ellen jacqueline higgins standing with mackenzie mcgeeThey go out into the world and then they come back. Saint Mary’s College chemistry alumnae returned to campus February 15-16, where they met with current chemistry majors, and professors for a Saint Mary’s Affiliate of the American Chemical Society (SMAACS) event. Alumnae Ellen Jacqueline Higgins ’02 and Mackenzie McGee ’03 returned to share career and life advice with current students.

Higgins received a BA in political science and a BS in chemistry. She received a law degree from Notre Dame (’05) and is a law clerk to Judge Donald S. Owens at the Michigan Court of Appeals in Lansing.

“I hoped that by coming back I’d be able to show current students that the traditional paths that people think of when getting a science major, like going to med school or going to grad school in chemistry, aren’t the only things you can do,” explains Higgins. “I was somebody who never really seriously thought about those career paths and wanted to do something different.”

When it came to mentors, Higgins tapped everyone in the department for that distinction. “It’s hard for me to say that I had one mentor because I would just go to whoever was around with a question. I knew they could all answer.”

McGee acknowledged that chemistry professor Toni Barstis was the reason she became a chemistry major. “She [Dr. Barstis] always gave me the advice to challenge myself and that’s what I continue to do,” comments McGee.
McGee is in medical school at Loyola University in Chicago. She took a year off from medical school to do research at St. Jude’s Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, a decision she wanted to share with current students. “When I was applying [to medical school] I didn’t necessarily know that taking a year off to do research was something available to me,” explains McGee.

The networking weekend gave students, alumnae, and faculty the opportunity to strengthen old relationships and begin new ones. “I think one of the greatest things about Saint Mary’s is that whenever you meet somebody else that went to Saint Mary’s, even if you don’t know them at all, there’s that interesting connection and this instant friendship that develops,” comments Higgins. “You have this bond that almost surpasses mere friendship. It’s more the sort of bond that you get with your family and it never really goes away.”