The Saint Mary's Path to Success

When Forbes magazine ranked Saint Mary’s fifth in the nation among colleges that prepare students to succeed beyond expectations, it might have had Shayna Olesiuk ’99 in mind.

As the San Francisco regional manager of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, she provides economic analysis to the agency, which protects our deposits in case of bank failure — an increasingly real prospect these days. Her territory encompasses 11 states and the island of Guam.

The gregarious Olesiuk echoed the Forbes article, saying that the College’s emphasis on developing critical thinking skills was the change-maker for her. “I came into Saint Mary’s very shy and introverted. In Seminar, I learned to participate in conversation, to speak succinctly and clearly, and to support my point of view,” she says. Fittingly, one of her main duties these days is to present and defend her economic findings at regular business roundtables — much like the round tables of Seminar past.

For Leo Guardado ’04, Saint Mary’s helped him achieve a different kind of success. Guardado, director of social ministry at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Tucson, came to the United States at age 9 with his mother to escape the civil war in their native El Salvador. Although he excelled academically, he lived with the constant fear that he could be deported at any time. A chance meeting with Brother O. DeSales Perez, former director of Collegiate Seminar, led to a full scholarship at Saint Mary’s.

During his freshman year, he was finally granted sanctuary and legal residency status. He also pursued a strong interest in Catholic social teaching through his work with Janet Luce, the first director of CILSA, and other teachers who, he says, “shaped my vision of theology and taught me to bring together the intellectual, sociological and historical perspective.”After graduating from Saint Mary’s, Guardado worked with inner-city children in New York as a Lasallian Volunteer and earned an M.A. in theology from Notre Dame.

In 2008, he returned to Saint Mary’s as director of justice and education for Mission and Ministry and developed the model for immersion trips, in which students travel to Salinas or the U.S.-Mexico border to gain a better understanding of complex immigration issues.

“It was like coming full circle,” Guardado said. “It was a chance to bring the Catholic social teaching perspective into the ministry.”