Growing up (and even still today) when I'm feeling overworked or overwhelmed, my dad always tells me, "Remember Aaron, pressure makes diamonds." Even though at the time, I may not always want to hear such simplistic and optimistic advice when I'm so busy that I forget to eat, it's true...you can't have the hardest mineral known to man (or the most beautiful stone known to woman) without a ton of pressure. As quite the involved student athlete with a crammed academic schedule, I'd be lying if I said that college was no sweat and that there weren't nights that I questioned my sanity (as illustrated in the picture below from a finals week one year). I may not have emerged a sparkling diamond when I graduated Saint Vincent, but it was those times when I was ready to throw in the towel that truly prepared me for life after college and taught me some important lessons.
Lesson 1: The little things are just that....THINGS!
I'm not talking about classwork or finals or having a healthly lifestyle, because all of those are more than just little things. What I am talking about is the bad hair days that everyone has, the stress of paying $500 for books, the stress of not knowing your roommate or being nervous about who you will sit with at lunch. Sure, everyone has a bad day; even Veronica (the ever smiling cafeteria worker who made it a point to learn each and every student's name) had rough days. But remember: it's ok to be stressed; it's ok to be upset or anxious or nervous. The important thing to remember is that you aren't the only one who feels that way.
I will be giving two presentations in front of hundreds of other computer programmers this coming September in Wisconsin. Am I nervous? You better believe it! But the focus that studying at SVC taught me has helped me prepare my presentation far enough in advance. And the ability to ask other people for help that I eventually learned at Saint Vincent has helped me ask my coworkers' opinions of my presentation drafts. Which brings me to my second lesson...
Lesson 2: The only stupid question is the question that you never ask
Yep, I was that kid that walked into the wrong classroom on the first day of the semester at least my first three semesters at Saint Vincent. I was that guy who never listened to my teammates and scheduled with the toughest professors, because c'mon, how hard can the professor really make the class? I was the guy who spent hours in my dorm room banging my head against the wall trying to figure out each week's assignment when I knew (and was even invited to go work with) a group of my classmates who were meeting just down the hall to study together. Everyone needs their alone time, and not everyone is an extravert who can just walk up to anyone and start a conversation off the bat. But know that there are so many people at Saint Vincent who want to see you succeed. That support group will only grow as you continue your journey through college and into the real world. Never be afraid to ask for help, because you never know what life will throw your way.
Lesson 3: No matter how hard you try, you can't predict your future. So try not to lose sleep over it
This may not come as a shock to anyone, but even the most seemingly boring lives are subject to sudden changes. Stressing over whether or not you have selected the right major, or how you are going to have time to study for all three exams that you have this coming week, or how you will manage having to run home for your parent's birthday party with a huge paper due on Monday just isn't worth the anxiety. College is tough, there is no denying that fact. And post collegiate life can throw just as many curveballs. When all else fails, take a deep breath, step back from the moment, and re-visit lessons 1 and 2.
Lesson 4: Never stop trying
One of my favorite quotes is from runner Steve Prefontaine, who boldly exclaimed: "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." It is easy to feel down about yourself when the pressure is on and things might not be going the way that you had planned. My freshman year, I did not run a fast enough time trial join as a member of the cross country team. If I would've given up there, my entire life would have changed. But I didn't give up and retried the time trial a few weeks later and made the team. Did I go on to become the fastest runner that Saint Vincent has ever seen? Not even in the slightest. I only ran varsity two or three races my entire four year cross country career. But did I become a member of the first SVC athletic team to bring home a PAC trophy? And did I join a team that has become my family with whom I still keep in touch today? I sure did.
My junior year, I had a packed schedule and wasn't able to keep my grades where I wanted them to be. I thought long and hard about changing my major to find a less stressful road to graduation. But I didn't give up; I kept my nose to the grindstone and stuck with my major. Did I go on to become to become the smartest student to ever attend Saint Vincent? Hardly. I actually ended up getting a C- in one of my major core classes. But did it teach me how to stay focused and how to prioritize my time? It sure did.
College can be a stressful time, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming. Remember, no matter how stressed you may feel, there will always be people behind you, cheering you on. You just might not see them until after the stress clears.
Most people have seen the scene from Adam Sandler's movie Billy Madison where Billy comes back to the elementary school and tells the third grade kids how "great" high school is. "Gee," announces one of the third graders, "I can't wait to get to high school." Billy's face turns serious and he grabs the pudgy kid's cheeks and shakes him repeatedly while telling him "Don't you say that. Don't you ever say that. Stay here. Stay here as long as you can. For the love of God, cherish it. You gotta cherish it." (If you haven't seen the movie, or you are like me and still laugh every time you see it, see the clip below)
We've all been there. "I can't wait for vacation to get here." "I can't wait until the weekend." "I can't wait to grow up." Too often, SVC alumni read on social media sites or hear current Saint Vincent students exclaim "I can't wait to finish finals and be done with the sememster," or "I can't wait for my senior year to get here," or "I can't wait to graduate." To these naive students, the response from the alumni is always the same: "Cherish it! Stay as long as you can!!"
What happens in those moments where we find ourselves wishing for something else? Sadly, far too often those become the moments that we wish we could have back. Personally, I know that if the 24 year old Aaron could go back in time and have a conversation with the college freshman Aaron, it would go something like this:
24 Yr Old Aaron: "Campus ministry trip to Italy. Why aren't you going?"
College Freshman Aaron: "I dunno, it's kind of a long trip and a big commitment and kinda inconvenient. Plus I can't wait to just have my summer off."
"Man up. it'll be one of your biggest college regrets. You signed up for the spring break service trip right?"
"Are you kidding? And give up my spring break when I get to go home and lounge around for the week?"
"What about the trip to Alaska?"
"Pull yourself together bro. You're really missing out on these opportunities."
"I did take a two hour nap today, so that's something."
"But for real, get out of your room, go meet people, and leave that comfort zone. Don't go wishing these next four years away or sit and watch them go by without doing anything."
I'm not telling you that I live everyday in the past and that I still live live my life as though I were still a college student. Nor am I saying that there weren't times that I couldn't wait to be done. My senior thesis - a long, in depth project with countless hours of research and meticulous planning. My 25 page biochemistry final - one of the toughest exams that I've ever taken. Staying up all night sitting with one of the residents in my hall who had too much to drink and waiting for the ambulance to come - knowing full well that I had an exam the next morning. But it was living through those moments (and each one of the countless others in my SVC career) that taught me an important lesson. Researching, computing, and presenting my senior thesis prepared me to approach, manage, complete, and present projects that are assigned to me today at UPMC. The biochemistry final taught me that you can never be too prepared or know the material given to you by your professor (or your boss) too well. And sitting with that student all night gave me confidence to handle situations that I would otherwise avoid as well as the ability to think quickly on my feet.
There is nothing wrong with being excited for a big event. Especially the events that break the "mundane" of your daily living, such as vacations, weekends, or graduating and moving forward to the next big step in your life. But remember that every moment is unique; there is nothing that you can do to truly relive or retrieve the moments that together, define the person that you are. What we can do is take a step back from our constantly busy lives and appreciate what we have right in front of us in that particular moment. Trust me, the you a few years down the road will be happy that you did.
Hello, friends! Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your day to look at my little corner of the blogiverse. My name is Sadie Stresky, and I graduated from Saint Vincent in 2013 with a communication major and minors in marketing and graphic design. Presently, I work as the Digital Marketing Manager at 321Blink, a full-service marketing and production agency in Aspinwall, PA.
I’ve always wanted to blog, but I felt like I didn’t have much to say about any one topic. It was only after working for a few months that I realized I had been jotting down notes to myself about how to succeed at work, maintain a sense of professionalism, and general life advice. I hope that through this blog, I can share some of my findings with you!
Saint Vincent played a huge part in shaping who I am today. It all started when my high school guidance counselor suggested I take a tour of the campus because it’s a “nice person school.” I’m glad I took her advice! We Bearcats are so lucky to have such a friendly, welcoming community to call home. It's something special when professors, neighbors, and even strangers (who won't be strangers for long!) go out of their way to help you however they can.
My four years at Saint Vincent gave me amazing friends and memories that will last a lifetime- not to mention an excellent education! As a student, I loved being involved in all sorts of ways, from running the communication club (which was once Ad Club, then Culture Pub, now MAD COMM) to being in Alpha Phi Omega, Women in Business, and other clubs. I had an amazing work-study experience at the Seminary and Archabbey Public Relations office and was in the pioneer group of Fred Rogers Scholars, which helped fuel my passion for children’s media issues.
All of these things helped me be well-prepared for my first job out of college. I use my degree every day at 321Blink. As a project manager, I oversee the making of creative campaigns from start to finish. Sometimes, I’ll also do some graphic design work and copywriting – I even got to be in a commercial for Sendell Volkswagen! It’s always amusing when people say, “Hey, I think I just saw you on TV!”
Just like at Saint Vincent, each day on the job brings new challenges and things to learn. I’m looking forward to sharing more of my journey with you!
Without going into a full blown discussion over alternative realities and butterfly effect theories, sometimes I wonder how many different opportunities have been presented to me throughout my short 24 years of living that could have changed who and where I am at this moment today.
I'm not going to break it down into the "what if I would have slept in yesterday and missed breakfast, and as a result I stopped at Starbucks on my way to work. At Starbucks, the man in front of me offered to pay for my breakfast so I was put in a good mood and feeling lucky so I played the Power Ball, won, and became an instant millionaire" type choices (although if that happens to anyone, it was my idea first and I promise to only take a small piece of the winnings).
But honestly, there were countless paths that I could have taken (knowingly or not) throughout my four years at Saint Vincent College. From knowing what classes to take, to finding someone to talk to when I was feeling down, to preparing my résumé and learning everything that I needed to know about job hunting, my Saint Vincent family was always there to offer the guidance that I needed.
The Saint Vincent Labyrinth, a recent addition to SVC campus as a path of meditation and self reflection (SVC Dedicates Labyrinth)
"Remember Aaron, your studies come first." "Are you still liking all of your classes?" "What exams do you have this week?" If I had a dollar for every time that my parents asked me these questions on my weekly calls home, I might as well have won the Power Ball. Leaving the comforts of home and starting down my new path at Saint Vincent my freshman year, even if it was only a 45 minute trip, (disregarding the fact that Mom made it feel as though we were light years apart) was an exciting, but also a stressful time. New friends, new surroundings, new schedules, new everything were enough to make any level-headed freshman's head spin.
Fortunately for me (and the rest of any incoming freshman classes), Saint Vincent had my back. The Orientation committee put together a great few days of sessions, speakers, activities, and games that truly calmed my nerves and helped me get acclimated to the new environment as well as meet a lot of my fellow freshman classmates. As an added bonus, being a member of a fall sports team meant an early move in for the athletes before the rest of the campus community.
Cross Country head coach Dr. Andrew Herr had that whole week planned to a T, which included the upperclassmen helping the freshmen move their belongings into the dorm; team bonding trips to the Latrobe pool, Sandcastle and a cabin in the Laurel Highlands; team meetings about the upcoming cross country season; grades; eating healthy; as well as the importance going to bed at a decent hour. Oh, all that plus the two-a-day practices.
But the part that truly stuck with me was the individual meetings between the runners and Coach Herr or Coach Steve Snider (the assistant coach). These meetings were not just for the freshmen and were not held exclusively during orientation week. Throughout any runner's SVC career, an almost weekly meeting was scheduled to discuss that week's goals, both on and off the course, how the team was doing from an athlete's perspective and how classes were going. These meetings were normally scheduled for fifteen minute timeslots, but we often found ourselves sitting for 30-45 minutes or however long it took for us to get everything off our chests. Our coaches were always there to offer advice on becoming better men, better runners and better students.
Freshman year wasn't the only time that I needed academic guidance, nor were my coaches and teammates always the final resource when it came to being a better student. Obviously, all SVC professors had office hours and were always available for specifc questions within a given course. Other times I needed guidance in my major, or in making sure that all of my classes were lined up to successfully graduate in time. For these times, I turned to my advisors, who got to know me by my second week of classes. My advisors were the ones who helped me select classes for the upcoming semesters, prepare my senior thesis, and ultimately prepare for my career path. And for general career help, such as perfecting my résumé, finding contacts for job opportunities and interview tips, I could always rely on the Career Center.
But as prepared as all of these resources helped me become, there were plenty of unexpected twists and turns while on my Saint Vincent path. From coping with the deaths of friends and family members close to my heart, to relationship troubles, to the general anxiety of being a college student, the Wellness Center was a quiet, peaceful, confidential place that I (or any Saint Vincent member) could go and just talk and be heard by professionals who have heard it all.
It wasn't easy at first to talk with the members of the Wellness Center, because let's be honest, I was a man and everyone knows men don't have feelings (or at least aren't supposed to). It would just show that I was weak, that I was soft, giving my friends a reason to make fun of me. But how wrong I was on all accounts; I've never felt as free and as comfortable with myself as I did when walking out of the Wellness Center after talking with the amazing people that work there.
There are a lot of cliches that I could insert here about life and its available paths. "Life is a journey." "Life is a highway." "Footsteps in the sand." "Forward, always forward." But I'll spare the reader the eye roll and simply say that no matter what path life takes you on, there are always people along the way to lend a helping hand. But remember...you'll never get anywhere standing still.
My name is Aaron Seckar and I graduated from the most beautiful place in the world, Saint Vincent College, back in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in Bioinformatics. Currently, I am an Interface Analyst at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and am engaged to the beautiful Kimberly Yanicko. We will be coming back to Saint Vincent on the day of our wedding to be married in the Basilica, and we could not be more excited for one of the most special days of our lives to happen at the most special place in the world to us. You see, Saint Vincent means more to me than just where I went to college to get my degree; it is more than just a school that I call my alma mater and go back to visit for homecoming weekend; it was, and still is, a place that I call home.
Way before I was even born (I promise...I'll keep this part short) my mother and her whole family grew up in Latrobe. Her mother (my grandmother) worked as a switchboard operator at SVC way back in the day, my great uncle helped build Alfred Hall, and one of my father's cousins played on the SVC football team that made it to a major bowl game before football was discontinued, so my ties to the college were pretty strong before I even considered attending. None of those factors, however, really drove home the idea that I had made the right choice by applying to Saint Vincent. I will never forget the summer after graduating high school when the head coach of the cross country team called my house to talk about the track season that I had just completed (which was anything but extraordinary) and to talk about my summer training and what size jersey I'd need for the upcoming cross country season. It was at that moment that I knew the next four years of my life were going to be something special.
And how right I was. I can honestly say that my four years at SVC were the four greatest and the four fastest years of my life. From running around campus (and the whole Latrobe/Westmoreland County area) with the cross country and track teams, to prefecting in St. Benedict and Rooney Halls, to tutoring Computer Science students through the Collaborative Learning Program (CLP), and working for Fr. Max when he was the guest master in the Archabbey, (all while keeping up with my own studies of course), it was pretty rare to find me sitting around doing nothing.
When I did have down time though, I loved watching other SVC athletes in action, playing intramurals or midnight pickup games of two hand touch football, and appreciating that my best friends all lived within walking distance of where I lived. Don't get me wrong...I'm not trying to convince you that my four years at Saint Vincent were filled with rainbows and butterflies. I experienced the anxiety of studies, the 3AM fire alarms, the relationship issues, and the overall stress that comes with being a college student. But it was the SVC community (which later became my SVC family) that made attending Saint Vincent College such a blessing. I hope that through this blog, I will be able to share some of my experiences that made me a part of the place where everybody knows your name.
Hello there! My name is Allyson Lambert and I graduated from Saint Vincent College this past December with a Bachelor of Science degree in finance. It's hard to believe that just a few short months ago, I was finishing up my last finals week of undergrad and preparing for graduation!
In addition to academics, Saint Vincent College provided me with a number of formative experiences and activities that helped shape me into the individual I am today. During my time here I was part of the Women's Cross Country Team and a member of Women in Business (WIB). During the day, you could find me working at the McCarl Gallery between classes or giving campus tours for the Admissions Office. By evening, you could find me back stage rehearsing for a musical or opera. I truly enjoyed my time spent here learning and growing as a person.
After a whirlwind of tests and papers, it was finally time to recieve my diploma. Surrounded by friends and family, I felt an overwhelming amount of support from the Saint Vincent Community as I walked accross the stage. Although it was hard to leave the place that I called home for the last few years it did not feel like goodbye, just "see you later!"
Now that I had my diploma, it was time to focus on interviewing and planning for the next step...
So where did I end up after graduation?
2000 miles away in Nevada!
Shortly after graduation, I accepted a position with PPG Industries in their Financial Leadership Development (FLD) Program. The program allows FLD Trainees to explore different aspects of the business through a series of assignments. For my first assignment, I had the opportunity to relocate to Reno, Nevada for approximately 18 months. I couldn't have been more excited to begin this journey!
In the words of Boniface Wimmer, Saint Vincent College strives to teach “first what is necessary, then what is useful, and finally what is beautiful.” The liberal arts curriculum has done just that for me by developing the technical skills necessary for business, while also capturing the beauty of the humanities—the history, art and theology that unites us all.
Through this blog I hope to share how my education at Saint Vincent has impacted my life beyond the brick-walls and green fields of the college campus I once called home. Now, as I venture out into the "real world," I am ready to fully embrace all that life has to offer. I hope you will follow along on this journey with me!
After all, once a Bearcat, always a Bearcat.