My ‘Why’

Two professors, partners in teaching and in life, offered complementary guidance that set an uncertain student on a passionate career path.

Author: Mary Bernard ’20

Editor’s Note: Members of the Class of 2020 should be celebrating together this week, but the coronavirus pandemic canceled their pomp and circumstance. Last month, Margaret Duncan ’17 encouraged graduates to “say the things that catch in your throat,” to express their gratitude to the people who meant a lot to them in college. We invited a few to share those feelings on our website to bring a touch of virtual celebration and appreciation to this dispersed senior week.

The transition and growth that college brings also gave me moments of deep uncertainty, doubts about whether I was doing the right thing — or even if I knew what I wanted to do at all. Moments when the only thing that could help would be the counsel of someone who had been through it before. Someone who would tell me to, seriously, relax, it’s all going to be okay. 

I was lucky enough to have two of those someones. And they just so happen to be married.

I met Professor Richard G. Jones sophomore year when he taught my first class for the journalism minor — he had just become director of Notre Dame’s Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy. Soon after, I met Professor Victoria St. Martin in another journalism class and heard Jones refer to her for the first of many times as, “My partner in teaching and partner in life.”

Hardly a week has gone by since that I haven’t talked to them. Sophomore year, I loved my journalism classes, but still wasn’t sure the industry was for me. In these mentors, I found not only two of the most accomplished and knowledgeable people in the field, but examples of the compassion and drive that distinguishes great journalists. They gave me a model to strive for in my career and the tools to start heading in that direction.

It doesn’t feel right that my senior year is ending so far away from them, the two mentors who have been such a pivotal part of my growth.

During one video call, as I went on about not knowing what to do with my life, it was evident how the two complement each other. Jones gave me contacts and brainstormed ideas as I took notes. When I got emotional, St. Martin took the headphones and stepped in front of the camera, reassuring me in her maternal way that everything would work out. “Just keep the faith!” she’d tell me.

These days, I tend to send emails to them both — if I don’t, the other will usually end up on the message chain, anyway.


Early in my study abroad program in Morocco, I reached out to Jones, worried about summer internship applications. Hours later, we were on the phone. The call to prayer rang out in the background as he calmly reminded me, like he often did, to do what’s in my control and trust that everything will work out.

Most days on campus, I’d alter my route to pass by St. Martin’s office in the Duncan Student Center, where she’s the print media coordinator for student publications. Whatever she was doing, I knew she’d greet me with a hug, sit me down with a LaCroix and give me her undivided attention. We’d talk about our families, her career, ethical quandaries — and of course, she’d give me relationship advice.

Sometimes, we’d get Jones on speaker phone and go through a recent story I wrote, line by line, the three of us discussing what I could do better and where to take the reporting next.

And when St. Martin was out of the office to welcome her adorable baby girl into the world, she was always just a phone call, text or Starbucks meeting away.

When St. Martin and I went to New Orleans for a conference in September, she and Jones picked me up at my apartment. He let us out in front of the airport. As St. Martin and I got through security, we received one of Jones’s signature gifs — “Girls’ Trip!”

And when my family passed through town over Thanksgiving last fall, there was no question — we were all going out for dinner.

St. Martin and Jones have celebrated with me and shared in my disappointments. They’ve come to be not just my professors and advisors, but part of the family I found at my home away from home.

With the added concerns about entering the job market now and weathering the ripple effects of COVID-19, they continue to be calming voices, encouraging hope and sending emoji-filled “Woo hoo!” texts as I approach the finish line.

Seeing the passion St. Martin and Jones have for journalism has stoked my own passion for it. I see how much they love what they do, and it helps me understand what I want from a career. They’re the people I want to make proud, the names I’ll recite when I tell my “why I went into journalism” story in the future. 

I’ll always be grateful that, in my moments of doubt, Jones and St. Martin were there, switching off on speaker phone or in front of the video camera, reassuring me that it’s all going to be okay. 

As I head to another internship this summer, carrying with me the lessons of journalism and life they taught me, I have a feeling they were right.

Mary Bernard, an anthropology major and journalism minor, finished her senior year at home in St. Louis. She’ll be doing a remote internship this summer with the The Dallas Morning News.