Anna and Mary Cate Diederich are Oakcrest alumnae sisters who are putting their Oakcrest education and God-given talents to use in very different and fascinating ways. Anna, a junior at the University of Notre Dame, studies chemical engineering with a concentration in biomolecular engineering, and is on a pre-med track. Mary Cate teaches English in Vladimir, Russia after earning a Bachelor of Arts in Russian Studies and History from the University of Richmond.
Each sister discovered her intellectual niche during her Oakcrest years. Mary Cate’s interest in Russian language and culture started the summer before her senior year when she attended STARTALK, a program sponsored by the NSA to promote learning critical languages. Her Oakcrest mentor, Ms. Angela Fortunato, helped her secure a work opportunity in Almaty, Kazakhstan for a month that summer. During her senior year at Oakcrest, Mary Cate completed an independent study in Russian. When she finally got the chance to study in St. Petersburg, Russia, during her junior year of college, Mary Cate loved the experience so much that she decided to return.
While Anna knew during high school that her interests lay in STEM, it was her AP Calculus and Physics teacher, Dr. Claraines Deeb, who helped her refine her focus. Pointing out Anna’s strengths, Dr. Deeb helped her to see chemical engineering as the right choice for her college studies. Ms. Fortunato connected her with a medical career seminar at Bayridge Residence in Boston, which helped sparked her interest in medicine.
The sisters both keep very busy. In her teaching position at The American Home in Vladimir, Mary Cate leads three beginner level English courses and two advanced English courses, a conversation class, and two children's classes. She is actively involved with the community outside of class as well, helping to host activities for Vladimir residents every Saturday. Anna works hard in her engineering classes and also volunteers at the hospital in the ICU. After graduation, she hopes to study cardiology in medical school.
When asked which classes at Oakcrest influenced them the most, both Anna and Mary Cate immediately mention the history classes taught by Ms. Christine Nussio, the History Master Teacher. They loved the way she made history come alive and flow in a coherent, fascinating narrative.
Each believes that Oakcrest gave her a strong foundation for life. “In university and in my professional life so far, I have found that my liberal arts education has left me better equipped to handle a variety of situations with grace and aplomb. Not only was I better prepared for the rigours of university life, but I was able to hold my work to a higher standard than some of my classmates in 101 level courses,” Mary Cate says.
As for Anna, she notes that the all-female environment provided by Oakcrest prepared her well for higher education, especially in the STEM field. She finds that many of her female classmates are not as comfortable as she is talking in class and entering into discussion with those who think differently. Thanks to her years at Oakcrest, it comes naturally to her. She notes of her Oakcrest education, “It was helpful in terms of getting used to reading a lot of material and also being comfortable synthesizing things, coming up with complex thoughts, and raising your hand and talking about them in class.”