In August of 2013, three first-year students joined with 543 fellow members of the St. Ambrose University Class of 2017 for an early introduction to Ambrosian service through Urban Plunge.
Sarah Treat, Ronnie Dunlap and Ciara Kelly were randomly chosen to share their perspectives on one of their first collegiate experiences through this video. Yet, it is hardly random or coincidental that each went on to enjoy a remarkable undergraduate career and then chose to pursue a master's degree through SAU.
"I have such gratitude for the many experiences and opportunities that were provided me as a student," said Sarah, who was conferred her St. Ambrose Master of Physician Assistant Studies degree on Dec. 14 at the 2019 Winter Commencement ceremony at the Davenport RiverCenter.
"All of us have stood on the shoulders of giants, those who came before us and have set us up for greatness because of their discoveries, insights and progressiveness," she added.
Ronnie was conferred a Master of Organizational Leadership degree after earning a Bachelor of Arts in Teacher Education degree in 2017. Sarah graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology degree in 2017 as well.
Ronnie came to SAU on a football scholarship. After an injury ended his playing career early in his senior season, he stepped into a coaching role and served as a graduate assistant on Coach Mike Magistrelli's staff the past two years. He will remain in the Quad Cities, having accepted the position of district manager for Aldi's.
"I love it here and, as an 18-year-old boy, I never would have thought that," he said, thinking back to that tentative young student who took the Plunge 6 ½ years ago. "I was a very shy kid. I didn't really put myself out there a lot. These last six years I got to know the people I enjoy most in my life. I've changed a lot. I've grown a lot. I can really say St. Ambrose helped me grow into a man."
Sarah was a four-time All-Conference Scholar athlete on the women's soccer team and won all-conference second-team honors for her performance on the field in 2016. She is considering a couple of physician assistant job opportunities, one of which would keep her in the Quad Cities.
Both students will remain connected to St. Ambrose, wherever the future leads.
"I have had a great, amazing experience here," Ronnie said. "Whether through football, campus life, the classroom, it's all about the people you meet here. There are a lot, lot, lot of people here to help you."
In 2013, all three brand new students were challenged to recite the St. Ambrose mission. None could, of course. But each had a strong sense that enriching lives through community service and a commitment to social justice was at the heart of it.
That's a big part of why they choose St. Ambrose in the first place.
"I think the longer I have been here, the more I've learned about the mission," Sarah said. "But the crux of what I needed to know, I learned quickly. To me being an Ambrosian means being a part of a community that stands for serving a higher purpose and seeking a greater good."
Sarah's immersion in the things most important to St. Ambrose was furthered by her undergraduate work-study experience. For eight hours each week, she sat mere feet from the office of Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, PhD, president of St. Ambrose.
"One of the many ‘giants' who mentored and uplifted me time and time again was Sister Joan," she said. "I've been witness to her solution-oriented mentality, tireless work ethic, and compassion. The time I spent with her, her wonderful office staff, and many other mentors like Dr. Amy Blair and Dr. Kerry Humes have molded me into the young lady I am. They have all truly exemplified what it means to be an Ambrosian."
Understanding the importance of service - an understanding fostered by that first experience through Urban Plunge - has helped prepare all three for futures beyond St. Ambrose.
"Being surrounded by and involved in it, it became part of you," Sarah shared. "You expect that of yourself. I will leave SAU confidently educated and equipped with a thirst for righteousness, humility, and courage. I feel motivated by all that has been given to me on my journey and feel I have a duty to serve, a higher calling, the highest calling - to serve God and one another."
Ronnie's message to any 18-year-old about to embark on an invaluable Ambrosian adventure: "I'd say enjoy it. You've got a lot of great things ahead of you. Enjoy the journey."
Sarah's message to her fellow graduates and to all who follow: "What being an Ambrosian means is entirely up to each individual but I challenge every alumni to make it matter. I will leave carrying a piece of SAU with me - a legacy to protect and uphold."
"I will leave SAU confidently educated and equipped with a thirst for righteousness, humility, and courage. I feel motivated by all that has been given to me on my journey and feel I have a duty to serve, a higher calling, the highest calling - to serve God and one another."
Sarah Treat '17, MPAS '19