For most students, one college major is plenty of work. For most Mary Baldwin University students, attending one of the college’s unique academic programs is enough. And then there is Stephanie Long. She received her diploma May 15, the crowning achievement of being a student in both Mary Baldwin’s Program for the Exceptionally Gifted and Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership – and completing three majors in psychology, social work, and French.
At age 15, Long convinced her parents to allow her to attend the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted (PEG) at Mary Baldwin. They recognized the value of the program – which invites students as young as rising ninth-graders to live on campus, take a full course load to complete high school and college, and participate in campus activities. They also had concerns about thrusting their “little girl” into college life.
A year later, Long surprised her parents again when she also joined the corps of cadets in the college’s Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL). She became the program’s youngest cadet after a special committee convened to approve her membership. She wanted to follow in the footsteps of her father, a 23-year veteran of the Armed Forces. This Spring, Long will commission into the U.S. Navy, and she hopes to take part in the commissioning ceremony Saturday that is part of weekend Commencement activities.
And she’s not slowing down after graduation.
Long recently earned a coveted slot at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, where she will work toward her master’s and doctoral degrees in military clinical psychology. Only three students per year are accepted into the program – one each from the Army, Navy, and Air Force. She will be required to finish her coursework and dissertation in four years and spend the fifth year at an internship in the field. She plans to fulfill a seven-year commitment to the Navy after that. When it’s all said and done she’ll be just 32 years old.
“Stephanie is one of those students who manages many things at a time, and is not only able to juggle them, but to excel,” said Brenda Bryant, director of VWIL and acting vice president for enrollment management. “When I met her, as a sophomore entering VWIL, she knew that she wanted to pursue military psychology. I thought that, being so young, she would change her mind, but she has stayed focused on that goal as long as I’ve known her.”
Despite her age, Long quickly progressed from playing the bells in the VWIL marching band to ranking as the band platoon sergeant, and then as band captain in her junior year. During Fall semester this year, she served the corps as assistant commandant.
She is modest and constantly expects more of herself. She offhandedly mentioned that she plans to learn to speak and write Korean, too, because her mother is Korean and the Navy is looking for people who have command of Asian languages.
“Coming to Mary Baldwin, and, in particular, going through VWIL, gave me a lot more confidence,” Long said. “I am now comfortable speaking in front of people, even when there are officials and leaders in the audience.”
Long continued her education at Mary Baldwin for a fifth academic year, this year, part-time. The graduate program at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences wanted her to take an additional biology or chemistry class, and, while she was at it, she decided to finish her third major, French.
“I hoped early on when Stephanie started taking French courses that she would become a major,” said Anne McGovern, associate professor of French. “I was delighted when she surfaced in the department again after a few semesters.” McGovern added that Long’s keen ability to think on her feet was demonstrated during the defense of her senior thesis, a study of the sub-par support of women’s soccer in France.
Long has taken advantage of the liberal arts education Mary Baldwin offers. Beyond her wide-ranging academic exploration, she also competed on athletic teams at Mary Baldwin nearly every season, and tutored other students, primarily in French. If Long’s work as an undergraduate is any indication, we’ll be hearing more about her achievements in years to come.