When Miranda Carlisle ’17 first arrived at Stephens College, she was homesick and painfully shy.
“I wouldn’t talk to anyone,” she recalled.
Carlisle has come a long way.
On Saturday, May 6, 2017, she will take the stage as the class speaker for the undergraduate commencement ceremony, which begins at 11 a.m. at Missouri Theatre. Tomorrow, graduate and online students will receive their degrees at a 6 p.m. ceremony in the Kimball Ballroom of Lela Raney Wood Hall.
Believe it or not, this once reluctant young woman from O’Fallon, Mo., is looking forward to addressing her classmates.
“I think two years ago, I would have freaked out,” Carlisle confessed. “But being at Stephens and growing as a person here has helped me so much. I used to be terrified of public speaking. Now, I can’t wait.”
Carlisle, who is graduating a year early with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in Art History, is the senior recipient of the 2017 Alumnae Association Board Scholarship, which comes with a $250 award and the honor of speaking at graduation. Applying for the scholarship two years ago would have been out of the question for Carlisle.
“I might have looked at the application and seen that I would have to speak at graduation and not filled it out,” she said.
Carlisle originally came to Stephens to pitch for the softball team. She credits her teammates with being the first to help her feel comfortable on campus and make friends.
“I don’t know where I’d be without softball,” Carlisle said. “I not only made friends with other players on the team, but those girls introduced me to other people across campus, and that’s what really got me connected with the school.”
Ed Wilkerson, head coach for the Stephens Stars softball team, said Carlisle—whose nickname on the team is “Mac”—is always the first player to volunteer to help a teammate.
“Mac is also very conscientious,” he said. “She always wants to make sure that the end product is the best that it can be.”
Carlisle said faculty and students in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies were also instrumental in encouraging her to try new things and meet new people. She joined the Stephens chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society, which became another source of companionship with classmates.
By her senior year, Carlisle was a member of 16 student organizations, including the biological honor society, Stephens Organized for Service (S.O.S.) and the equestrian Prince of Wales Club.
“I might not advise getting involved in that many organizations, but I would definitely recommend getting out of your comfort zone,” she said. “That has helped me understand different aspects of this college and to make connections with people outside my area of study.”
Carlisle said being at a small college made forging close relationships with her professors much easier because they seemed more accessible.
“The connection I have with my professors is a huge part of why I am where I am today,” she said. “Being able to have that one-on-one connection with them has influenced everything I’ve done here.”
Dr. Tina Parke-Sutherland, a professor of English/Creative Writing at Stephens, said she relied on Carlisle, her advisee, many times to help make programs in her department run smoothly, and Carlisle never let her down.
“Miranda is a selfless leader,” Parke-Sutherland said. “She works for organizations because she believes in them, not because her many accomplishments will look good on her CV. She has a clear vision of her future and has the drive and energy and imagination to make it all happen.”
In the fall, Carlisle will begin the Master of Arts in English degree program at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. Her dream is to be a college professor in ancient and medieval studies. She is also applying for a graduate assistant coaching job at Liberty with the hopes of one day becoming a college softball coach.
Carlisle’s experience at Stephens has been one of overcoming her fears and meeting challenges head on. She realized how far she had come in February, when the softball team traveled to Arkansas for its first tournament of the season. The tournament had been rough, and on Sunday the Stars faced Ecclesia College.
“We were exhausted and wanted the weekend to end, but knew we could rally and beat this team,” Carlisle said.
Stephens won the first game, but the second game was tough. Carlisle was pitching when Ecclesia’s baseball team showed up to cheer on their softball team. Everything was fine until Stephens tied the game and the cheers began to turn ugly.
That’s when Carlisle and her teammate pulled together, closer than ever.
“We fought for each other and ended up winning the second game by one run,” she said.
That’s how Carlisle will remember Stephens College—a place where people come together to help each other and make a difference.
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