When I applied for a job at Manhattanville in 2008, I was attracted to college’s mission statement:
Our Mission: To educate students to be ethical and socially-responsible leaders in a global community
We are committed to:
- Ensuring the intellectual, ethical, and social development of each student within a community of engaged scholars and teachers;
- Encouraging each student to develop as an independent and creative thinker in pursuing career and personal goals; and
- Providing a diverse, inclusive, and nurturing environment which develops in each student a commitment to service and leadership within a global community.
My previous work with young people had deepened the commitment to social justice that had inspired me to become a teacher in the first place. From the start of my time as a professor here I knew that faculty in the School of Education spent time in local schools. I also knew about the Duchesne Center, which offers students numerous opportunities to work with people who need support in the larger community, including local youth. However, I did not realize that Manhattanville had such a strong legacy of community action. I first heard archivist Lauren Ziarko speak in the spring of 2012, and I was intrigued by what I learned. The college’s current diversity is impressive, and it likely has its origin in the progressive attitude of Mother Grace Dammann who oversaw the integration of the college long before the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s.
Every time I hear Lauren speak I learn more about the college, and I feel proud to be a part of such a rich activist tradition. A few moments in Monday’s talk stood out to me. As a teacher, I enjoyed hearing that the privileged girls of the Sacred Heart Academy that was the college’s precursor started a school for local children on their campus. Another anecdote that struck me as an educator was the Interracial Justice Kits that Manhattanville students sent to other schools in the National Federation of Catholic College in the 1960s. What a clever way to provide a road map for social action on campus.
Lauren made it clear that the college has educated many intelligent women who care deeply about the outside world. I enjoyed how the presentation highlighted quotes from past presidents of the college. We read Mother Dammann’s landmark speech as a class, and it is filled with amazing sound bites. Indeed, as Lauren pointed out, it want viral in 1938. I was also struck by the words of a later President, Eleanor O’Byrne: “Our curriculum is based on human education- it is not preached, it is lived…You don’t run a college by psalm singing – God gave you a head and you need to use it”. We need to think, and we also need to act.
One final note: The group on Monday was small (although our seminar was well representedJ), and I was sad that so few students had the opportunity to learn how much we have to live up to as Valiants. I hope that those of you in attendance will spread the word about our amazing history.