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Students and Alumnae: Connecting the Past to the Present


On any given day at St. Mary’s Academy, one might wander through the halls and catch a glimpse of guest speakers talking with students about everything from topics relating to their careers or experiences, to prospective collaborative opportunities.  Many times, this speaker is an alumna from St. Mary’s Academy. “A St. Mary’s education is something unique, and hearing from alumnae means something more. Our students can literally see themselves in these exceptional graduates, and can connect the dots between their current St. Mary’s experience and their future success,” said Ellie Gilbert, SMA’s librarian who hosts many of the school’s guests inside the library also known as the Hive.

Allison Arbuthnot, a current senior at SMA, says it felt like yesterday when she was a sophomore and her teacher informed her class that former Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, alumna Patricia Haslach, would be visiting St. Mary’s to discuss her experience working in foreign services. “I remember Ms. Haslach speaking to us about her work derigging the election in northern African and that was so inspiring to me. I remember thinking to myself ‘I could pursue a career in foreign services, too, and follow in her footsteps’ and that’s how I really got interested in international relations and pursuing my language study further.” Fast forward two years later and that’s exactly what Allison achieved. This past summer, she was the only high school student in Portland selected for the National Security Language Initiative for Youth program, after completing an extensive application process. “The program took place in Taiwan and there we focused on learning and studying their language through class lectures and textbooks. We also took group excursions to better understand the culture and politics in the country we were in.” It was an opportunity Allison said she might not have looked into, had it not been for Ms. Haslach’s visit two years ago. “I would love to come back one day after I graduate and inspire girls, like I was inspired,” Allison added.

Other efforts to bridge the gap between alumnae and current students happens thanks to SMA’s Alumnae Council, a group of dedicated alumnae who meet monthly to discuss ways to enhance engagement. They’re also some of the faces behind the school’s biggest events including Food for Thought, Auction, Spirit Day and class reunions. “It’s a fun group with both new and returning members each year with a mission is to find creative ways to keep alumnae connected to each other and St. Mary’s,” said Director of SMA’s Alumnae Relations, Kathleen McCabe.

McCabe works with administrators to find ways St. Mary’s can ramp up current events or build new ones. This year McCabe and administrators collaborated to roll out a new series, Lunch with a Leader, an event that provides mentorship from alumnae to current students. McCabe added, “SMA is blessed to have such a vast legacy of incredible people making an impact on the world. It is so powerful when graduates of St. Mary’s stay connected to each other and share their many talents and gifts with current students. Students love seeing examples of future possibilities within the alumnae community and alumnae love to give back to the special place that helped shape them into the person they are today. There is no limit to what can be achieved when St. Mary’s students and alumnae are inspired and connected.”