Ashley Benter desperately wanted to learn to play the guitar. So the psychology major from Mount Vernon, Iowa approached Sr. Shari Sutherland ’71, executive director for Mercy mission and identity, whom she had watched play the guitar during Mass and other Campus Ministry events. A friendship and mutual admiration developed between the two women based on an initial conversation about strings and chords.
“I enjoyed watching how Ashley caught on and how fast she learned,” says Sutherland, who began her duties in 2009–10. “It has been a mutual growing experience.” The two continue to meet weekly to review songs and practice together. “It is fun to see how students grow in their faith, and Ashley expresses her faith through music.”
A Mercy University can be identified by the commitment its campus community makes to living the ideals established by the Sisters of Mercy. Central to Mount Mercy University’s full embrace of the Mercy mission and identity is a campus leader responsible for imparting the institution’s mission and identity into all aspects of campus life and ministry — and Sutherland has jumped into her new role with unabashed enthusiasm.
“Having Sr. Shari as part of the Mount Mercy community is amazing,” says Benter. “She is outgoing and loves her role on campus. I know that any student who wants to get involved with learning more about Mount Mercy, its values, and its beginning would get all their answers from her. The one thing I’ve noticed in the time I’ve spent with Sr. Shari is that she wants others to be proud of where Mount Mercy started and how far we have come since the days of Catherine McAuley.”
Fostering the Mercy mission often begins one student at a time, but Mount Mercy is also a leader in the Conference for Mercy Higher Education as it seeks to help spread the ideas and values of Mercy nationally and internationally.
Under the guidance of President Christopher Blake, Mount Mercy is leading discussions about how to effectively market the 16 Mercy colleges and universities in the United States, with special focus on strategic planning and marketing initiatives to distinguish the institutions in the marketplace among prospective students and their families.
“We have a duty to students and their families who are seeking faith-inspired, career-building education,” says Blake. “I have been pleased and honored to share ideas and strategies with presidents of other Mercy institutions about how we can collectively market our distinct brand of education to students who are interested in connecting learning with values of service and Mercy.”
The vision for teaching Mercy is two-fold — at home on the Hill and on a wider national and international scale. Sutherland continues to tackle the former, in the hopes that Mercy values and ideals will continue to grow in the hearts of many. “I want to know how our students want to grow and express their faith,” she says. One student at a time.