CEE Alumni


A devoted daughter of Lehigh goes to work for educational equity

Mary Nunley has never been one to shy away from responsibility. When duty calls, she answers.

Duty has called Nunley often—to chairmanships and executive board appointments all the way to the presidency of the student senate. In her five years at Lehigh she also helped found a sorority, work as an admissions fellow, collect armfuls of student service awards, and still find time to volunteer at a local no-kill cat shelter and finish her double-major degree with a 3.1 GPA.

"Mary certainly would have been able to take some time for herself in her fifth year on campus," says Sharon Basso, Associate Vice Provost and Dean of Students, "but in true 'Mary fashion' she has been the most involved this year."

Doing the right thing is what Mary does best.

Nunley graduated this year with both a B. S. in civil engineering and a B. A. in architecture. Come the fall, she'll be in a classroom once again, even though she's putting grad school on hold—for now.

Instead, the model citizen and role model will be at the head of the class, teaching math in a Dallas high school. She joins the ranks of Teach for America, a national corps of teachers working to expand educational opportunity in low-income communities. TFA recruits high-achieving recent college graduates willing to make a two-year commitment to their cause. Science and math teachers are in especially high demand.

Not feeling quite ready for either grad school or the workforce, TFA seemed like a perfect fit. "I'd heard about TFA, the Peace Corps, and AmeriCorps and got excited about those possibilities," says Nunley. "Still had to think about it, though, knowing that most engineers out of Lehigh can get a great job or go to a good school."

After much considered thought and with the strong support of Dean Basso, Nunley began the online application process in September 2011. After a phone interview and a trip to Philadelphia for an in-person group interview, she was accepted into the program in November.

"Then I had the big decision. I had started the job search, but I went with my gut that this was the right thing to do," recalls Nunley.

Doing the right thing, says Basso, is what Mary does best. "Mary has more than one person's fair share of integrity and a work ethic that is inexhaustible," she says.

That work ethic will serve Nunley well in her new role. The Albuquerque native reports for training June 5. She'll spend the next five weeks in Houston, facing 16-hour days of teaching, observing, taking classes and studying for certification exams—all necessary preparation for the high-stakes work ahead.

According to its Web site, TFA finds that its most successful corps members work extremely hard to get extremely good at the important things that they take on.

That's a lesson this new Lehigh alumna learned here a long time ago.