Mary Schmitt felt the power of extended community starting with her earliest memories of large family gatherings at her grandparents’ house. Now, as President of Program Board at the University, Mary is leading another type of extended community. She directs the 31-member board in developing and implementing weekly campus-wide events that help reinforce the Catholic University mission and spirit. From dances to arts programs to sports—from the Founders Day Ball to Capital Fest—Mary’s leadership on Program Board brings the entire Catholic University community together.
As President of Program Board, Mary operates a nonprofit organization—quite an accomplishment for an undergraduate student. Mary started volunteering with Program Board as a freshman and never stopped. It’s no surprise that she won the Martha Comisky Award in 2018, which recognizes her dedication to the University and her ability to lead and motivate others.
Mary’s life as an only child contrasted vividly with trips to see her grandparents; her mother is one of five children, and on holidays the family converged with her mother’s brothers and sisters, their families, and the grandparents. “Those special times are imprinted on my memory,” says Mary. “Having everyone together showed me what a loving family bond really means, and how much strength you receive from that. In addition to your mother and father, you have a whole community to support you. It showed me how important community is to our individual growth.” As a result of that early experience, Mary has poured herself into creating extended community wherever she lands.
Mary attended summer camps from the time she was seven until age 13. She then transitioned from a camper to a camp counselor and camp administrator—this time helping to create a supportive community. “At the beginning of camp, you see kids come in who are afraid and shy, but by the end of camp, they leave empowered. It was a privilege to have that kind of relationship and influence,” she says.
Mary has a part-time job in the Office of Campus Activities where much of her Program Board work happens. “I wouldn’t know college without Program Board. It’s a micro-community within our larger University community.” In addition to Program Board, Mary somehow found time to serve as an Orientation Advisor for two years and is now a mentor to younger marketing students. She’s living out her faith as a creator of community.