Each year during the fall semester, students who hope to be a Mercyhurst Ambassador pledge to earn a green jacket. The process is a rigorous one. Only a few of the many hopeful applicants are chosen, and it takes a full semester to complete the process to become an Ambassador.
An essential part of represent-ing Mercyhurst is learning about the history of the University and the Sisters of Mercy. Ambassadors must carry on the tradition of the Sisters and embody the legacy of Mercyhurst – something they can only do by understanding its history and spirit. Because of this, an important part of the pledge process is Speech Night. Each pledge must make a three-to-five-minute speech on a topic of their choice as long as it pertains to Mercyhurst in some way, without any notes or prompts. Popular topics often include influential Sisters of Mercy, ghost stories from the Hurst, Mercyhurst athletics foundations, the history of academic departments at Mercyhurst and the foundations of the Sisters of Mercy, beginning with Catherine McAuley in Dublin, Ireland. Kaitlyn Morris, a sophomore Music Therapy major is one of the students pledging this year. “I’m pledging because I was an Ambassador in high school and enjoyed being able to share my pride for my school with others,” said Morris. “I hope to do the same at Mercyhurst. The pledge process taught me so much about the history of our school and I want to be able to share that with potential students and their families, showing them all the amazing things being a Laker offers.” She gave a speech on the history of the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center. “I chose this topic as I have had the wonderful opportunity of performing in this great space and wanted to research the story behind it. I enjoyed learning about the history of the Music Department and sharing it with the Ambassadors and my fellow pledges,” Morris said.
Bella Lee, a sophomore Public History major, gave her speech on something significant to this newspaper, the history of the Merciad. “My speech topic was actually about the history of the Merciad. I was torn between this topic and the history of the Roost (from the original Student Union to today’s pub), but I opted for this topic be-cause several of the editors I know are Ambassadors and I feel that the Merciad should be made more well-known to the students, especially since the Merciad is integral to Mercyhurst history and has been around for almost as long as Mercyhurst itself,” Lee said. As a Public History major, Lee hopes that becoming an Ambassador could help her in her future career. “I am pledging to be an Ambassador because the career field I want to pursue includes giving tours at my favorite museums, and I thought that Ambassadors would be the perfect segway into that. Also, I want to help give a good first impression to prospective students that are considering Mercyhurst,” Lee said.
Speeches are given in person in front of all the other pledges and Ambassadors. This year, due to social distancing requirements, most current Ambassadors were in the Sullivan classrooms, watching on Zoom, while pledges gave their speeches in the Mercy Heritage Room to the specific Ambassadors who oversee the pledge process.
This year seniors Sydney Zajac and Elizabeth Becker are serving as pledge chairs. “I really enjoyed hearing the creative topics that students came up with this year,” said Ambassador and junior Music Therapy ma-jor, Rhyan Komsthoeft. “I always learn a lot at speech night, and it is nice when a pledge’s personality shines through based on what their topic is or how they deliver their speech.”Topics this year included the Laker Marching Band, past mas-cot Louie the Laker, the MIAC, Black History at Mercyhurst, the history of Mercyhurst baseball, Catherine McAuley’s canonization process, the Sisters of Mercy’s role in the Civil War, and many, many more.
Speech Night helps the pledges and current Ambassadors to continue learning about Mercyhurst, but it also has another added benefit. The speeches made by students go into the Mercyhurst archives so that their research is available to others in the future. Those who advance in the process after Speech Night begins learning how to give a tour. They must practice their skills with a mentor and then give a mock tour to an Admissions counselor and current Ambassadors who act as a ‘fake family’ to ask questions and give feedback.
Samantha Weber, a freshman majoring in Business and Competitive Intelligence, said she hopes to be an Ambassador so that she can help other students to determine if they want to be a Laker. “For my speech topic, I decided to talk about the different schools that the Sisters of Mercy founded around Titusville, Pennsylvania because I think it is amazing what the Sisters were able to do with their resources, recognizing how important education is. I love the school I attend and am proud of it and I want to help students determine if this school is the right fit for them,” Weber said.
This year the process is even more of a challenge due to our condensed semester. As well as speeches and tours, pledges at-tend social events, and learn about Mercyhurst at a weekly meeting on Sunday evenings. Those who pledge will find that the process is not easy, but it can be very rewarding. Well done to all those who gave speeches and good luck pledging!