As a Saint Mary's freshman, Alisa Macksey didn't yet know what "Enter to learn, learn to serve" meant, but she is now living out the motto with a career in social justice as associate director of the Lasallian Volunteers.
Macksey, who grew up in Concord, discovered Saint Mary's at its annual college fair.
"My mom fell in love with it, but I thought it was too close to home," she admits. "Looking back, I wouldn't have chosen any other school to attend. I think it was divine intervention that it turned out the way it did."
In her first two years at Saint Mary's, Macksey interned in the admissions office, but wanted to get more involved in student life. She won the junior class president election, and served her last semester from abroad after anthropology Professor Margot Winer persuaded her to spend the spring studying with 10 other SMC students in South Africa.
It was an amazing experience, recalls Macksey, a sociology major. "Margot Winer was an inspiration. Being from South Africa, she was able to show us what it was really like, to meet the locals and not feel like a tourist."
Macksey took classes at the University of Cape Town against a dramatic backdrop: Nelson Mandela was stepping down as president and the country was holding its second democratic election.
"My classmates who were black South Africans were so excited and optimistic, not jaded like us who take our vote for granted," Macksey says. Nevertheless, she was dismayed to see apartheid still dividing the country. "Colored South Africans are still living in shantytowns. Living conditions are still drastically different depending on your race and that's a sad thing to see."
Macksey was born in the Philippines and had visited her mother's family in Thailand many times. Yet South Africa was her first experience overseas without her family, and she learned to be more self-sufficient. Meanwhile, Macksey's friends in Moraga talked her into running for student body president from South Africa and she won.
"I came back with a lot of responsibility over the summer," she says.
The campus was in turmoil, with calls for then-president Brother Craig Franz to resign, concerns over women's safety because of sexual assault allegations and demands for increased funding for women's resources. Under her leadership, the student government initiated weekly forums for the campus community.
"We really put 150 percent into what we were doing," she recalls. "I was notorious for staying up all night. It's all such a blur to me how I fit it all in."
At the same time, the Catholic Institute for Lasallian Social Action had just formed on campus, and Macksey got involved. "We discussed issues we felt passionate about, and how to make students more aware of social justice issues."
On Brother Craig's recommendation, Macksey applied for a job with the Lasallian Volunteers before graduation and was placed at a day treatment program for mentally ill adults in Kansas City, Mo. She found it "nerve-racking" to imagine living in community with four Christian Brothers.
"I wondered if they were going to spend the year trying to convert me or if they would accept me if I wasn't Catholic," she says. "Instead, I found I was welcomed with open arms and I think the Brothers helped me deepen my spiritual life and my prayer life and see the importance of faith in all that we do."
Macksey is now responsible for operations at the Lasallian Volunteers' national office in Maryland. Like her, many volunteers embrace the Brothers' mission and continue their service work beyond their two years.
" 'Enter to learn, learn to serve' is fundamental throughout the country among Lasallian Volunteers," says Macksey. "Saint Mary's College gave me a window to