SOLES Scholarship Stories

Meet the donor and former student scholarship recipient of the Mary Woods Scherr Endowed Scholarship for the Empowerment of Women in Leadership.

Lauren Wong Former Student Scholar: Lauren Wong '19 (MA) 2018-2019 Mary Woods Scherr Endowed Scholarship for the Empowerment of Women in Leadership Recipient


Tell us about your SOLES program and why you chose it.

I am a graduate from the Higher Education Leadership Program. I chose this program because the idea of being a leader was something that has always been an element in my life, but learning about and studying leadership was first presented to me through this program. This program gave me the tools and knowledge to deepen my understanding of leadership and how it could be used to impact the college/university setting.

When you were a child, what career(s) did you think about and why? If different from now, what prompted the change?

I thought I was going to be a dentist, but it turns out I was not so great at the math and science needed to be one. It took me a while but I figured out eventually that I am really good at being a facilitator and helping people to discover more about themselves!

What advice would you give your younger self?

Be yourself, because damn it is such a beautiful, complex and loving self!

Was there a class in your undergraduate program that had the greatest influence on determining your major or career path?

It was less of a class, but more of the experience as a whole. I attended the Evergreen State College, which was an alternative liberal arts school where students were encouraged to pursue interdisciplinary learning. My most impactful learning came from combining what was happening in the classroom with my other surroundings and making connections across different spaces, communities, and areas of study.

Who was your favorite SOLES professor, and/or what was your favorite class?

Dr. Cheryl Getz is the professor who oversees the Higher Education Leadership program and her commitment to her students was inspiring to me and so many others in my cohort. We were loved and supported throughout the program by Cheryl and she was always cheering on our unique talents and strengths. I am so grateful to have her as a mentor and as a teacher throughout this program.

What is your favorite place on campus and why?

My favorite place on campus is the Outdoor Adventures office. If you have not discovered this office or the community it creates, you are missing out! They create life changing experiences and encourage authentic leadership.

What is your fondest memory or your time at SOLES or USD?

My fondest memory is being on a thanksgiving trip with Outdoor Adventures on the Colorado River. We spent the day making a thanksgiving dinner, canoeing, and sharing stories underneath the stars. I learned on that trip how powerful giving thanks can be and what a joy it is to share traditions with international students. It was powerful to honor the native experience and think critically about who we should be thanking for being the caretakers of the wild lands we get to enjoy today.

How has your SOLES education impacted your career and your career goals?

SOLES has allowed me to thrive and grow in my career as a student affairs practitioner. Because of the skills and tools I learned through the program, I am a better practitioner and a better leader.

If you could offer a current SOLES student advice, what would it be?

Ask questions, support cohort members, and be willing to live into vulnerability for the most amazing graduate experience!

What do you do for fun as an adult?

I do a lot of things for fun and I am constantly trying new things! I love to hike, camp, backpack, canoe and sleep under the stars. I also love to climb, skate, surf, and snowboard. I love to explore new places and to take care of my lovely house plants!


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Dr. Mary Scherr Scholarship Donor: Dr. Mary Scherr Mary Woods Scherr Endowed Scholarship for the Empowerment of Women in Leadership Donor


In our continuing interviews with scholarship donors, we feature Dr. Mary Woods Scherr, who taught in the Leadership Studies program for 21 years. During that time, she also served as Director of the Masters and/or Doctoral programs for several terms. She is a Professor Emerita in Leadership Studies at SOLES.

About Mary Woods Scherr:

One of my strongest childhood memories is playing school with my grade school friends. I was nearly always the teacher! Throughout the rest of my early life I was highly influenced by women teachers, starting with my mother, who had taught Norwegian-speaking students in a one room schoolhouse in North Dakota before World War I.

While attending Kearny Junior-Senior High School in Linda Vista, I was extremely fortunate to have a Girls’ Vice Principal, Kathryn Markey, who became a lifelong mentor and inspiration for me to support girls and women. 

While my girls were in school, I taught English part-time at MiraCosta College and I was highly influenced by the women’s movement. During this time, Kathryn Markey gave me a copy of the Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedman. I stayed up all night to read it. The book was the feminine enlightenment for me, my girls, and my husband.

In 1979, at the age of 49, I started doctoral work, encouraged by Dr. Peggy Hawley, who was the Director at San Diego State University for the Jt. program at Claremont Graduate University and SDSU. I had strong financial and emotional support from my husband and my 86 year-old mother. Since I took classes in my fifties, I assured prospective students that beginning in their forties was not too late.

In 1982, the year I completed my doctorate, I visited my daughter who was teaching in India. I encountered a young woman with a child sitting on a curb outside of a shop.  My eyes locked with her sad eyes and her image was sealed in my heart. “Women must help women,” I thought and the picture of that woman has remained with me for forty years, prompting scholarship and philanthropic projects.

Gaining a tenure-track position at the University of San Diego enabled me to teach subjects I deeply cared about:  Adult Development; Women’s Leadership, Qualitative Research, and Spirituality for Leaders.   

A few years after my late husband died in 1999, I began phased retirement. In my final semester at the University of San Diego, during spring break of 2009, I married Marvin Sippel, who shares my spiritual quests.

Since my retirement, I completed a two year program with the Living School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, sponsored by the Center for Action and Contemplation, founded by Father Richard Rohr. I co-authored a book: Dear Ann, Dear Mary, a series of emails related to grief, friendship, and support. Increasingly, I’ve been committed to working for peace and justice. From the very beginning, I enthusiastically supported the Women’s Peacemakers Program at the Joan B. Kroc Center for Peace and Justice.  My husband Marvin and I both work for Hands of Peace, a summer residence program that teaches peace building skills to American, Palestinian, and Israeli teens. 

To balance time spent on commitments, I am a dedicated beach walker. I have been privileged to live on or near the beach my entire adult life. Walking on the beach is part of my morning routine. I keep dates with the low tides. For me, the ocean represents the healing power of nature, constant change, and eternity. 

Looking back over my twenty plus years at the University of San Diego, I am grateful to those who were committed to helping women: professors, several mentors, and the late Sister Sally Furay, Provost, who insisted that applicant pools include women. I am most proud of the fact that I introduced creative exercises, the concept of “white privilege,” and the different voices of diverse students in my classes. Before any articles were written about “white privilege,” I experienced the meaning of the phrase during a research presentation by Peggy McIntosh. 

My education helped me become who I wanted to become. May the education at the University of San Diego do the same for our students.  I am very pleased that I am able to endow a scholarship to empower women leaders and continue a legacy of women helping women.