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Céire Kealty ’18

She received a dual-major degree that drew connections between business, ethics and spirituality.

Dual Major: Accounting and Religious Studies
Hometown: Salt Point, N.Y.
High School: Our Lady of Lourdes High School Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Why did you choose Iona?
I was drawn to Iona’s Honors Program from the start. The course offerings, student formation and pedagogy were unique, and something that my other schools of interest notably lacked. I also wanted to attend college near, but not in, New York City. Though I’m a native New Yorker, trips to the city were reserved for Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day in my family. That changed when I came to Iona. I reaped the benefits of being just 30 minutes from Manhattan almost every weekend.

What have you accomplished at Iona that you are most proud of?
I would say I’m most proud of how I balanced my coursework, and graduated with two degrees in two separate schools, and with Honors. My four years were filled with extracurricular activities, courses upon courses, and sparse time. To make sure I could garner enough Arts & Sciences credits for my degrees, I often had to take three classes in the summer and six courses for several semesters. It was exhausting, but I pushed through because I loved my studies. I am also proud of co-authoring articles and being twice published in peer-reviewed journals, one about tax accounting, and another about library management. This was all thanks to Dr. Andrew Griffith, who introduced me to the world of academic publishing.

What clubs/organizations/teams were you involved in at Iona? Tell us a bit about these experiences.
I was involved in several organizations and initiatives at Iona. Besides being in the Honors Program, I was involved in Student Government for two years as a class senator. I enjoyed bridging the gap between student leaders and the larger student body community through events and activities. From there, I joined the campus ministry team in the Office of Mission and Ministry, where I helped facilitate faith-based events and service and advocacy projects.

Tell us about something you learned (in or out of the classroom) that really surprised or excited you.
Ah, two moments come to mind. The first was in one of my last Honors seminars, taught by Drs. Lacey and Rosenfeld. Here, I was exposed to the writing of Hannah Arendt and her concept of the banality of evil. The notion that evil can be perpetuated by “ordinary” people and through mundane acts stayed with me and has influenced my present work. The other moment took place in my first class with Sr. Kathleen Deignan. The class, called Images of Jesus Throughout History, challenged my understanding of God/divinity that I had preserved since my early Catholic education. To challenge who or what God was startled me— and it set me free to ask more questions about life, people, and dignity.

Why did you choose your major?
When I first arrived at Iona, I was an undeclared business major. I felt myself drawn to marketing but wanted to have a degree that translated well across business fields. There are a few accountants in my family, so it felt like the right choice. I came to appreciate how accounting asked ethical questions, particularly in auditing and the enforcement of tax law. My encounter with religious studies was different. I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic school since kindergarten. I questioned little about my faith and took it as a given. But I did have questions about other faith traditions and interfaith solidarity, to name a few. Religion has always captivated me— why do we believe what we do? What does religion do to us? Where did religious practices emerge, and how do they persist presently? After my first religion class (which I had to take to fulfill the liberal arts core requirements), I was hooked. The religious studies program offered me a space to pursue my careful inquiry of lived religion, faith expressions, and their relevance and prevalence in contemporary spaces.

You were a dual-degree major in Accounting and Religious Studies. What inspired your passion for Religious Studies and to pursue it at a post-graduate level?
The summer before I graduated, I was aching to find a space where I could continue my inquiry into religious, social, and business ethics. In my junior year, I saw clearly how my accounting and religious studies degrees complemented and challenged each other (the Bible has a lot to say about taxes, by the way…ha ha!). I would say one class that I took in my junior year at Iona sparked my pursuit of continued academic study. The class was on Business Ethics, taught by Vincent Maher. In this class, Prof. Maher revealed the insidious business practices that keep our lives comfortable in the United States. I was horrified to hear about exploitative labor practices in Chinese factories that manufactured iPhones. In undergrad, I had begun to ask similar questions about the clothing industry and had facilitated two presentations on the problems with the garment industry. It was at this point that I sought to use my strength in writing and research to produced tangible scholarship to interrogate business and social practices and explore alternatives to be found in Christian ethics and spirituality. I am grateful to be doing just that at Villanova University, where I am working towards a Ph.D. in Theology, with specializations in Christian ethics and spirituality. It is a gift to be where I am, and I owe so much to my professors at Iona.

You also served as a Campus Minister for several years. Do you feel this experience or others on campus also inspired you?
Absolutely. My time as a campus minister was immensely fulfilling- engaging students with the greater NYC community through acts of service and advocacy education was a highlight of my college career. I was given the opportunity to grow in community with other student ministers, which taught me a lot about myself. I learned a lot about compassion, tolerance, and collaboration during my two years in the Montgomery House.

Was there a professor or a mentor who impacted your experience at Iona?
I would be remiss to fail to mention what a tremendous impact the Religious Studies department left on my time at Iona, and on my life. I hold deep gratitude for the mentorship, guidance, kinship and wisdom offered me by Drs. Kathleen Deignan, Teresa Delgago, Kim Paffenroth, Elena Procario-Foley, and Rachana Umashankar. Dr. Andrew Griffith in Accounting mentored me well through my time in the business school and in my Honors senior thesis. I owe so much to all professors in the Honors Program. Finally, Carl Procario-Foley offered me priceless guidance not only in his teaching but in his leadership in Mission and Ministry. For these and many others at Iona, who assured me that there is value in what I have to say, I am endlessly grateful.