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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

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Saint Mary's names two valedictorians for 177th commencement

Seniors Nadia Muniz and Margaret McNabb discuss their research, experience at Saint Mary's

Saint Mary’s seniors Nadia Muniz and Margaret McNabb will be recognized as the class of 2024 valedictorians, the College announced May 7. Both seniors will speak at the commencement ceremony. 

Nadia Muniz

Muniz, from St. Joseph, Michigan, will be graduating with a bachelor of science in neuroscience with a concentration in neuropsychology and a minor in biology. She plans to enter the biotechnology field and will begin working with Pfizer in Cambridge, Massachusetts as a research and development rotational associate in a two-year program with the company. 

“Going into the fall, ... I was really trying to figure out what I wanted to do ... so I was just on LinkedIn and googling stuff, and then I stumbled upon this two-year program,” Muniz said. “This is honestly the best thing that I could have gotten out of college … by early December, I already knew that I had gotten the job and I [thought], ‘Okay, I can stop looking.’” 

Throughout her time at Saint Mary’s, Muniz has been involved in several research projects through her biology laboratory research assistant position and her membership with the Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society in addition to her fellowship with National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) fellowship at Notre Dame in the summer of 2023. During her fellowship, she worked alongside Kenna director of the Zebrafish Research Center David Hyde and her mentor Dmitri Serjanov in the Center for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine. 

“They study zebrafish and the cells that zebrafish have that allow their retina to regenerate, and they want to find therapeutics to implement into humans one day,” Muniz explained.

For her senior comprehensive research, Muniz studied hormones in female rats alongside her advisor, psychology professor Teresa Aubele-Futch. 

“​​My group decided to focus on menopause and the effect of attention on women,” Muniz said. “We chose female rats, and we depleted their hormone levels, kind of how women who undergo menopause have depleted hormone levels, and tried to figure out if that affected their attention. Based on what we found, we concluded that there is a possibility that the timing at which hormones are depleted has an effect on whether attention will be increased or decreased.” 

Outside of her research, Muniz served as treasurer for the Latina community club, La Fuerza, during the 2021-2022 academic year, volunteered in a kindergarten classroom through the ”Beyond the Belle” service program and tutored students in biology at the writing and tutoring center in the Cushwa-Leighton Library. 

Margaret McNabb

McNabb, originally from Chicago, Illinois, will be graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in religious studies and theology and Spanish, with a minor in social work. After graduation, she plans to participate in high school campus ministry in Portland, Maine with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps for one year before continuing her ministry work through a hospital or prison chaplaincy. 

McNabb explained why she decided to work with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.

“[When] I went through their application process and their discernment process, it just felt very right. I felt that it aligns with my own spirituality and my own goals and values, but also I would be pushed to grow,” McNabb said. “It felt like a structured risk that I could take … I am going off to a place I've never been, but I have a community ready to have my back.”

For her senior comprehensive research, McNabb studied interpretations of biblical women and the effects of societal and divine expectations on their mental health. She won the Tiefenthaler Student Research award in the spring of 2023 for this research and plans to publish it with an academic journal after graduation. 

“I was really interested in messages of selflessness, how women always have to be self-sacrificing and how we see women in the Bible who are praised because they give away themselves. When I looked at this in conversation with research on women's depression and how women experience depression, I was struck by something that is often a source and a contributing factor to women's depression, [this] idea that comes from society and is internalized that women have to take care of others and can't take care of themselves and have to give of themselves always,” McNabb said. ”That's exactly what these biblical women are being praised for”

During her time at Saint Mary’s, McNabb participated in many retreats, liturgies and service opportunities through the Center for Faith, Action and Ministry. McNabb said her role as ministry assistant to Le Mans Hall during her junior and senior years also kept her involved with ministry work and connected to fellow students on campus. 

“I don't think it's any secret that these two years have been years of great change, but … some of my greatest joys as an MA have been in running my small groups both last year and this year and getting to know and develop relationships with students in those settings. I feel I have grown in my faith and been ministered to just as much as I have helped others grow in their faith, which I think is the amazing thing about ministry,” McNabb said. 

McNabb also served as a Spanish tutor at the Writing and Tutoring Center and was a clarinet in the Fighting Irish Marching Band at Notre Dame.