News from the Career Development Center

Are you thinking of changing careers or wondering if you have the skills to get the promotion you’ve coveted? A recent article appearing in the NACE (Nat’l Assoc of Colleges/Employers) Spotlight by Megan Houlker cites the need to identify your entrepreneurial skills and effectively communicate those skills to employers/supervisors. “Today’s job market is fluid. Those who can move beyond the need for an overly structured career path will quickly surpass the rest of the pack.” Here is her top ten list of entrepreneurial skills that “translate well” in the job search process:

• Having passion

• Embracing change

• Possessing a high capacity for creativity and innovative thinking

• Recognizing, assessing, and creating opportunity

• Being resourceful

• Taking risks

• Developing and launching effective strategies

• Being a global citizen

• Making a positive impact

Read the entire article here.

Contact the Career Development Center at 814-824-2426 or via email at if you need job search assistance or to find students and soon to be graduates who possess these skills. Carpe Diem!


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Road Trip – Philadelphia

Alumni Tent at Dad Vail Regatta

We wrapped up the road trip this past weekend with a successful event in Philadelphia at the Dad Vail Regatta. Thank you to everyone who joined us along the way! We had a great time meeting and catching up with many of you, and we hope to see you again soon – whether at another event in your city or back at the ‘Hurst!

We couldn’t have asked for a better day at the regatta – eighty degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Thank you to all of our alumni in Philadelphia who came out to show their support for the men’s and women’s rowing teams! The men’s varsity lightweight eight took first place for their third consecutive win, and women’s varsity heavyweight eight took first place as well– which marked their fourth consecutive win of the race and first school in the history of the Dad Vail to win the event four consecutive years. It was exciting to be a part of that history!

We had a great group of alumni who joined us, ranging from the late 1970s to the mid-2000s – as well as a few future Lakers too! We were able to provide some new University gear to one young Laker so hopefully he’ll grow in to it by the time he reaches 18!

With the road trip coming to a close we are now pushing full speed ahead to Reunion Weekend preparations. We hope to see many of you there and if you have any questions or need some more information be sure to visit!


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Alumni Spotlight – Sr. Michele Schroeck

This month we are spotlighting Sister Michele Schroeck ’88 ’96 ’10, an Elementary,  Special Education and Organizational Leadership grad who is now a Sister of Mercy and program coordinator at the The House of Mercy – a ministry and residence of the Sisters of Mercy in an economically and ethnically diverse neighborhood in Erie, Pa. Sr. Michele has had a rich history with Mercyhurst and truly exemplifies what it means to dedicate one’s life to the mission of our founding sisters and the University.

What professor did you find to be the most inspiring during your time at Mercyhurst?

I liked many teachers. As an undergrad one of my favorite classes was Philosophy with Dr. Bud Brown. Of course, I was inspired by the Sisters of Mercy who showed so much interest and concern for me as a student and person.

What about your time at Mercyhurst motivated you to pursue you current career path?

Srs Patricia Whalen, Bernadette Bell, Lisa Mary McCartney, and Michele Lehan inspired me to consider life as a Sister of Mercy. I was one of the last in the Education Cadet Program. It was a great program that gave me experience in teaching and financial assistance.

What did you do after you graduated from Mercyhurst?

After graduating from Mercyhurst I was a Mercy Volunteer Corps Member giving service as a second grade teacher on the Acoma/Laguna Pueblo in San Fidel, NM. After that I entered the Sisters of Mercy. I taught at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School in Erie and the Mercy Migrant Education Ministry that provided education and support services to the children of migrant farmworkers in Fremont, OH and Plant City, FL. After that I had the great honor of working as the Director of Service Learning at Mercyhurst College from 2001-2009. The Alternative Breaks enabled me to share service and integration in a deep way with many students. We did service experiences at the Mexican American Border, on the Navajo Reservation, in Camden/Philadephia and New Orleans, LA. We also offered international service experiences in Guyana, South America and San Pedro Sula, Honduras. These experiences provide a way for students to integrate the mission with what they are learning in their major. Our Mission ends with “We are Ambassadors in Service”.

Can you describe your current position and the work you do at House of Mercy?

The House of Mercy is a ministry and residence of the Sisters of Mercy in an economically and ethnically diverse neighborhood. We provide activities and advocacy for children and their families to create a healthy neighborhood.

I coordinate all programs that we offer.

What is your favorite/most inspirational story from your work?

I am always amazed how some of our recent refugees experience Christmas for the first time at the Mercyhurst Christmas on Campus. I asked one young girl from Nepal if she had ever heard of Santa and she said “no”. Thanks to Mercyhurst, some of these youth received their first Christmas gift. The youth start asking me in July if they can go to the Mercyhurst “Christmas party”. They want to continue coming long after age 10!

What do you hope current students at Mercyhurst can take away from their education? Any advice?

I hope the current students at Mercyhurst are able to broaden their education with service and greater involvement in the community. Thanks, Mercyhurst [University] students for all you do for the Sisters of Mercy, House of Mercy.


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Mercyhurst Dance Perfomance Viva la Danse
Viva la Danse

Viva la Danse

Thanks to Mercyhurst senior Rachel Torgesen for providing details on the Mercyhurst Dance performance, Viva La Danse. Be sure to check it out this weekend at the Mary D’ Angelo Performing Arts Center It is sure to be an impressive show that will capture the talent of the Mercyhurst dance department! Additional details are below.

The Mercyhurst dancers are performing a variety of dance pieces in the spring performance Viva La Danse. The performance includes the choreography of acclaimed twentieth century choreographers Gerald Arpino’s ‘Viva Vivaldi’ 2nd movement and Tomm Ruud’s ‘Mobile’. A premiere by Solveig Santillano and Marius Petipa’s ‘Paquita’ will complete the program. Three alumni are returning to perform along with the current students. Lauren Stenroos ’09 will be performing a pas de deux with fellow Dayton Ballet dancer Justin Koertgen. Pamela Swaney ’06 and Justin Michael Hogan ’09 who are both company members of St. Louis Ballet, will be performing a duet choreographer by Justin. Additionally Pamela will be performing the Dying Swan variation. The performance will be showcasing the department’s current and past talent and it is exciting to have the alumni back on stage at the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center.

May 4 Friday- 4:30 pm preview concert, $5.00 balcony seating only

May 5 Saturday- 2:00 pm & 7:00 pm

May 6 Sunday- 2:00 pm

Ticket prices for Saturday and Sunday performances range in price $3.50-$15.50

Please Call (814) 824-3000 for details


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Road Trip: Columbus

So sorry for the delayed update on Columbus! We’ve had a busy couple of days since we got back to Erie, catching up with our staff and preparing for the next leg of our trip! We had an amazing time in Columbus though, and I want to thank all of our alumni who were so hospitable to us while we were there.

Ohio treated us quite well last week! We had a great event Thursday in Columbus with an intimate crowd of alumni ranging from the class if 1942 to a recent grad from the class of 2012! We had a small group, but we had an amazing conversation about Mercyhurst of the past, present, and future.

We gathered at the Brazenhead Irish Pub – a recommendation from J.P. Rataczjak- a member of our Alumni Board of Directors and Columbus resident. We enjoyed an evening of food and drink, and Ryan’s knowledge about the history of Mercyhurst sports was put to the test (he passed). We learned about the difference in class size and tuition from 1942 to 2012 and everyone was thrilled to hear about Mercyhurst’s recent growth. We are definitely looking forward to going back next year!

After a week in Erie we’ll be heading to Ann Arbor on Wednesday May 2. We’ll be gathering at the Jolly Pumpkin Cafe & Brewery and look forward to seeing our alumni there!




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Alumni Spotlight – Christina Drushel

This month we are spotlighting Christina Drushel ’09, an Anthropology and Archaeology grad who is now working with the Maryland Governor’s Office for Children. We caught up with Christina at the Baltimore stop on our alumni road trip, where she described her job as “working to end childhood hunger in Maryland.” Needless to say, she caught our attention and we wanted to learn more about the amazing work she has been doing since she graduated.

Christina’s path to working for the Governor’s office was not a direct one. She entered Mercyhurst with “very clear goals of graduate school and a career in academia” but over the course of four years that began to change as she discovered new opportunities, and was able to “try new things in a safe environment.” She credits Historical Archaeology professor Scott McKenzie for teaching her what it means to be truly passionate about your work. She explained,

“He is an example of doing what you love and not having to call it work. I aspire to find the one thing that I love to do and share all the enthusiasm and joy that it gives me with others as Scott McKenzie shared with me and his countless students.”

Though the Maryland Governor’s Office for Children does not necessarily seem like the obvious choice for an Archaeology & Anthropology major, the life lessons Christina learned and experienced at Mercyhurst encouraged Christina to step out of her comfort zone and explore new opportunities. Christina was kind enough to answer some questions for us about the youth organizations she volunteered with after graduation and what the she and others are trying to accomplish in the Governor’s office.

What did you do after you graduated from Mercyhurst?

After I graduated from Mercyhurst I moved from my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio to Baltimore, Maryland where I completed two years of volunteer service through an Americorps program called Public Allies.

My first year I was the Community Outreach Coordinator for the Youth Dreamers Inc., a youth-run non-profit that created Baltimore’s first youth-run youth center to provide a safe and welcoming place for young people afterschool. I worked with a group of middle school and high school students to raise awareness in the community about the opening of the youth center and coordinate service days for the youth and community members.

My second year I was the Youth Hunger Advocate for the Maryland Out of School Time Network, Maryland’s state-wide network supporting afterschool and summer opportunities for all of Maryland’s children and youth through effective polices, increased funding, and program quality. I worked to connect out-of-school time programs with federal nutrition programs in order to provide meals to participants and leverage community resources to support children and families in need.

Can you describe your current position?

I currently work at the Maryland Governor’s Office for Children as the Interagency Prevention Specialist. The Governor’s Office for Children brings together State Agencies, local partners, and community stakeholders to develop policies and initiatives that improve the well-being of Maryland’s children and youth. In my position I cover a wide variety of focus areas including ending childhood hunger by 2015, youth development and child abuse and neglect. The bulk of my work focuses around the Maryland Partnership to End Childhood Hunger in which I work with state and federal agencies, non-profit organizations, advocates, local leaders and representatives from the faith community to provide access to healthy food where children and their families live, work and play by:

• Increasing access to and information regarding the Food Supplement Program (formerly Food Stamps)

• Increasing participation in school and out-of-school time nutrition programs (school breakfast, school lunch, afterschool meals and summer meals)

• Expanding access to nutritious food for families with children through the utilization of food banks, famer’s markets, and nutrition education.

What is the most memorable story from your work?

I hear so many stories of struggles turned into success, but one that really touches the heart of all who hear it and really shows how the community can surround a child and ensure their success is the story the story that a principal shared with the Governor. The middle school was preparing for Maryland’s standardized tests and the students took a practice test. The principal and teachers reviewed the practice exams and came across one student’s blank test booklet with only one answer, “Can’t think, don’t care.” Needless to say the principal called this student into his office to ask why this student was not taking the practice exam seriously, the student’s response shocked the principal. The student shared that he was hungry and could not concentrate on his exam. The school staff and the community came together to support this student and his family to secure the student’s future success. After this experience the principal worked to ensure that all of the students at the school had the opportunity to eat breakfast every day. Now one year later the school has increased the number of students who eat breakfast, increased test scores, increased student attendance, seen fewer trips to the nurse’s office and created thriving school community.

What do you hope current students at Mercyhurst can take away from their education?

I hope that all Mercyhurst students graduate with a sense of pride, of their accomplishments, experiences, and being a part of the great Mercyhurst tradition.

Any advice?

My best piece of advice comes from one of my favorite childhood teachers, Ms. Frizzle, who always said with such enthusiasm and conviction, “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!” Never be afraid to take a chance and try something new, learn from your mistakes, and always get messy on the Springfest slip ‘n slide!


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DC and NYC Mercy Month Volunteer Opportunities

It’s that time again…

Mercyhurst students and faculty are busy improving the lives of those around them during the university’s annual Mercy Month. Held each March, Mercy Month honors the history and mission of Mercyhurst by encouraging community service.

While all Mercyhurst alumni are encouraged to get involved in their own way, Washington D.C. and New York City based alumni have a special opportunity to celebrate Mercy Month in their respective cities.

On Saturday, March 17, alumni in the DC area will visit with elderly neighbors at the Potomac Center Nursing Home in Arlington, VA from 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. Alumni are encouraged to wear Mercyhurst gear — or at least wear green — and bring their Irish spirit.

Then, on Saturday, March 24, New York based alumni are invited to read and tutor children at the Mercy Center in the Bronx from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Current students from Mercyhurst’s Social Work Department will join alumni for this unique service opportunity.

Mercyhurst… “where the beauty and power of the liberal arts combine with an appreciation for the dignity of work and a commitment to serving others.”

Please join us this year to honor this important Mercyhurst tradition.

To RSVP for D.C. or N.Y. based events, please contact Kristen Hudak at

Also, let us know If you’d like to help coordinate a Mercy Month project in your city next year!

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Alumni Spotlight – George Venuto

George Venuto '78

This month we’re honored to spotlight George Venuto ’78 who will be shaving his head Mar. 16 as part of the St. Baldrick’s head-shaving event. St. Baldrick’s is the largest volunteer-driven fundraising program for childhood cancer research and the foundation now funds more in childhood cancer research grants than any organization except the U.S. government. George has been a longtime supporter of St. Baldrick’s, but this year his friend and founder of St. Baldrick’s John Bender, and George’s colleague Kevin Abramson, convinced George to shave his head. John and Kevin have been after George’s full head of hair for a while now and this year he took the plunge. He is aiming to raise $100,000 toward childhood cancer research and is already over halfway to his goal.

While attending Mercyhurst George was president of MSG and involved in various committees at the school. He credits the Sisters of Mercy and “the spirit of the college” with the desire to help people less fortunate than himself. After graduation George worked in insurance and reinsurance and has been in that field ever since.

George first got involved with St. Baldrick’s as an annual supporter and then worked as a fundraiser for two other shavees raising around $50,000. It is now his turn to sit in the barber’s chair and his colleague Kevin Abramson, himself a childhood cancer survivor, is helping him raise $100,000 for his hair. Since it was founded over ten years ago, St. Baldrick’s has raised over $100,000,000 to fund lifesaving research projects and support the dedicated professionals who work to find new and encouraging treatments for childhood cancers. George has been inspired by the thousands of courageous children “who sacrifice far more than money in their daily battle against cancer.”

George will be having his head shaved at the Public house Bar in Philadelphia, Pa. Mar. 16, 2012 at 4 p.m. This event is open to the public. For more information or to support George Venuto and St. Baldrick’s, you can visit their website.


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Alumni Spotlight – Billy Byrnes

Billy and Kristin Byrnes in Nicaragua

We interviewed Billy Byrnes ’02 for our Alumni Spotlight on what it means to be an ambassador of service. Billy graduated in 2002 with a BA in Political Science and Religious Studies, and he and his wife Kristin are now volunteering with the Volunteer Missionary Movement in Waslala, Nicaragua. They are currently teaching and experiencing the day to day life in Nicaragua by actively participating in the community. Billy wrote an incredibly insightful response to our questions about his life at Mercyhurst, after Mercyhurst and his experience as a volunteer, and we wanted to share with you in his words how Mercyhurst and the Mercy mission shaped his decision to go to Waslala and commit himself to  volunteering.  Enjoy his piece below and for more information and stories about Billy and Kristin, you can visit their blog:

1.) What professor did you find to be the most inspiring during your time at Mercyhurst?

This is too difficult a question to answer because there was more than one teacher who inspired me and left a lasting impact on my life. I remember being forever changed by Dr. David Livingston when I took his Religious Persons and Traditions course during my freshmen year, and over the years I took a few more courses taught by him. I also attribute my deep faith and intellectual curiosity to Dr. Mary Hembrow-Snyder. I had the privilege of being her student a few times, and I have been forever grateful. There are others, Dr. Clemons, Dr. Federici, Sister Stoner, and Dr. Foresthoefel, who definitely inspired me over my four years at Mercyhurst. While there were many faculty that inspired me, there were an equal number of staff members who inspired me as well. I had a dear relationship with Sister Damien, Jean and Ruthie in the bookstore, Sister Kathleen Marie Leap, Jean in the mailroom, Sister Geri Rosinski in Campus Ministry, Cass Shimek in Student Government, Dr. Garvey, Cathy Anderson, Gerry Tobin, Steve Zinram, and Laura Zirkle, plus many others around campus. And, I continue to keep in regular contact with my dear friend Earleen Glaser in the library.

2.) What about your time at Mercyhurst motivated you to pursue you current career path?

I believe it was the mission of the college, rooted in the ideals of the Sisters of Mercy. I always felt a connection with the Sisters and what they spent their lives trying to achieve. This mission was lived out in the courses that were offered in all the disciplines and the classes that I took in my majors. I know for certain that it was Dr. Hembrow-Snyder’s classes, Liberation Theology and Christology, that motivated me to want to pursue further theological education, and led me here to Nicaragua to want to live and work with the most marginalized people of our world. I also attribute my time spent in Campus Ministry and attending the various retreats they offered. I have fond memories of retreats at Findlay Lake. I was also motivated by the community service I did that was part of the Religious Studies curriculum. Lastly, I was motivated by my involvement with Student Government. This helped me to recognize my leadership skills, and I have always sought to want to listen and affect change.

3.) What did you do after you graduated from Mercyhurst?

I continued my education at the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, CA, which is associated with the Graduate Theological Union. I received my Masters of Arts in Theology, with an emphasis in Ethics and Social Theory. Two years after I graduated from Mercyhurst, while I was finishing up my masters, I began teaching religion at Archbishop Mitty High School (my alma mater) in San Jose. After four years there, I accepted a position in Campus Ministry at Bellarmine College Preparatory, a Jesuit high school in San Jose. I got married in the fall of 2009, and now my wife, Kristin, and I are volunteering in Nicaragua through Volunteer Missionary Movement (VMM).

4.) What sort of work are you currently doing in Waslala, Nicaragua?

I teach English and Theology at the Instituto Agropecuario in Waslala. We live on the grounds of the school and since the school is an agricultural institute, that teaches farming practices, I also help out on the farm, milking cows three times a week. Just last week I learned how to make cheese using the milk I get from the cows. I have also been able to help out by planting cacao (chocolate) trees and I am learning a lot about coffee trees as well. We try to get to the anciano (elderly) home once a week, where we just stay and chat with the residents. The primary role of our volunteer position is accompaniment, and in all we do, we remember that we are here to accompany the people of Waslala.

5.) What made you decide to travel to Nicaragua and volunteer?

This could be a long answer, but in an effort to be brief, I would attribute it to the many mentors I have had in my life, both before Mercyhurst and during my time there. I consider myself blessed to have been inspired by modern day prophets, those teachers, colleagues, friends, and family who have opened my eyes to the realities of our world. The people who made me question the status quo, the ones who told me it was okay to challenge authority, the ones who helped me realize the disparity in this world, the ones who shared their wisdom and experience, and those who made me truly believe that I could change the world. Through them and the ways they challenged me, I built a strong faith in God, a thirst for knowledge, and a desire to be in solidarity with those in need.

I can practically pinpoint the reason why I decided to volunteer, and it was in Dr. Mary Hembrow-Snyder’s class, Liberation Theology. We had studied the life of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the four North American churchwomen who were raped and murdered in El Salvador, and I wanted to be living my faith the way they lived theirs. I wanted to not just read about working with the poor and marginalized, I wanted to actually be doing it. My plans took a backseat when I went to graduate school and eventually started working, though the lingering desire was always in my heart and prayer. When I met my wife and she shared her experiences of traveling to El Salvador during college and then living there for a year after she graduated, I recognized her passion for helping the poor and oppressed. We knew volunteering abroad was something we could do together. After our first year of marriage we began to discern and pray about the possibility of leaving our comforts of the Bay Area and working with the people of Central America. We researched various organizations and applied to VMM. They accepted us and offered us a position in rural Nicaragua, and we have been in Waslala since September 2011.

6.) What is your most memorable moment during your time there?

It has only been a short five months since we arrived, but memories are made every day. There have been many stories we have shared on our blog, and a few that come to mind are: helping inseminate the cows are on our farm, killing the turkey we ate for Christmas dinner, taking the 6 hours bus ride from Matagalpa to our home in Waslala in an old Blue Bird School Bus on a dirt road, the night our 29 year-old security guard died and we went to the hospital to take care of his body and bring his casket to his family’s house, being in the hospital 10 minutes after our friend Silvia gave birth and seeing a room full of young pregnant mothers sharing beds without sheets or family around to support them, participating in the protest at the parish when the bishops tried to close the Institute where we work, walking in to a small mud house in the campo that was shared by a large family and having them offer us a sweet corn tortilla and coffee, seeing people ride up on their horses to come to mass on Sunday afternoon…There are many memories I can recount after just five months, but if I am allowed only one, then it would be:

My first day of teaching and I finally met my students. The class only has eight students and we only meet every other weekend. Class is held here only every 15 days (distancia) because students come from many of the surrounding communities and it can be difficult to get to Waslala. They come by foot, horse, and bus (sometimes all three) to get their degree. Also, many of them work on their farms throughout the week and it is difficult to get away for class. So, on the first day when I met my eight students ranging in age from 14 to 28, and I asked them where they lived and how far their community was, and each one came from a place that was four, five, even seven hours away and they said they took their horse for an hour, walked another two, and then rode the bus for three hours, and then planned to spend the night on a thin mattress in my classroom for class on Sunday, I was humbled to be their teacher. Eddie, one of my students, said that he really likes English and wants to study hard to learn more. Eddie and his brother, Bismark, spent the night in my classroom on Sunday too, and they left at 4:00 am Monday morning to catch the bus back to their community. They were here because they want to learn English, they want to learn basic math, they want to improve their Spanish, and they want to become better farmers. Each one of them sacrificed so much to be enrolled in this school and in my class, and it was in this moment I realized my vocation; to teach those who want to learn, much like my mentors at Mercyhurst did for me.

One other story: Life in rural Nicaragua is slow, at times difficult, and in some ways it is all about survival. For many people the day is spent figuring out what dinner will be. Trekking wood to burn in your stove to cook your beans and rice, hauling water almost a mile so you can boil your beans and take a shower, carrying 50 lbs of bananas to sell on the street to make enough money to buy your beans and rice, this is the life for many people in Waslala. One particular story was when I went on a hike one day to look at the water source for the Institute where we live and work, and when we got to the river there was a young woman with a five-gallon bucket of water on her shoulder and she had to climb up a mountain and down a hill to get back to her house. On our way back, I took a moment to catch my breath and I looked up and saw the incredibly verdant panorama that is the Waslala “postcard”. The hillsides are many shades of green, trees grow everywhere, and when the sky is clear and blue, as it was on this day, the sight was something to behold. I took a moment to thank God for the spectacular view. On our way down the hill, we passed an elderly man walking, hunched over with a stack of wood on his back and shoulders. He had his rubber boots on like me, and he was straining to get to where he was going. I realized in between these two experiences of humans struggling for something I take for granted in the States, water and an energy source, I had a theophany. Both when I realized the sacrifice people make here on a daily basis to survive and saw the face of God in their struggle, and when I stopped to look up and see God amidst the surrounding natural beauty that abounds in Waslala. This is how I experience God on a daily basis.

7.) What do you hope current students at Mercyhurst can take away from their education? Any advice you have for anyone hoping to travel abroad and do volunteer work?

My hope for what Mercyhurst students can take away from their experience at Mercyhurst is more than their education. While I do not want to diminish the benefit and power of a Mercyhurst education and the many doors it can open, I believe students can learn so much from outside the classroom too. The relationships they build with their faculty, the staff, and the administrators. The relationship they have with their coach, teammates, and roommates can be a life-long gift. Their involvement with Student Government, participating in an alternative Spring Break trip, going on a retreat that Campus Ministry offers, becoming politically active, becoming an R.A. or an Ambassador, or going to mass in Christ The King Chapel, all of these are what enhances a Mercyhurst degree. The faculty are wonderful and their courses open your mind in a way nothing ever will, but I would challenge them to do more, like St. Ignatius’ magis. The opportunities are endless as a Laker.

My advice for students who are hoping to study or work abroad is, “Carpe Diem!” I was able to study abroad while I was at Mercyhurst and I attribute my desire to see the world with my experience studying abroad. It gave me a whole new perspective on culture, language, history, religion, and the world. It is an invaluable experience and I would hope all students that want to study abroad are able to do it. For those that are looking to work or travel abroad, I would say that it is best if you go into your situation with minimal expectations, a willingness to adapt, and a desire to inculturate yourself. You cannot expect to live the same way or have the same things you are used to in your life in the States. That is the great thing about being part of another culture, as you get to see how other people worship, eat, cook, travel, live, and work. There is more than one way to live.

For those who are looking to volunteer abroad, or even domestically, my advice would be to pray fervently and discern often before you make your decision. It helps once you begin your ministry. Lastly, we have found it helpful having built a network of supporters back home who pray for us. To know that family, friends, and even strangers are thinking of us, praying for us, and keeping the good of the Waslala community in their minds is one of the reasons I get up every morning.

Check out our blog from more stories, photos, and reflections:

Here is some information about Waslala, Nicaragua:

Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America. It is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere. It is also the safest country in Central America.

Waslala is 100 miles north east of Managua, the capital, but it takes 8 hours to get there by bus. The city of Waslala has about 7,000 inhabitants and the region of Waslala has about 60,000 inhabitants. Coffee, cacao and cattle are the main sources of income.


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Greetings from the Mercyhurst Dance Department

By Rachel Torgesen ’12

Raw Edges, Feb. 3-5, 2012

This month we are looking forward to the annual student choreography performance, Raw Edges. It is always a school favorite and showcases not only the great dancing talent but also choreographic talent in our department. This year we are excited to welcome back three alumni to perform.

Noelle Lelakus and Jo Alspaugh who graduated in 2008 will be performing a duet. After graduation Jo danced with Albany Berkshire Ballet for one season and also danced with Ballet Theatre of Ohio for two years. She is currently teaching at Cleveland Ballet Conservatory and is in her third year of law school at Case Western Reserve.

Noelle was a member of Missouri Contemporary Ballet for two years and taught at two other studios in the area. Halfway through her second season with MCB, she had to get surgery on her ankle and took a leave of absence from dancing full time. Since then, she has returned to Erie to teach for Mercyhurst’s Summer Dance Experience and attend Mercyhurst North East to pursue her RN, from which she will graduate in May! Currently, she is on the faculty for Erie Dance Conservatory and enjoys returning to the department as needed. Raw Edges will be her first time onstage since May 2010!

Sara Lawrence-Sucato ’06 is our third returning alum that will be performing in Raw Edges. After graduation Sara joined Dancing Wheels as a company member. She is currently in her sixth season with the company and also serves as the Tour Manager for the company coordinating logistics with their presenters when they travel to perform. In addition to her work with Dancing Wheels she has taught dance and pilates to children and adults at several studios in the Cleveland area. She is grateful for her job as a professional dancer not only for the fact that she is paid to do what she loves but also for the sense of service and giving back to the community through dance.

We are pleased to invite these three wonderful alumni back to Mercyhurst and are excited to see them perform with our current students!

This year’s Raw Edges is the 14th edition of the student choreographed performance and will be performed Saturday, Feb. 4, at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 5, at 2 p.m. in the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center on the Mercyhurst campus. Tickets are $15.50 for adults, $12.50 for seniors and students, and $5 for youths 15 and under. President’s Cardholders will pay $7.50 and tickets are $3.50 for Mercyhurst students with ID. A preview performance is also scheduled on Friday, Feb. 3, at 4:30 p.m. All Friday tickets are $5, and only balcony seating will be available.

For more information visit

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