Alumni Spotlight:  Fr. Vincent Ferrer Bagan O.P.

The Academics blog recently published a great article interviewing AMU alumni, Fr. Vincent Ferrer Bagan O.P.. Father Vincent came to Ave in 2006 to pursue a degree in pre-Theologate studies as a part of his discernment process after graduating from St. Olaf in Minnesota with a bachelor's degree in Music. He fell in love with Ave and dove into the community, joining the Esto Vir household, singing in the choir, and directing musical studies at Donahue Academy. Father Vincent recently traveled back to Ave for the first time since he graduated in order to participate in the Vocations Festival as a representative for his religious community, the Dominican Friars of the Province of Saint Joseph. To read more about his discernment, reflections on how Ave has changed, and current ministry, click here!


Student Spotlight: Anna Kunza

Anna Kunza, a senior from Burbank, California, is a shining example of what it means to be an Ave Maria student. Her love for God is not only the most important thing in her life, but is evident to all that she comes in contact with. As a double major in both Music and Humanities, Anna plans to go on to graduate school to pursue a career in either Human Resources or Public Relations.

What did you do last summer?

This past summer was amazing! I spent the summer in Europe, working for two different companies as an intern. In addition to my internships, I traveled to Slovakia to attend the Free Society Seminar, which is a society that was founded by Ambassador Novak. 

The first half of the summer, I was an intern for the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. The GMF is a non-partisan American public policy and grant-making institution, dedicated to promoting better understanding and cooperation between North America and Europe on transatlantic and global issues. The particular department that I worked for provides grants to companies and corporations who have shown leadership in civic society. Each summer, GMF selects a few citizens from America to come to Germany and spend six weeks traveling throughout European countries, getting to know the policies, politics, and the people, while interns from Germany go over to America and do the same. In addition to grant making and diplomatic efforts, GMF also does think tank work and research into political events which focus on issues going on in the political atmosphere. For example, when communism was prevalent in Eastern Europe, GMF worked to help create democracy by encouraging civic participation at a high level. It is a really interesting program! I would highly recommend that Ave students with an interest in pursuing careers in Politics and International Relations apply. 

After a stop in Croatia to see my family, I went to Bavaria for my second internship, where I led a work camp. It was a two week camp for youth from all over the world, designed to encourage them to come together, speak English, and work collectively on a project, while setting aside their differences. Together, we renovated a youth room and helped plant a field. We were able to explore castles in our free time and go on picnics in the park. It was a such an eye opening and rewarding experience!

How did your experiences from this past summer help you to shape your goals for the future?

They helped me to realize, even more so, what I am interested in, as well as what my most marketable skills are. For one, I really fell in love with Germany. If I could go back there for grad school, or a job, that would be great! What I loved most was the contact that I had with so many different people, both through the work camp, as well as through the German Marshall Fund. To have conversations with people coming from all different walks of life was not something that I had ever done, but it is such an important thing, especially with all of the cultural tensions going on right now.

What do you want to do after you graduate this year?

I plan on taking a gap year, hopefully abroad. During that time, l will be looking into possible options for graduate school.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Part of me could see myself in Germany, doing something like what I did at the German Marshall Fund, because it was an experience that I really loved. I could also see myself having a career in singing. I don't have a distinct “dream job”, honestly. I have a feeling of what I want to do with my life, and if it comes through my job, great, but if it comes through who I am as a person and the interactions that I have with people, that is great too!

What do you think are your three best qualities?

Insightfulness, articulation, and the ability to see and communicate beauty. These qualities have brought so much peace and joy into my life. In the book by C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, the artist was told that he could see things that other people couldn't because it was his job to help them see it. That is what I want to do for other people, whether it is through my work, my singing, or the way I live my life.

If you could travel anywhere in the world where would you go?

I would love to travel through all of Europe! I’ve been to Europe quite a few times before because my mom is from Croatia, but I would love to keep going back. Every time I’m on a train over there I feel like I'm in a fairytale!

What brings you the most joy?

Taking time to see beauty. Watching sunsets, walking outside and talking to the people I pass by, listening to good music, and sitting outside in nature.

How would you like to help out our world?

I think there needs to be so much more dialogue about what causes the division and labeling that is going on in society right now. You hear people say things like, “I don't understand how people could think…” and that is the problem. When someone talks like that, it is a sign that they need to learn how to understand why someone is thinking that way. If society began doing this, rather than passing quick judgements, we would have dialogue, rather than blatant disrespect and hot headed disagreements. I think that is really important. I want to be able to help people see things more clearly and to desire to learn about all of the perspectives that go into an argument. 

What is your favorite book?

Lord of the Rings. There is so much depth and beauty in the books and the characters. What I really love is the overarching theme of light and hope and good versus the evil and despair and darkness that is encroaching on it. It is so important to realize that you have to fight for what is good and that it is worth fighting for, even in the darkest moments. One of the most difficult things is to see good things destroyed, but there is a deeper beauty that comes out from it, and I think this series really captures that.

What is your best study habit that you can pass on to the student body? 

I have been taking quite a few philosophy classes, and recently, I stared dialoguing with the book by writing in the margins. I know it sounds like a small exercise, but it has really helped me to get a deeper understanding and appreciation for the text, even if I disagree with what is being said. When it comes to our education, we need to shift our mentality about how seriously we take our studies. Schooling is not about the grades, it is more about growing as a person, especially because we came here to get a liberal arts education.

How To Find the Major That’s Best For You

“What’s your major?”

This question is probably the #1 most FAQ at any university and Ave Maria is no exception. It’s a foolproof way to break the ice and make small talk when starting at a new school and meeting new people. But it’s not an easy question to answer, and a lot of thought needs to go into making the decision.

Personally, finding the best major for me was a bit of a roller coaster. As a freshman, I declared a Literature major with minors in Music and Shakespeare in Performance. My passions truly lie in music and acting. For as long as I can remember, both have been a very important part of my life, yet, by the end of the year, I was in a crisis.

I was persuaded into thinking that music, or any impractical major, wasn’t worth it. I was surrounded by a world that believed practicality was the road to success and anything else would surely lead to failure. I did well in math and science, so I knew I would do well if I pursued the “practical” path and became a doctor or a physician’s assistant.

If I studied that it would get me a real job and, therefore, a secure future.

So as my sophomore year began, I changed my major to biology and threw myself into biology classes. Simultaneously, I found that there were other areas where I could pursue music without having to be in the music department, so I dropped the minor.

Lastly, I registered for the Sophomore Success program.

The program helped me immensely. Through it, I discovered my top five traits, or strengths, and received advice on how to pursue a career path suited for me. These tools helped me better understand myself and how to search for a career (you can find a link to the “Choose a Major” page, which talks about the Sophomore Success program).

Following the Sophomore Success program, I took advantage of a lot of opportunities. I attended an intensive workshop for a Shakespeare graduate program, I spent ten days travelling through Italy, I was a costume intern and performer for a three week community theater camp, and I was part of a logistics team at a conference for Catholic thinkers and artists. I loved all of it, and the experiences led to a sudden realization.

I realized that I had been having the same conversation over and over again. For the last two and a half years, I had been speaking with mentors, teachers, and friends to help me figure out what to do with my life, and the one thing they kept saying was this:

“You’re definitely talented in the area of science, but it doesn’t seem to be what you’re passionate about.”

In the end, what mattered was what I was most passionate about, and that would be performance—whether it’s singing, dancing, or acting—literature, art, philosophy, and just people in general. As it turns out, Ave Maria has a major that includes all of those things: Humanities.

Interestingly enough, Humanities kept coming up in these conversations about my future, but I didn’t know anything about Humanities. I grew to learn more about the major and the people who studied it, but kept pushing the thought away. It wasn’t until a conversation I had with a friend that reality smacked me in the face: I am that kind of person. My passion and interest was drawing me in that direction, it just took me a while to catch up to them. Everyone else saw it but me.

This tale is not meant to convince you that Humanities is the best major. Rather, it’s how I came to find the best major for me. Yes, it takes some time, exploration, (a couple of mental breakdowns!), and a lot of discernment. But there is a process involved in choosing your major, and the work is completely worth it.

So here I am, a junior at Ave Maria pursuing a Humanities major and a minor in Shakespeare in Performance and I am happy

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of tips based on my experiences.

1. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you have to do it. You, and your strengths, will flourish if you pursue your passions. They will form you to be the best version of yourself.

2. A major is not a career. There are careers that require you to study a particular major (accountants, nurses, psychologists, etc.). But no major requires you to get a certain job. Consider your career choice and your major choice at the same time, but view them as separate issues.

3. Get involved. Sit in on classes you don’t take that are on subjects you’re interested in. Pay a visit to clubs you find intriguing. It’s hard to decide where to dive in if you haven’t at least dipped your toes in the water.

4. Talk to mentors, teachers, and friends so they can help you find yourself. Sometimes they will have insights into your character and interests that escape you. The Sophomore Success program is an excellent outlet for this discovery, and if you are a junior or senior you can still participate in the strengths assessments and mentoring that comes through the program.

5. It’s okay if you don’t have a particular career in mind when you start out. That’s part of the discovery. A major that best forms you as a well rounded person will naturally lead you in the direction of a career best suited for you.

6. Take advantage of opportunities! I cannot stress this enough. Look into internships, jobs, and other programs—whatever you can get your hands on. Pursue and persevere, and you will see doors opening (and sometimes closing, but that’s okay) all around you.

7. It’s okay to pursue what you want to. It’s okay to be happy with what you’re pursuing. If you can’t get rid of the nagging feeling that you want to try something else, you are better off looking into it.

8. Visit the Career Office in the Library Room 160 to find people who will walk you through your major choice.

9. Pray about it. Discern it. God will never lead you astray, even if it seems like he is sometimes taking you on a detour.

It’s my hope that you apply at least a couple of these to your own search!

So let me ask you: what’s your major?