There are theories about left brain and right brain preferences. Mary McGunigal, daughter of Thomas and Patricia McGunigal of Warwick, prefers both sides. While attending the University of Rhode Island, she has sat comfortably at the intersection of science and the humanities. She can discuss Plato and Cicero and the complexities of the stigma of HIV and AIDS patients with equal ease. When she receives her degree in Classical Studies during undergraduate ceremonies on May 20, she will deliver the student commencement speech. Three months later, she will enter the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, ranked among the top 20 medical schools in the country. In her speech, McGunigal talks about time and passion: “I see passion in the graceful limbs of dancers in late-night practice, in the glinting brass instruments of the pep band, in the knitted brows topped with orange bandannas of the Humans versus Zombies players.” Her passion for medicine flared in a ninth grade anatomy course at the Prout School in Wakefield. She followed a pre-med program while attending URI as a Centennial Scholar and was given early admission to the Mount Sinai Humanities and Medicine Early Acceptance Program as a sophomore. McGunigal shadowed doctors from a variety of specialties at Mt. Sinai Hospital during the summers but hasn’t settled on a specialty.
“I’m interested in everything,” she says with a laugh. She was president of the Classics Society during her senior year, helping plan movies, museum trips and lectures for the student organization. She pounded nails helping to build a Habitat for Humanity house during a spring break and completed an internship at the Miriam Hospital. She was a teaching assistant for Greek 102 and a research assistant in the Honors Program. URI runs in the family bloodline. Older sister Lisa graduated from the University in 2009 and is now a graduate student at Penn State. Younger sister Jennifer is just completing her freshman year and is focused on engineering. McGunigal credits URI for encouraging students.
“They set no limits on what they believe they can achieve. If you come up with a creative project, URI answers with grant money. If you want to form a club that doesn’t even exist, the Student Senate applauds you – how else can you explain the Quidditch team? This celebrated innovation is a model for how we should approach post graduate life with a creative spirit and the self-sufficiency to create our own possibilities.”