As Graduation Approaches, 2019 Xavier Grads Share Wisdom

By Brendan Bergen

Each year, Xavier University staff asks a group of graduating students to reflect on their college experience.

Below is a collection of wisdom from a selection of graduates in this year's class — including what they've learned about the Xavier experience, themselves and what they might say if they could speak with their "Freshman Self."


Benmun Damul – Joss, Nigeria – Psychology

“I think a Jesuit education is instrumental to creating people who aren't just machines in the workforce, but who have empathy and who know how to care about people, who know how to ask questions and dismantle systems and institutions that may not necessarily be working for the world anymore. And so, discernment and reflection and caring for the whole person — all of these things a Jesuit education teaches — are so important. They're not just good for your life, but for whatever place you go to. So, you see that people who interact with Jesuit graduates think they're so much better people to work with because there's also a level of self-awareness that comes with all the reflection that we have to do that I don't think a lot of other people have. I love it."

Rafael Luciano – San Juan, Puerto Rico – Philosophy, Politics, and the Public, International Studies
“I feel like I'm way more confident in myself and my abilities. I think that when I'm in a room I feel like I no longer have to ask for permission. I feel like I can say what I want to say with confidence. And I feel I have the ability to talk to different people and communicate. I feel like Xavier has given me the ability to just connect in different ways with people.”
Kyle Gilliam – Columbus, Ohio – Economics, Pre-Law Track

“I would say life on campus — when they advertise it — they always talk about community, and I think that's definitely true. It's a very community-oriented school. You definitely feel like you're a part of it. You don't feel like you're just a number. You know people. It's small so that you can make those connections, but it's not too small that you feel like you know every single person. There's always someone else you can meet.”

Brianna Boyce – South Plainfield, N.J. – HR and Management

“My Xavier story is kind of unique. I found Xavier because I turned on the television one day and the Xavier-St. John's basketball game was on. When I was picking colleges my junior year of high school I was kind of just bookmarking things. What I realized senior year is that I bookmarked all schools with really good basketball teams. When I got here and went on my tour I realized my tour guide, every step she took she knew everybody. She smiled, said "hi." We couldn't make three steps without her saying "hi," to the point where I didn't think the tour was going to end. And I just fell so in love with like the campus and the people here. And me turning on that game may have caught my eye, but what made me stay here and pick this school was the people.”

“I think I've learned it's okay to fail. And that you need to learn each failure is just another learning lesson. And that you're not going to get everything. You're not always gonna be the best at something, but that's okay. If you keep on working hard toward it, you can do it. And that's something I'm going to keep forever. Every failure that I had here at Xavier made me into a stronger, better person and a better leader.”

Michael Boyer – Cincinnati – Marketing, Spanish Minor

“If I could talk to my freshman self, I would say get involved in the things that you want to get involved in. Don't let any other people make a decision for you. You'll find your best friends and the things that you want to do. Just be yourself.”

Georgia Cooper – Bellefontaine, Ohio – Health Services Administration

“I would tell myself to just put myself out there, do things you're not comfortable with, talk to people you don't know, and just be who you are. And don't worry about what everyone else thinks.”

Catherine Fazio – Long Island, N.Y. – Health Services Administration

“If I could talk to my freshman self I'd say call home more, especially mom. Because she's going to bring it up later that you didn't call enough.”

Kyle Gilliam – Columbus, Ohio – Economics, Pre-Law Track

“I would tell myself that you cannot do 8 a.m. classes. [Laughing] But no, if I could talk to my freshman self I would say just take the time to breathe and trust yourself. You don't need to stress at every opportunity. Just take a step back and you'll be able to handle it.”

Brianna Boyce – South Plainfield, N.J. – HR and Management

“I could talk to my freshman self I would tell her to take every day at a time, to breathe, and that you can do this. Don't compare yourself to everyone else because your path is not going to be everybody else's. Your finish line will look a little bit different, but it'll be what makes you happy.”

Dominic Shaheen – Metamora, Ill. – Finance          

"If I could talk to my freshman self I would say relax, take it in. You know, classes are important but don't be afraid to really get out and expand on what your interests may be and challenge your own views. You're going to a school where kids are coming from all over the country, even internationally, all with their own different points of views and backgrounds. Don't take that for granted and really try to make those connections with people is something I would definitely want to make sure that freshman-me knew, you know, day one."

Elizabeth Zalla – Villa Hills, Ky. – Communication Studies & Advertising, Minor in Psychology and Studio Art

“If I could talk to my freshman self I would say cherish every moment, the good and the bad. Because every single moment is a growing moment, a time for you to learn more about yourself and learn more about others and who you want to be in the world. And that it's going to go by so fast, faster than you would ever imagine.”

Nick Rassel – Greenwood, Ind. – Finance, Minor in Information Systems

"If I could talk to my freshman self I would tell him to be fearless, do things that really push yourself to go outside of your comfort zone — go talk to different people, go talk to somebody that's sitting alone in the "CAF" and just really push yourself outside your comfort zone. Do the things that you would never expect yourself to do."

Jake Fouts – St. Louis – Sport Management

"If I could talk to my freshmen year self, I'd tell him to be confident who he is. I'd tell him to enjoy every minute of Brockman Hall, even the fire alarms. Tell him that he's about to make some of the best friends that he never even dreamed he would make. And that it's going to be the greatest four years of his life and to enjoy every second of it because, as it's coming to an end, it's bittersweet."

Brianna Lensome – Youngstown, Ohio – Philosophy, Politics, and the Public, Political Science

“If I could talk to my freshman self I would tell her to slow down. I did end up graduating in three years, but it was a marathon sprint for the majority of the time that I spent at Xavier. And I think that the biggest piece of advice that I would give it to myself is to be present in the moment you're in because it's going to go away. And even though I'm lucky to have so many more great moments in front of me in the future, I also know that being present where I am is really important too.”

“Also, keep asking questions. Never accept whatever is being told to you for exactly what it is. Don't be quiet and keep challenging the people around you to do the same.”

Tori DiMattio – Boise, Idaho – Athletic Training

“If I could talk to my freshman self I would say, girlfriend, you don't need all the t-shirts that you brought. I have so many t-shirts and I just don't need them all. Also, don't be afraid to put yourself out there. Get out of your comfort zone. I mean, I did eventually but it took a long time. So, just go for it.”

Paul Fritschner – Springfield, Va. – Public Relations, Sport Management, Minor in Business

“If I could talk to my freshman self, I would say don't wait around at Xavier to take advantage of any opportunity, because those opportunities are right there in front of you for the taking. And also, to appreciate each and every single day because everybody says college goes by so fast, but it really does. Looking back on freshman year, that was something I really tried to do. Every day, every experience you have, every basketball game you go to, every time you go out with your friends, it's over real quick. And those are the memories you're gonna have. And they're exquisite memories. Delightful.”

Courtney Holladay – Dayton, Ohio – Business Analytics and Marketing

“If I could talk to my freshman self I would tell her that you can do anything. Coming to college, I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do. I wasn't sure what I could do. As a first-generation college student — I feel like I'm going to cry for some reason all of the sudden — I didn't really think that I would be able to have all the opportunities at Xavier that other students did, just because I didn't know about them. I didn't know what I wanted to do. I didn't know anybody in the field that I'm in. So, now knowing where I am and everything I've learned, I think that I would just tell her you can do it and just network and be who you want to be.”

Liz Parrillo – Long Island, N.Y. – Nursing        

“If I could talk to my freshman self I would say that you will pass anatomy.”

Allison Schumacher – Naperville, Ill. – Nursing       

“If I could talk to my freshman self I would say that it seems overwhelming at the time, but I promise you if you have a good support group you can make it through anything. As my mom always said, "This too shall pass." So, whenever there's a crazy test or you feel super-overwhelmed about something, just take a deep breath, take baby steps, and lean on the people close to you, because they're really going to get you through it.”

Lauren Gierla – Nashville, Tenn. – Marketing, Minor in Economics and Gender and Diversity studies

"If I could talk to my freshman self I would tell her to relax, you are exactly where you're supposed to be. You may not know it yet, but Xavier is your home and the people around you are your family. So, just be confident in that and make the most of every moment."

Mary Fanning – Cleveland – Marketing, Minor in Business Analytics

"If I could talk to my freshman self I think I would just tell her to be confident and keep putting herself out there. And do what makes you happy and what you're interested in. You're going to regret it if you don't do it, but if you try it you might love it."

Keegan Burrell – Indianapolis - Nursing

"If I could talk to my freshman self I would say to take advantage of all the basketball games all four years, not just freshman and senior year."

Amy Calabrese – Pittsburgh – Nursing 

"If I had to talk to my freshman self I would say just have confidence. Have confidence in the decisions you make, in everything, because I didn't have any my freshman year. And I slowly learned that you need it, you need it in life.

Maggie Morris – Zionsville, Ind. – International Business and Marketing

“If I could talk to my freshman self I think I would say hold each other accountable, be there for one another. And also, the food in the "Caf" will be there for the whole year, so don't... don't think you need to eat it all at once.”