Global Languages

GREAT GRADUATES 2020: Mary Wurtz, Foreign Languages and International Studies and Theology

Great Graduates 2020

International Studies major Mary Wurtz enjoyed a meteoric career at Bellarmine, participating in the Honors Program, study abroad and campus ministry. She'll serve as the undergrad commencement speaker in Bellarmine’s May 9 virtual ceremony.

Mary Wurtz wrapped up her last class at Bellarmine online last week, which felt a little anticlimactic for a student who has been so heavily involved on campus the last four years.  

“I was  involved in 7,000 things, I tried as many activities and clubs as I could just to get everything out of it possible and soak up everything like a sponge.”


Natasha Begin, assistant dean of students, who knows Mary as they’ve traveled abroad together, texted Mary a quick selfie video in which Begin said, "I’m sorry how your last day turned out, and I’m proud of you." 

“It’s little things like that make a difference at Bellarmine,” Mary said.  

She’ll still celebrate graduation, however different it may be, by serving as the undergrad commencement speaker in Bellarmine’s "Toast to Our Graduates" May 9.   

It'll cap a meteoric Bellarmine career. In earning numerous accolades and honors and participating in countless campus organizations and activities, Mary has been a model of what it means to be an involved, engaged and high-achieving college student.

She is a Bellarmine Scholar, a member of the Bellarmine Society and the Honors Program and a Knights of Honor. She's the winner of Bellarmine's 2020 Phi Beta Kappa Award, an honor from the oldest academic honor society in the U.S. 

"She's a star," said Nelson Lopez, associate professor and chair, Department of Global Languages and Cultures.

Looking back, Mary said wouldn’t change a thing. 

“I think I have the quintessential Bellarmine story,” she said. “I was  involved in 7,000 things, I tried as many activities and clubs as I could just to get everything out of it possible and soak up everything like a sponge.” 

Of her many activities, clubs and experiences, a few stick out. Mary considers her time in the honors program, studying abroad and working with Campus Ministry most fondly.

"Those were transformational experiences for me," she said.

Mary, who is from Crestview Hills, Ky., fell in love with Bellarmine when she was visiting colleges in the area her senior year of high school.  

“I remember being blown away by how beautiful the campus was and the students and people in admissions,” she said. “It ended up being my No. 1 choice.”   

She was offered a full scholarship as a Bellarmine Scholar.  

“Another big pull for was the available scholarship money,” she said. “As far as other liberal arts, private institutions, the financial packages at Bellarmine are unparalleled. That was certainly the case for me.” 

She lived in the honors program residence hall and made lasting friendships. She loved getting to take honors classes, do research and travel with the program. She was twice elected by her peers to serve on the Honors Student Advisory Board, including a term as president in 2017-18 during which she helped establish new service partnerships with local non-profits and co-authored a bill that secured funding for undergraduate research. 

“It was a great anchor to keep me at Bellarmine, especially my freshman year, when I felt homesick,” she said.  

Another highlight is the work she’s done in Campus Ministry, she said. Director Laura Kline and Mary successfully applied for a grant to fund an internship for Mary to do interfaith programming. 

“The whole experience was a blast,” she said.   

While at Bellarmine, Mary stoked an abiding passion for international relations. As an intern with the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana, she wrote a proposal for a non-governmental organization that brought more than a dozen English as a Second Language teachers from other countries to Louisville for professional development. She lived in Spain for a month where she sharpened her Spanish-speaking skills. She also traveled to India with Fr. John Pozhathuparambil through Bellarmine’s Think India program.    

She said Bellarmine’s faculty was always willing to work with her to develop academic interests.  

“If there was something I was interested in that didn’t exist on campus, they would work with me to create it,” she said. 

In the fall, she will begin a Masters of Global Affairs degree at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, through the Schwarzman Scholars program. She’ll study there as soon as international travel in the wake of COVID-19 is permitted. She hopes to eventually work in international relations, either teaching, doing research or developing policy.  

“I definitely have those graduating jitters, which is natural, I guess,” she said. “But, I got the most out of Bellarmine that I could and it’s prepared me for the real world as much as any four-year experience would.”  



Hometown: Crestview Hills, KY 

Major(s): Foreign Languages and International Studies, Theology, minor in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies 

Activities: Women in Leadership Initiative, Campus Ministry, BraveBU, Honors Student Advisory Board 

Internships/work experience: International Visitor Program Intern at the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana (2018), Hispanic Services Intern at Catholic Charities of Louisville (2019), Interfaith Programming Intern at Bellarmine Campus Ministry Office (2019-2020) 

Post-grad plans: In August, I will begin a Masters of Global Affairs degree at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China through the Schwarzman Scholars program. Schwarzman Scholars selects approximately 140 students and young professionals from across the world for this program. I was selected from a pool of 4,000 applicants. The award is similar to a Rhodes Scholarship.

Why Bellarmine? I chose Bellarmine because I knew that the university was willing to invest in me the same way that I have invested in it for the past four years. I knew I would be more than a number here, and from the very beginning, Bellarmine showed me that they wanted me in the community. 

What’s been your experience? Trying to soak up as much as I can from the university, taking as many opportunities as I can to learn more, explore myself, and meet new people, while still sticking on the path toward my ultimate career goals. 

Who has made a difference? Dr. Jon Blandford (Honors program director), Dr. Hoon Choi (my Theology advisor), Dr. Nelson Lopez (my FLIS advisor), and Keighlee Arp (Assistant Director of Campus Ministry). 

What advice would you give to incoming students? Say yes to as much as you can at Bellarmine, but don't say yes just to compete with other people or to fill out your resume. Engage in self-reflection, determine your values and goals, and select classes and activities that help you to become this best version of yourself. If something doesn't exist, you can create it. 

Tags: Global Languages , Great Grads , Theology

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Bellarmine University is a vibrant community of educational excellence and ethical awareness that consistently ranks among the nation’s best colleges and universities. Our students pursue an education based in the liberal arts – and in the distinguished, inclusive Catholic tradition of educational excellence, the oldest and most rewarding in the western world. It is a lifelong education, worthy of the university’s namesake, Saint Robert Bellarmine, and of his invitation to each of us to learn and live In Veritatis Amore – in the love of all that is beautiful, true and good in life.