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Four Years at the Mount

How the Mount changed us

January 2015

As we welcome the New Year and look ahead to 2015, we encouraged our Four Years at the Mount writers to reflect on how Mount St. Mary's University has impacted them and helped them grow. Regardless of how many years each of them has spent at the Mount to date, it is clear that the people, activities, and experiences the Mount offers its students leave a lasting impression.

To a New Year

Sarah Muir
MSM Class of 2018

So, the New Year has begun with its usual display of tumbling confetti, dazzling lights and unbridled hope for the coming months! This is the time of year resolutions are made, divisions are healed, and everyone is looking forward to what happens next. Everyone feels, in some way or another, the sense of a clean slate; all of last yearís mishaps and blunders have been washed away, and someone, maybe the New Yearís Baby, has hit the reset button. This is also a time of reflection and remembrance. Around the world, people raised a glass to dear friends and loved ones who were not present; whether separated by distance or disagreements, they are remembered. Friends come together to reminisce about the past and share hopes for the future. This may sound infuriatingly optimistic, all of this talk of bright futures and fond memories of past mistakes, but this is the time of year to be optimistic, because the future is unknown. This thought of the unseen times to come may seem daunting and a bit more than terrifying, but there are so many possibilities that can happen. The future is infinite, filled with unfathomable opportunities.

Every year my family enjoys New Yearís Eve together. We eat, we laugh and partake in overall merriment. Christmas decorations are most likely still up and whatever cookies have made it to this point are eaten. Happy memories are shared about family and friends and past mistakes, which at one time seemed so serious, but are now laughable in retrospect. There is a certain feeling surrounding New Yearís Eve as people wait expectantly. Everyone, even the world itself seems to be holding its breath, waiting for that brilliant ball to fall and signal the beginning of something new. This feeling is shared by thousands upon thousands of people, going back generations. Everyone smiles, raises a glass, shares a kiss, and exhales with cheering and song and laughter. People realize that the troubles of the past year are far behind and all that lies before them is the unknown potential of the New Year.

New Yearís Day has always been my favorite, I feel as though the air becomes a little cleaner, the snow a little whiter, and the sun a little brighter, and I am filled with the feeling that this year anything can happen. It feels as though this will be the year I will finally learn that language or finish that book or travel unknown lands. A lot of people feel this. They sense that they can become something else, not a different person, but perhaps a better version of themselves. We sometimes achieve the goals we set, but sometimes we fall short and become discouraged and wait for that New Year mood to strike at us again. The truth is, if you are less than successful at achieving your goal, pick yourself up, brush yourself off and start over. Begin a new year even if itís in the middle of the current one. I have had the opportunity to have already experienced a new start this year by being a freshman here at Mount Saint Maryís. Being a part of the Mount family is a kind of new start, a way for me to become that better version of myself with other people striving for the same purpose. Here I am, on my way to learning that language (German, if you are curious), attempting to finish that book, and my future is taking shape and shining brighter than ever.

This time last year I was in my senior year of high school, counting down the months until I graduated. I was waiting patiently to see whether or not I was accepted into the colleges to which I applied and was filled with nervous expectation at the prospect of the thought of starting college. I would like to think I have grown more since then, and looking back, I know I have. Everyone is a different person than they were last year. We have become older and, hopefully, wiser, and we have better advice to give to the youth to prevent repeated mistakes. We have experienced our share of lifeís joys and sorrows, and we know that there is more to come. So we face the joys and the "slings and arrows" with our head high and our eyes ahead. This is also the time of year to look back and think of all those people who have made you the person you are today. The friends, the foes, the mentors, and parents. Everyone who pushed you and helped you and convinced you to keep on going. Even those strangers who you met in passing, those who did something or said something that made you look at life a little differently. We are a compilation of people we have met and decisions we have made. But who we are is by no means set in stone. There is still time for experiences and decisions that can turn your life around and mold you into that better version of yourself.

So this year I raise a glass to friends old and new, to fresh starts and new beginnings, to reminiscing and new memories, to my family at home and my family here, at Mount St. Maryís University. Happy New Year to you all!

Read other articles by Sarah Muir

Thereís something about the Mount

Leeanne Leary
Class of 2017

Iíve now completed my third semester at the Mount. Three out of eight semesters finished doesnít sound scary, but Iím almost halfway doneóthat has a different ring to it. I donít know if five more is enough, but I guess I donít really have a choice and when I stop to think about it, I know that what the Mount has done for me in just three semesters would probably take four years and three masters degrees elsewhere. Iíve met people, joined groups, and experienced things that I canít imagine happening somewhere else. Iíve grown in my faith, Iíve built my most dear friendships, and Iíve even learned a little along the way. Iím not anywhere close to being done learning and growing here, and each month seems to hold more value than the last. I can say with a fair amount of confidence that the people Iíve met here at the Mount have had a larger impact on me than anything elseówhether it be my friends, mentors, seminarians, or honestly anyone here on our campus.

The first time I noticed that something was special about people at the Mount was the first week during my freshman year, when I donít think I walked through one door without people holding it for me. I remember calling my mom and telling her about it and her response was, "Arenít people so nice everywhere else?" So obviously instead of recognizing something special about the Mount, I assumed that people from home just werenít that great. I proceeded through freshman year realizing that I enjoyed myself and the people around me, but I never really opened up to the opportunities the Mount offered. This year, that has been different. Through my friends and people around me, Iíve begun to fully embrace the uniqueness that is the Mount. Looking back I think there were a few major things that led to this change. The first was joining ROTC, where I was not only introduced to my closest friends, but I was also forced to slowly change the way I think about myself and about everything around me. The second and third both seem to stem from the first. Second, I was led to the ROTC chaplains, who through their mere presence, bible studies, and meetings have taught me the importance of focusing on my faith in all things, including in the Army. Having this mentorship over the past 10 months has been the driving force behind major life decisions and a recommitment to my faith. This is so special because I know anywhere else I wouldnít have the same experience. Not only does that show me I should be at the Mount, but it also proves the unique qualities that the Mount adds to every experience.

The third is the friendships Iíve built, not only through ROTC, but through other experiences as well. There is a family environment that is slowly teaching me to trust other people with more than just my words or gossip. This extends to all friendships and has given me a strong foundation. There is something extraordinarily special about having people who consistently want the best for you and from you. I never imagined that my college friends would be the same people who held me accountable. I never thought I would find my best friend in ROTC. I never knew that my life could change because of a spur of the moment decision to join a program, and I never expected to be able to recognize that as it happens.

I donít know if I can fully put into words the uniqueness that I can only attribute to the environment at the Mount. The atmosphere forces a constant desire for internal and external improvement, unique to the Mount because of the incredible people. There are role models who hold me accountable, professors who actually care, friends who are full of unconditional love, and Patriot workers who never cease to make my day. People like this canít be found anywhere else.

As we head into this new era with a new president of our university, Iím not nervous for the changes that may come. The atmosphere here is enveloping, a little bubble that may separate us from the "real world," but prepares everyone for it in so many ways. It is impossible to be here and not fall into the idea that there really is just something about the Mount. Now that you have an insight into the past year of my life, I have a confession to make. I just sat down to write this article in an airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for 12 hours, while being distracted by the interestingóand probably falseóstories of the man sitting two seats down.

I sat down to write without a plan, but I knew that I wanted to write about how special I think the Mount is because of the people Iíve been introduced to during my time here. I didnít realize until midway through writing all thatís truly happened in the past few months that led me to believe that thereís something special about the Mount. I didnít realize until approximately 45 minutes ago that coming to the Mount and joining ROTC were two of the best decisions Iíve made, regardless of how instinctive they were at the time. I wouldnít be writing this article had I gone anywhere else. I wouldnít have the same people in my life. I probably would never have opened myself up to what I have this year. I wouldnít get the Mount family that I have now. I wouldnít get the opportunity to go to mass every day and relearn my own religion. I certainly wouldnít be sitting in an airport ready to leave for a month without any fearsóexcept navigating the airportóbecause Iím comfortable that when I get back to the Mount, everything I love about my mountain home will be there waiting for me.

Read other articles by Leeanne Leary

It chose me

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

I get it a lot. That same old question asked by yet another person, "Why did you choose the Mount?" And though itís been three years, I still have difficulty figuring out where to begin my answer.

It usually starts with a sigh as I try to determine if I should give whoever is asking a short answer or begin to talk endlessly in hopes of explaining it all. "Well you see," I normally start out by saying, "It wasnít my original plan." Although Iím not sure if I ever really had an original plan to begin with. Quite honestly, I didnít give college much thought. I knew that I planned on going to college but I was so focused on working at the preschool I loved and getting good grades that I really did not look into colleges that much. I fully relied on the hopes that whatever was supposed to happen would happen. It wasnít until the spring of my senior year in high school rolled around that I realized that everyone else knew what they were going to be doing in the fall and I was still undecided. I wasnít sure what I wanted or what I was going to do. While I started to look into colleges more seriously, my email inbox constantly seemed full from messages from one college or another. Yet, one school stood outówhich one you ask? Of course, it was the Mount.

Those capital letters in the subject line reading "Itís not too late to apply!" convinced me and I submitted my application to Mount St. Mary's University. Within a week or so I visited the campus and I finally knew where I was going to be enrolling in the fall. When August came around I was moving in and nervously about to embark on my pre-orientation Mountward Bound experience. I had no idea what the Mount had in store for me and that both excited and terrified me.

It didnít take long for me to realize that the Mount was offering me the world. That seems like an extreme claim but it was true. The Mount gave me so many opportunities to grow, both as a student and as a member of the greater community. Although I struggled with the transition from a large, public high school to a small, private college, the challenge helped me grow and discover more about my passions and about myself.

The Mount introduced me to so many experiences and ideas that I had never been exposed to before. I quickly found my niche in the Office of Social Justice on campus. The Office of Social Justice offers weekday, weekend, and weekly service experiences combined with an educational aspect related to a current or past social justice issue in connection to the service. The office has its own student leadership development program called CORE. I was lucky enough to join CORE my freshman year and it has been the single most important decision that I have ever made. That is a bold claim, isnít it? But it couldnít be more true.

The Office of Social Justice and CORE have pushed me to learn more about my community and my world. Never before had I been conscious of things such as the importance of inclusion in relation to people with disabilities, the difference that fair trade makes in the lives of workers, and the vastly spread food insecurity that exists not just in other countries but within our own nation.

CORE has given me the world because it has forced me to acknowledge so many aspects of society that I never knew existed. This leadership development program has challenged me to question the way that I think and act in all that I do. It has propelled me to become an advocate of social justice and of change.

The Office of Social Justice has introduced me to so many amazing people. The other student leaders in the CORE program are my family at the Mount. They are some of the most beautiful people that I have ever met and are solely driven by their passions. These students inspire me daily to be all that I can be and to always seek to help others flourish in their lives.

The Office of Social Justice has also given me a chance to meet many people within the community who have all added to my life in one way or another. Throughout various training experiences and events on campus I have had the pleasure of getting to know Ms. T, a woman who has experienced homelessness multiple times in her life. Yet, through all the challenges she has faced, she continues to see the light and the beauty in life. She is focused on giving all she has to others while learning more about herself in the process. Ms. Tís advice, which applies to everyone but especially to college students, is to find your lane and to own it. That is, to find what you love so deeply and embrace it and use it to shape your future.

I have also had the pleasure to meet some of the residents at the Frederick County Rescue Mission. I remember specifically leaving one afternoon after having helped serve lunch and Damien, a resident, turned to me and said, "Enjoy and be joy. Your smile impacts all who see it." This simple phrase has stuck with me and it has become a motto I try to live by. In all things, even those situations that are difficult, we should try our best to enjoy it. What good can come of a negative attitude? Being positive and radiating joy impacts everyone and this simple notion of positivity can create widespread impact.

While helping to serve the Harrisburg community at the Silence of Mary Home, I have gotten to know the founder of the organization, Ms. Sue. Ms. Sue is single handedly the most selfless and beautiful woman that I have ever met. She constantly gives everything she has to others. She does not have a concept of "mine," but rather lives her life sharing and giving everything to anyone in need. Being in the presence of Ms. Sue is like being in the presence of a saint. She has impacted so many lives through her deep faith and her endless compassion.

I am so thankful to the Mount for giving me the opportunity to experience the love and passion that emanates from the people within the community. I wasnít sure why I ended up at the Mount my freshman year, but as I continue to grow it becomes more clear that it was because the Mount had so much to teach me and I had so much to learn. And so my answer to that question of why I choose the Mount is complexly simple. I didnít. It chose me, and I am so grateful that it did.

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen

The Mentor, the Mount, and the Moment

Kyle Ott
MSM Class of 2015

Over the course of my four years of undergraduate studies here at Mount St. Maryís University, Iíve realized the sheer amount that the university has given to me. Like for many students, it has provided me with all the things I could want, but it has given me above and beyond what I could have ever asked for out of a university. In particular, Mount has provided me with the ever-important gift of opportunity, that strange little word that can mean anything from a simple moment, to a thought. However, in the case of Mount St. Maryís University, opportunity came in the form of the people that I met. The people at the Mount seem to have a pull that stretches beyond the county lines, crisscrossing throughout Emmitsburg and surpassing the physical space our campus occupies, reaching out into the world far beyond the mountains we call home.

I felt that same pull when I visited here for the first time as a college applicant. When I began my school search, in what seems like another lifetime, I will admit that Mount St. Maryís was not my first choice. I had spent the majority of my life prior to college in and around the campus, whether it was for religious retreats, or simply a place that I passed by on my way to and from Gettysburg. It was too close to home, too familiar for me, and I thought I wanted a different kind of adventure. However, the school extended a nice financial package and boasted a robust group of programs and so I chanced a visit to look at it from a new perspective. Within 24 hours I had made my decision; I had chosen to find adventure and opportunity in my own backyard.

And boy, am I glad that it worked out differently than I had planned. The young man who left high school and went to the mountain has been radically changed by the people he met there. While there are many individuals among the Mountís talented pool of professors and staff who deserve praise, no one changed my life quite like Dr. Greg Murry. I first met Dr. Murry on a random sunny day while I was walking out of Patriot Hall. I had long heard about him; his love for history, and his vast popularity with students were already well known to me. What I didnít realize was how much we had in common. Over the course of one semester together (during which I operated as a student/teaching assistant in his History Based Games Class), we joked about everything. Regardless of the subject or the time period, the two of us found opportunities for humor everywhere, from the possibility of domesticating bears, to the importance of cavalry in taking cities. All joking about the virtues of four-legged mammals aside, "Doc" (as I affectionately call my personal Yoda) and I found fertile ground for our friendship in the concept of linking our love for history with our love for games.

Throughout the course, we watched as students battled on boards with dice and cards, moving with an enthusiasm that echoed the great battles of old. Eventually those games, and the conflicts fought for fun, turned into questions, and those questions became lessons. Suddenly, the process by which students arrived to their victory became just as important as the victory itself. With every passing day, students grew closer and closer to connecting their enthusiasm for victory with their interest and appreciation for the subject matter. By the end of the course we were designing our own games and steadily groping towards understanding. It was something that piqued my interest and I wound up approaching Doc about doing something with games as part of my senior honors project. We rolled around a few ideas but over the course of a week, none of them captured our imaginations the way that we wanted.

At first I felt despondent. We took more time to think and a weekendís worth of reinvention and research on ideas yielded nothing concrete. The following Tuesday I walked into class only to find Doc perched on one of the desks drinking water out of a mason jar. Doc turned to me and said, "So I have this idea for a book." I should have known that innocuous statement had untold potential. Docís idea was ingenious: why not create a western civilizations reader? A book that covered everything from the fall of the Roman Empire, to the Third Crusades, and back to the First World War and onwards. However, the teaching mechanism of the text wouldnít lie in discussion questions, or randomly assigned readings. Each period of human history would have a corresponding game to initiate students in the time period they were reading about. The project was ambitious to say the least, and Doc was a full-time historian but only a part-time game enthusiast. Thatís where I came in. My senior project had been ambitious in its own right, but despite my acumen with games, I lacked the historical know how to make the project truly succeed. Together, we had the necessary skills to make the dream work.

And thus began both my senior honors project, and a Karate Kid-esque mentorship. Every week we would labor in his basement coming up with new ways to bend the laws of time and space using anything and everything available to us. Games became the mechanism by which we traveled across the centuries and the means by which we would bring the past to our classes. This year we were able to test the games in class and watch as students embraced cultural mindsets.

In education and in game design, there comes a moment where someone, whether a student, a play tester, or a fan, says something and you realize that in that moment theyíve got it. During our playtest of our game, Ahead of the Curve (a game of subterfuge and allegiances set during the French Revolution), one of the players spent the better part of 5 minutes arguing for why they shouldnít face the guillotine (in this case, expulsion from the game), only to be executed anyway. The student sitting in front of me turned and said, "Thatís real sick bro, making people beg like that for the game," to which I could only reply, "It is sick until you realize people did that for their actual lives." The look on his face turned to stone, and in that moment he got the point.

Without Mount St. Maryís being here, I would never have had the chance to transcend time and space. I would have lost out on that moment, and never met the man who made it possible. To the Mount I say thank you for giving me the greatest mentor I could have wished for, and to the man himself, I say thanks for everything, Doc.

Read other articles by Kyle Ott

Read Past Editions of Four Years at the Mount