Overcoming Obstacles For WJU Grad Is Second Nature
WHEELING — A Hillard, Ohio native overcame learning obstacles to not only earn a degree from Wheeling Jesuit, but achieve much success during her four years at the University.
WJU 2017 graduate Maire Austin came to Wheeling Jesuit University to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Environment and Sustainability and share her love of nature and a desire to mentor young people about how to protect the environment. Diagnosed in grade school with dysgraphia and dyslexia, Austin overcame a lot to achieve academic success and for her hard work, was named the recipient of the Manning Award for Academic Success.
The Manning Award is presented annually to a WJU graduating student who demonstrates academic success while conquering the challenges of a disability. The award is given in the name of 2010 graduate Shawn Manning who overcame the obstacles of his learning disability to successfully achieve his goal of a Jesuit university education.
In elementary school, Austin had some trouble with reading and spelling and she sometimes wrote in mirror images. Teachers also noticed that she was gifted and performed beyond her grade level when it came to verbalizing the information that she knew and learned. Austin attributes her mother’s friend with recognizing her academic difficulties and helping her learn to read. She also credits her third grade teacher, Mrs. Boyd, and her fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Conley, for teaching her academic skills and providing her with the assistance she needed.
With the help of tutors in grade school, Austin was earning all A’s and B’s and became a teaching assistant and a tutor for other students by the time she was in high school.
Austin said while growing up she was inspired to achieve academic success by her mother, Patricia Austin, who was persistent in getting the help that she needed, and her father, Jere Austin, who always encouraged her to never give up.
At Wheeling Jesuit, Austin was awarded a WJU Arrupe Scholarship. As an Arrupe scholar, Austin was a volunteer in the HESS after school program, where she mentored a seventh grade student. She also participated in the Ignatian Honors College and the Laut Honors program. During Commencement, Austin was named the Frank R. Haig, S.J. Science Award winner.
Austin said about her success at WJU, “I am self-motivated and self-aware. I have a strong ability to follow procedures that are so important in math and science, but my most important strength is that I know when I need to ask for help.”
As a student, Austin made certain to utilize available resources on campus. She added, “There is no shame in admitting when you need help and you should not be afraid to ask for it.”
In addition to focusing on academics, Austin was a four-year starter on the women’s lacrosse team, and during the summers she taught environmental skills to young people at a summer camp. She also volunteered at a Columbus food pantry coordinated by her brother.
Austin said she chose Wheeling Jesuit for the environment and sustainability program, and because during her first visit to campus, the lacrosse coach took her to meet Kathy Tagg, director of Disability Services, to discuss what assistance was available to accommodate her learning disability at the college level.
“At WJU, the Disability Services Office is easily accessible and not hidden away in some remote corner on campus as it is at several other colleges that I visited. Kathy Tagg was a huge help in encouraging me to succeed and in providing the accommodations that I needed,” Austin said. “I am also thankful to my chemistry professor, Dr. Mary Railing, and the entire chemistry department, who were supportive and offered me any help I requested.”
Tagg added, “Maire earned the Manning Award because she took responsibility for her own education, she had the courage to ask for help when necessary, and she was never afraid of hard work to achieve her goals.”