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Mary Gallagher, 2008

Mary (center) is congratulated after commencement by former and current WP Directors, Carol Lipson and Eileen Schell.

Mary (center) is congratulated after commencement by former and current WP Directors, Carol Lipson and Eileen Schell.

June 1, 2008
  

Ground Breaker

Mary Gallagher's resume is an impressive mix of internships, fellowships, and professional development experience. But it makes one thing very clear: she is not afraid to break ground. And as the first Writing & Rhetoric major to graduate from SU, that's just what Mary has done.

Mary made history in May, but she also accomplished a great deal while she was a student. A Chancellor's Scholar who made the Dean's List every semester, she also participated in the Renee Crown Honors Program and served on the Executive Board of OrangeSeeds, a leadership empowerment program for first-year students.

Many of Mary's accomplishments came in connection with the opportunities that she was afforded as a Writing & Rhetoric major. Mary presented her work at Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) and served as Copy Editor for Intertext, the Writing Program magazine that showcases students' work. As a Writing & Rhetoric major, Mary also completed a number of internships and says that it was this emphasis on civic engagement and pre-professional experience that drew her to the major. Mary served as an intern at the SU Press and the Rosamond Gifford Zoo, and she spent a number of semesters working as a peer consultant in the Writing Center. These internships opened her eyes to numerous career options and helped her learn to be a versatile writer who is aware of her audience.

As an Undergraduate Community Research Fellow, she worked with Professor Steve Parks on a project in which she interviewed blue-collar hotel workers and crafted their stories into a book. The experience was wonderful, Mary says, because it allowed her to help these workers' voices be heard. Mary appreciates being given the opportunity as a Writing & Rhetoric major to work in the community and make an impact: "It's great to see that your writing can do something outside of the classroom."

"The empowering nature of becoming a skilled writer and reader" has always interested Mary. As a high school student in a small town in Pennsylvania, Mary was inspired by two of her English teachers and found that she enjoyed the details and connections that are part of reading literature. Mary's love of reading also came in part from her father, who works as a librarian. His career choice was great, she says, since it meant that she could her keep her borrowed books as long as she wanted, with no late fees. Mary entered SU as a Biology major but soon realized that she missed writing, ultimately finding her place as a dual major in English & Textual Studies and Writing & Rhetoric, with a minor in South Asian Studies.

Mary has some great advice for the many Writing & Rhetoric majors who will follow in her footsteps. She urges students to explore the wide range of course offerings that are available to majors, both in the Writing Program and beyond. She also advises taking advantage of the many internship opportunities, which allow students to try things out, see what they like, and be exposed to a variety of experiences.

Mary is currently working at a law firm in Washington, D.C. and considering graduate school in Library Science. She thinks she would like to one day work in the public library system, where she could use her love of reading to inspire others. Whatever her future holds, Mary knows that it will include writing: "I definitely want writing and communicating to always be a part of what I do."

—story by Emily Dressing