Introducing SMC’s Amanda Hofmann '24, This Year’s Class Valedictorian

“It’s not about me; it’s about honoring our students and this amazing graduating class,” says one of the College’s top achievers about her upcoming Commencement speech. She’ll take that humble attitude into a post-graduation job she’s just accepted.

by Mike Janes, Office of Marketing & Communications | May 13, 2024

Undergraduate students preparing to attend the May 25 Commencement ceremony at Saint Mary’s Stadium will be showered with attention and glowing words of praise and encouragement if Valedictorian Amanda Hofmann ’24 has anything to do with it.

“I truly want to honor everyone for the work it’s taken them to get here,” says Hofmann, graduating with a double major in Justice, Community and Leadership / Communication. Made up largely of students who either had no high school graduation ceremony or a limited one, due to the pandemic raging at the time, the Class of 2024 has been somewhat shortchanged and deserves special acknowledgment, she says.

“Though my high school was able to pull off a graduation ceremony, it was split up among smaller groups and missing the collective element of ‘we did this together’ that was important to all of us,” she says. “The lived experiences of this group of students are unique, and they should be recognized for enduring online instruction, pressing ahead even as they missed out on in-person activities, and demonstrating remarkable resiliency.” 

A growing dedication to social justice

As a first-year student in 2020, Hofmann started out believing she wanted to earn a degree in teaching, as she loves working with people and felt she could make a difference in the education field. But an introductory class in Justice, Community, and Leadership made such an impact on her that she began to rethink her academic goals.

Amanda with her medals
She "stole" the show: Decked out in her Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society stole and three medals, Amanda Hofmann's future is bright. / Photo by Sofia Mastroianni '25.

In that class, Hofmann says, she first learned about the Bay Area’s history with social justice, about redlining issues that have undermined disadvantaged communities, and about matters of systemic racism and inequality. She says it was the first time she could engage in dialogue about social justice and hear from others about their experiences.

“Having a classroom space to learn about those things was something I didn’t have access to before coming to Saint Mary’s,” she says. The experience, particularly its student-led, discussion-based approach, opened her eyes and persuaded her to look more closely at social justice as an academic pursuit. “I have a hard time just sitting in classes where there’s just a lecture,” she says with a smile. “I want to be able to talk about the things we’re learning, have a conversation, and maybe even ask some questions.”

Hofmann’s interest in adding Communication to her double major also emerged while taking an introductory course. “I took the class only because it was a requirement, but it turned out that we explored all these topics that have always interested me, like the media, rhetoric, how cultures develop, and related topics,” she says. “It was another ‘aha’ moment for me.”

“I have a hard time just sitting in classes where there’s just a lecture,” she says with a smile. “I want to be able to talk about the things we’re learning, have a conversation, and maybe even ask some questions.”

Always a fan of storytelling and fiction, Hofmann says additional classes in interpersonal communications helped cement her decision. She says Veronica Hefner, a professor in the Communication Department, has been a positive influence whose teaching style she admires and appreciates. “Her classes helped teach me that working with people and communicating effectively are skills that are applicable no matter what field one goes into.”

Leadership stints contribute to growth in confidence

Though somewhat quiet during her high school years, Hofmann says her confidence grew during her time at Saint Mary’s and especially blossomed through her various leadership roles. That list is long and includes stints as an Orientation Leader (later promoted to Senior Student Coordinator) for the Department of New Student and Family Programs (NSFP), Alumni Engagement Special Events coordinator for the Department of Alumni Engagement, and the President of the Gael Force spirit club during her sophomore year. She credits staff members such as Jen Herzog in Student Life and Philip Goodwin in Alumni Engagement for providing mentorship and guidance, and for trusting her decision-making and overall skills and abilities.

Amanda as Wow volunteer
Helping hands: Among Amanda Hofmann's volunteer work at Saint Mary's was her service as an Orientation Coordinator during Weekend of Welcome (WoW) in 2023. Here, she poses with other "WoWies" (from left to right): Samantha Handler '24, Bradley Tapia '24, Julia Patterson '24, and Hofmann). / Photo courtesy Amanda Hofmann.

“Building up communities and bringing people together are two of my passions, and the three years I spent working with NSFP was pivotal to my success as a student,” Hofmann says. She says her experience with NSFP and her work with Alumni Engagement were all about “making someone’s day better” and easing people into a scenario that might be unfamiliar to them. 

Hofmann recently accepted a job offer from a hospitality group near her hometown of Livermore, a position in events and sales that she believes will align well with her career aspirations. “I love creating events and moments that are memorable to people, and this will allow me to do exactly that,” she says.  

As for the future, Hofmann says she may one day choose to pursue a graduate degree. However, she again credits an SMC staff member for helping her to rethink the urgency of making that decision so soon.

SMC’s Career Center has been a valuable resource for me, and I had a talk with [Executive Director] Mary Beth Stadt that got me thinking,” she explains. Hofmann said she’d originally planned to go straight into graduate school, but Stadt pointedly asked her why she felt the need to do so. 

“I didn’t have a good answer and concluded that I wanted to first figure out what area of grad school I most want to pursue and that dabbling in some areas outside of school is the best option for me right now.” With interests in hospitality, sports management, and even higher education, there are a variety of career paths that she may explore before returning to pursue an advanced degree.

Life at Saint Mary’s wasn’t all work, with no play. Hofmann says she’s loved going to campus events, attending on-campus sporting events, visiting the pool and recreation center, and just walking around campus with classmates. “The friendships I’ve made at SMC have been invaluable,” she says. She also, in her Commencement speech, plans to pay tribute to the many faculty and staff members, as well as Gael alumni, who helped her along the way.

Amanda and friends
Full house: Amanda Hofmann and her Saint Mary’s roommates during their senior year. From left: Fiona Mallon ’24Fiona Lazzaretti ’24Amanda Hofmann ’24Kristen Dougherty ’24Chloe Jarrin ’24, and Alyssa Gauna ’24Photo courtesy Amanda Hofmann.

“The staff members in Student Life, as well as those throughout the campus, truly want your time at Saint Mary’s to be special,” Hofmann says. “I wouldn’t be the same person without my SMC experience and wouldn’t trade it for anything.”