World Language department chair Elizabeth Mahoney has been teaching at Ursuline Academy for 5 years. She came to Ursuline after completing a sabbatical year in Valencia, Spain. A Spanish teacher with 30 years of experience, Ms. Mahoney enrolled in a Master’s program in The New Technologies Applied to Education at the Universidad Catolica de Valencia, in order to update her technical knowledge and refresh her language skills. It turned out to be a timely plan, as her focus of study came in handy during the Covid pandemic and remote learning.
After spending each school year with our students in Dedham, Ms. Mahoney returns to Valencia almost every summer to spend more time immersed in the culture and language of Spain. Ms. Mahoney currently teaches Spanish IV, V, and AP Spanish Language and Culture, and most of her students are juniors and seniors.
What does she love most about her students? “Their love of learning. That is such a blessing,” she says, “The students say thank you at the end of every class, they actively engage in whatever you teach them and then take it to the next level.” Ms. Mahoney also enjoys her role as department chair and she has taken on the role of mentor to new teachers, helping new staff to feel welcome in the Ursuline community.
One of Ms. Mahoney’s favorite traditions at Ursuline is Homecoming. She enjoys seeing former students and their families and hearing about all they have been up to since graduating from Ursuline. During the year of remote learning, Ms. Mahoney’s students had a special surprise for her over Zoom. The AP students had signs prepared to hold up at the end of class to say thank you to Ms. Mahoney for the year of learning. “It was an endearing moment after such a hard year,” Mahoney noted. “It really displayed the thoughtfulness and creative thinking of the Ursuline students.”
Immersing students in the language and challenging them to understand and communicate in Spanish is the main goal of Ms. Mahoney’s classroom. She enjoys having the students read and watch films completely in Spanish without any subtitles. Watching video clips, movies, and listening to music videos actually helps the students to become familiar with Hispanic non-verbal communication in addition to a variety of Spanish accents. Her students watch a movie called “El Estudiante,” which is the story of an elderly man who returns to college and shows how he values his marriage; he is able to impart wisdom to his college classmates and new friends. Her students also read El Principito or The Little Prince, which can help them to better understand what they are reading.
Ms. Mahoney relishes the opportunity to write college recommendations for her students. When they complete forms to request a recommendation, each student has to include what she enjoyed most about the class. Ms. Mahoney finds that most of her seniors’ favorite moment was their Spanish IV Immigration Project. Through this project, students learn about Hispanic immigration to the US and at the end of the unit, have the opportunity to interview someone who has emigrated from a Hispanic country, in Spanish. Students are amazed that they can actually conduct an interview in Spanish and understand the responses of the person they are interviewing. They empathize with the challenges and joys of the immigration stories being shared with them. The project allows students to gain experience and confidence in communicating with a native Spanish speaker.
In the summer, Ms. Mahoney travels back to Spain any chance she can get! This past summer, she connected with a recent graduate, Sara Wheeler ‘22, who was in Valencia visiting with her pen pal from senior year Spanish class and together, they took a boat trip on the Albufera, a lagoon and natural park in Valencia. Valencia has its own language and a culture of its own. For the past two summers, Ms. Mahoney has been taking intensive courses in Valenciano, the local language, while learning more about the food, songs, dances, and traditions of the Valencian people. These summer language classes inspire her with new strategies for teaching language, which she is able to bring back to her classroom in Dedham each year.
Beth S. Collins '02
When she was a senior at Ursuline Academy, Beth Sheehan Collins began volunteering with My Brother’s Keeper, a vibrant, welcoming Christian ministry in Massachusetts that delivers furniture and food to families in need. A graduate of Assumption College, Beth Sheehan Collins ’02 majored in Philosophy and Social Rehabilitation Services. Beth completed a post-graduate volunteer year working in England in a L’Arche community for adults with disabilities. After this, she returned to My Brother’s Keeper, joining their staff full-time in September 2007, and has been working with them ever since. She currently serves as Manager of In-House Programs, overseeing the food assistance program, but has worn many hats over the years, answering phones, driving trucks, leading tours, training volunteers, and speaking at the State House.
In addition to her work at My Brother’s Keeper, Beth also served for nine years on the Agency Advisory Council at the Greater Boston Food Bank, and is secretary on the board for “The Road to Diversity and Understanding,” an organization committed to fighting racism and building cross-cultural understanding. She has been an active alumna at Ursuline and she has participated in Campus Ministry retreat teams. When Beth came back to Ursuline in May 2022 to speak at the Senior Parent Brunch, she inspired Bella Matthews ‘22 to donate funds from her own non-profit, Bella's Food Drive Boston, to My Brother’s Keeper. For her life-long dedication to service, Beth was honored with the Spirit of St. Angela Alumnae Award at Ursuline’s annual gala in November, 2022. Beth is an Associate of the Ursuline Sisters, formally embracing the mission and ministry of St. Angela Merici. In her free time, she enjoys beach trips and walks in nature with her husband and children.
Seta Nersessian '76
After graduating from Ursuline Academy, Seta Nersessian ‘76 earned her undergraduate degree from Wheaton College and a JD degree from Loyola University School of Law, before establishing a career as an attorney.
Inspired by the work of numerous local non-profit organizations working to relieve food insecurity, Seta, with her partner and some friends, co-founded the nonprofit organization Three Squares New England in 2011 to help those struggling to put food on the table. The organization brings together hunger relief partners, donors, and supporters to raise awareness of food insecurity. The founding members of Three Squares had little experience starting a nonprofit or organizing a bicycle ride – evidence of how sheer willingness to help solve a problem can sometimes be one’s greatest superpower.
Three Squares’ signature event, The Ride for Food, is an annual 50- or 25-mile bike ride that starts and ends in Dedham, and winds its way through Dedham, Needham, Dover, and other adjacent towns. The Ride has raised close to $4.6 million dollars since its inception, and uniquely, 100% of the money raised has gone back to its nonprofit participants.
Seta has always held a passion for helping others. In addition to her work as co-founder and board member of Three Squares, she also serves on the Board of Armenian Women’s Welfare Association, which serves elders locally and internationally through the sponsorship of elder service programs.
Mairead G. '26
Mairead began her Ursuline career in the 7th grade in 2020. Although it was somewhat difficult to start at a new school in the pandemic,the biggest draw to attend Ursuline was the community, which Mairead felt was very welcoming. Now as a student, she continues to feel like this is a very welcoming community to be a part of. She feels like she will never be alone here; there is always going to be someone nearby who will check in to see how she is doing or include her in an activity.
Mairead’s favorite tradition at Ursuline is Friendsgiving. Before the Thanksgiving break, the school celebrates Friendsgiving during lunches. Two long tables are set up in place of the normal Tea Room furniture and the girls eat lunch as if they are one big family. Mairead brought in sugar cookies in 8th grade to be able to share with her friends and others.
Mairead is involved in many different clubs at Ursuline. She is in Glee Club and Choral Group, Drama Club, Pre-Law, the Junior Classics League, Model UN, Lowder News, Swift Society, and Memory Project. She is glad to have the opportunity to engage in a range of activities while at school to explore a variety of interests. She’s also met many close friends.
Sports have also given Mairead the opportunity to participate while also forging friendships. She is currently the starting goalie on the Varsity Field Hockey team, and in 8th grade was on the Junior High Basketball team and the JV Softball team. Mairead says that the Field Hockey team is one of her favorite Ursuline communities and it was one of the best decisions she made to join the team and make friends in other grades.
Service projects are an important aspect of Mairead’s experience at Ursuline. The Memory Project is a fun activity for her to engage in, but she also knows that it will bring a smile to a child in another country. Mairead volunteers at a preschool and at a food pantry near her home. Her older brother has Down Syndrome and he participates in Best Buddies and the Special Olympics. Having seen how much those programs have helped brother, she hopes to become involved to help other children with disabilities.
Reflecting on her years at Ursuline, Mairead is looking forward to the academic challenge of taking Advanced Placement classes, but also looking to create more memories. Since her grade began at UA in the pandemic, she only met half her classmates that first year. They worked hard to meet each other and form friendships since then, and they look forward to what memories their high school years will bring!
Cailin K. '24
A junior at Ursuline, Cailin is active in Art and Racial Justice Clubs and she plays on both the soccer and golf teams. She started at UA in 7th grade, but she always knew that she wanted to attend the school. Her mother and aunt graduated from Ursuline, but what really sealed her decision was when she could sense the closeness of the community here and thought she would definitely fit in.
Cailin has since felt that closeness first hand, as a little sister, then as a big sister, and as a member of the golf team and a club leader. Cailin has felt especially close with her golf teammates over the years, where she found a second family and even as a 7th grader she says her teammates helped her feel more connected to her older peers. Her favorite sport, Cailin shares that golf also helped her to break out of her shell and create close friendships.
On the varsity soccer team this year, Cailin paid that forward, acting as a mentor and role model for younger girls who were new to Ursuline this year. That’s especially important for fall sports, when new students are just transitioning into the school.
Among the many clubs at Ursuline, Cailin happens to lead a few- as art director for the Racial Justice Club, secretary for Model U.N., and leader of the Art Club. She is also a member of the National Arts Honor Society (NAHS), Pre-Med Club, Girls Who Code, and the Student Ambassador Leadership Team (SALT). She enjoyed the collaboration between the Racial Justice Club and the NAHS for Black History Month last year. The NAHS students created silhouette paintings of notable individuals in various professions for Black History Month; homerooms collaborated to create the backgrounds of each painting based on what they learned about that person. The finished paintings were hung in Angela Hall for viewing during the month of February.
During the summer, Cailin works at Cranberry Valley golf course and she volunteers at the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy in Chatham, MA. She has been performing her service hours at the conservancy for the past few years. She enjoys helping people learn about ocean life, and connecting with her community.
Cailin’s favorite memory of her 7th grade year was Mission Day, designed with games and food in mind, but also to raise money for charity. Cailin also appreciates how her classmates are so close, how well they know each other and the ability they’ve had to bond both in and out of the classroom.
Cailin is looking forward to two more seasons with the golf team and hopes to bring home another championship win or two! But mostly, she is looking forward to another year of fun with her classmates as they celebrate their time at Ursuline.
Caroline Rufo began teaching art classes at Ursuline in 2011 and has inspired more and more students to engage in this field each year since her arrival. Caroline currently teaches grades 10, 11, and 12 in Visual Arts and AP Art & Design, and she has helped with the Web Design class in recent years. Before coming to UA, Caroline taught art classes out of her own studio, to adults and young people alike. When the art position opened, Caroline wasn’t really looking for a teaching position, but she is grateful to have landed here. “I always tell people that I have the best job in the world. I love working with teenage girls, and I get to teach them about the things that I care about the most.”
Caroline's favorite tradition at Ursuline is our annual Clothe-a-Child drive. A long standing tradition at Ursuline, we partner with the Yawkey Center to sponsor close to 60 children each year to buy them Christmas gifts. Each homeroom sponsors a child or two and buys clothes as well as a few toys for their child. Caroline and her family also sponsor a child together. “It feels like it is one of the great things we do that sets us apart from public or other private schools; we do it every Christmas to provide a service that focuses on the needy.”
Another tradition that Caroline loves is graduation. She cherishes how the teachers process down from the Convent together, and then they watch as the seniors process down the steps in their white gowns. “It is always nice to see the girls in a different sort of uniform that makes them look so beautiful. I always get choked up about it.”
One of her memorable moments in teaching was when she was working closely with a student who she knew was struggling, but who was very talented and smart. Caroline fondly remembers this student because she saw how the student was able to “make it to the finish line, when we were unsure if she would. But once she got to it on her own, she really flew.” At the end of the year, the student presented Caroline with a mini printing press which she had designed and printed using the 3D printers and laser cutters in the iHub. “It was a beautiful gesture and so very thoughtful,” and a great way for Caroline to remember this student.
In the summer, Caroline can be found in her studio, and she spends time planning for larger projects and coordinating with galleries. This past summer, she worked on a collaborative project with her husband. Together, along with help from their daughter and some friends who were graduates of Massachusetts College of Art and Design, they created a large installation for New England BioLabs. The project was about the health of rivers, specifically the Ipswich River, and how the damming of the river has affected the environment. Collaborating with her husband was interesting because they have different processes, but it produced a better result in the end and was super fun for them too.
Caroline practices meditation, and she produces oil paintings that focus on the ideas of awareness and consciousness. She also enjoys ceramics. In recent classes, Visual Arts 1 students have been creating DaVinci dragons. Students put together elements of various animals to create their DaVinci dragons, which helps them learn to draw in proportion and to draw texture well. In Visual Arts 2, students are working on sculpture. Each year, these students take a trip to a sculpture park, where they can view great examples of the different aesthetic principles they are learning about in class.