The CNR graduate who will become the first female president of California State University at Long Beach in its 65-year history shared how her Ursuline education has helped her in her distinguished career during her keynote address at the 76th annual Alumnae/i College.
"I hope to illustrate that the experiences offered to me by my family, educators, you all, are now known to be strong predictors of success and happiness," said Jane Close Conoley, Ph.D. SAS'69.
Conoley graduated cum laude from The College of New Rochelle with a degree in psychology, and earned her Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. She takes office at Long Beach on July 15, leaving the University of California Riverside, where she has served as dean of the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education and professor of counseling, clinical and school psychology at the University of California Riverside.
Previous posts include dean of education and human development and professor of educational psychology at Texas A&M University; and department chair and associate dean at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Conoley is also the author, co-author, or editor of more than 120 books, articles, and book chapters, and she serves on numerous journal editorial and community service boards.
"If the Ursulines taught me -- and perhaps you -- anything, it was to make the best of every situation," said Conoley. She showed a chart from a study that concluded that happiness and thriving is determined 50 percent by genetics, 10 percent by circumstances, and 40 percent by intentional activity.
That intentional activity -- prayer, forgiveness, social action, gratitude, acceptance, seeing the bigger picture, relating it to God's plan, working harder, sticking with it, believing in self -- are all lessons learned from the Ursulines, Conoley said. Their semi-cloistered existence showed that "living in a simple way could be a circumstance for happiness."
Conoley said the Ursulines also imparted on her the idea that we are part of a much bigger world. "We are affected by everything around us," she said, "so be humble, see the big picture, work at many levels when you are interested in change, but know that personal change is key."
Conoley flashed a photo of the diverse student body at Long Beach State. "This will be America in 50 years," she said, with no clear majority culture, "so I am motivated to be sure every group is as educated as possible."
President Judith Huntington welcomed the returning graduates, and presented the Women of Achievement, Ursula Laurus, and Angela Merici awards in a ceremony following the keynote. She also shared details of the College's Strategic Plan.
The weekend opened with a Welcome Back to CNR barbecue on Friday evening. In addition to the keynote and awards ceremony, Saturday also featured a luncheon celebration; class photos, meetings, and workshops; a holistic spa; a Golden Anniversary Tribute Dinner for the Class of 1964; and "A Night in Monte Carlo," the Alumnae/i Dinner Celebration.