Why I chose Mount Mary: Four Students Share their Stories

Who is a typical student at Mount Mary University, and what makes someone want to come here? The answer to that question is, of course, as diverse as the students who attend the school.

While every student has traveled her own unique path to learn about and ultimately enroll at Mount Mary, there are some similarities that students hold in common, such as a commitment to social justice and a desire to learn more about others and also themselves. 

The goal of a Mount Mary education is to educate individuals with the purpose of transforming communities. While this has been the key mission of the institution since its founding in 1913, it has been and continues to be realized in ways as unique as each graduate.

Every student has a story to tell. Here are just four stories about how today’s students are shaping their interests and personal goals through a Mount Mary education.

“At Mount Mary there are so many different people of different backgrounds, you definitely get to be open-minded.”

- Jessica Rodriguez ’24

Respect for diversity appeals to fashion student

Jessica Rodriguez, who studies fashion merchandising and business administration, grew up around fashion. Her mother has always loved to sew and passed on her love of fashion to Jessica. Because Jessica preferred the business side of the fashion industry instead of design, she chose a major that would allow her to focus on the trends, merchandising and marketing side of the business.

She is an active member of the Fashion Association, a student organization that meets weekly and holds sales and activities such as Denim Day in April to raise awareness of sexual abuse.

When she came to Mount Mary, she was enthusiastic about how, even at a small school in the Midwest, she is encouraged to follow trends and pop culture, engage in big-picture thinking and be part of a community that is supportive and diverse.

“I grew up in what you call the inner city,” she said. “You see so many different faces and so many religions and sexualities and that’s always been more welcoming than just seeing the same people every day. At Mount Mary there are so many different people of different backgrounds, you definitely get to be open-minded.”

Jessica belongs to the Promise Program, a support organization for qualified students. The group provides tutoring, counseling, mentorship opportunities and meetings. 

“When I saw that Mount Mary had a fashion merchandising program, I loved it from the start. It makes me feel more confident in voicing my opinions because I feel like there’s so much feminine strength that comes with attending an all-women’s institution.”

Seeking and finding a new perspective

Growing up in a small, secluded community, Alyx Knuppel knew there were opinions and lifestyles more multi-facted than the ones she’d encountered.

“I just had this wake-up call and I was like, ‘I’ve been living here my whole life and I don’t know a thing about the struggles of other people,’” she said. “It was my sheltered background that got me interested in social justice … I don’t consider myself a bad person, but I was blind to issues or how other people might view them.”

A justice major, Alyx is also earning a peacebuilding certificate and has gained experience interacting with others through her volunteer work as a tutor in the Milwaukee County Jail. She is a Caroline Scholar, a four-year scholarship program for undergraduate students with a passion for social justice. This highly selective program provides challenging academic work, leadership development, service learning opportunities and financial assistance that covers full tuition, room and board. 

“Coming into the Caroline Scholars program, I had all of these super-loving and welcoming people and I felt like I had an on-campus family right away. I really love being a volunteer; you’re not just giving your time, you’re receiving an experience from these people who you normally wouldn’t interact with.

“If you have no previous knowledge of people who are different from you or people who don’t look or live like you, it’s hard to acclimate later in life. My suburb was tiny and everyone looked like me. So I’ve really enjoyed getting to know people.” 

Alyx says she has found her place at Mount Mary and has found a place that respects diverse perspectives as much as she does.

“I always feel like my voice is valued,” she said. “Everybody here is heard and taken into account.”

Lifting up and celebrating cultures

Coming to Mount Mary has been like coming home for Ana Martin, whose sister graduated from the university in 2020. Ana toured the school and knew from the start that she’d flourish in a friendly environment.

Ana is also a Caroline Scholar, as well as an early education major earning a bilingual certificate. She has tutored third and fourth graders in Spanish and worked as a school secretary, assisting students and parents in English and Spanish.

“It’s really nice to see that smile on their faces when they see that someone speaks their language,” she said.

She appreciates that Mount Mary embraces an awareness of culture.

“I love that Mount Mary is diverse and it’s really fun to be able to meet everyone and see where they come from. I am Hispanic, so I am able to see all types of backgrounds and I get to hear their experiences, learn from their culture and learn about the things they celebrate. It’s really nice to see how our cultures overlap.”

A place to help her find her passion

It was a challenge, looking for a college and making life decisions in the midst of a pandemic, said Winla Vang. For that reason, Mount Mary’s Compass Year program appealed to her. 

In the Compass Program students who enter college undecided are able to participate in a program that provides students with opportunities to identify potential majors and career possibilities.

“I was excited about the Compass Program, to explore careers and options. Not a lot of other colleges offered that.”

Winla decided to pursue business administration with a minor in graphic design. She is particularly interested in User Experience Design (UX), which builds interfaces between users and technology.

“I felt like I was being nurtured and allowed to go beyond my limits and find my passion,” she said.

Common theme ties community together

Whether students find their community through their academic program or scholarship programs such as Grace or Caroline Scholars programs, the theme of a supportive atmosphere is present throughout the university.

“It has helped me with my confidence in being able to raise my self-esteem with fellow women,” said Jessica Rodriguez. “It makes me feel more confident in voicing my opinions. Since it’s such a small community you can get so many connections, so many friendships.”

“Through understanding one another we can be united and overcome anything,” said Winla Vang.

If you’re passionate about becoming a confident woman leader for tomorrow, you may find what you’re looking for in the supportive atmosphere that these students found at Mount Mary. Take the next steps to explore Mount Mary today.