Sister Mary’s new vision for Marywood: an inter-generational living and learning community


Sydney Toy, Community Editor

Since Sister Mary Persico, IHM became president of Marywood University in 2016, the campus has gone through many changes.

These changes reflect the greater vision Persico has for the University, one that reflects the value of a liberal arts education and creates a community that reflects the core values she spoke of at the Opening Liturgy.

Persico shared with faculty and staff at their August convocation how that vision is becoming a reality. Two very visible ways include the opening of the NativityMiguel school as well as the purchase of the Holy Family Residence last year.

Persico said she believes that we need to re-imagine our understanding of the value liberal arts education in 2019 and better communicate that understanding to the public, who sometimes scoff at it because of the debt students incur pursuing it. Her new vision is putting that plan into action.

“As people who really believe in liberal arts, we had to reinvent ourselves as an institution of higher education. And in order to reinvent ourselves, [we asked ourselves] what is it that we can do that is going to be helpful to our students to get a career that’s meaningful and do something for the community,” said Persico.

Persico got the foundation for this vision after she attended a conference where the speaker talked about the importance of helping the community on a college campus in order to be a successful university. His speech inspired her to start thinking about Marywood as a community and the opportunities that have arisen with the purchase of the Holy Family Residence.

“I thought we could have our students interact with the patients there, and they can serve the community and those patients could really be served by coming [to Marywood] and interacting with us and it will be an inter-generational thing,” said Persico.

Persico said she believes those in the Holy Family Residence can be united with Marywood students along with students in the recently opened NativityMiguel school that came to Marywood at the beginning of this school year. NativityMiguel is the relocated middle school housed in the Liberal Arts Center that Marywood welcomed to campus this year.

She also realized the opportunity to create a diverse community at Marywood with these newer entities while also serving the existing institutions on campus such as the Veterans Resource Center, the Fricchione Day Care Center and the African Sisters Education, truly making a community out of what is here at Marywood.

“Our students could learn a liberal arts education – art, music, theatre – and combine that with their career opportunities – business, architecture, physician assistant, nursing, counseling – blending the two so we could help the students at NativityMiguel and help the residents at the Holy Family,” said Persico.

Persico said her vision has everything to do with allowing students, faculty and staff to realize they have an opportunity to work with and serve different generations of individuals at Marywood. This vision also grants students the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in class to having a through hands-on experience with the campus community.

Faculty Senate President and Architecture Professor Kate O’Connor said she believes Perisco’s vision is creating excellent opportunities not only for people on campus, but for people off-campus as well.

“I think there are opportunities for faculty members either individually or as a group to come together to present ideas that would ultimately reach out and extend into the community,” said O’Connor. “I see that these are the beginning steps for something broader where we can start to exercise what our research platforms are into the community.”

O’Connor found just as much value in the presence of the Holy Family Residence and the NativityMiguel School as Persico did. O’Connor said she believes that these programs are great ways for students to prepare themselves for their professional lives and serve communities outside of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

“If we can start here and use these as vessels as a way to see what happens for the greater good, we can start reaching out regionally, national, and then internationally,” said O’Connor. “That’s the way the world is and I think that [Persico’s] vision is spot on. The faculty is on board, and we’re really looking forward to other opportunities to extend those tentacles into the world.”

O’Connor also sided with Persico regarding the importance of a liberal arts education, especially in a professional setting. She said she is especially excited about the opportunities in store for students under the new core curriculum.

“[The liberal arts] enrich everything that that student learns. The more you learn and the more you know, the better you are with creative problem solving, with communication and the knowledge base increases,” said O’Connor. “It makes you more competitive and well-rounded, which comes back into your profession.”

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