For transfer students Alexis Diaz and Hannah Mendez, Newman University’s 2023 commencement day meant much more than finishing their college degrees.
In spring 2022, the California softball players were looking forward to their senior year. Then they were told their college, Marymount California University, was permanently closing due to financial struggles and declining enrollment exacerbated by the pandemic.
Diaz and Mendez were two of approximately 500 full-time students who struggled to find a new college in a matter of weeks after the university closed its doors Aug. 31, 2022.
As a fellow private Catholic liberal arts university, Newman University wanted to be part of the solution. So two Newman staff — Christy Hawks, director of admissions, and Angie McCoy, assistant dean and director of the master’s of business administration program — traveled to California and took part in a transfer fair designed to help the students secure a new place of education.
Thankfully, Hawks and McCoy helped Diaz and Mendez transfer seamlessly to Newman University in Wichita.
“I was blessed to meet Alexis and Hannah at Marymount and introduce them to Newman,” Hawks said.
Adjusting and overcoming
When Diaz and Mendez moved to Wichita, they went from being an hour away from their families to 20 hours away. Luckily, the friends roomed together in the Newman residence halls and continued their journey as teammates on the Jets softball team.
“Christy was a huge part of our journey,” Diaz said. “She reassured us that the professors were going to be understanding, our coach was going to be understanding and even though we’re hundreds of miles away from family, we’re going to be taken care of.”
She added, “I think that’s just the Newman way.”
Diaz, a psychology major, said walking across the stage at Newman’s 2023 commencement ceremony represented “finding a home us as we start to fulfill our dreams.”
Becoming a speech therapist in a hospital or education setting is Diaz’s ultimate goal, and she is confident her time at Newman helped prepare her for the next step.
“I learned how much more in-depth about the field of psychology is through my classes,” Diaz said.
“Being at Newman (also) taught us how to be independent, how to mature and how to create a family outside of family,” Mendez added.
Not only was the educational experience stellar, but it was also important for both to continue their education at a Catholic university.
“Both being raised Catholic, it’s been really nice to see Catholicism on campus and to take Catholic classes as well,” Mendez said.
The interdisciplinary studies (now adult and professional studies) program allowed Mendez to combine two pathways — teaching and leadership — to help her eventually become a principal at an elementary school.
“I feel like the professors here really care about you and my adviser was the best,” Mendez said. “Teresa Wilkerson (director of adult and professional studies) made it a fun experience. You could tell that the professors really cared about our education and learning the material rather than just assigning homework.”
Both Mendez and Diaz hope to pursue their master’s degrees; Mendez on the West Coast and Diaz on the East.
“Despite college being such a roller coaster and a never-ending snowball effect, I feel like this is what college is about,” Diaz said. “You think you have it planned out, but college doesn’t always go the way you expect it to. It’s about learning to adapt and create those memories along the way.”
Despite the challenges faced, Diaz is proud she “made the most of it all” with Mendez by her side.
“We’ve known each other since high school so we wanted to finish our college careers together,” Diaz added. “Now we can look back with no regrets and remember that we achieved this together.”
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