Class of 2022

Bright futures spring from diverse pasts

by Dr. Angela Barian

Members of Cardinal Stritch University’s Class of 2022 all have one thing in common: they’re all here. But hidden within this “common present” lies a rich diversity of pasts and a fascinating range of hopes for their futures. I asked some of these first-year students what brought them to Stritch and what they hope to accomplish while they’re here. Through their answers, I discovered other commonalities: a strong dedication to creating community, compassion for others, and a deep desire for exploration and discovery. As the years roll by, I’ll continue to check in with these students to see how they change, how their goals adapt, how they roll with disappointments, how they celebrate their successes, and eventually, how they prepare to leave us. But first: allow me to introduce some of the students I’ll be following.

Mariah Flynn has wanted to work with animals since childhood. “I prefer to be around animals to humans, actually,” she says laughin. “I’m majoring in biology in the hopes of going into vet school. It’s pretty much been my dream to be a vet since I was two.” She says she’s just always known that it’s the job for her.

When asked about her hometown, her path to Stritch, and her classes, she’s engaged and pleasant. But ask her about horses and she lights up. “I’ve always had a passion for animals, not so much small animals, but like large animals or marine. I love horses as well. I’m pushing [Coordinator of Student Activities] Matt Weiss to take us all horseback riding.” When asked how horseback riding feels for her, she explains that the regular tours aren’t as fun, because “There, the horses are just drones. But if I go, say, to a barn where they do lessons and stuff and it’s an actual arena? I love it. I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah!’
For Mariah, horses also provide a calming respite from the stresses of the outside world. “In all honesty, I find grooming and tacking horses very therapeutic. The satisfaction of seeing the dirt and dust and hooves being cleaned… is that weird?” That was her senior-year internship at her high school, she says. And I think it makes a lot of sense.
So, why Stritch? “I just have a preference for not being in a large school. I went to another university and it was small … too small.” Mariah explains that Stritch provides a happy medium between large universities and tiny, very-specialized schools. Because, while the community of a smaller school is important to her, so is her social life: “I’m a very social person too,” she says. “I was the only person in my school to come here and I was like, ‘Hey! A whole new group of people!’”
It’s clear that Mariah values connection, whether between people and animals, or just talking to others about problems. When asked if there was anything she’d like others to know about her, she was quick to offer an ear to her fellow Stritch students. “If they ever need to talk, I’m always here if I’m not in class,” she says. “They can always stop by my room to talk. And I won’t tell anyone what they say.”

Coby Schuck graduated high school as part of a class of 42. “I’m from the country and didn’t have any neighbors except for one guy who used to come up for hunting season.” Living, as he says, “surrounded by cornfields,” meant that “sometimes there’s no one to talk to,” but he says it was also great because of the freedom that comes with living in an open area. This sense of contrast came up again and again.

For example, he has a fascinating range of skills and interests. He’s on the track and field team and competes in shot put and discus. “I’ve never done hammer or javelin before, so we’re gonna see about that. I’m not the best; I do it for the love of the sport. It’s my anger management, basically.” And he said, excitedly, “Oh, and I won a lip syncing contest in my school two years in a row and I got second place the third year.” One of the songs he won with was Aqua’s “Barbie Girl.” See? Contrast.
So, why Stritch? Well, it almost wasn’t. Though he was “seventh or eighth” in his high school class, Coby had a job opportunity before he graduated high school. Still, “my counselor gave me a book and said see what schools you like. I saw a whole bunch of schools for engineering and a whole bunch of schools for criminal justice. I applied to five, and I got accepted to all five.” He eventually came to Stritch, like many students do, because it was the best value.
And what was that job offer? Over-the-road welding. “I weld. It’s something I picked up because at home we had a broken go-kart frame and so we needed to weld it up.” One of his friends did the job, and he was hooked. His high school sponsored a program students could take to learn welding, and scored the highest of all the students.
But his welding skills aren’t just for utilitarian purposes – he’s also a prolific metal artist. “At home I just started throwing scraps together to see what it could look like.” Coby says he visited a place called “Junkrassic Park,” with metal-welded art pieces representing dinosaurs, prehistoric mosquitos, and the like. “And I was like, ‘Ooh, I could do something like that.’” Now, he makes his own dragons, T-rexes, turkeys … and custom pots for plants.
A final point of contrast for this lip-syncing, shot putting, welder-artist? “I love giving hugs.” Coby says he regularly calls for what he refers to as, Hug Time. “People say I give really good hugs.” See? Contrast.

Josh McHale comes from England, and I see evidence of that signature British humor when he explains: “I come from a place called Bath. And usually people say they don’t know what that is. So I say, ‘It’s about 40 minutes away from the city of Bristol.’ And then people still don’t know what that is. So I say, “It’s about four hours west of London.” He adds, sincerely, “It’s a really nice place to grow up.”

But Josh actually says he prefers it here and eventually wants to live in the States. “All my family live in England, but I love it here in America. I love it a lot more than I love England.”
Having been “on holiday” three times here already, he says he identifies with American people: “I like the people here. People are very friendly out here, compared to England. People are friendly In England, but not to the extent that Americans are.” Josh says he even prefers our accent to his!
So, why Stritch? Josh says, “I was kind of considering coming to America but I wasn’t really sure how, and it was very lucky how I got over. My old school sent everybody to a University fair day. …And I was walking around thinking, I don’t really want to go to any of these, I’ve got my heart set on America. And I walked past this one guy; he could tell that I wasn’t really interested, and he was like, ‘So what are you looking for?’ And I said, ‘I’m actually trying to go to America, and I play sport.’” Josh is a long-distance runner on the track and field team and, as he explains, “There aren’t really track and field squads at all in England.” Turns out, it was that person’s job to connect international athletes with American universities. Though Josh notes he had about eight universities talking to him, “Stritch was the first university I got in touch with.”

Though driven and successful, Josh hopes that Stritch will help him determine his own path. “I hope to actually find out what to do with my life, because I’ve never known.” Josh says he’s going to take the opportunity to try different experiences and classes, to explore his options.

Despite his love for America, surely there must be something he’s been missing? “I’m missing fish and chips. I used to have it every single Friday for about 16 years of my life. I haven’t had any here.” Luckily, he ended up in Milwaukee. And I think he’s going to like it here.

Sha’Kevia Grays has an easy smile and a warm laugh. She defines herself as a passionate, determined person. “When I really want to do something, it happens,” she says with a laugh. Education is important to her.

“I am the first in my family to go to college so that was very important for my mother, my grandmother and for me that I went to college and got a degree.” And why Stritch? “I like that it’s a small school. I like that it’s not predominantly an only-white school. I like the diversity. And the small classroom settings.”

But the biggest difference for her came from Stritch staff who took the time to work through some concerns with Sha’Kevia. One of these was money, an issue that looms large for almost every student I interviewed. “My [admissions] advisor was Amber Moore. She actually called me once a month and said, ‘Hey, how are ya’ doing? Can I find you a scholarship?’ and I was like, “Yes! I can actually afford to go here!
But above all, Sha’Kevia cares deeply about others, which is why she’s decided to major in education with a minor in sociology. “I am really into equality and social issues. I love discussing social issues and getting different perspectives on it. I’m a passionate and people-oriented person. And I’m very approachable. My biggest passions are singing, my faith, activism and, really, people. I care about people so much. I just hate when people hurt.”
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Dr. Angela Barian has always been interested in telling people’s stories. As a sociologist, she takes the viewpoint that contained within each of our personal stories are connections to larger social issues; in telling our individual stories, we tell the stories of society. She was trained in ethnographic techniques that help us understand how politics, culture, and society come together to shape each of our lives. When she isn’t teaching or writing, you will find Barian knitting, practicing the drums, and making her award-winning Swedish meatballs. She is the chair of Stritch’s Sociology Department.

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See some glimpses as members of the Class of 2022 received their official Stritch welcome at August's move-in day and Opening Convocation ceremony in images and moments captured by Troy Freund, '95.