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McDonnell isn’t giving away the full content of her speech yet but said she plans to include some of her personal life lessons as well as lessons from those who are close to her.
“I want to keep it a little bit of a surprise, but one idea I want to talk about is agape love,” McDonnell said. “It means self-sacrificial love for others.”
It’s not a surprise given her interest in serving others. McDonnell has been on at least one alternative break each year of college, and this spring plans to go to Lantz Farm in Jacksonburg, W.Va. run by Wheeling Jesuit University.
McDonnell is a history and social justice double major. Her career goal is to be a high school history teacher but first she wants to spend a year on a service project and has applied to Nazareth Farm in Center Point, W.Va., and Augustinian Volunteers in Villanova, Pa.
McDonnell is a resident assistant in Monican Centre. She’s been a Monican Orientation Leader and Family Orientation Leader, as well as a member of the college’s Honors Program.
Candidates for the First Lecture have to be nominated, said the Rev. Ray Dlugos, OSA. McDonnell received multiple nominations.
Dlugos sits on a selection committee with five members of Omicron Delta Kappa, which cosponsors the event. The Honors Program is cosponsoring for the first time this year.
About 10 nominees accepted invitations to the interview process this year. The interviews focused on the individuals rather than what they proposed to say in the lecture. The committee asked questions about values, hopes, life expectations and other personal questions.
“We are not choosing a speech, we are choosing a speaker, and the criterion is which person do we believe the community would most want to hear from,” Dlugos said.
Then the committee began deliberations.
“We talk, we vote; we talk, we vote,” Dlugos said. “We figure out a system to come to a consensus we all feel good about.”
McDonnell’s selection was pretty easy this year because her name kept popping up in all the deliberations.
She was humbled by the selection, McDonnell said.
“It was nice to think there’s someone who wants to hear what I have to say,” she said.
The First Lecture grew out of an idea initiated in the Office of Mission and Ministry. It is similar to the Last Lecture given by a professor at the start of the school year. Like the First Lecture, the Last Lecture gives professors the opportunity to speak on any topic they are most passionate about, as if it were the last lecture they would ever give. Eventually it seemed appropriate to have Omicron Delta Kappa take responsibility for running First Lecture, and this year, the Honors Program, Dlugos said.
This year’s First Lecture is moving to the Rogers Center for the Arts to raise its profile on campus; it was traditionally held in Cascia Hall. A reception afterward will include a cash bar for the first time.