The Topic: The Plan

Scots poet Robert Burns said it. “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley.” In his “To a Mouse, On Turning Her up in Her Nest With the Plough,” Burns composed a poem while standing above the creature's destroyed home and gave us an enduring way to talk about the tendency of all our careful plans to go frequently astray. Any sensible person knows it’s wise to at least try to plan your life in order to reach your goals. But sometimes the life or Divine Providence has other ideas. So we asked the question: How has your life turned out differently than you planned?

Monika FahlbuschMonika Fahlbusch ’90

Chief people and administration officer, BMC Software

I am fortunate in so many ways. Looking back to graduation, I remember thinking I would get a good job, and I did. But what I am not sure I understood at the time is how much the attitude with which I approached each job would matter. What I know now is that I control the attitude I bring to each role, and that is the biggest differentiator to whether I am happy or not. At this point in my life, I am surprised by how much fun I still have at work and the connection I have with my adult children (20 and 24). Social media and working in high tech have allowed me to share deeply with them and their community and—let’s face it—learn what’s cool and interesting. I feel I have the best of my adult world while being inspired by the young world they are a part of.

Susan ChrittonSusan Chritton M.A. ’92

Executive career coach, personal brand strategist, and author of Personal Branding for Dummies

When I was in college I was very ambitious. I believed that I could do anything and be anything and have it all—a great career, a family, a nice husband, travel to foreign lands, service to the community, and plenty of time for a personal life. What I hadn’t realized was that I may not get to have them all at once. I am now in my 50s and am loving all of life’s possibilities. Life is long so think about what you want to do with your life over the long haul.

Krista Rosa BrennanKrista Rosa Brennan ’96

Patient adviser, Stanford Cancer Center

Life after Saint Mary’s was going exactly as planned: successful career, happily married, a healthy and thriving daughter with another one on the way. It’s what I believed I deserved for living a life rooted in my Lasallian education. While pregnant with my second daughter, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Every focus of life was redirected. I now know that hard work and years of building genuine relationships with God, friends, and family doesn’t shield us from game-changing life events. But, these values do create a place where my own faith and experience are met with healing and gratitude.

Frank HowardFrank Howard '79

Chief operating officer and general partner, Global Strategic Partners LLC Member, SMC Board of Regents

My childhood dreams of a career in government, politics, and global affairs certainly took an indirect route. What has struck me along the journey is the emotional, spiritual, and physical demands of each adventure: road blocks turned into incalculable life-learning experiences; moments which seemed to last forever both good and bad; most importantly friends and family's love which nurtures me every day. "I know who I am and who I may be, if I choose." —Cervantes, Don Quixote de la Mancha

Freddie SilveriaFreddie Silveria '11

Motivational speaker

The real world hits and ... Boom! For nearly three years, I crushed sales for PepsiCo in Sacramento. Integrity, critical thinking, and a positive attitude earned me top sales rep. Student loans paid off; yet, I wasn’t happy and didn’t feel fulfilled. A defining moment happened on a breezy Sunday afternoon. For the past year, I’ve become an internationally demanded youth motivational speaker at Since graduation, I’ve learned growth comes from being uncomfortable, the importance of having mentors, and daily discipline (journal, read, exercise, listen, pray). Rolling with the punches, I’ve remembered God first, family second, and Gaels for life!

Karen ClyneKaren Clyne '98

Senior vice president of client services at Eastwick; member of SMC’s Women’s Leadership Council

Learn to embrace and adapt to change—it's the constant that will move you forward, and prepare you best for the unexpected. This lesson has also taught me the power of resiliency. Losing my mom to cancer at 29 changed my perspective. Managing career transition and seeking balance in work and life—an ongoing energy. You power through; others depend on you. I’m grateful for every opportunity to cross my path, for my children and family who are my core, for faith that inspires me to do better, and for my journey. Because it’s mine.

Brother DomBrother Dominic Berardelli

Special assistant to the president

My life took a big turn when I entered the Brothers' high school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A Brother walked into the classroom, knelt down, and bowed his head to pray. I knew I wanted to be one of these men. Yes, there are times when I’ve been challenged. Four years ago, I went in for a biopsy and fell into a coma. My niece, a nurse, sat by my side for five weeks until I opened my eyes. That's God saying "he has more work to do." He grabs me by the scruff of my neck and throws me back in the fishpond.

Duke PowersDuke Powers '82

President, Paragon Technical Inc.

My father told me several times before he passed that life gets harder as we grow older. His insight seemed a bit harsh but my father's warning has played out in my life and in the life of so many I have known. In 2002 we lost my brother, sister and mother to cancer all within 45 days. In 2013 we lost our beloved 20-year-old son Luke. In our despair we put our grief in God's hands and we are recovering thanks to his unfathomable love for us all and through the kindness of so many souls.

Lyone ConnerLyone Conner ’04, ’11 M.A

Assistant registrar, Saint Mary’s College

Had I not applied to attend Saint Mary’s, I would not have met my husband, a transfer from Louisiana. Our desire to start a second degree in the M.A. in Leadership program surprised us both, but we did it together and were most astounded to know a daughter would arrive after the first trimester of classes. Our son came three years later, but it wasn’t his arrival, rather news of my mom’s cancer that was unexpected. Saint Mary’s laid our path, and God held us on our journey. More unknown awaits, but we have the greatest Gael on our side.

MAHERSHALA ALIMahershala Ali ’96


As a kid, I'd fall asleep thinking about my life as an adult, and imagine being great at something. I grew up seeing a lot of folks settling, stopping short of their unique potential. The act of settling and mediocrity became the snakes and rats of my imagination. They always terrified me. I’m working at creating the life I'm imagining, because that’s alive and fluid. With experience and age, it evolves, deepens. I need to be my best self. I need to know and feel my own unique potential in every aspect of my life. Spirituality, mind, body, marriage, friendship, work, etc. I don’t know if I'll get there, but God forbid I ever settle.

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