"A Good Life Means Making Choices"

Outgoing faculty honored at May 1 reception

This year, eight faculty members are retiring from Saint Mary’s College, logging a collective 193 years guiding students across disciplines. To help celebrate their time at the College, we asked each about their plans for the future.


Toni Barstis
Department of Chemistry/Physics 

How many years have you taught at Saint Mary's?
30 years. 

Have you always taught in the same academic department?
Yes, the Department of Chemistry and Physics.

How has the field of Chemistry/Physics changed over the years? 
Chemistry research is ever-changing and evolving. Interdisciplinary research has truly advanced our understanding of the world!

Do you have any advice for our students?
Challenge yourself!

What's next for you?
I'm conducting research and serving as the Engineering Program Director during AY 2023-24. I aim to conduct research in a government or university lab.



Susan Baxter (leaving December 2023)
Department of Communication Studies, Dance, and Theatre

How many years have you taught at Saint Mary's?
I started teaching at Saint Mary's in Spring 2001 as an adjunct. I was part time again the following fall, and also part time at IUSB. Saint Mary's hired me as a full-time Lecturer in the Spring of 2002. Prior to life at SMC, I taught as a graduate assistant at Indiana University, Bloomington, and I did a lot of teaching as a resident for the Colorado Council for the arts in the public schools.

Have you always taught in the same academic department?
Pretty much! I teach communication and theater classes, so technically that's two separate programs. I've also taught journalism and playwriting, which were cross listed with English writing. For six years I was director of the Writing Proficiency Program, and I have to say that teaching first-year writing is my very favorite course to teach.

How has the field of communication studies changed over the years?
Oh, my. We could go on and on about this one. If you asked me this five years ago, I'd have said that it hasn't changed at all; that it was, fundamentally, humans coming together to exchange messages. Now AI has thrown a wrench in that notion. I would say that we still share a basic desire to interact with one another. What's changed is the proliferation of various types of communication media. And not all of it is good for us. Also, we have come to hide behind that media and communicate in ways that we never would in face-to-face encounters. We've become pretty blunt and brutal in our disagreements, but I would hope that the pendulum is about to swing the other way.

Do you have any advice for our students?
Hahaha—always! What I'd like students to remember is that we don't assign projects, willy-nilly just to make their lives miserable. Everything we ask of them is for them; everything we ask them to do is to teach them to do something else. So my advice would be: stay away from AI technology. Learn the rules of grammar and spelling rather than relying on a grammar app. Learn how to document properly in your field rather than plugging values into a citation generator. And for heaven's sake, do not let a machine write papers for you. (Did OpenAI pay your tuition? Then why are you letting it do your coursework?) Remember that AI apps were created by a whole bunch of really smart people who did not have AI to write their essays for them. I question whether they would be at the top of their fields right now, creating all this "intelligent" technology if their own academic lives had these shortcuts.

What's next for you?
I will keep teaching... an adjunct course here and there... maybe eventually a sabbatical replacement now and then. I intend to get my plays produced as well... Mostly just finally enjoy time with my spouse (Richard Baxter, retiring director of Campus Experience and Events)!


MarcBelangerMarc Belanger
Department of Political Science & Global Studies

How many years have you taught at Saint Mary's?
I have taught here for 28 years. I previously taught at the University of Massachusetts, DIckinson College, and Mount Holyoke College.

Have you always taught in the same academic department?
I have taught mostly in the POSC department but have also taught classes in Global Studies and Intercultural Studies.

How has the field of political science and global studies changed over the years?
In the 1990s when I began, there was a lot of optimism about the spread of democratic governments and the prospects for more global cooperation after the Cold War. Over the past 20 years, this optimism has faded within political science and there is more focus on how democracies become more authoritarian. Political polarization is a global issue that political science has also tried to understand better. Globalization has proven a far more complicated process culturally, economically, and politically and global studies has demonstrated the need for more focus on transnational processes and actors, whether they are corporations, criminal networks, or global activism networks. Political science pays more attention to race and gender than it once did. My teaching has been made better by that, but there is still a lot more work to do in the field

Do you have any advice for our students?
Don't get caught up in the "fear of missing out" or FOMO, and try to do too many different things. A good life means making choices. Focus on the subjects and areas of activism that produce your best work and strongest energy. It will be your writing and analytic skills, and your ability to explain their value, not the number of badges you have, that will get you the opportunities you are seeking. Study abroad and learn a language—both impress employers whether in the public or private sector. Even if math is not your friend, take an economics class.  And if you play a musical instrument—whatever your major is—-take time to play it. You will be glad you did for the rest of your life.

What's next for you?
Traveling and visiting friends all over the world, reading fiction, playing the piano and the guitar, and, when I am ready, maybe some writing. 


JohnCergnulJohn Cergnul
Department of Business Administration & Economics

How many years have you taught at Saint Mary's?
14 years. Prior to academia, I was employed for 24 years as the chief administrative officer of a large, single specialty healthcare provider. During that time, I also served in several positions as an officer and board member of the RBMA, the largest single specialty medical management association in the United States.  






Diane Fox
Director of Student Success 

How many years have you taught at Saint Mary's?
I began my career at Saint Joe High School as an English teacher, coach, and the communications director. I was there for 22 years. I was then the director of Advising for Holy Cross College for seven years. For the past 14 years I have served as the director of the Office for Student Success.

Have you always taught in the same academic department?
While at Saint Mary's, yes.

How has the field of student success changed over the years?
Students have many more resources than ever before, and success is theirs if they chose to use everything afforded them.

Do you have any advice for our students?
Like everything else, time in college goes quickly. Do all you can to successfully pursue your interests and dreams, and always remember how very fortunate and blessed you are to be a part of the Saint Mary's Community. There are many people here who will support you and advise you if only you are smart and strong enough to utilize them.

What's next for you?
I am looking forward to a summer of pleasure reading and gardening.  I will begin to think about my next chapter as summer draws to a close.



Kitty Marschall
Cushwa-Leighton Library

How many years have you taught at Saint Mary's?
I have been a librarian at Saint Mary's since the fall of 1994. Previously I worked for one year as a cataloger for a company that cataloged books for small libraries that could not afford to hire a full time cataloger. Previous to that I worked at Hesburgh Library as a copy cataloger for five years.

Have you always taught in the same academic department?
Well, technically, the year I worked in Indianapolis I was working for an outsourcing agency. It was genuinely a service, but it was not directly a library. I missed being part of a whole, working in a library that did all the things that libraries do. When the position at Saint Mary's opened up, I was excited to apply. Working here was truly the right choice.

Do you have any advice for our students?
Be curious, check your sources and find something that you care about. If you can make a living doing that—great! If not, it will sustain you in important ways.

What's next for you?
I'm not telling!



David Stefancic
Department of History

How many years have you taught at Saint Mary's?
33 years. I also taught at IU South Bend, the University of Wisconsin-Stout, and a host of part time jobs.

Have you always taught in the same academic department?
Yes, always in history

How has the field of history changed over the years?
The field has become more inclusive and diverse.

Do you have any advice for our students?
Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something.

What's next for you?
The sky's the limit or until the money runs out.



Mary Wcisel
Department of Nursing Science

How many years have you taught at Saint Mary's?
I have been teaching at Saint Mary's since 2001 and prior to this I was a faculty member at Ivy Tech State College for 18 years

Have you always taught in the same academic department?
Yes, I have always taught nursing.  Over the years I have taught several different courses.

How has the field of nursing changed over the years?
The biggest change is the technological advances in the delivery of patient care.

Do you have any advice for our students?
Never stop asking questions, especially 'why'.  It is important to know why we do something or don't do something. Also, challenge yourself and never stop learning.

What's next for you?
This is a good question and I am often asked this question. Right now, I plan to take the summer off and do some traveling around the area. I do plan on staying active in the nursing profession, but I am still looking at what specifically I would like to do.

May 24, 2023

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