Exit Interview: Melanie Solano

Monday, May 6, 2013

SJU News reached out to some exemplary graduates and asked them to share some of their acheivements and memories from their time on Hawk Hill.

Name: Melanie Solano

Major: Elementary and Special Education

Minors: Autism Studies, Faith and Justice Studies, English


  • Dean’s List Honors Spring 2010-Present
  • Special Education Undergraduate Day Award recipient 2013
  • Spirit, Intellect, Purpose award winner, Spring 2013
  • Member of the 2013 Hawkcoming Court
  • Featured in the RA Spotlight Section of RA Magazine, Spring 2013
  • Third Place Winner of the SJU Study Abroad Photo Contest, September 2012
  • 2012 Short-Term Semester at Sea Scholarship from NSCS
  • Tutor of the Year Award, SJU Writing Center, Spring 2011
  • Women of Purpose Award, Spring 2011

Service experience:

  • Community Partner Coordinator, GESU Elementary School: Fall 2010 - October 2012
  • PREP Teacher, Saint Matthias Parish: Fall 2011 - Spring 2013
  • Service Learning Participant: Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012

Hometown: Haverford, Pa.

Next Stop (after Graduation): Staying at SJU for graduate school to earn a master’s in education, a reading specialist certification, an English as a Second Language endorsement, and a Wilson Reading Program certification.  After that, I hope to find an elementary school teaching position in a local suburban public school district.

Favorite professor and why: Fall of my sophomore year I took American History with Michael Burns, Ph.D., adjunct professor of history.  It was one of the most challenging courses I ever took workload wise, and I must admit that I complained about it for at least the first two months.  Some test questions seemed ridiculous and the reading required outside of class was often difficult to get done on time when I had four other courses to balance as well. 

What I began to realize, though, was that I never minded sitting through each class period. Dr. Burns had a way of explaining history like it was one big, never-ending story.  Each class period it didn’t seem like I was just there to listen and take notes, I was there to see what happened in history and make my own judgments on if it was the right course at that point in time.  If I had had room for more electives, I would have taken another U.S. history class with Dr. Burns the next semester! 

Most interesting class and why: Spring of my junior year I took the Inside/Out Dimensions of Freedom Prison class with Thomas Brennan, S.J., associate professor of education and Elizabeth Linehan, RSM, associate professor of philosophy.  It was SUCH an eye-opening experience!  Sitting with all of my classmates, both inmates and traditional SJU students, taught me how to listen and see things differently.  While I never thought of myself as one to stereotype, I learned that I had definitely entered this course with some preconceived notions and it was exciting to watch them slip away as the class progressed.

What will you tell your children/grandchildren about your SJU experience?: I will tell them about how much the campus has changed in just the four years I have been here.  When I first stepped on campus, before I was even accepted into the school, Maguire Campus had just been purchased.  We barely toured on that side of the street and the education department was still housed in Barbelin.  I now take the majority of my classes in Merion Hall and the Kinney Center has been developed in Connelly Hall (called Cynwyd Hall my freshman year!).  The Post Learning Commons was created…Villiger opened this year…Many offices combined to form Hawk Central…Landmark Bar and Grill opened…An advising center for each school was created…my list could go on and on. I am sure that in just a few years from now, even more changes will take place and I will begin to not recognize the campus myself.  I guess that I can always look for Barbelin, though, and find my way around from there!  Some things will never change.

What, if anything, would you have done differently at SJU ?: When I first entered St. Joe’s as a freshman the workload was very difficult for me to manage.  I was used to only taking four classes per semester and there was never as much reading in my high school as I had here.  I always felt behind!   During my freshman fall semester I took two very difficult classes: Western Civilizations 1 and French.  Looking back I should have found someone to tutor me in both classes and visited my professor on a weekly basis. If I had not been so reluctant to admit that I needed help, I probably would have performed in both classes and shown a stronger first semester here at SJU.

Favorite spot on campus: Sitting under a big tree on the edge of Maguire Campus, behind the baseball field and along Latches Lane. It is peaceful and quiet there, and I love getting work done in the fresh air.  I also like the second floor of the Post Learning Commons with the big windows that allow sunlight to come pouring into the room.  Sometimes I sit in the children’s book section as well.

Favorite SJU memory: As a Hawk Host tour guide I have given many tours to prospective students.  During one tour I had a particularly energetic family that was constantly taking pictures and asking me questions.  They wanted to see the inside of practically every building and kept stopping students along the way to ask them random questions.  While we were standing in the Barbelin courtyard, I was explaining why our school is called Hawk Hill.  I told this family how a family of Hawks lived in the bell tower and right at that moment one flew out and perched in a tree a few feet away from us. The family went crazy and took many photos. They spoke about it during the rest of the tour.  I am not sure if that student ended up coming to SJU or not but I will never forget that moment and how cool it felt to be a Hawk.

What you’ll miss the most: Although I get to stay on as an RA next year, I will no longer be working with freshmen.  I am really going to miss being a mentor for first- year students and being a part of the central campus community. I am going to miss all the friends that I have made and the people I have met.  I am excited to be staying here for one more year as I complete my graduate program, but I know that things will never be the same as my first four years on campus.

How did your four years at SJU change you? (How are you different from who you were four years ago?): I feel that I am much more outspoken than the freshman I was four years ago.  While I wouldn’t say I was shy, I have definitely learned how to find my voice and use it.  I view myself as more of a leader now which is important for someone who will one day manage a classroom of young children.

How will your SJU education help you make a positive difference in the world?: My SJU education has definitely made me a more well-rounded individual.  By taking required GEP classes, which I probably wouldn’t have signed up for had they not been required, I learned more about topics in philosophy and theology that give me context to explore other issues and current events.  As an educator I can also bring what I have learned to the children I will one day teach.  The Jesuit ideals have shown me the importance of both serving and walking in solidarity with the people around me.  Even if I am not teaching at a Catholic school, these are ideas I can present to my class. I can give the students an awareness of problems and ask the kids for solutions to fix them, both short-term and long-term ideas.  I can try to show them what it means to walk in someone else’s shoes.  While these are things that are not traditionally taught in schools today, I feel that they are an important contribution to any lesson, and will help my students grow as individuals through their increased awareness.

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