Why I Chose Marquette: They Saw Promise in Me

By Maureen Look-Ainsworth — As the 2011 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year, I walked through the West Wing of the White House on May 3, 2011, I saw portrait after portrait of each president of the United States. I was lined up to shake the hand of the current president, Barack Obama, in the Oval Office.

I cried tears of disbelief as I passed each of these portraits and realized the monumental moment. I was about to shake hands with the president of the United States, the most powerful man in the world!  The day before I had met Dr. Jill Biden, second lady of Vice President Joe Biden, at her home. Surrounded by Secret Service staff, we were checked and rechecked as we entered the private residence of the Biden’s and the White House. I could only think back and see that my undergraduate education had begun at Marquette University.

With two master’s degrees achieved, I am an 8th grade and 5th grade science and engineering teacher in a STEM academy.  I will soon undertake another master’s degree in education at Marquette.  This time, I’ll earn my certificates for principal and curriculum and instruction at my alma mater — an institution known for its rigor and excellence in creating a collaborative, positive, state of the art education program.

As an 18 year old, I signed up to parallel the Physical Therapy program back when it was a regular 4-year bachelor’s degree. I saw the prestigious Marquette University from the standpoint of a disadvantaged-but-knowledgeable youth who saw promise in a university that took a chance on me.  Marquette served to provide for the education of the whole me, not just the academic me, but all that encompassed my growth as a young adult entering college: spiritually, emotionally, socially and academically. It served to surround me with caring adults/professors who took time to engage with me as a person, who saw to it that I was a person who mattered, a person who COULD make a difference in this world notwithstanding the lot in life I had been served.

My degrees in education are really a tribute to my Mom, Jeanne Novak, who sent 3 of her 4 children to Marquette and instilled this same message of assurance and desire to succeed in each one of us. My two brothers, Chris who became a mechanical engineer and returned to achieve his degree in patent law and Guy, who graduated with his electrical engineering degree and now has his master’s in microwave optics.

My Mom always said, “Find something that you will love to do, something you are really good at, then you will always be able to find a job and be marketable.”

Halfway through my sophomore year, I decided that I could make more of a difference by entering the math and science education program at Marquette. I had always seen the field of education as the time-honored, respect-driven profession that could help others see potential in themselves and give to others as they had given to me.

Wherever I sought an interview, they asked where I received my degree. I answered “Marquette University.”  Just verbalizing the name Marquette University opened so many doors that otherwise, I believe might have been closed. I am here today because of the promise that Marquette University and my Mother saw in me — the promise to achieve great things.

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