wear it during class or all day in the office
I expected to go well and it appears to be going that way. I see more students in or around the building wearing masks. I am glad to see them out and I am also glad that they are protecting themselves because it makes me feel protected.
Fewer problems and issues emerging than in the fall – we seem to be hitting a stride.

Q3:  Vaccine Status

Question #3 asked a number of items of personal information, including vaccine status.  Below is the overall response on vaccine status which is not particularly surprising — 67% of faculty report that they are already vaccinated, and 58% of staff, but perhaps reflecting younger ages and the way the vaccine has rolled out, only 30% of students so far are vaccinated, with 36% planning on getting it before fall.  Of some concern are the 14% of students who way

So we took a closer look at the student responses by academic unit:
We will be working with each student population to address concerns about the vaccine and to encourage getting it before the start of the fall semester.

Q3:  Finances, Family Responsibilities, Impact of Covid-19

Question 3 also asks for personal information about financial concerns, family duties and the impact of Covid-19 on families and friends.  Students are very concerned about finances, and also have many family duties.  And an astonishing 30% of students report that they have had a close family member or friend die of Covid-19.

We are very concerned about the conditions of all members of our campus community and their families, and we know that the toll of the pandemic has been very heavy for many.  As we plan to move into a period for reopening the campus in the fall, we are also very aware of the need for more financial support for students, and more emotional and mental health support more broadly.  We are considering ways to deliver more services among all who need support.

For students, we do continue to have our Emergency Assistance Grants and also we have new funding for Covid-relief grants to students in extreme need.   We have extended some of the latter support to students in great need while we have been awaiting additional clarifications from the federal government about the distribution of the funds, and we will provide more information when we have it.

Q4: Expectations for Returning to Campus

We asked about the expectations of students, faculty and staff for returning to campus in the fall.  Agreement is very high for wearing masks, keeping 6-foot distances, keeping classes under 25 persons, continuing flexibility for staff and using zoom for many meetings to reduce in-person time and travel.

The big area of disagreement is about requiring the vaccine.  In all cohorts — students, faculty, staff — there is no majority in favor of requiring the vaccine.  The most pronounced agreement is among faculty where 48% believe we should require it, compared to only 30% of students and 35% of staff.

As of now, in April 2021, we are reluctant to impose a campus-wide requirement on the vaccine.  Instead, we prefer for everyone to get it on a voluntary basis, and we will help those who are reluctant to work through that hesitancy.

We may need to require the vaccine for certain circumstances, e.g., participation in athletics or clinicals for nurses and others in healthcare settings.  As of now, we are also not sure about DC requirements going forward, so some of this may change as the summer unfolds.

Q5:  Evaluations of Campus Services and Related Topics

We asked for simple evaluations of various services and experiences during the pandemic semesters.  The differences between faculty (53 responses)and student (137 responses) responses are notable in a few areas, see graphs below:
We are evaluating these responses in order to improve services in the areas of weakness or dissatisfaction, and improving upon those that are strong but can always improve.  We are also optimistic that easing of the pandemic restrictions will improve experiences with residence life and dining services which have necessarily been constrained this year.

Q6: What changes should we keep that we made during the pandemic?

Interesting results!  Who knew just one year ago that we could all agree on the desirability of digital signatures?  The chart above reflects the top four choices of students, faculty and staff on the list of changes we made during the pandemic that the majority think we should keep going forward.  Online office hours also rate very high among both faculty and students, as well as asynchronous teaching and learning.  No surprise here, the staff like flexible work days!

Students want parking fees eliminated, and yes, we will not require parking fees in Fall 2021 though we do ask all students to register their cars for safety reasons.

Not getting much love on the survey?  Restrictions on campus visitors.  Yes, we know this is a pain, but during Covid-19 we found it to be necessary.  We will be evaluating this policy as we look toward the fall.  Much depends on both the city’s rules for density and also whether our campus can be safe through widespread practices for safety including getting vaccinated!!

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Remembering Sr. Seton Cunneen ’65 SNDdeN

April 7, 2021

(Sister Seton Cunneen on the right, with Sr. Ann Howard (l) and the 2020 Cunneen Fellows Rosa Nieves ’23, Dany Vargas ’20 and Juana Ortiz Ayala ’21)

View Sr. Seton’s Funeral Mass:

Remembrance of Sr. Seton Cunneen by Campus Minister Sr. Ann Howard

April 8, 2021

St. Julie Billiart, who founded the SND in 1804, in France, says in her letters, some wonderful sayings that guide us Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur through life.  St. Julie speaks of courage, or patience, of God’s unbounding providence and she encourages her sisters to walk in faith, in love, in joy and in simplicity.  Among other instructions.

When a Sister of Notre Dame dies, her life-in-mission is fulfilled.  This is really the Christian experience, that when someone dies, they live on in memory and more than memory, they become one of a Cloud of Witnesses, the souls of the just who lived according to their faith, and who died with the belief that there is life after death, that life changes, does not end.  This is the Easter message when we make note of the fact that Jesus lived and died and Rose again!  New Life is generated out of what seems to be unutterable loss and irreconcilable ending.  We have all experienced someone who has died, and maybe even within this pandemic time we have felt the sting of death more closely.  Our faith tells us and Easter shows us that death is not the final word.  Scripture is filled with sayings to this effect:  Love and Life are stronger than Death. (Sirach 3)

And today, we pause and pray for the souls of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur who have lived and ministered at Trinity and who have died during this pandemic time.  First, let us remember these words of St. Julie,

“Serve the good God well with much liberty of Spirit.”

Each of these Sisters have done so, lived and served well as educators, as professional women, as women of God and friends to others, as women in touch with the needs of their times.

Sr. Margaret Claydon
Sr. Anne Cecilia Coxen
Sr. Mary Reilly
Sr. Cornelia Curran
Sr. Teresa McElewee
Sr. Maura Prendergast
Sr. Ann Gormly
Sr. Rita Buddeke
Sr. Margaret Hoffman
Sr. Seton Cunneen

They are among over 50 SND in the USA who died during 2020 and 2021 and we thank God for their ‘liberty of Spirit’ exercised in various ways. St. Julie also said, “In periods of darkness we can only wait for the sun to reappear.”  In other words: Be PATIENT!  Let us wait for the time when the vaccinations are received and we can be together to celebrate life and mourn our losses together. For these Sisters and all of our family members, friends and neighbors who have recently died, we pray,  St. Julie, pray for us, protect us and bless us!  Amen.  Alleluia!

President McGuire’s Remembrance of Sr. Seton Cunneen

I always will remember Seton Cunneen surrounded by students — sharing a good laugh, eyes bright with her Irish charm, listening intently, comforting in times of sorrow, gently urging those who could do better to do so, insisting that Latin was not a “dead” language but full of tales reflected in current events, driving off with a van full of students to Food & Friends or Christ House or Apopka near Orlando where her sister SNDs built an amazing ministry among farmworker communities.

Seton was always about others — her ministry a daily remarkable example of the ideals of social justice in solidarity and taking the option for the poor.  Her eyes would blaze at instances of injustice, her keen intellect slicing through the deceit of power exercised for self-serving purposes, her voice clear and strong in advocacy for those who suffered the marginalization of racism and discrimination in all of its ugly forms.

When word of Sr. Seton’s illness spread through the Trinity family earlier this year, the messages began arriving in my mailbox paying tribute to the beautiful, unwavering friendships she had cultivated throughout her years as a Trinity alumna, Sister of Notre Dame, Campus Minister, Classics teacher, generous presence in so many lives.  Her death on March 28, 2021 was yet another great sorrow among the Sisters of Notre Dame who have lost so many in this terrible year, and also a painful loss for generations of Trinity alumnae.

Seton Cunneen arrived at Trinity in the Fall of 1961 as a first year student in the Class of 1965.  She majored in Greek and Latin, and entered the Sisters of Notre Dame after graduation.   After earning her master’s at NYU and teaching high school, she returned to Trinity in 1971 as chair of the Classics Department.  I enrolled in her Latin courses when I was a student — she loved teaching about antiquity and relating the great stories of the classical world to contemporary events.  She was tough but fair, and made it clear to her students that while she could be friendly and a great deal of fun outside of the classroom, in Room 244 it was all about Caesar, Cicero, Ovid and the beauty and tragedy of ancient Rome.

Outside the classroom, Sr. Seton was a constant presence at student events, sports and service activities.  In those years we had the Rathskeller in Cuvilly, and Seton was often present to keep an eye on things (I later learned) and while gently moderating our fun she was also engaged in her most important ministry, which was to listen to students and offer the kind of insightful advice that helped so many Trinity students get through whatever difficulties we were encountering.

Sr. Seton worked closely with Dean of Students Winnie Colman and residence life.  I recall one long night when I was the residence hall director in Kerby (after my own graduation, when I was in law school) when the dean called me to say a student was missing but Seton had an idea where she might be.  We piled into the dean’s car and drove to the place, a nightclub near Annapolis.  Seton went inside and sure enough, the student was there; after about an hour, Seton returned to the car and assured us that the student would return to campus on her own, and so she did.  Seton had a way of confronting bad behavior that was not scolding or harsh, but very effective in getting her point across to wayward students.

In the 1990’s, after several years away from Trinity during which she also earned her master’s degree in Campus Ministry, Seton returned to alma mater as Campus Minister, and she revitalized the program.  She created the concept of the alternative spring break, for years driving a van full of students to the farmworker ministry in Apopka, Florida, founded by another great Trinity Woman Sr. Ann Kendrick ’66, SND (Sr. Ann was recently honored as a “Social Justice Game Changer” by the Orlando Magic).   When Seton left Trinity to share her gifts with the young men at Gonzaga College High School, she continued the Apopka trips and then expanded the range of her service trips with students to other U.S. locations and even internationally.  [Read the beautiful tribute to Sr. Seton on the Gonzaga website.]

 

Trinity Alumnae Remember Sr. Seton Cunneen

So many Trinity alumnae have written with memories of Seton, below are some of the tributes and remembrances:

Marybeth Flynn ’65:  “Seton has been my friend since freshman Latin class at Marylawn school in South Orange and is the reason I applied to and came to Trinity, along with our Marylawn classmate Aldonna Picardi Noto. Seton was also a presence in the lives of my younger siblings who recall jumping into the back seat of her powder blue Ford convertible, along with her dog, on many of our jaunts around suburban New Jersey. A more recent memory is her surrounded by some of her Gonzaga guys in a hotel bar after a mutual friend’s ordination; she was also the only woman on the altar for that occasion, a standout in a vivid pink jacket – no coincidence I am certain. When one of my nephews served as a Senate page some years ago, she made herself available to him should he have needed support so far from home. These past weeks I have been weighed down knowing of the inevitable end but also knowing she was surrounded, in person and in spirit, by great love.” [Photo left at 2015 50th Reunion of the Class of 1965 with Seton on the right, Marybeth in center, and Aldonna Picardi Noto ’65]

Shea Coleman: “My fondest memory of Sr. Seton was a small gesture that made a huge impact.  I was juggling school work, crew, monitoring the computer lab and feeling overwhelmed.  She pulled me aside after a particularly grueling Philosophy class and said, “You don’t have to be the best in every endeavor.  You just have to do your best.  Eventually, your best will set the standard for someone else.  Find your joy.” Find my joy.  Such a simple phrase. Three words.  Three words that have become a daily affirmation for me.  The simplicity of this phrase carries so much potential.  Sr. Seton had a gift of casting aside the unnecessary vocabulary that often accompanies advice and speaking to a person’s soul.  Find your joy.  It honors her journey – a journey that touched so many lives. Her generous spirit will be honored and remembered as we go through life. Find your joy.”

(At Seton’s Gonzaga retirement party with Sr. Seton (seated left) and Sr. Ann Gormley (seated right) with Gonzaga moms and Trinity alumnae Marilee Petrucelli Brisbane ’85, Maureen Breshnahan McCarty ’81 and Deborah D’Souza Vazirani ’81

Deborah D’Souza Vazirani ’89:  “Seton was my Blue class of 89 advisor and our class adored her. She was loved by so many who went to Trinity in the 80s and 90s. For me her passing is devastating. She was my mentor and friend – present at so many milestones in my life – all four years at TC, my wedding, the baptism of both my children and she was my son Ben’s confirmation sponsor. Because of Seton my son Ben went to Apopka and witnessed the mission of Sister Ann Kendrick and the SNDs at the Hope Community Center in 2013 just as I had done in 1988. I know she is at peace and welcomed to Heaven our our Lord Jesus Christ and her beloved parents, brothers and her SNDs.”

Anne Miskovsky Cekuta ’79:  “This is very sad news, and the sun shines a little less brightly as I write this.  Sr. Seton was an absolute joy at Trinity, and later I was thrilled to see her again at Gonzaga.  She used her gift of empathy for the benefit of students of all ages: my younger son appreciated her generosity of spirit during the stressful times…AP’s, college application times and of course, rowing regattas!!!  She accompanied the Trinity Oxford group the year after Sr. Marcella took my group in 1976, so I didn’t meet Sr. Seton until my senior year at Trinity.  As an SND sporting a grosgrain-ringed  ponytail and wearing bright green corduroys and Fair Isle sweater, Sr. Seton fit right in.  However, it was the way her eyes would light up as she saw us in the hallways and her genuine love of God that captivated us and placed her in our hearts forever. As we mourn her death I pray we strive to welcome and be compassionate towards friends and strangers alike, just as Sr. Seton so joyously taught us.”

Tonya M. Esposito ’96:  “Kristie [O’Brien ’96] and I were fortunate enough to spend some time with her during Speaker Pelosi’s MSNBC town hall [photo left with Tonya, Seton and Kristie in January 2019].  My memories of traveling with her to Apopka are as vivid as ever.  She was so very kind and smart, and such an inspiration.  My time at Trinity would not have been the same without her.  May God bless her and keep her always.  Such an incredible human being.”

Sue Numrich ’67: “I feel a great sorrow in the losses of the SNDs I have known, many of whom were never in classes with me or taught me.  One note about Sister Seton – we, the class of ’67, could never envision a reunion without having Seton as part of the celebration whether at our informal dinner on Friday night or the class dinner on Saturday.  If we could pry Seton away from her ministry, she was a part of our gang.”

Father Rob Carbonneau, CP:  “I was on staff with her as campus chaplain for her entitre tenure as director of campus ministries from 1985 to 1992. She was so impressive and unique in her gift and presence. She reminded me that the ministry of presence and intellect reach the soul of the all peoples. I and so many others have lost a true friend and mentor. She is the best person I have ever worked with.”

Kalpana Gupta ’92 ’94: “My trip to Apopka was one of the most memorable Trinity experiences, and while I was in turn gratified and outraged by the many experiences in the short span of a week, I have very fond memories of our fourteen-hour ride down to Orlando – it was an Indian student’s introduction to Oreos (I dare not share how many we devoured on that car ride for fear my boys’ might read this – it was before I worried about trans fats and high fructose corn syrup!) – I recall the mischief and joie de vivre with which Sr. Seton raised her eyebrows and responded to the server as we sat under the gas lamps at by the Savannah waterfront as we watched the sailors go by, “are you sure you need my driver’s license?” Sr. Seton, thank you for your grace and generosity of spirit. You will be sorely missed…”

Father John O’Connor OFM:  “I am so saddened to hear of the death of Seton. She was one of the finest persons that I have ever met, a pure delight to minister with in my years as a Chaplain at Trinity. She had that exceptional mix of talent, joy, warmth of personality, and last but most importantly, holiness. When you were in her presence you knew that you were in the presence of someone special, a true follower of Christ. She lived the gospel in word and action. The students absolutely loved her and she loved each and every one of them. She had a great line when she would discuss with the students their latest boyfriend. She would say to them so “hows it going “ “ is it ( the relationship ) a no no, a so so, or a go go ‘?  I had hoped to visit with her in Baltimore and then Covid happened… I so wish I could have visited with her one more time. May she rest in Gods loving hands !”

Other memories:

(Sr. Seton with Irene Horstmann Hannan ’68)

(Sr. Seton, standing center, with Sisters of Notre Dame
at the dedication of the Sr. Julia McGroarty portrait on the Marble Corridor.)
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