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Published in 2018 Winter Issue

Donnelly alumni working on campus

From left: Estevan Ortiz ’10, Heidy Wilson ’15, Dhuha Shareef ’09, Alejandra Valles ’18, LaCherish Thompson ’18, Sean Cepeda ’16. Not pictured: Desmond Lamb ’00

Giving Back

Donnelly College is blessed to have many alumni currently working on campus as staff or faculty members. When alumni decide to return to serve in a new role as an employee, the Donnelly community is cheerful and welcomes familiar faces without hesitation. The alumni that seek employment at Donnelly not only out of a sense of affinity or nostalgia, but to fulfill a deeper personal mission – the same mission of the college – to provide an accessible and affordable education to all. 

Just like our students today, each alumni had a different path to and through Donnelly – making their journey personal and unique to them. We asked a few current team members to tell us more about why they have chosen to serve students at Donnelly. 

“Donnelly chose me. When I arrived in Kansas City, Kansas, I didn’t know much about the red building with the big cross that was couple of miles away from our house on 7th Street. On a cold January day, I enrolled as a student in the ESL program. I had a degree in mathematics from Iraq and teaching experience. I loved teaching and was eager to get back to it. I volunteered to be a math tutor to improve my English and help my fellow students excel in a hard subject. Soon after, I fell in love with Donnelly, the people, and the mission.”  

Dhuha Shareef ’09
Assistant Professor, Mathematics
“I chose to work at Donnelly because as a student, Donnelly really helped mold me into who I am today. This community helped guide me when I needed it most. Now that I work here, I can return that kindness and help everyone that helped me.” 

Sean Cepeda ’16
IT Specialist

Gateway Students Transition to College

Gateway to College at Donnelly College, a high school completion and college transition program, honored 16 students on Dec. 11 in a ceremony that highlights their transition from high school students to college students. 

“We needed something to celebrate our students' accomplishments recognize their transition to college,” said Juan Rangel, director of Gateway to College at Donnelly College. 

New students enter Gateway to College as foundation students, spending at least 16 weeks learning the skills necessary to succeed both academically and in co-curricular settings. Once students have completed their studies as a foundation student, earning As and Bs in all classes, they become a transition student. Transition students work to complete their high school diploma while dual-enrolled as a full-time college student, earning an average of 23 college credits by the time they graduate from high school.

“Transition for me was very intimidating,” said Leonardo Flores, Gateway transition student. “I knew what to expect from my foundation year but I was still nervous because I had doubts. I thought about how this wasn’t the traditional way someone became a college student and what that meant for me. I also felt like I was under a lot of pressure, not just from balancing school, work, and life, but because I was the first in the family to go to college.” 

During the transition ceremony, outstanding students were recognized in the following categories: attendance, most ready for the workforce, excellence in math, excellence in college skills, excellence in writing, excellence in reading, certificate of completion – with distinction and with high distinction. 

“Many of these students have had little to no success in the main school system so for them to be acknowledged, complete something with success and show their parents of their success, is a proud moment for everyone,” Rangel said. “Success breeds success.” 

The ceremony featured guest speaker, Candice Brooks, a higher education professional whose passion areas include social justice education, underrepresented student populations and mental health. The Kansas City, Kansas native spoke about her own life struggles and provided encouragement to all the Gateway students in continuing to pursue their academic and career goals.

Donnelly Celebrates Nursing Students

Donnelly College’s fall 2018 class of Practical Nursing (PN)students were recognized in a pinning ceremony on Dec. 13 in the Event Center. Pinning is a traditional rite of passage for nursing students across the country. 

The ceremony was led by Jennifer Hamilton, director of nursing, who congratulated the 21 graduates on their academic accomplishments during the 16-month program. 

Graduates were pinned by a nursing faculty member or a nursing family or friend from the community who inspired them to pursue and finish the PN program. Donnelly’s PN graduates lit lamps and recited the traditional Florence Nightingale pledge to close the ceremony.

Donnelly student Tenisha Harris

Help Our Students Discover Their Potential

As a senior in Donnelly’s Organizational Leadership program, Tenisha works as a parole officer by day and studies late into the night to ensure a better life for herself and her daughter. The second youngest of seven siblings, Tenisha was the first to earn a high school diploma, and she will be the first to earn a college degree. 

Since 1949 Donnelly College has helped thousands of students like Tenisha discover their potential and transform their lives. Donnelly remains a most valuable resource in the heart of Kansas City, Kansas “providing education and community services with personal concern for the needs and abilities of each student, especially those who might not otherwise be served.”

Thanks to our generous donors, Donnelly is able to keep higher education accessible and affordable to students like Tenisha. Donations to our Annual Fund provide more than $300,000 each year in student scholarships and offset the cost of our academic programs. This allows us to keep our annual tuition as low as possible—just over $7,000, among the lowest of any Catholic college. During this time we are asking our closest friends to consider a contribution to our Annual Fund. With your support, Donnelly will continue to transform lives and help more students like Tenisha discover their God-given potential. Learn more about Tenisha’s story by visiting

Thank you for keeping our students in your prayers and for including Donnelly College in your giving plans.

Watch this video to learn more about Tenisha's story. 

Published in 2018 Summer Issue

Sr. Paula

An Icon Herself

In the early 1940’s on St. Benedict’s Feast Day, the ladies of St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kan., were granted the opportunity to join the men of St. Benedict’s College at their campus church, both colleges now merged to form Benedictine College, for the celebration of Vespers.

At the age of 18, sitting behind a pillar in St. Benedict’s Church on St. Benedict’s campus, something began to stir deep within the soul of Paula Howard. She doesn’t recall exactly what—perhaps it was the rhythm of the Vespers, the solitude of the monks, or the knowledge that what she was experiencing at that moment had been celebrated in the same way since around the year 500 B.C., but she knew at that exact moment, that she wanted to be part of the permanence of God. As she described it, “I caught the Spirit.”

Sister Paula joined the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica in 1943, and just recently celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, 75 years in religious life. Since taking her vows, Sr. Paula has lived throughout the world, working as a teacher, administrator, author and iconographer. While these vocations and ministries were varied and numerous, few were self-chosen. Instead, they were a function of the time, and of the Church, taking her where she was needed, including to Donnelly College.

After returning from teaching for several years in Bethlehem, Sr. Paula learned that Donnelly College needed a Dean of the College. Having been part of the Mount community since 1943, she remembers Donnelly’s founding in 1949.

“The reason the College was established was because there were a lot of immigrants who did not have a chance for a good education, so [the founders] wanted to provide an opportunity for a higher education for those that would not otherwise have had a chance, both because of immigrant status, and because of financial reasons,” she said. “It was inexpensive. It was, and still is, a place to overcome prejudices.”

After Sr. Paula had already retired twice, the opportunity to serve as Interim Dean of the College at Donnelly presented itself. She agreed to serve until the position was filled. Her “temporary” role lasted nearly 10 years, due to her love for the students and excellent working relationship with the faculty and staff.

Throughout her time at Donnelly, Sr. Paula had numerous administrative responsibilities and maintained teaching at least one class per term to stay in touch with the students and to hear their struggles. She left Donnelly in 1999, but not before making a permanent impact on the students and culture of the College. Sr. Pauls led the effort for Donnelly to become part of the national honor society Phi Theta Kappa, a society still active on campus today.

Recent graduate Ada Sanabria said her choice of Donnelly was due in part to the existence of an honor society, as it provided her a reason to excel, a goal to achieve, and an honor that would open doors to transfer and scholarship opportunities.

Retiring for the third time in 1999, Sr. Paula finally had the time to pursue her desire to paint. Having never painted before, Sr. Paula began experimenting with landscapes and still-life before enrolling in a workshop about painting icons. A new love was born.

While Sr. Paula sees her icons as bringing some of the greatest joy to her life, she also remembers her time at Donnelly quite fondly. And, she is remembered fondly as well. Former Donnelly College President John Murry who served from 1987 to 1998 remembers his friend this way, “At Donnelly she was a lady of all seasons and she could do anything. She is such a multi-talented, bright woman, and Donnelly was lucky to have her.”

To this day, in the Admissions office, Sr. Paula’s hand-painted portrait of Donnelly founder Sister Jerome Keeler in the icon style hangs prominently for all guests and students to see. While Sr. Paula is no longer on campus herself, her spirit and legacy remain.

Portrait of Sr. Jerome Keeler by Sr. Paula Howard in Icon tradition

Portrait of Sr. Jerome Keeler by Sr. Paula Howard in Icon tradition

What is an icon?

An icon is a work of art, often painted on wood, representing holy figures such as saints, Mary and Jesus in either portrait style or a scene. Icons differ by artist, but are influenced by some consistent traditions. 

  • Highly symbolic
  • Not intended to look exactly like the person, influenced greatly by the artist’s interpretation
  • Eyes are large representing windows to the soul
  • Neck is large representing the path the holy spirit travels from the heart to the mind
  • Mouth is small indicating contemplation and thoughtfulness
  • Hands are exaggerated
  • No single light source
  • Uses royal colors of red
March for Life

A New Tradition

In the harsh winter weather of January, as most were staying inside and close to home, 14 Donnelly students and one brave faculty chaperone boarded a bus for a 26-hour ride to the nation’s capital to march for the unborn.

For the second year, in what they hope will become an annual tradition, Donnelly students participated in the 45th annual March for Life, a rally and march supporting the pro-life movement.

“I have always been pro-life, and had always wanted to attend the March for Life, but through high school it was not possible,” said Angelica Perez, Donnelly student and trip organizer. “When I got to Donnelly I was determined to make it happen. This is my second year attending, and it was so great to see so many young people passionate about life.”

On the morning of the march, students attended the Kansans for Life mass, as well as listened to Sr. Beth Madonna and President Donald Trump speak. Gathering in the streets, and proudly marching behind the Donnelly College banner, students marched alongside St. John Paul II Seminary from Washington, D.C. while they sang in Latin. The march concluded as students rounded the corner at Constitution Avenue and First Street, in front of the Supreme Court.

Faculty chaperone and Acting Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs Lisa Stoothoff said, “There is faith and then there is faith in action. Attending the March for Life and seeing it through young eyes was a powerful testament to God’s merciful love for us.”

Donnelly student publications

Publishing Student Work

Originally published on the Donnelly College Blog, May 3, 2018 

Many institutions of higher education provide opportunities for students to publish their creative and academic work. While student newspapers and research publications make up many of these opportunities, literary and art journals are also quite popular.

Literary and artistic pursuit within an educational setting are documented to be part of a well-rounded education, regardless of publication or not. So, why publish? Dr. Melissa Lenos, associate professor and chair of liberal arts and sciences, explains that Donnelly takes the time, energy and consideration to transform student work into a printed publication in part to show students that their work has value, and that there is a wider audience for it.

“Writing is not simply something a student does for a grade or for personal pleasure,” she said. “It can be for an extended audience who will read the writing and look at their visual work out of true interest and admiration.”

Throughout Donnelly’s history, publishing student works has been an important part of the academic experience. From students producing “Newsletter” in the 1950s, and a poetry magazine entitled “Well-Used Sidewalk” in the 1960s, to the publication of the literary journal “The Athenian” in the 1970s, opportunities have been readily available on campus.

While “The Athenian” ceased publication some time ago, since 2014 Lenos has led the effort to publish and edit “dime: the Arts and Literary Journal of Donnelly College.” Each fall semester, all students have the opportunity to submit original works of fiction, poetry, essays, creative nonfiction and visual art. In the spring, “dime” is released, and selected students win the Sister Mary Faith Schuster Award for outstanding submissions.

In addition to “dime,” during the spring 2018 semester, Dr. Paula Console-Șoican, assistant professor of English, published a collection of student essays under the title “The Immigrant’s Song.” This collection represents essays submitted in a class by the same title where students had the opportunity to explore their own relationship to “immigrant fiction” discussed in the course. In the preface, Console-Șoican writes, “With this collection of student essays from my immigrant fiction class from the fall of 2017 at Donnelly College, I am merely extending the importance of reporting, of documenting the stories that people need to tell, and in this case the autoethnographic essays that my students have learned to write. I do so under the knowledge that each one of us has a way of writing or talking in this autoethnographic sense that is unmatched and crucial to listen to. In what follows I am attempting to give my students their own voice against and across the constraints imposed by our class, by the fact that this was a final exam in which the personal essay meets the literary response to one of the books we read for class.”

“ dime” is supported by the Department of Liberal Arts and Sciences as well as the Sister Mary Faith Schuster Award donors, Larry and Joan Ward. “The Immigrant’s Song” was a special project supported by various departments within the College.